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More crossover than the SUV it looks like on the outside, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK gets an interesting new drivetrain option this year that beats its competition to the green-car punch, while it also revamps its cabin and connectivity features to bring its almost every facet and angle up to date.
Almost, that is, except its traditionalist body. The GLK's sheetmetal comes from a different school of thought than most other luxury crossovers. The Q5, the XC60? They're all about egg-shaped smoothness and unruffled curves. No other ute in this class calls on real sport-ute styling as strongly as the GLK does, save for the fading Land Rover LR2. The buff, conservative pose pays some space dividends, but it doesn't quite convey how well the GLK acquits itself on the road--not in the way the angular but totally rad Range Rover Evoque does with an equal number of straight edges. The cockpit's new this year, though, and it carries the crossover message home, with soft-touch pieces replacing hard-touch ones, and a big, colorful LCD screen taking a more prominent place among the clearly organized, logically laid out controls.
After three years of chugging along with a sole powertrain configuration, the GLK divests that engine this year in favor of a new six-cylinder shared with today's E-Class, and adopts a long-awaited. turbodiesel four from the European lineup. The six? It's more of the same quick-witted power, delivered to either the rear or all four wheels via a seven-speed, paddle-shifted automatic, and configured with stop/start control and direct injection to boost fuel economy (still unannounced as of yet). Performance is gutsy and vibrant, with more pleasant engine noise than before, and 0-60 mph times of 6.5 seconds--a couple of ticks quicker than the prior edition. The BlueTEC diesel is rated at 190 horsepower, 369 pound-feet of torque, shares the automatic and all-wheel drive, and pulls to 60 mph in about 8.0 seconds, with a hint of 30-mpg highway efficiency.With either, really, the roughly 4,100-pound GLK feels relaxed and swift in everyday driving. On pavement, the GLK has a car-like cadence to its ride motions and its cornering forces. The steering's gone electric, but hasn't gone completely numb; it corners neatly, though with less heft and feedback than before. The suspension is tuned to be taut but well damped; it doesn't allow much body motion, but soaks up most roughness while the cabin stays tight and quiet. It's not anything like a hardcore off-roader, but its 4WD system will cut its way through foul weather, delivering power smoothly through muddy ruts and tackling the usual all-weather challenges pretty easily.
Interior room is ample for passengers, and the front seats are supportive and nicely tailored. Finding a comfortable driving position isn't difficult, even for taller drivers. Knee room is fine in the second-row seat, and the angular roofline preserves head room, too. The rear seats fold forward to expand the GLK's cargo bin, leaving 54.7 cubic feet of space if just two passengers are present. With four people on board, the 23.3 cubic feet of cargo space is on the small side for the category. The standard upholstery in the GLK is a synthetic, and most passengers will never know the difference; leather is, of course, an option.
The GLK's standard-equipment list leaves no question that it's a luxury vehicle. It includes 19-inch wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, power front seats, and Bluetooth connectivity. Satellite radio is available; so are a power liftgate; a navigation system powered by COMAND; and 20-inch wheels. New this year on all models is mbrace2, the Mercedes connectivity suite that puts mobile apps in touch with the vehicle--so that Yelp, Google search, and Facebook are a voice command or fingertip touch away. No SUV from the past ever did that--but more crossovers in the near future surely will.
- SUV shape in a crossover world
- Good road manners
- Nicely contoured front seats
- Strong V-6 acceleration
- Advanced connectivity features
Next: Interior / Exterior »
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