2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK Road Test Review
2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK adds refinement and diesel fuel efficiency
Scores High: Quality interior, smooth ride, powerful V6 gasoline engine, thrifty four-cylinder diesel
Scores Low: Diesel throttle response is slushy, not as fun to drive as the competition
Total Car Score Analysis
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK has some stiff competition. Luxury compact crossovers are some of the finest vehicles on the road, offering sedan-like dynamics with plenty of cargo space. While the new GLK isn't as sporty as its primary rivals, the luxury SUV boasts typical Mercedes-Benz refinement and an oh-so-smooth ride quality. Is that enough to stand out from the crowd? Apparently not.
After just three years on the market, Mercedes-Benz is updating the 2013 GLK. The changes include two new engines, slight exterior alterations, substantial interior revisions and more than 1000 new parts. Those engines are a powerful new V6 and the first diesel option in this luxury SUV class. After driving both versions of the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK in the French Alps we found this luxury crossover maintains class-leading refinement while the new diesel engine will help the GLK stand out among green-minded premium SUV buyers.
Instead of the soft, rounded lines of today's crossovers, the 2013 GLK opts for a stark, angular appearance that is more reminiscent of an SUV. The cabin is set back farther than most crossovers, limiting cargo space slightly. Up front it features new headlights, a revised lower fascia with LED daytime driving lights and the signature Mercedes-Benz grille, now with more chrome. From a profile view the GLK offers a tall greenhouse, prominent fender flares, character lines that create a slight rake front to rear, and standard roof rails that are restyled and lighter. The rear end has new taillights and a slightly revised lower fascia. A power liftgate is optional.
The big news for the GLK in 2013 is a pair of new engines, highlighted by the crossover’s first diesel. This 2.1-liter turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine produces 190 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy ratings aren't yet available, but they will likely be the best-in-class. While the 3.0-liter V6 diesel offered in larger Mercedes-Benz models is well matched to those vehicles, the 2.1-liter diesel four struggles at low RPM in the GLK. Without the displacement to develop immediate torque, turbo lag becomes an issue. The throttle is mushy from a stop, and the engine doesn't gain steam until it reaches 2500 to 3000 rpm. Power is ready and willing once the revs are up, but you'll struggle to get out ahead of traffic when pulling away from a stop. Zero to 60 mph is a very respectable 8.0 seconds, and the engine is smooth and quiet, so buyers looking for fuel economy over power will be pleased.
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK’s non-diesel engine is also new. This direct-injected 3.5-liter V6 replaces an older engine of the same size. It makes 302 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, and is quicker and more responsive than the previous version, or the new diesel. In fact this V6 makes the GLK plenty happy to jump out in front of traffic on its way to a 6.5-second zero-to-60 mph time. It's a little louder than the diesel, but we like the pleasing growl it emits when pushed.
Both engines send their power to all four wheels through a seven-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually via a pair of steering wheel paddles. The transmission shifts smoothly and downshifts quickly when more thrust is needed. The Mercedes-Benz 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system sends 55 percent of its power to the GLK’s rear wheels during normal cruising. When either axle loses grip, more power can go to the axle with traction.
Otherwise, the 2013 GLK offers very pleasant but not particularly sporty road manners. It soaks up bumps effectively, but the response from the new electromechanical steering is a bit slow and it lacks road feel. On the road, the GLK feels much like a refined sedan, though with a bit more lean in turns and a higher ride height offering a better view of the road. While the GLK is stable and composed, several compact luxury crossover competitors are more agile and responsive. The GLK's brakes have a natural pedal feel and are strong enough for anything the street can throw at them.
Interior Design and Function
Many of the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK's 1000 updated parts are found in the cabin. The GLK gets more soft-touch materials, as well as a large expanse of Burl Walnut trim, both of which better fit the class and the Mercedes-Benz marque. The gauges get Mercedes' latest white and gold color scheme with a 4.5-inch information screen/trip computer in the middle of the center gauge. The shifter moves to a stalk on the steering column, which makes the center console more capable of storing small items. The GLK’s center stack is revised, too, but the controls are all in the same basic, easy-to-access positions.
The 2013 GLK also comes with Mercedes' COMAND central control interface. It is run through a dial on the center console and a set of buttons on the center stack to control the various entertainment, communication and navigation functions. All this information is viewed on a hooded 5.8-inch center screen. Navigating around the system involves rotating the dial, pushing it in one of four directions, clicking down for enter and/or using the dashboard buttons to provide shortcuts to the various functions. COMAND takes some time to get used to, but after a month or so buyers will find it second nature, though they may never find all the controls intuitive.
The new GLK also marks Mercedes’ entry into the recent trend of providing access to apps through smartphones. The system is called mbrace2, and it includes more than just the access to Yelp, Google local search and Facebook. It also offers news headlines, vehicle health diagnostics, geo-fencing that alerts owners if the vehicle is driven out of a predetermined area, speed alerts and remote control of the horn and lights. Many of these features can also be accessed from a home computer. We drove the 2013 GLK in the French Alps, so we didn't have access to most of these features.
Like the other vehicles in this class, the latest GLK offers useful space for a family and their belongings. The front seats are supportive, and their power controls team with a standard tilt/telescoping steering wheel to make it easy to create a comfortable driving position. The front seats have plenty of space, even for tall occupants, and the rear seats will work for adults, too, though the middle rear seat offers little elbow room. Rear cargo space in the GLK is a few cubic feet smaller than most competitors, but it still has a useful 57.4 cubic feet of storage when the rear seats are folded.
Primary Features and Options
In addition to the gasoline-powered GLK350 4MATIC, Mercedes-Benz adds the diesel-powered GLK250 4MATIC for 2013. The 2013 GLK350 is due in August and the GLK250 is scheduled for release early next year. Given that timing, Mercedes has only made the equipment list for the GLK350 4MATIC available, though the GLK 250 4MATIC will likely have the same equipment. Those standard features include MB Tex vinyl upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power adjustable front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with shift paddles, six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo, a split-folding rear seat, rear cargo cover, roof rails, automatic headlights, Agility Control suspension with selective damping, Bluetooth connectivity, and P235/50R19 tires on alloy wheels.
The 2013 GLK also comes with unique safety equipment. In addition to the usual airbags and traction and stability control, it features a driver knee airbag, active front head restraints, Mercedes' Attention Assist, and trailer stability assist. Blind Spot Assist and Lane Keeping Assist are also offered, as are active versions of these features that nudge the vehicle back into its lane.
Other GLK notable options include leather upholstery, a navigation system, satellite radio, a rearview camera, iPod integration, a panoramic sunroof, and an AMG Styling Package with more aggressive bodywork and 20-inch wheels.
It’s Perfect For…
Luxury compact crossovers like the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK are great choices for singles, couples and small families who want refined transportation with cargo versatility. The GLK is among the most refined in the class, but it isn't as sporty as some competitors. The V6 engine is an improvement over the one it replaces, offering plenty of power, and the new diesel engine is a great choice for those who want to save on fuel costs. The updated GLK and its competitors also make worthy alternatives to midsize entry luxury cars, as they are priced about the same while offering more cargo space.
Vehicle Tested: 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 4MATIC
Base MSRP of Test Vehicle: NA
Options on Test Vehicle: Premium 1 Package (auto-dimming mirrors, driver memory with four-way lumbar support and power tilt/telescoping steering column, power liftgate, iPod interface, satellite radio, panorama sunroof, 115-volt power outlet, universal garage door opener, compass), Full Leather Seating Package (full leather seating including door panels, front passenger seat memory, comfort headrests, interior ambient lighting), Mulitmedia Package (rearview camera, enhanced voice control, COMAND with hard-drive navigation)
MSRP of Test Vehicle (including destination charge): NA
The manufacturer provided Total Car Score this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Photos Courtesy of the manufacturer.