2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 Bluetec 4Matic

We got our first taste of the refreshed 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK lineup last summer, once again affirming our belief that it's easy to fall in love with the littlest Benz CUV. There's something sort of charming about the boxy, rugged-looking luxury crossover, and while it won't set the world on fire in terms of driver engagement, it's a solid front-runner in the segment.

In addition to the GLK350 – in both rear- and all-wheel-drive forms – Mercedes-Benz has now launched this GLK250 BlueTEC model, packed with a brand new 2.1-liter four-cylinder diesel engine and offered exclusively with the automaker's 4Matic all-wheel drive. With improved fuel economy and torque-tastic diesel characteristics, this oil-burning GLK could easily be the star child of the company's small CUV lineup. We hit the roads northwest of Ann Arbor, MI to find out.

Driving Notes
  • Mercedes' new 2.1-liter turbo-diesel engine is good for a healthy 200 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. This is the first application of Merc's new four-pot diesel here in the US, but we'll soon be seeing it in the E-Class later this year. Compared to the GLK350, the diesel engine has 102 less horsepower but 96 more foot-pounds of twist. What's more, the torque thrust is delivered at just 1,600 rpm in the BlueTEC, compared to 3,500 rpm in the GLK350.
  • That said, the GLK250 is significantly slower off the line than its naturally aspirated counterpart. Hitting 60 miles per hour in the BlueTEC takes 7.9 seconds, compared to only 6.4 seconds in the GLK350. Of course, the diesel model is slightly heavier than its petrol-drinking kin – 4,321 pounds here versus the 4,079 of a 4Matic-equipped GLK350.
  • Where you really win, though, is fuel economy. Mercedes-Benz rates the GLK350 4Matic at 19/24 miles per gallon (city/highway), but the BlueTEC increases those numbers to 24/33. That bests all other competitors in the class, for now. (Remember, there's an Audi Q5 TDI on the horizon...)
  • On the road, the 2.1-liter diesel is perfectly matched with the more relaxed dynamics of the GLK. Even with the more powerful 3.5-liter V6, this CUV isn't one to be hustled, but we rather like the refined characteristics of the Merc from behind the wheel.
  • There is a very small amount of turbo lag at takeoff, but once you hit the meat of the torque band, you'll never be at a loss for power. The seven-speed automatic transmission is a smooth operator, and has a sport mode that's more eager to fire off downshifts for spirited driving.
  • Steering feel is generally good, but doesn't offer as much feedback as a BMW X3. That said, the suspension is extremely well-sorted for a small luxury CUV application, providing just the right amount of feedback without ever being too abrasive, even on these large 19-inch wheels wrapped in 235/50R19 Continental 4x4 Contact tires. The brakes, however, feel weak in this GLK. You really need to sink your foot deep into the pedal to achieve adequate stopping force.
  • The interior of this GLK is as nice as it ever was. Thanks to that upright, boxy shape, and a tall glasshouse, the cabin feels very open and airy, especially with the shade retracted on that panoramic sunroof. It's an attractive interior, too, even in the dark hues of our tester. Everything is nicely organized and material quality throughout is nothing short of premium.
  • Naturally, a full host of infotainment and safety technology is available, including Mercedes' MBrace2 system. The interior is quite functional, too, with spacious rear accommodations and up to 54.7 cubic feet of storage with the bench folded flat.
  • The GLK250 BlueTEC 4Matic starts at $38,590, which falls in the middle of the $37,090 GLK350 and $39,090 GLK350 4Matic. Our fully optioned tester rang in at $50,485, and before you guffaw, know that an Audi Q5 Hybrid starts at $50,900 – that's without a single option box ticked.
  • Considering the cost savings over the GLK350 4Matic and the huge bump in fuel economy, we don't expect that the average GLK buyer will miss the added off-the-line oomph of the 3.5-liter engine all that much. This BlueTEC model is easily the best GLK yet.