2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Fresh looks, new engines, improved interior.
The Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class has been thoroughly revised for the 2013 model year. The 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 and the new GLK250 BlueTEC feature fresh styling and redesigned cabins with the latest technology, and each boasts new engines.
The 2013 GLK350 comes with a redesigned 3.5-liter V6 engine with the latest-generation direct fuel injection (which replaces the conventional port injection). Engine output increases by 34 horsepower and torque by 15 pound-feet. EPA fuel economy ratings have been improved with the addition of a start/stop function that shuts the engine off when the car is stopped.
The 3.5-liter V6 in the 2013 GLK350 is rated at 268 horsepower at 6000 rpm, 258 pound-feet of torque from 2000-5000 rpm. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rates the 2013 GLK350 at 16/22 miles per gallon City/Highway. Premium unleaded gasoline is required. Rear-wheel drive (2WD) is standard, 4MATIC all-wheel drive is optional.
We found the new GLK350 delightful to drive. It's quick, capable of accelerating from 0-60 mph in just 6.4 seconds, which is impressive performance, and we found it stable at 95 miles per hour. Handling is crisp and responsive on winding roads, while on the highway it's quiet and comfortable. We felt no fatigue in five hours of driving.
The 2013 GLK250 BlueTEC is a new model that features a four-cylinder diesel engine designed to meet strict Bin 5 U.S. emissions regulations. The 2.2-liter turbocharged diesel is rated 190 hp at 4200 rpm, 369 lb-ft of torque from 1600-1800 rpm. The GLK250 comes standard with 4MATIC all-wheel drive. The GLK250 BlueTEC is expected to go on sale in early 2013, and pricing and fuel economy ratings will be available then.
The 2013 GLK-Class are good-looking SUVs. The revised styling presents a more athletic appearance than before. Its lines are more angular, intended to share the design language of the new 2013 GL-Class full-size SUV. The new styling doesn't attract much attention and people don't seem to see it as a new design, but it's a handsome mid-cycle update and owners will likely not tire of looking at it.
Inside is a more attractive, more functional cabin than what's found in pre-2013 models. The new dash looks more elegant, more upscale than before. Big round air vents have been modernized and are easy to aim. New connectivity features have been designed with the goal of helping us simplify our lives. We found the standard vinyl upholstery nice, it was hard to tell it wasn't leather. The driver's seat was comfortable. The rear seats were comfortable for two adults, and a nicely trimmed cargo compartment opens up to a nearly flat space when the rear seatbacks are flipped down.
The Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class competes primarily with the BMW X3 and Acura RDX (all-new for 2013).
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class comes in two versions: GLK350 with 3.5-liter V6 ($37,090) and GLK250 BlueTEC with 2.1-liter four-cylinder diesel (early 2013). GLK350 comes with a choice of rear-wheel drive (2WD) or 4MATIC all-wheel drive ($39,090). GLK250 BlueTEC comes standard with 4MATIC. All GLK-Class come with a 7-speed automatic transmission.
The 2013 GLK-Class comes with dual-zone automatic climate control with dust filter, MB-Tex upholstery, eight-way power adjustable front seats, Burl Walnut Wood Trim, central controller with 5.8-inch color display, 4.5-inch color instrument cluster display, trip computer, three-spoke multifunction premium leather steering wheel with shift paddles, tilt and telescoping steering column, cruise control, automatic headlamps with twilight sensor and locator lighting, intermittent wipers, rear-window intermittent wiper and washer, 6-speaker sound system with auxiliary input, single CD player with MP3 capability, AM/FM radio with weather band, Bluetooth interface for hands-free calling, folding second row seat, rear cargo cover, roof rails, exterior chrome accents and chrome load sill plate, power windows with express up and down, privacy glass, front and rear cupholders.
Options: Full Leather Seating Package ($2,100) upgrades to full leather seating, leather-trimmed door panels, front passenger-seat memory, comfort headrests, interior ambient lighting. Premium 1 Package ($3,450) includes Panorama sunroof, power liftgate, driver memory for power seat settings, four-way lumbar support for driver's seat, power tilt/telescope steering column, with four-way iPod/MP3 interface, Sirius XM Satellite Radio, 115-volt AC outlet in cargo area, integrated garage door opener, compass in rearview mirror. A Lighting Package ($1,290) includes a headlight cleaning system, Adaptive Highbeam Assist, bi-xenon headlights with active curve illumination. An Appearance Package ($990) substitutes 20-inch wheels and aluminum roof rails. The AMG Styling Package ($1,990) features AMG body styling, AMG LED daytime running lamps, aluminum roof rails, 20-inch AMG alloy wheels. We recommend getting the Driver Assistance Package ($2,950) with Distronic Plus and Pre-Safe Brake, Brake Assist Plus, Active Blind Spot Assist, and Active Lane Keeping Assist. Standalone options include heated front seats ($750); Keyless Go ($650); harman/kardon premium audio ($810); Parktronic with Active Park Assist ($970); trailer hitch ($550); brushed aluminum running boards with rubber studs ($670); special 19-inch wheels; pre-wiring for a rear-seat entertainment system; and some of the features included in the packages. (All prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include $875 destination charge and may change at any time without notice.)
Safety features include dual-stage driver and front-passenger airbags, driver and passenger side-impact airbags, driver and passenger pelvic airbags, window curtain airbags for front and rear, driver kneebag, active front head restraints, rear-door child safety locks, LATCH system, top tether anchors for child seats, Attention Assist, mbrace2, adaptive brakes with Hold feature, brake drying, Hill Start Assist, precharging, ABS, Electronic Stability Program with Trailer Stability Assist, Brake Assist, and the federally mandated tire pressure monitor.
The optional rearview camera can help a driver spot a small child behind the car when backing up, a feature we highly recommend getting. Optional Blind Spot Assist and Lane Keeping Assist can help the driver avoid an accident. Optional Distronic Plus with Pre-Safe Brake and Brake Assist Plus can help the driver lessen the severity of a crash. Available 4MATIC all-wheel drive electronic traction system can improve handling stability in slippery conditions.
The Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class was restyled for 2013. Key dimensions, including overall length, width, height, and wheelbase and track are unchanged from 2011, however.
Bolder bumpers, new headlights, and a new grille highlight the changes for 2013. The crisp lines of the 2013 GLK-Class parrot some of the design features of the all-new 2013 GL-Class full-size SUV, including the sharp crease along the sides of the hood. The new exterior design freshens the looks of the 2013 GLK-Class and it's quite handsome, though it may not attract as much attention as does the new M-Class (all-new for 2012) or the new GL-Class (all-new for 2013). Some observers have tried to link the GLK-Class to the boxy G-Class Gelandewagen off-road SUV, but we can't see it.
The GLK-Class looks like a Mercedes-Benz and there's no mistaking it for anything but a Mercedes-Benz, even if the big three-pointed star in the center of the grille was removed. The shape of the grille and headlights, the upright and angular lines all say Mercedes-Benz.
Measuring 178.3 inches in overall length (14.8 feet), the GLK-Class is four inches shorter than the BMW X3, five inches shorter than the all-new 2013 Acura RDX. The BMW X3 and Acura RDX are its primary competition. The Lexus RX is significantly larger, the Range Rover Evoque is significantly smaller, the Land Rover LR2 and Infiniti EX are dated designs, and the Audi Q3 is not available in the U.S. The GLK-Class is nearly 11 inches shorter than the M-Class sport-utility.
The GLK-Class rides on a 108.5-inch wheelbase, which is three inches longer than that of the Acura RDX, two inches shorter than that of the BMW X3. Wheelbase is the distance between the front and rear wheels, and a longer wheelbase tends to allow a smoother ride and greater high-speed stability than a shorter wheelbase. In terms of width and height, the GLK-Class is comparable to the X3 and RDX.
The GLK350 4MATIC weighs 4,079 pounds, which is significantly lighter than the 4,222-pound BMW X3 Xdrive35i. The 2013 RDX AWD is the lightest of the three at 3,852 pounds. GLK350 weighs 4,012 pounds with rear-wheel drive, so 4MATIC is not costly in terms of weight.
Sharing its unit-body chassis with the C-Class compact sedan, the GLK-Class is a crossover SUV. Its four-wheel independent suspension with McPherson struts in front and a multi-link arrangement in the rear is the stuff of cars, and it's perfectly suited to the GLK-Class.
An AMG appearance package is available featuring special exterior trim. We're not sure the AMG trim improves the appearance, however. Also, the sporty-looking mini running boards with rubber nubs serve to dirty pants legs more than aid stepping in and out; we recommend them only for drivers of the smallest stature.
The interior of the GLK-Class is dramatically improved for the 2013 model year. The dash looks more elegant than that of the pre-2013 GLK-Class, handsome burl walnut wood trim sweeping across its width in place of the previous modular appearance. Big round vents replace the previous square vents, and the new ones are easy to aim and control.
The standard MB-Tex upholstery looks more like leather than vinyl and we were perfectly happy with it. The MB-Tex comes in black, almond/beige, or gray. The optional leather is very nice and comes in black, mocha, and almond.
The front seats are comfortable and supportive. We spent five hours in them in one day, and 90 minutes or so the day before and the day after, and we never tired of them.
The back seats are comfortable for two adults but not three. The GLK-Class seats up to five but it's better with four.
The interior materials are attractive, with double-stitching on some of the trim and flashes of aluminum that give it an upscale feel. The steering wheel feels and looks great. Burl walnut wood trim comes standard and it looks good, though there's a bit too much of it front of the passenger for our taste. From a more practical standpoint, we wonder whether the rolltop lid that covers the center console compartment will become a gathering place for crumbs and dust, though the seams on this one are impressively tight. The HVAC controls are at the bottom of the center stack and they seem way down there visually while driving.
The GLK-Class is loaded with technology, including mbrace2 connectivity, which is intended to simplify our lives. One of many features it offers is notification to your smartphone while you're dining should a shady valet take your car for a joy ride.
The navigation system worked well, once we became familiar with it. Its mapping fell short in rural and remote areas, however, telling us we were in uncharted territory.
The cargo compartment is trimmed nicely and the rear seats fold down almost perfectly flat. The rear seats are split 60/40 for flexibility with cargo and passengers.
The power liftgate (optional) can be opened by waving your foot under the rear bumper, a nice feature when carrying an armload of groceries. A 115-volt AC outlet delivers house current to the cargo area, a useful feature for charging laptops, powering hand tools or running accessories when camping or tailgating.
We've driven GLK350 and GLK350 4MATIC versions and found them to be delightful whether on winding roads and on open highways. These cars are easy to drive, smooth but well-controlled, not floaty like a Lexus RX. They are very stable at high speeds. Our co-driver felt sufficiently comfortable to cruise at 95 mph on a winding Interstate through West Virginia while carrying on a conversation.
Handling is very responsive: It feels like driving a sedan with a slightly higher seating position. We had no issues with the feel or responsiveness of the electromechanical steering, an emerging technology intended to improve fuel economy, among other things. We found the brakes easy to modulate for smooth, precise stops. Wind and road noise are well muted.
The GLK350 delivers plenty of power, and arguably leads the class in terms of acceleration performance. The GLK350 4MATIC can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 6.4 seconds, according to Mercedes-Benz North America, which is quite quick. The GLK350 comes with a 3.5-liter V6 engine rated at 302 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 273 pound-feet of torque at 3500-5250 rpm. By comparison, the 2013 Acura RDX with its 3.5-liter V6 makes just 273 horsepower at 6100 rpm and 251 pound-feet of torque at a 5000 rpm. The comparably priced BMW X3 xDrive28i with its inline-6 rates 240 horsepower and 221 pound-feet of torque, while the significantly more expensive, turbocharged X3 xDrive35i delivers 300 horsepower at 5800 rpm and 300 pound-feet of torque at 1300-5000 rpm.
Fuel economy for the GLK350 2WD is an EPA-estimated 16/23 mpg City/Highway (or 18 miles per gallon for the EPA Combined rating). GLK350 4MATIC is rated 16/21 mpg (or 18 mpg in the EPA Combined rating). Those numbers are poor by the standards of the class. By comparison, the 2013 Acura RDX AWD gets an EPA-estimated 19/27 mpg, while the BMW X3 is EPA-rated at 19/26 mpg. Premium gasoline is recommended for the GLK350. Also, a Start/Stop feature is included that shuts off the engine when stopped (e.g., at intersections), then quickly restarts the engine when the accelerator is depressed.
The 7-speed automatic transmission is smooth and responsive. We felt no need to use the semi-manual shifting features. We put it in Drive and it shifted up and down smoothly and correctly on winding roads peppered with elevation changes.
The GLK250 4MATIC can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 7.9 seconds, which is average performance, neither particularly quick nor particularly slow. Fuel economy estimates were not available when we went to press. The GLK250 BlueTEC is rated at 190 horsepower at 6500 rpm and 369 pound-feet of torque at 1600-1800 rpm. That torque figure is very impressive, suggesting the GLK250 will feel very responsive around town. The GLK250 uses the same 7-speed automatic with the same gear ratios as the GLK350.
4MATIC all-wheel drive improves traction and stability in slippery conditions. We recommend getting 4MATIC, particularly for drivers who face snow and ice but it's beneficial on wet pavement or on unpaved roads. The all-wheel drive could pay off in just one critical moment for folks in the sunshine states and it will likely make the car more attractive when trading in or selling. The driver need do nothing to invoke 4MATIC; it's on all the time, ready to step in and send power to the front tires whenever the rear tires lose traction. While driving on dry roads, we could not discern an appreciable difference between a GLK350 with rear-wheel drive and one with 4MATIC all-wheel drive. Fuel economy is about the same around town with 4MATIC all-wheel drive, but it does reduce mileage on the highway a bit.
Several tire and wheel sizes are available. We couldn't tell much difference on the road in ride quality, feel or handling between the 19-inch and 20-inch sizes. Clearly, the engineers did a great job with suspension tuning and tire choices.
A number of safety features come standard or optional on the GLK-Class. Attention Assist can alert a drowsy driver with an audible alert and a warning message on the dash and a coffee cup icon in the instrument cluster. It's a good feature, though the cars we drove always seemed to be displaying the coffee cup icon. Blind Spot Assist warns the driver another vehicle is alongside whenever the turn signals are used; Active Blind Spot Assist actually corrects the driver's input if he or she tries to steer a car in the adjoining lane. Lane Keeping Assist vibrates the steering wheel when the driver drifts out of his or her lane. Active Lane Keeping Assist adds an intervention feature, correcting the car's course if the driver doesn't heed the initial warning.
Parktronic is a useful option when parking, displaying the proximity of obstacles on the screen with a bar graph that shows the closeness of objects the way a weather map shows the intensity of storms; the system also delivers audible warnings when you get close to stuff. Active Parking Assist will steer the car for you as you parallel park; the driver just works the gas and brakes. The best parking aid is the rearview camera that comes with the navigation system in the MultiMedia Package because it can help the driver spot a small child behind the car when backing up.
Restyled outside and inside, the 2013 GLK-Class is a refined vehicle that's practical and easy to use. It's comfortable for four and can haul a load of cargo. It's stable at high speeds, agile on winding roads, it rides smoothly. The GLK350 delivers strong power, though fuel economy is poor for the class. The GLK350 4MATIC retails for less than $40,000 but popular options push the price into the low 50 thousands.
NewCarTestDrive.com editor Mitch McCullough filed this report after his test drive of GLK350 and GLK350 4MATIC models around the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina.
Mercedes-Benz GLK350, GLK350 4MATIC; GLK250 BlueTEC 4MATIC.
Options As Tested
Premium 1 Package ($3,450) includes autodimming mirrors, driver memory, 4-way driver lumbar support, power tilt/telescoping steering column, power liftgate, iPod/MP3 Media Interface, Sirius XM Satellite Radio, Panorama sunroof, 115V AC power outlet, integrated garage door opener, compass in rearview mirror; Leather Package ($2,100) includes full leather seating, front passenger seat memory, Comfort headrests, Interior Ambient Lighting; Multimedia Package ($2,790) includes rearview camera, enhanced voice control, COMAND system with hard-drive navigation; Sports Appearance Package ($990) includes 19-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, brushed aluminum roof rails; Driver Assistance Package ($2,950) includes DISTRONIC PLUS with PRE-SAFE Brake, Brake Assist Plus, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist; heated front seats ($750); trailer hitch ($550).
Mercedes-Benz GLK350 4MATIC ($39,090).
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