2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK350
2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 Review:
Never mind the tussle over whether the glass is half empty or half full. To hear the Mercedes-Benz people tell it, the 2013 GLK’s glass is full to the brim.
That’s despite the fact that the company’s smallest SUV is only about half new. Mercedes says it’s been redesigned, but it is what the vehicle business calls refreshed, usually done half way through a model’s life cycle to inject enough changes to newly pique buyer interest.
In this case, the GLK350—in rear-drive or all-wheel drive—claims close to 1,000 new parts, along with a redesigned interior and features that heretofore have been the province of higher-priced Mercedes vehicles.For example, an option on the new GLK is Distronic Plus, the uncanny Mercedes cruise control system that automatically maintains a pre-set distance from the car ahead, to the point of braking to a full stop and then setting off again. Except for steering, the GLK drives itself.
The system also incorporates the company’s Pre-Safe system, which sounds a collision warning and, if the driver does not react, slams on the brakes about half a second before impact. It won’t necessarily prevent an accident but reduces the severity.
These systems, along with other high-tech features, both standard and optional, are what prompted one Mercedes official to utter an off-the-cuff comment that last year’s GLK was “not even a real Mercedes.”
That, of course, is standard market-speak in the vehicle business. The new model is always the greatest thing ever to roll down the road, while the previous one is denigrated, despite formerly getting royal obeisance.
Still, the 2013 GLK has plenty of enticements, from exterior styling enhancements to a classy new interior and a more powerful engine linked to a seven-speed automatic transmission that can be manually shifted. The horsepower of the 3.5-liter V6 engine now is 302, compared to 268 in the previous model. A stop-start system enhances fuel economy.
The first thing you notice behind the wheel is the tomb-like silence. There is virtually no intrusion of road, mechanical or wind noise. Overall, it imparts an ambiance of genteel luxury. Little things have been addressed. For example, the sun visors now slide on their support rods to effectively block sunlight from the sides.
However, the motorized sliding glass sunroof has a translucent sunshade made of a flimsy, perforated cloth that admits too much bright sunlight. Sunroof shades should be opaque.
Down the highway, the GLK has more than adequate acceleration. From rest, the zero-to-60 sprint takes just 6.4 seconds, according to the company’s specifications, and it can tow up to 3,500 pounds.The GLK has an exceptional ride for a tall crossover. It easily cushions the shocks from the nation’s increasingly pockmarked roads. However, that necessarily shortchanges precision handling. The GLK 4Matic, with new electromechanical power steering, exhibits competence on curving roads—there’s no anxiety unless you push it too hard—but it’s anything but a sporting vehicle.
When the GLK was introduced for the 2010 model year, it gave Mercedes a full range of utility vehicles, variously called SUVs or crossover utility vehicles. The first was the ML320, which arrived in 1998 and started the industry’s parade of luxury SUVs. It was followed by the G-Class, a modified military vehicle; the now-defunct R-Class, a crossover wagon, and the GL-Class, a full-size, three-row SUV.
The new GLK350 is the entry-level compact model, though it has the passenger space of a mid-size sedan along with 23 cubic feet of cargo space behind the back seat—or about twice what you’d get in the trunk of a mid-size car. The seatbacks fold nearly flat to expand the space to almost 55 cubic feet.
Comfort up front is first cabin, with supportive seats that nevertheless do not offer a great deal of lateral support. A myriad of adjustments, along with a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel (powered if the premium option package is ordered), assures a comfortable driving position for almost anyone.
The back seat is less accommodating. Because of the GLK’s tidy dimensions—two inches shy of 15 feet long—the back seat is short on knee room, although there’s ample space for the noggin. The seatbacks are not adjustable, though that’s something you can find on economy cars.Moreover, the center-rear seating position, despite being afforded a headrest, is compromised by a giant floor hump and should be reserved for small children or large purses.
The GLK350 4Matic has a starting price of $37,965, which seems reasonable. But that’s with the Mercedes MB-Tex upholstery, which is vinyl, though of high quality. Leather seating comes in a $2,100 package with the softest headrests anywhere, a memory setting for the front passenger seat and ambient lighting.
Mercedes officials expect most customers will opt for that and the $3,450 premium package, which includes such things as a panorama sunroof, a power rear hatch and satellite radio, for a delivered price of $43,515. However, the loaded test GLK had a $55,440 sticker.
The GLK350 will be joined in early 2013 by the GLK250, powered by a 190-horsepower, four-cylinder diesel engine.
Model: 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 4Matic four-door crossover utility vehicle.
Engine: 3.5-liter V6, 302 horsepower.
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic with manual-shift mode and all-wheel drive.
Overall length: 14 feet 10 inches.
EPA passenger/cargo volume: 103/23 cubic feet.
Weight: 4,079 pounds.
Towing capability: 3,500 pounds.
EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 19/24/21 miles to the gallon.
Base price, including destination charge: $37,965.
Price as tested: $55,440.