Mercedes-Benz GLK
(Image credit: Mercedes-Benz)

Something is happening to our roads. Downscaling is all the rage, and the latest salvo of new volume models from manufacturers around the world attempts to capture the spirit of adventure, robustness and practicality in a relatively pint-size package. Is the era of automotive behemoths truly behind us? Mercedes are certainly hedging their bets. While the vast GL-Class and M-Class still remain part of the line up, the company has also rolled out the new GLK, a kind of sub-compact SUV for the smart urbanite who likes the combination of high-up visibility, utilitarian styling and go-anywhere practicality.

The GLK was born out of 2007's Vision GLK design study, a concept car that synthesized Mercedes' twin stylistic approaches, combining the pared-down utilitarian style of the first generation G-Class (originally designed as a military vehicle) and the aggressive, angular arcs, slashes and scoops that characterise their current saloon car range. The result is a car that taps neatly into the aspirations of media-savvy, innovation hungry consumers.

The GLK is an angular, poised machine, small for its class, but with outstanding off-road abilities (thanks to Mercedes’ 4MATIC four wheel drive). Mercedes is blazing a trail in in-car technology right now, and the GLK includes the PRE-SAFE safety system that braces the car in the event of potential impact, as well the option of an ultra-low emission diesel engine. The GLK does a good job of ticking all the boxes.

Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.