2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 Review:
There are plenty of small luxury SUVs on the market, and I sometimes I wonder what you get for that extra $15,000. A week in the Mercedes-Benz GLK350 reminded me what luxury looks, feels and rides like.
A bunch of the little luxury SUVs handle pretty well and a few even look luxurious, but the GLK350 is a heck of a nice blend, and with a base price of $37,090 it’s one of the least expensive vehicles from the German automaker. This one added a variety of options, so it hit $46,930 before an $875 destination charge.
But even the entry level Benz is luxury-oriented and performance is the same.
Standard is a peppy 3.5-liter DI V6 that creates 302 horsepower so the truck will get up and go from a stop. There’s a 7-speed automatic transmission that shifts through the gears smoothly.
Standard Agility Control suspension with selective damping delivers the finest small-SUV ride on the market. Most small SUVs offer some choppiness or body roll even in luxury-priced models. Not here. The Mercedes suspension firms up when you make a sudden or aggressive move, improving the handling. But under normal conditions it reduces damping to smooth the ride for comfort. On some of the Milwaukee area’s roughest roads, the ride was well controlled and comfortable.
All-wheel drive is standard with sensors at each wheel to judge wheel slip. If they sense any, the system shifts power to another wheel for maximum traction. On slippery roads the GLK felt steady and there is only slight body lean even in high speed turns.
There are large vented discs brakes all around and the truck runs on 19-inch tires. Its weight, 4,079 lbs., and 108.5-inch wheelbase give the truck a solid feel and excellent on-road capability. The Mercedes also rides a little higher off the ground in case you want to go off-road.
The small bit of a downside is a taller step-up height on the Mercedes, which also has a fairly wide frame at the doors’ edge to step over.
GLK will tow up to 3,500 pounds and there is good interior storage space with 23.3 cubic feet of cargo room behind the second seat and 54.7 cubic feet when you fold the rear seats down.
I’m never happy when a vehicle requires high-octane premium fuel, which this does, but in its defense, the GLK has an Eco mode. If you press that button the engine will shut off at any full stop to save a bit of fuel. I got a reasonable 19.9 mpg in about 60% city driving, very near what the trip computer was estimating.
The EPA rates the GLK at 19 mpg city and 25 mpg highway.
Not always a fan of German vehicles’ interiors, I liked this one, despite the plastic-look of the supposed burl walnut trim. Seats were black leather with a gray stitching that freshens and lightens their look. There is satin chrome trim on the air vents and steering wheel hub, plus matte silver-faced gauges that are easy to see and read.
The power seats are controlled by seat-shaped buttons on the doors, which are easy to find and reach. The driver’s seat has three memory buttons, part of the $3,450 premium 1 package that also adds a garage opener, auto-dimming side mirrors and rearview mirror with a compass, a 4-way power lumbar support and a giant panoramic sunroof. Other items in the package include an interface for iPod & MP3 use, SIRIUS radio, a 115-volt outlet in the cargo area and a power liftgate.
Seating is fairly flat and very comfortable on a longer drive. The seat back has some contouring and includes three-level seat heat. Rear seats also fold flat so you can easily haul bigger items in the hatch area. In back there’s a solid spare tire (no air needed) under the floor. So that means there is some under the floor storage area too, if you need to hide valuables while traveling.
Mercedes included high-tech features, and they all operate well, mostly adding to value and safety. A $2,790 multimedia package includes its Comand system with a hard-drive navigation system and rearview camera. There is a lane tracking package for $850 that includes a lane departure system that vibrates the steering wheel if you drive near the centerline. This package also includes blind-spot warning, which turns on a warning light in your outside rearview mirrors if a vehicle or large object is in your blind spot.
One downside is Mercedes’ insistence on putting three levers to the left of the steering wheel, for cruise control, wipers and turn signals and the tilt/telescope function. This is confusing, easy to hit the wrong lever and has one too many levers. Yet I wouldn’t let that spoil the GLK’s interior for me. It’s comfortable and well laid out.