Review: 2010 Mercedes GLK350

The 2010 Mercedes GLK350 is an entry level SUV which competes with the likes of Volvo’s new XC60. Our manager told us to take one for a test drive today. This was a good idea as several customer’s have been comparing the two in the last ten days. As you can imagine, my loyalties are with the Volvo. But I tried to keep an open mind as I compared the two earlier this afternoon. Here’s a list of my first impressions.

GOOD

BAD

· navigation system

· plenty of power

· dual sunroof w/screen

· nice audio system

· non-rusting plastic wheel wells

· uncomfortable seats

· soft handling

· rear leg room

· transmission holds gears too long

My first impression was that the GLK was a cute Jeep look-a-like. Jim Vanek, another Volvo salesman, thought it looked like a cross between Mercedes’ GL320 and G550 models. That’s a pretty good description as the GLK is rounded like the GL but has the long hood and boxy look of the G-class. In any event, the new GLK is a nice looking small SUV which looks best with the optional 20 inch wheels.

The interior of the GLK is typical Mercedes with nicely appointed trim and a well laid-out dashboard. One of the first things you notice when you turn the key is the quality sound and navigation system. The navigation system show you a colorful map in the center console which is very easy to read. And it also displays the street name and compass direction on the message screen inside your gauge cluster. That is a nice touch.

Unfortunately, these specialties are overshadowed by uncomfortable seats. Instead of sinking into luxurious leather cushions, I found myself thinking I was in an entry-level vinyl seat. It just didn’t seem right for a Mercedes product. Craig Thompson, a salesman at Leikin Mercedes, explained that the seats are designed with firm cushions and perforations for the sake of longevity. Whatever you decide about the seats, they are power adjustable and fit my 6′ 3″ frame with no problem. But adjusting the front seat backward led to a problem for anyone wanting to sit in the second row.

Later on, as I pulled out of the parking lot, there was no doubt that this was a powerful machine. The GLK comes with a 268 hp (258 lb/ft) naturally aspirated V6 engine coupled to a 7 speed automatic transmission. Our test vehicle was also fitted with the 4MATIC 4WD system. As I pressed down the accelerator, the car had no problem jumping forward. I tried again when we took the entrance ramp to I-90 east bound. The GLK had plenty of power and hit 80 mph before we entered the freeway. Add to that the sporty sound of the exhaust and there’s little to complain about.

At city speeds, however, we noticed that the transmission liked to hold the gear longer than expected. It almost felt as if the car was stuck in a gear. The GLK would accelerate quickly, revving up to 5500 rpm, but when you let your foot off of the accelerator, it would remain in the same gear and slowly decelerate. Craig Thompson explained that the GLK has a sport and comfort setting. The latter tends to hold the gears longer for a smoother ride. We also noticed that the suspension seemed a bit loose compared to other vehicles we’ve driven. It was never so much that the vehicle seemed unsafe. It was just not quite as tight as would have been expected. Perhaps this was also due to the vehicle being in comfort mode.

Overall, we liked the 2010 Mercedes GLK350. It has many positive attributes and just a few negatives. It accelerates and handles well in normal driving conditions. It looks good, is well built, and has a good list of optional equipment. And if you can look past the seats (or just add a pair of comfortable sheepskins) this would make a fun and stylish entry-level cross over vehicle.

Review: 2010 Volvo XC60

Wednesday morning, I had the privilege of driving the new 2010 Volvo XC60. (Don’t ask me why they introduced a 2010 model in March of 2009—just accept it.) And I don’t use the word “privilege” lightly. This truly is a nice car and I was one of the first salesmen to drive it!

Exterior

The XC60 on our lot is a demonstrator model which arrived with Black Sapphire metallic paint and 7.5 x 18″ Silver Bright Mantus rims. As expected, black is a good color for this Volvo. The shape and curves of the XC60 are sleek but make you want to sit back and enjoy the ride. Whether you like to drive quickly or at a leisurely pace, this vehicle will keep you smiling.

As I write this article, a 2009 Volvo XC90 is sitting in front of my desk. That leads me to the question everyone else has been asking. How does the XC60 compare in size to the XC90? That’s a good question that deserves some pictures.

 

XC60

XC90

Length

182.2”

189.2”

Wheelbase

109.2”

112.5”

Height

67.4”

70.1”

Width

74.5”

75.2”

According to the specs sheet, the XC60 is a few inches shorter in just about every dimension. But why does Volvo need a smaller SUV? A quick look at the competition and you’ll quickly understand Volvo’s game plan. It’s primary competitors are the BMW X3, Mercedes GLK, and possibly the Saab 9-4x (if it is ever produced). And in today’s economy, it pays to be competitive in as many venues as possible.

Engine

The XC60 comes with the powerful T6 engine. With 281 hp and 295 lb/ft of torque, there is every reason to believe that this car will jump when you touch the pedal. A quick drive up the street confirmed that the T6 was the perfect choice for the new XC60. Coupled to the six-speed Geartronic automatic with Haldex AWD Instant Traction, you are sure to retain your footing no matter what the weatherman is reporting.

Safety

With a sturdy body and Volvo’s typical safety features, the XC60 weighs in at 4,174 lbs and gets an average of 16 mpg city / 22 mpg highway. While some may complain that mileage is a bit on the low side, they should consider the relationship between weight and safety. Volvo could have produced an economy box but chose rather to continue protecting lives while producing yet another safe vehicle. For instance, the next time you are able to look over a Volvo, open the door and consider the thickness of the doors. They appear to be at least 12″ thick. Add to that the many other standard safety features that you don’t notice until you need them, such as DSTC, TSA, EBL, HBA, IDIS, WHIPS, SIPS, RSC, EBL, and you will drive with a new found confidence not available to drivers of most other cars.

But Volvo was not content to just sit with their safety awards, they took another step forward with the standard City Safety package. A laser beam mounted in front of the rear view mirror “spots slower moving or stopped vehicles in front at speeds below 20 mph” (The New Volvo XC60 brochure). If you were to become distracted at a stop sign and begin to drift toward the car ahead of you, City Safety is designed to brake the car for you at the last moment thus minimizing the possibility of you rear ending the car ahead of you. Pretty amazing.

And if you want even more safety options, you may add the Collision Avoidance package. This optional package adds Adaptive Cruise Control, Collision Warning with Auto Brake, Distance Alert, Driver Alert Control, and Lane Departure Warning. All of these are very helpful especially for those who tend to be distracted or who fall asleep while driving. If you need it, it’s a nice option for an additional $1,700.

Interior

The 2010 Volvo XC60 is available in a number of interesting color schemes. Leather seats are standard but there are four interior color combinations available: (1) anthracite black w/offblack leather, (2) anthracite black with off black/lemon leather, (3) Sandstone beige w/ soft beige leather, and (4) Sandstone beige w/ soft beige/espresso brown leather. As you might have guessed already, our XC60 came equipped with the fourth option. The color reminds me of the leather seats in the 2006 Saab 9-3 Aero convertible we had here last month (only the XC60’s seats are more comfortable!). The seats are comfortable and firm at the same time—giving you the feeling that you’ll enjoy the ride no matter how you drive.

While opinions will differ as to the color schemes offered, there are a number of standard features that will keep everyone happy.

  • Auto-dimming rear view mirror with compass
  • Bluetooth hands-free capability
  • Dual zone electronic climate control
  • Front fog lamps
  • High performance audio with CD, HD radio, USB, and AUX
  • Hill Descent control
  • leather seats
  • load cover in cargo area
  • Power front seats
  • Sirius satellite radio (w/ 6 mo subscription)
  • Complimentary 3 yrs/36k mi factory scheduled maintenance

That’s a pretty good list of standard features. And the way things are positioned, all buttons are within easy reach of the driver or passenger. Speaking of options, one notable change is the location of the GPS system. Instead of having a screen slide up from the middle of the dashboard, the GPS has been relocated to the top of the center console. This makes reading the screen much easier in broad daylight. The temperature and radio readout has been moved to a raised panel on top of the dashboard. The end result is nice and keeps your eyes from wandering too far from the road.

Conclusion

As I have said before, I didn’t like the 2010 Volvo XC60 until I saw it with my own eyes. But now that I have had time to see, drive, and experience it, I think it’s much better than expected. If you have need of a 5 passenger AWD SUV that drives like a car, this is the car for you. And with so many standard features, you can purchase a nicely equipped vehicle with the Climate package for under $40,000. For one of the safest luxury SUVs out there, that’s a very good deal.

Review: 2006 SAAB 9-7X 5.3i

Note: This review was originally posted at Trollhattan Saab on July 29th, 2008.

Working at a dealership has taught me several things. The first lesson is that you never know how long you will have a demo vehicle. It may last a month. It may last a day. You just never know. I’ve also learned that you should never put much gas in the tank of a demo vehicle. As soon as you fill-up the tank, the car will sell and for some strange reason the customer won’t refund you the money. Sure enough, after putting $20 in the tank last night, the SAAB 97X was taken from me. Therefore, my review of this Swedish SUV will be limited to four days and less than 100 miles. Even so, I have some thoughts to share.

First Impressions

My wife likes the 97X. In fact, the first day home, she announced her approval of purchasing it should we need to replace the minivan. That says something about the vehicle as she normally doesn’t like foreign cars. As strange as it may seem, she never did like the SAAB 900s or either of the Jaguars we have owned.

Rather than question her tastes (at least for the moment), I think this may say something about a portion of the American market. Die-hard Saabisti may decry the re-badging of the Trailblazer/Envoy, but some people really don’t care. They actually like the way it looks. And to be honest, the black 97X I’ve been driving does look pretty good.

Performance

Last Thursday evening, I was handed the keys to the 97X. One of the first things I noted as I pulled out of the parking lot was the explosive acceleration of the 300 hp V8.

For instance, as I was preparing to turn right onto Mentor Avenue, another car was driving past. With every other car I’ve driven, it was appropriate to push the accelerator when the car was directly in front of my bumper. That usually allowed me to enter traffic without having to worry about hitting the car as it passed. Not so with the 97X. As I pressed the accelerator, I thought that I was going to hit the car driving past! Thankfully, I hit the brakes instead.

Acceleration on the highway was also impressive for an SUV. It doesn’t quite compare to a compact car with the same specs. But the fact that the 300 hp is backed up with 330 lb. feet or torque is quite noticable at all times.

Interior

Several weeks of looking through the window of the vehicle produced in me a desire to test drive this vehicle. The perforated black leather seats, wood accents, and a tasteful amount of chrome trim made the 97X look like the finest car on the lot.

However, as I drove the vehicle home, I was quicky reminded that it indeed was a truck — especially on concrete roads. To make matters worse the driver’s seat back felt like (and on closer inspection looked like) square sofa seat cushions from a hide-away bed. They were not very comfortable at all. But I must admit that I had grown accustomed to the glove-like, comfortable seats in the Volvo S60 R.

Now take those comments for what they are worth. I have had a trouble with my back for the last twenty years. And driving any SUV over Tyler Blvd. is probably not going to be very comfortable. But then again … on the way back from church last night, my wife commented on how comfortable the passenger seat was. Go figure.

I did appreciate the accessibility of the rear storage compartment. The 97X comes with a two piece rear hatch. By pressing a large button underneath the hatch window, the hinged window itself can be opened. This is a nice option as it enables you to access smaller items without opening the entire hatch. Of course, it only takes a moment longer to open the entire hatch, but every little time saver is appreciated.

Conclusion

Overall, I enjoyed driving the SAAB 97X 5.3i. It is a nice looking, powerful vehicle SUV that allows five passengers to travel in style. While the seats may not be as comfortable as those in a 9000 Aero, you do get used to them after a while. And if you are not intimidated by the current price of gas, this is the time to buy. Leikin Motor Company has two in stock for under US $20,000. Quite the deal, I’d say.

Review: 2004-07 Volvo S60 R

In our back office, I came across a very helpful book. Volvo Certified Pre-Owned Program: 2007 New & Pre-Owned Facts Guide provides specifications for every model variant produced between the years 2002-2007. Among many interesting facts, the book reveals that Volvo created an “R” variant of their S60 and V70 models for model years 2004-07. The R was a sport version which included upgraded brakes, suspension, transmission, and engine.

  • high pressure turbo 5 cyl, 2.5L engine, 300 HP
  • 6-speed manual transmission
  • 17″ Pegasus alloy wheels with 235/45/17 Pirelli P-Zero Rosso
  • FOUR-C chassis
  • Electronically controlled AWD with instant traction
  • Brembo 4 piston calipers
  • rear spoiler
  • Bi-Xenon headlamps with headlamp washers
  • Full soft leather multi-contoured sport seats
  • Blue watchdial instruments

Leikin Volvo recently acquired a 2005 S60 R. And as you can imagine, everybody wanted to take it for a test drive. They always came back with smiles and statistics such as how many blocks it took to get to 80 mph. While I wanted to take the car for a test-drive, I was a bit nervous. Driving a performance car is fun but not so much if something bad happens. So, I waited until the car had been serviced and the tires had been replaced.

My opportunity arrived last week when things were a bit slow. My test route took me down Mentor Avenue and Rt. 306 to Rt. 2. Unfortunately, there were plenty of cars on the on ramp, making it difficult to test the acceleration. But it didn’t take long to realize that this was a very fast car. It was so fast that unless you choose to exceed the speed limit on a regular basis (which I do not) it would prove to be a boring ride. The car accelerates so quickly to 60 mph (6.1 sec4)that once you’ve arrived there’s nothing else to do.

The 2004 Volvo S60 R will hold its own against small supercars like the Subaru WRX-STi and the Lancer Evolution. In fact it is every bit as quick as those two cars yet it feels considerably more refined, like an Audi S4.1

Let me assure you that this would be a fun car to own. If it were my own, I am sure that I would enjoy zipping through the back roads of Lake County on a regular basis. But as the car is selling for $24,990 at the moment, I just didn’t feel comfortable pushing it too hard. You understand, right?

__________

Various Reviews:

  1. 2004 Volvo S60 R Performance Test by Colin Hefferon
  2. Follow-Up Test: 2004 Volvo S60 R by Brian Moody
  3. 2006 Volvo S60 R by c/net Reviews
  4. Tuners: 2006 Evolve Volvo S60R by John Kiewicz

_______________

Review: 2008 Volvo C30

The other Swedish brand had captured my attention for the past seven years, so looking at Volvos almost seemed … well … wrong. But recent events have begun to change my opinion of Saab’s competitor. Last Tuesday, I visited Leiken Volvo and saw their showroom models inside and outside. One of the first cars that caught my eye was the Volvo C30. There’s just something about the shape of the car and the frameless glass hatch that says, “Take me for a drive!”

As James R. Healey said, “Sometimes a car is so spot-on, you don’t care if it’s the right size or has the best features or comes from your favorite brand. Meet Volvo’s C30 T5, a royal, rollicking romp of a small, two-door car. … Volvo is making cool cars again.” 1 On the other hand, Edmunds.com was a bit less excited. “Compared to sport hatchbacks like the Volkswagen GTI and Mini Cooper S, the 2008 Volvo C30 leaves much to be desired in the fun-to-drive category. So while the C30’s not quite a hot hatch, it is certainly as much of a hip hatch with its unique styling, interesting interior trappings and customizable features.” 2

That’s probably all I should say before driving the car myself. But, if you can’t wait for my upcoming post, you can read the following reviews:

  1. James R. Healey’s “Volvo C30: Pull up a seat and get comfy” in USA Today.
  2. 2008 Volvo C30 Review” by Edmunds.com
  3. C30 Accolades, a PDF brochure produced by Volvo