2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK350: Progression

Whether it’s a stately bottle of Pinot Noir, a vintage timepiece, or a 50s classic car awaiting auction, things certainly get better with time. The same applies for innovation and technology as it relates to the auto industry. Mercedes-Benz, who invented the automobile 125 years ago, is a clear leader in new safety, performance, and sustainability efforts and has found a way to compete in every market segment including the growing SUV category. So it was only natural for the German brand to update their entry level GLK-Class SUV with more power, more comfort, and more progression.

Though the 2013 GLK is more of a refresh than a complete redesign, Mercedes-Benz re-engineered it with a 1,000 new parts. Of course the engine is always the first area of focus since fuel efficiency is becoming very competitive with turbocharged diesels winning the battle. A 2.2-liter I4 turbo with 190 horsepower and a whopping 369 lb-ft of torque will see duty when it arrives next year in the form of the GLK250 BlueTEC. During a recent test drive in the Blue Ridge Mountains and Meadows of Dan in southwestern Virginia, I experienced the GLK350 and GLK350 4Matic, both outfitted with a 3.5-liter V6 now featuring direct-injection and an ECO Start/Stop function that helps the GLK achieve better fuel economy. Horsepower has been increased by 34 to 302 while torque increased by 15 to 273. We drove most of the day through mountains and compelling roads fit more for an SLK AMG than a GLK. Power was balanced and distributed smoothly through the new 7-speed automatic transmission. Though Mercedes has never converted the GLK into an AMG I would like to see a sports package that adds a bit more sportiness to the drive.

Consumers buy Mercedes-Benz products because of their cachet and reputation. They build big luxury sedans, supercars, convertibles, SUVs and four-door coupes. The GLK is labeled as the gateway into the Mercedes-Benz family and certainly demonstrates that. Its odd, boxy shape and lack of proper space for two kids is why my wife crossed it off her list when she was shopping for a smaller luxury SUV. As she specifically stated, “Only the front end looks like a Benz.” Additionally, to get the vehicle to a point of owner satisfaction you have to invest extra dividends for all the newly touted features. My test vehicle went from $37,090 base to $54,025 as tested (including $875 destination charge) after six option packages and five stand alone options were added.

Some of the notable features include Adaptive Highbeam Assist; Active Blind Spot Assist and Active Lane Keeping Assist that keeps the GLK from moving into another lane if it’s occupied; DISTRONIC Plus cruise control with a PRE-SAFE Brake system that brings the vehicle to a halt if the driver fails to brake within .6 seconds of a collision; and LED running lights and tail lamps. We also had the $1,990 AMG Styling Package which is absolutely necessary if you want to distinguish your GLK from the mundane group of small, luxury SUVs occupying the roads. The body styling and 20″ upgraded rims alone (standard 19s) make all the difference.

Inside, the new GLK and old GLK are like night and day. Like all Mercedes vehicles you feel like a VIP with its attractive interior. Its new dash is cleaner and richer, the large circular vents are classy, and the instrumentation is modern and inviting. Optional “Comfort” headrests are unique and cushy, the small gauge cluster LCD screen displays superior graphics for the navigation and trip computer, and the new steering wheel houses paddle shifters so the driver can take control of power management. MB-Tex seating and real wood trim is standard with full leather coming as a $2,100 option along with the Comfort headrests and LED ambient lighting. A very recognizable change within the cabin is the relocation of the DIRECT SELECT gear shifter from the center console. It now sits on the right of the steering column and allows for easy taps in and out of gears. Though I confused it more than once for the windshield wiper and inadvertently positioned it in neutral. I presume GLK owners will become accustomed to the positioning.

The new GLK is tech savvy, friendly, comfortable, and capable as was demonstrated during an off-road trail that led us to dinner. How versatile is it? I would need to spend a week with it so my two little girls can do what they do best: evaluating SUVs for their “soccer mom” worthiness. I would also like to see some of those options offered as standard equipment.

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