2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 24, 2012

It looks more like an authentically rugged SUV, but the improved 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK has carlike road manners and now, better fuel economy with both its gas V-6 and its new turbodiesel four.

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.

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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.

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2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class

Styling

It's still more outwardly SUV than other crossovers, but the 2013 GLK has upped its interior game with finer finishes.

Newly revamped with a front end like the one on Mercedes' passenger cars, the 2013 GLK crossover still has the angular good looks of another era. That would be a high compliment if it were hunting for a spot in a film-noir revival, but in the crossover world, the GLK's sharp edges and crisp form weigh in as more formal, more rigid than the softer, sexier competition--or even than that rakish stiletto heel from Mars, the Range Rover Evoque.

The GLK still looks all butch and off-roadish next to those urban wagons. It's completely intentional, and it does show every sign of holding up well over time. The passing resemblance to some older Japanese utes lingers, though, and the GLK could use some of the sassy theming that's tossed into the latest M-Class--or even better, the last one. In its current form, the GLK actually looks far more like an off-road specialist than it really is.

Inside, it's less of the same this year. In the past, the GLK's instrument panel has borne a striking resemblance to BMW's interiors, composed from dark plastics and a dark band of wood curved just so. The plastics are softer now, and the band's swelled into a more organic shape--wood on some models, metallic plastic on others, with new details formed in and gimballed vents drilled into the span, breaking up the surface. The gauges and controls still are remarkably straightforward, but the vaguely retro tone that lingered through the cabin is gone, replaced by something much more contemporary.
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2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class

Performance

Pretty deft for an all-wheel-drive ute, the GLK's new diesel is quick enough; the V-6 is fast if louder than before, and the electric steering's lighter.

Halfway into its life cycle, the Mercedes-Benz GLK drops its sole engine offering and factors in two new powerplants: a direct-injected V-6 with the same displacement and more power, and a turbodiesel four-cylinder we've been waiting for since the GLK was new in the 2010 model year.

We've driven both versions overseas, prior to their U.S. on-sale dates of August for the gas engine, and early 2013 for the diesel. The road manners haven't changed much at all, despite the switch to electric steering. The drivetrains? There's much to decide, if you're narrowing down your crossover choices to something boxy and German.

First the V-6, since it's on sale sooner, and is more in line with expectations to the recent GLK. It's a 3.5-liter V-6, like the engine in last year's model, but this six is a new design--one shared with the E-Class. With direct injection and standard stop/start technology, the more efficient V-6 also knocks out more horsepower--302 hp, versus the 268 hp of the 2012 model. Coupled to the carried-over seven-speed automatic, which gets paddle controls and a shifter on the steering column instead of the console, the new V-6 feels gutsy and vibrant. It sounds it, too, noticeably more throaty at full bore, but just as smooth and responsive. Mercedes quotes a 0-60 mph time of about 6.5 seconds this time, a couple of tenths quicker than before, with a top end of 130 mph identical to the 2012 model. Gas mileage is unreleased as of yet, but a couple of miles per gallon on either cycle isn't out of the question.

For a leap forward in fuel economy, the coming diesel's the clear choice. The 2.1-liter turbocharged diesel four spins out only 190 horsepower, but typical of diesels, it's a torqueaholic at 369 pound-feet. With standard all-wheel drive and the paddle-shifted seven-speed automatic, the burbly four pushes the GLK to 60 mph in an estimated 8.0 seconds, with a moderate amount of the classic oil-burner vibration and noise. Top speed's also limited to 130 mph. Fuel economy won't be published until the diesel goes on sale in early 2013, but a highway figure of 30 mpg seems like an easy target--which would make the GLK a leader in its class compared to vehicles like the turbocharged Range Rover Evoque, and a reality on the ground well before the long-discussed Audi Q5 Hybrid.

The GLK looks like an SUV and is billed as a luxury compact SUV, but its performance leans much more toward large sedan—that is, it accelerates faster and turns better than its styling would lead you to expect. We liked the GLK's light but precise and well-weighted steering feel when it was hydraulically actuated; now that it's made the switch to efficient electric power steering, it's lighter and a little less precise, but reasonably dialed in to what's happening under the tire treads.

Adding 4MATIC all-wheel drive doesn't dampen the GLK's enthusiasm too much. The queasy body motions and pitchiness you find in some other comparable vehicles during abrupt maneuvers is remarkably absent here. If anything, the GLK has lots of lateral ride stiffness, which you'll feel as side-to-side head toss on rough pavement. Otherwise, Mercedes-Benz has tuned the GLK's suspension to be taut but well damped; it doesn't allow the GLK much body motion, but the suspension will soak up most roughness from the road and the cabin stays tight and quiet even over rough roads or in high-speed cruising.

Off-roading is not the GLK's forte. But its four-wheel-drive system adjusts as the various traction systems determine where torque is needed most. What the GLK does do well is get you home safety in foul weather; the 4MATIC system excels in distributing power smoothly on a snowy road and avoiding wheelspin.

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2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class

Comfort & Quality

Four adults will fit with room to spare in the GLK; cargo space is shy of some competitors, but the dash now has more small-item storage.

The cargo space is a bit shy of that in other luxury crossovers, but for passengers, the GLK's cabin is roomy, with firm seats and an interior spruced up with a better grade of trim and more small-item storage.

Rated to seat five, the two front-seat passengers have the most space in the GLK. Tailored and bolstered for long-distance support, the firm chairs offer plenty of room for tall drivers to find a good driving position. The steering wheel tilts and telescopes on all versions--power-actuated on some--and with good visibility all around, it's simple to find an ideal driving position. We wouldn't mind a little softer bottom cushion, though, and the GLK's sunroof trims some of the headroom from what on first glance looks like soaring space.

On the spec sheet, you'll see standard vinyl upholstery, but leather is an option. The ersatz stuff is good enough that only you and your auto-loan underwriter will know the difference.

The second-row seats offer up enough knee room and three children will fit across the bench seat. No third-row seat is offered, but the rear seat folds and splits to expand the storage area. Sometimes, that's a necessity, because the GLK's cargo area is smaller than that in some competitive crossovers, like the Volvo XC60. With the back seat up the GLK has 23.3 cubic feet of room to load--a 28-inch suitcase will just fit lengthwise--and it's handily outpaced by the 30-plus cubic feet of space in the Volvo. With the rear seat down, the GLK has a cargo area of 54.7 cubic feet, and an almost perfectly flat load floor measuring nearly 66 inches long.

The GLK's interior never struck us as particularly spartan, but it did have a lot of hard plastic. The quality of that plastic, and of the interior's styling, has gotten better for 2013. The wide band of trim across the dash has swelled into a more organic shape, and it's trimmed in wood or a metallic plastic, and studded by gimballed vents for an upscale look. The dash cap is padded, leaving only the sides of the center console that run along the transmission tunnel covered in tougher stuff.

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2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class

Safety

The GLK's plentiful safety gear adds lane-keeping and active park assist, as well as blind-spot monitors, to the options list.

Mercedes-Benz' enduring reputation for safety and related technology is evident in the 2013 GLK. It earns excellent crash-test scores from the agency reporting thus far, and this year, it's been refreshed with a slew of new features that improve its standing in the crossover class.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has tested the latest GLK, and it gives the crossover "good" scores in all relevant tests. That made the GLK a Top Safety Pick again for 2012, and with no structural changes for the new model year, it's expected that the designation will carry over.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), on the other hand, hasn't yet tested the smallest Benz SUV.

All the customary safety features are included in the GLK package: there are dual front, side and curtain airbags as well as anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control. Active front head restraints are standard, too, and the GLK has emergency systems that will automatically contact emergency dispatch if you're in a severe crash.

New this year are features like Attention Assist, which uses cameras to measure drowsy driving--and to suggest a coffee stop when needed. MBrace2 seeks to avoid distracted driving by offlining smartphone activity to the ute's audio and Bluetooth controls, while active park assist uses the GLK's electric power steering and parking sensors to accurately place the vehicle in a parallel parking spot--with the driver manning the accelerator and brake. Lane-keeping assist is now available: it nudges the GLK back into the proper lane when it detects a swerve over the lines. And finally, blind-spot monitors and adaptive cruise control are now offered on the GLK as options.

Thanks to the relatively high seating position and low shoulder line, the Mercedes-Benz GLK has impressive outward visibility—better than most other luxury crossovers.

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2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class

Features

The GLK embraces connectivity with in-car Facebook, voice commands for COMAND, and a pretty new LCD display.

It's the smallest SUV in the Mercedes-Benz lineup but the GLK is far from spartan. It has all the luxury and technology features you'll find in the bigger M-Class, and some new features coming in 2013 to the new GL, too.

All V-6 GLKs with all-wheel drive come with power windows, locks, and mirrors; cruise control; automatic climate control; Bluetooth and iPod connectivity; power front seats; wood trim; 19-inch wheels; and MB-Tex upholstery, a synthetic material that does a good job of passing itself off as leather. A new 5.8-inch LCD screen displays output for the audio system. Paddle controls for the shifter--now relocated to the steering column--are standard. Diesel GLKs are expected to come with all-wheel drive and similar equipment; the equipment list for the rear-drive model has yet to be released.

Many of the GLK's options are bundled into packages. A premium package rolls up memory seating and power tilt/telescope steering; a power tailgate; an iPod interface; satellite radio; a panoramic sunroof; and a garage door opener. Another package bundles leather seating with memory seats and ambient lighting. An AMG Styling package gets unique body add-ons, LED daytime running lamps, aluminum roof rails, and 20-inch five-spoke wheels.

Entertainment options include a Multimedia Package with a rearview camera, enhanced voice commands, and Mercedes' COMAND roller-knob controller for ancillary controls, coupled with a hard-drive-based navigation system. A Lane Tracking Package combines safety features including blind-spot monitors and lane-keeping assist, while another Driver Assistance package brings in adaptive cruise control and active blind-spot assist with brake intervention.

Stand-alone options include satellite radio; a harman/kardon sound system; parking sensors teamed with active park assist; the panoramic sunroof; a trailer hitch; running boards; heated front seats; 19-inch wheels; the iPod interface; and keyless entry and pushbutton start.

Mercedes-Benz has been a tech pioneer for quite some time in the automotive industry, combining cutting-edge features with an impeccable luxury finish. This year, the GLK incorporates mbrace2, a mobile-app connectivity suite that brings in Yelp, Facebook, and Google Street View to the driving environment, along with other services like geofencing and remote vehicle data access via a smartphone app.

 


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2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class

Fuel Economy

The diesel's finally here--and a new direct-injection V-6 gets better gas mileage, too.

For its first three model years, the Mercedes GLK hasn't done very well in the gas-mileage derby. While other luxury crossovers have nudged 27 miles per gallon on the EPA highway cycle, the 2010-2012 GLK topped out at 16/23 mpg for the rear-wheel-drive model.

We expect that to change in the 2013 model year, for two reasons--those reasons being a new V-6, and a new turbodiesel four. The V-6 offers direct injection and stop/start technology, while it keeps the seven-speed automatic and the option of rear- or all-wheel drive. Official numbers haven't been released yet but we expect a healthy increase in fuel economy. We'll update this rating and this page as soon as those figures are available.

The other option is why we've nudged the GLK's rating a full two points above last year's score. With a new turbodiesel 2.1-liter four, the GLK could end up sporting the best fuel-economy ratings in the class, by a healthy margin. Since it doesn't go on sale until early 2013, the diesel's EPA figures are still under wraps, but a 30-mpg highway rating isn't out of the question. We'll also revisit this page to update the diesel numbers when they're released.

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April 17, 2015
For 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class

Superlative, with the exception of consumption in city

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Soft on the route and city, even off road. Safe and reliable driving Poor communication and recognition system Powerful engine, torque more than enough.
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Styling 7.0
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