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Mercedes-Benz 2013 GLK 350: Classic ride, style for newly designed SUV

Now in its third year, the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK350, the German automaker’s smallest sport utility vehicle, received a makeover. Improvements include more horsepower, better acceleration, revamped power steering, a more elegant interior design and a handful of new standard and optional features.

The exterior improvements include new headlights and front bumper, as well as LED taillights and running lamps. The rear has also been redesigned with shades of bottom-heavy family sedans of yesteryear.

2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK 350. Images © James Raia/2012

All improvements were warranted because the segment has plenty of competition, including luxury people mover stalwarts like the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Lexus RX350.

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

With its new a 305-horsepower direct-injection V-6, 34 horsepower from 2012, the improved Mercedes has a lot to offer. It’s an elegant sedan disguised as an SUV. During my week’s drive, the Mercedes handled every driving condition well.While it could have better city driving gas mileage, that’s a hard proposition for a heavy car with more than 300 horsepower. What’s surprising, though, is that for an SUV the GLK is nimble. It maneuvers well in parallel parking situations. It fits into small car spots in public parking garages. It has a tight turning radius.

The new Mercedes’ driving prowess was complement by its interior design and comfort. It was classic Mercedes-Benz. The tan leather seats, door panels, floor and roof were accented in dark gray and wood trim. Front and rear passengers sit high in the car, which affords near panoramic views.There’s ample head and legroom and front console is spacious because the automatic transmission stalk is uniquely positioned behind the steering. It was reminiscent of the “three-on-the-tree” shifting from yesteryear.

But it took about three days with the new Mercedes to experience one of its most unique features, Attention Assist.I’d noticed the small coffee up icon in the odometer, but hadn’t researched its function. I found out on a late-night drive from the San Francisco Bay Area to Sacramento. According to Mercedes, the Attention Assist gathers information about the driver’s behavior during the first few minutes of driving. Via a steering sensor and while also monitoring braking, acceleration and other factors, the system creates a driver profile. When the driver strays (even slightly), a warning chime sounds and the coffee cup icon appears in larger form and with the words: “Time for a break?”

Likes:

Impressive acceleration for an SUV.

The fatigue warning system. Shades of Big Brother, but the big picture are that it’s all good.

Comfortable seating.

Spacious interior.

Surprisingly small turning radius, particularly considering its segment.

Quiet ride at any speed.

Interior wood trim. Classic Mercedes-Benz style.

Dislikes:

Small exterior side mirrors.

The rear end design. It looks like a digital image that’s been sized incorrectly.

Gearshift control stalk near the steering wheel. It’s awkwardly positioned and too small considering the size of the steering wheel it’s hidden behind.

Lots of worthy options . . . with hefty prices.Facts & Figures: 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK 350

Acceleration: 0-60 mph 6.4 seconds.
Airbags (7):
Fuel economy: 19 mpg (city), 24 mpg (highway), 21 mpg (combined), seven-speed automatic transmission.
Government Safety Ratings: NTHSA, Not yet rated; IIHS, not yet rated.
Horsepower: 305
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $39,965.00
Manufacturer’s Web site: www.mbusa.com
Price As tested: $48,525.00
Warranty: Bumper-to-bumper, 4 Years/50,000 miles; Drivetrain: 4 Years/50,000 miles; Corrosion: 4 Years/50,000 miles; Roadside Assistance: Unlimited years/unlimited miles.

What Others Say:

“Mercedes-Benz’s GLK-class has proven a likable little sport utility vehicle, as evidenced by its increase in sales over recent years. Although its steering response takes a step down, the GLK’s increased power, enhanced efficiency, and sexier styling makes it worth serious consideration in this hotly contested segment.” — Popular Mechanics.

“The tall seating position of a crossover is a godsend for seeing over and around parked cars when easing out of blind alleys into traffic and 360-degree visibility is good thanks to the airy greenhouse and large windows.” — CNET.com.

“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.” — MotorTrend.com

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

“With its extensive makeover, classic Mercedes comfort, interior design, and fair starting MSRP, it’s hard to find fault with the new GLK-class . . . with the exception of its oddly shaped rear end.”

 

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