Up Close: Mercedes-Benz GLK Concept

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Amid modish artwork and 1920s brass - yeah, try that for a combo - Mercedes had a Vision GLK concept on display for journalists in Detroit last night. We've had official details on the near-production SUV for more than week (see the original post here) but this was the first one we've seen in the flesh.

At first glance, the GLK seems promising. Its boxy styling stands out amid the welter of teardrop-shaped SUVs out there, with a high roofline and much chunkier face than, say, an Acura RDX or an Infiniti EX35. The whole thing recalls a shrunken GL-Class, which isn't a bad thing, and the tall windows make for excellent sightlines from the driver's seat.

The interior is pretty close to production-ready, though the striped cebrano wood and bright-white leather seats probably won't make the cut. The dashboard's twin cowls remind us of the S-Class, and here they're covered in leather stitching. It's an upscale touch that we hope makes it to production.

We spoke with Mercedes engineer Uwe Skrzypek, who said the concept's Bluetec four-cylinder diesel won't be included when the production GLK arrives here in early 2009. It seems the only diesels fitted for U.S. buyers have been V-6s so far, he said, and so the GLK will likely draw power from either the C300 or C350's gas V-6.

Speaking of the C-Class: Mercedes confirmed the introduction of a C-Class coupe, marketed to the same first-time Mercedes buyers as the previous C230 hatch, at the Geneva auto show in March. Naturally, Skrzypek remained mum on details. We'll let you know if we hear more.

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Senior Consumer Affairs Editor Kelsey Mays likes quality, reliability, safety and practicality. But he also likes a fair price.  Email Kelsey

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