About the time the Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class first arrived in the U.S. in 2010, the automaker’s then-new compact crossover made a well-publicized cameo in the first movie. The implication was clear: Benz’s marketers were targeting Samantha, Carrie, and their fans. Now that the GLK is getting a refresh and an edgier look, active couples are apparently the bogey. After testing the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 4Matic, which was also a player in the 2013 SUV of the Year competition, we found it to be a package that should impress any buyer — male, female, or otherwise.
While the refreshed GLK boasts more than 1000 new parts, you might not notice at first glance, although minor exterior updates continue to set the boxy 2013 Mercedes GLK350 apart in a segment dominated by curvy crossovers. A revised front grille insert as well as new triangular headlights tie its looks to the automaker’s sedan and coupe models. LED running lights flank the lower trapezoidal grille, which now features a large chrome surround. New taillights with LED accents, a redesigned chrome skidplate, and new exhaust tips finish the rear. Our tester came with the standard five-spoke, 19-inch alloy wheels wrapped in all-season tires, though 20-inch wheels are optional.
Thanks to higher compression and direct injection, Mercedes boosted the power and fuel economy of the 3.5-liter V-6 to 302 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, increases of 34 hp and 15 lb-ft over the outgoing model. The seven-speed automatic transmission gains an ECO stop-start system, lower-slip torque converter, and new fluid to improve efficiency. Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive system is split 45:55 front to rear. Electromechanical steering assist with speed-sensitive assist and a variable ratio replaces the previous model’s hydraulic setup. Fuel economy for all-wheel-drive models is now rated 19/24 mpg city highway, improvements of 3 mpg for both figures. On the road, the 302-hp V-6 and seven-speed automatic combo moves the 2013 GLK350 with authority.
Stomping on the throttle from a stop launches the 4183-pound SUV hard and without tire chirp, thanks to its four-wheel grip. The seven-speed offers a sport mode that holds gears longer and quickens response time when accelerating. Steering column-mounted paddle shifters allow for more control over shift points. At the track, the 2013 GLK350 accelerated to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds and through the quarter mile in 14.4 seconds at 96.4 mph — easily besting the last model we tested, which posted 6.6 seconds and 15.0 seconds at 92.9 mph, respectively. Bringing the crossover to a stop required 122 feet from 60 mph, 2 feet shorter than the previous model. Its ride is smooth and handling is confident with the 19-inch wheel package, and the new electromechanical steering is accurate and nicely weighted. On the skidpad, the GLK350 pulled 0.76 g and went around the figure eight in 28.5 seconds at 0.55 g average — numbers slightly lower than the 2010 GLK350 we tested, although that model was equipped with 20-inch wheels and low-profile rubber. It pulled 0.80 g around the skidpad and went around the figure eight in 28.1 seconds at 0.60 g average.
Inside, the 2013 GLK model we had featured burl walnut trim spanning the dashboard, and the updated round air vents were easier to use than the old rectangular units. The center console gear shifter has been replaced by a steering column shifter stalk, freeing up space in the center console for an additional pair of cupholders (surely just for us Americans). The GLK’s Almond/Mocha MB-Tex synthetic leather seats are comfortable, and eight-way power front seats ensure you’ll find the optimal driving position. The infotainment screen has been updated with crisper colors but retains the same user-friendly interface. With 41.4 inches of front legroom (1.5 inches more than the BMW X3) and 35.1 inches of rear legroom (4 inches less than the X3), this 5’10” scribe could easily sit behind himself with room to spare. The rear seat is comfortable for two adults, three in a pinch, but a small floor hump takes up some center seat legroom.
Despite being 4.7 inches shorter overall than the X3, the GLK-Class has 3.9 more cubic-feet of cargo room behind the second row. Our tester also sported several of Benz’s latest active safety features, such as Attention Assist and adaptive brakes with Hold, brake drying, hill-start assist, and brake pre-charging. It also came with the Lane Tracking Package that includes Active Blind Spot Assist and Lane Keeping Assist. The GLK350 also features a driver knee airbag and pelvic airbags for both front occupants that complement the usual front and side impact airbags.
Pricing for the 2013 GLK350 4Matic is about $1200 more than 2012 models. Rear-drive models continue to be $2000 less than all-wheel drive models. The 2013 GLK350 4Matic starts at $39,965, while our tester topped out at $48,525 with Cuprite Brown paint ($720) and MB-Tex synthetic leather, Premium Package 1 ($3450), Multimedia Package ($2790), Lane Tracking Package ($850), and heated front seats ($750). While not cheap, its chief rival, the BMW X3 xDrive28i, starts at $39,395 with a comparably equipped model costing $51,945. Though we haven’t tested the latest xDrive28i model, stepping up to a 300-hp, 300 lb-ft of torque X3 xDrive35i rings the register at $44,495 before options.
While the 2013 GLK350 comes nicely equipped, cooled seats would be a welcome option that isn’t currently offered. We also hope the next-generation GLK has a larger navigation/infotainment screen. And for some, $48,525 may be a stiff price to pay for synthetic leather. A Leather Package, which includes LED ambient interior lighting and 10-way power front passenger seat with memory, is available for $2100. With more than 1000 new parts, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 4Matic should keep return buyers happy and attract new customers of all shapes and sizes, even with the more expensive E350 4Matic also in Benz’s stable. We’ll have to wait to get our hands on a comparable BMW X3 to see which premium SUV works best in the real world.