2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class GLK350 4Matic SUV
The GLK350 is Mercedes' fully-revised offering in the premium midsize SUV segment. It's not quite as refined as the larger M- and GL-Class vehicles, but offers a relatively sporty drive and excellent build quality for the money with a base price considerably less than comparably equipped competition.
PerformanceThanks to all-wheel drive, a smooth 3.5-liter V6 and a smooth-shifting tranmission, the GLK350 is a strong straight-line performer. Handling is less impressive in spite of good steering response.
With 302 horsepower and a supple 7-speed automatic transmission, acceleration feels strong and smooth. All-wheel drive allows good traction from a standstill. We tested it to 60 mph in 6.0 seconds.
Somewhat spongy pedal feel belies stable and predictable operation. Our tests revealed consistent performance even after repeated hard-braking panic stops. Long travel and no jumpiness.
At parking lot speeds the steering is light for easy maneuverability. Steering is appropriately heavy at freeway speeds and the GLK is easy to drive and doesn't wander out of its lane.
The GLK's suspension is firm, but that doesn't translate to performance handling. It's confident on tight, twisty roads, but it's not something that is built for speed.
The GLK's powertrain is better than the vehicle it's in. Effortless power and smooth acceleration and the best start/stop system currently in production.
Rated at 3,500 pounds, the GLK350's towing capacity is in line with that of its competitors. The necessary trailer hitch kit will set you back $550.
With 7.9 inches of ground clearance, the GLK 4Matic has some off-road potential, but it's no rock crawler. Its all-wheel drive is more suited to bad weather and dirt driveways than anything else.
ComfortIt's clear that the GLK350 is made more to perform than to coddle. So it's relatively fun to drive, but its rigid nature sacrifices some comfort. Despite a new suspension with adaptive dampers, the ride isn't as smooth as in larger (more expensive) Mercedes.
Driver's seat offers 10-way adjustment, but same for passenger costs extra. Lateral and thigh bolsters are minimal and the padding is hard. Heated seats are optional ($750).
More compliant than on the previous GLK, the suspension is still not what you'd call soft. This helps with handling, but makes this SUV tend to pound over uneven surfaces.
At highway speeds over less-than-smooth pavement, road noise becomes more intrusive and wind noise around the windshield becomes audible. At full throttle, the engine is very loud and raspy.
InteriorQuality materials, good ergonomics and controls layout, and solid fit and finish add up to a nice interior space in the GLK350. This is compromised by poor rear visibility and limited cargo stowage space.
Traditional Mercedes controls are well placed and easy to figure out. The rotary dial in front of the armrest is well placed for easy control of the intuitive navigation system.
Door opening height is generous enough to allow taller individuals to easily enter and exit. Step-in height is slightly higher than the competition, but only by about an inch.
The front seats offer plenty of leg room. Headroom is spacious. Rear seats are tighter than those found in the competition.
Small rear windows and intrusive rear pillars compromise rearward visibility. Back-up camera and blind-spot monitors are optional. High seating position offers good forward visibility.
With 23.3 cubic feet of rear cargo space, the GLK has less space than any of its competitors. The rear seats fold completely flat in a 60/40 split upping capacity to 54.7 cu/ft. The power liftgate is optional.
ValueThe GLK350 costs less than the competition to start. Outside of dual-zone climate control and Bluetooth, a zero-option model isn't exactly feature-rich. But that's par for a premium-segment SUV.
Build Quality (vs. $)
The GLK looks and feels solid and well-built. The standard MB-Tex (vinyl) upholstery is not as supple as real leather (which would be an extra $2,100), but offers better wear resistance.
Standard features on the GLK are very basic, but Bluetooth phone/streaming audio is standard. You'll pay extra for things like navigation, leather, all-wheel drive and blind-spot assist.
At $37,090, the base GLK350 costs less than all other six-cylinder vehicles in its class. Adding the $2,000 4Matic option still prices it well beneath a comparable BMW X3, Lexus RX or Audi Q5.
The EPA estimates the GLK350 will net 19 mpg and 24 mpg city/highway, and 21 mpg in combined use. We averaged 22 mpg in our testing .
Mercedes-Benz covers the GLK with a 48-month, 50,000-mile limited warranty. This can be extended for up to three more years or 100,000 total miles (at extra cost).
Roadside assistance is available to any vehicle still inside its warranty period. Programs like pre-paid maintenance and MBrace accident assistance may also be purchased.
Fun To DriveEven though the transmission isn't as responsive in this Mercedes application as others and the suspension is somewhat lacking, the GLK350 is still good fun to drive, especially when flooring it from a stoplight.
With a good seating position, good steering and adequate power, getting around in the GLK is a drama-free affair. It feels stable and composed in most any everyday driving situation.
We wouldn't say it drips with personality, but it has enough power to keep you engaged. And there's the whole Mercedes-Benz brand recognition thing, if you're into that.
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