800 Quick Miles in the New Mercedes-Benz GLK350

Although cancelled nearly a decade ago, the TV show "Mystery Science Theater 3000" has retained a fervent following that includes at least one Kelley Blue Book editor. When notice came that the show's creators would be performing live under the new moniker "Cinematic Titanic", said editor/fan was bent on attending. Other than very short notice, the only major complication was the show's location: a full 400 miles north from home base Los Angeles in San Francisco. Fortunately, Mercedes-Benz had entrusted KBB with its newest SUV, the compact and hopefully road trip-worthy GLK350.

With iron-clad obligations until around noon on the day of the show, our editor had to maintain "enthusiastic" speeds to make it to the Bay Area in time for the 8pm curtain. After being subjected to several hours in ultra-low-altitude orbit along Interstate 5, the 2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 proved its autobahn worthiness. A smooth ride, good outward visibility, stable handling and decent passing power made the driving easy. The quiet cabin, optional panoramic sunroof and high-quality sound system didn't hurt either.

Despite stop-and-go traffic on the Bay Bridge, our editor arrived in time for the show -- even after picking up friends along the way. One of those friends stands well over six feet tall and helped alert us to one of the GLK350's shortcomings: rear seat leg room. With tall-guy sitting in front, there was precious little room left for the legs of anyone in back. Excellent headroom is of little comfort when you can't feel your legs, a situation illustrated by both Mercedes' GLK350 and the Marines Memorial Theatre's balcony seats. On the plus side, the seats themselves were quite comfortable and there was a wealth of space for luggage behind the GLK's second-row seats.

As one of the truly unique cities in the world, San Francisco provided interesting opportunities to put the GLK350 through its paces. Helping traverse the city's steep and, on this particular weekend, wet roads, were features like hill-start assist, 4MATIC all-wheel drive and traction control. Also of benefit was the GLK350's extremely gradual throttle response, which helped curtail unwanted wheel spin - and the subsequent hand-slapping of traction control -- on slick surfaces. That same soft touch can make the GLK350 feel lethargic in other situations, but rest assured its 268-horsepower V6 engine and seven-speed transmission are happy to propel you with gusto as long as you're not shy with the spurs.

Opinions on the GLK's appearance ranged from "Boy, that's ugly" to "Wow, what a beautiful car" (yes, those are actual quotes). While one's perspective on the 2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 seems to vary with personal taste -- and height, perhaps -- there's no denying that it performed well in the urban and highway environments to which potential buyers are likely to subject it. If you've been waiting patiently for Mercedes-Benz to finally introduce a compact crossover (the BMW X3 is now in its sixth model year), you'll be happy to know you won't be disappointed.

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