Those silly Germans, they’re such kidders. That’s the thought when first told we would be getting the 2013 Mercedes GLK250 BlueTEC for a week. A four cylinder diesel? In a crossover? Surely you jest meine deutschen freunde!
Turns out they weren’t.
The last time we drove a Mercedes we were in Germany, where it seems like law says everyone has to own a Mercedes. A trip on the Autobahn in a CLS550 flat out was a thrilling experience but more like a visit to a ride at the county fair; one and done.
To live with a Mercedes for a week is an altogether different experience; as it turned out not at all an unpleasant one. For those used to seeing the Mercedes sedans the crossover is a totally different sight. And for 2013 it is one that’s had a little upgrade, or two, more like three and more. There are interior upgrades along with some minor exterior changes. Still like all Mercedes in sharp contrast to the relatively soft forms of similar vehicles, the striking, angular nose of the GLK sets it apart from the competition. The GLK-Class lineup consists of the GLK350 and the diesel-powered GLK250 BlueTEC like we had for the week.
The GLK (not to be confused with the larger GK class) or Geländewagen Luxus Kompaktklasse (which my rudimentary German learned from attending two Oktoberfest’s says means either “off road luxury compact class” or “bring me more beer junge Frau”) was introduced in 2008 as a luxury crossover. The GLK for 2013 marks the first year a diesel engine is being introduced into the mid-size SUV market and the first diesel entry for Mercedes since the early 1990s. Still for an old American gear head used to the smell of high octane the thought of wheeling something that has the same type of powerplant found in a city bus left the image of a noisy smelly, and slow, experience.
Boy how wrong we were.
As in all Mercedes the interior is orderly, but unlike some others in the lineup with the interior upgrades there is a little bit of warmth; not a bunch, but more than there was. There are still no soft touches like others in the same class, no “fru-fru” frills or luxurious amenities. The best way to describe any Mercedes interior is the no-nonsense order of everything and the GLK is no different; and that’s just fine with us. Gauges are easy to read, well placed, and all controls are easy to reach and use. The gear selector at first was a bit curious; a stick on the right side of the steering column; up for reverse, down for drive and a push button for park. But, after a few times it is easy to use and it turned out that we thought it is a great idea freeing up more center console space for stuff we need more console space for.
Standard equipment on the GLK models includes 19-inch wheels, automatic headlights, LED running lights, foglamps, rear privacy glass, roof rails, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power front seats, MB-Tex premium vinyl upholstery, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a cargo cover. There’s also the must-have Bluetooth phone connectivity, the COMAND electronics interface and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
At a base price of $38,590 that is a great deal. However, as with all Mercedes, adding on will cost you, plenty. In our case after all the upgrades our GLK for the week topped out at $57,625. The model we had came with the Premium 1 package. This adds a power lift gate, auto-dimming mirrors, a panoramic sunroof, four-way driver lumbar adjustment, a power-adjustable steering wheel, a 115-volt power outlet, satellite radio and an iPod/USB audio interface. We also had the Full Leather Seating package giving us leather upholstery, front driver and passenger memory functions, upgraded head restraints and interior ambient lighting. There was also the Lighting package which added adaptive bi-xenon headlights with automatic high beams and washers.
Finally we had the Multimedia package; a rearview camera, a navigation system and voice controls as well as the Lane Tracking package which adds our ever-favorite blind-spot warning system and a lane-departure warning system. There was also the Driver Assistance package, which adds adaptive cruise control and enhanced versions of the blind-spot and lane-departure warning systems that take evasive action if the driver fails to do so. There is also the ATTENTION ASSIST feature standard in all models which is supposed to tell if a driver is getting sleepy. We never nodded off during our week so fortunately we were not able to test this feature.
But who wants to sleep through this driving experience anyway?
The little diesel provides surprising performance. The BlueTEC 4MATIC boasts the most powerful four-cylinder diesel engine in the SUV world. The turbocharged 2.1-liter four-cylinder diesel engine delivers 200 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque (!). While it won’t leave any number 11s on the pavement a push on the throttle gives a nice kick in the pants and with the all-wheel drive (standard on our diesel model, optional on the gas powered cousin) navigating pavement is a pleasant experience. Aggressive cornering shows very little body roll and the view provided by the higher stance gives a great deal of confidence. Sure on occasion one might hear the tick from the diesel engine, but when you see how little the gas gauge moves, that sound will quickly fade away. The EPA ratings of 24 mpg city/33 mpg highway and 28 combined are eye-opening. In fact during our week in mixed use we actually got closer to 30 mpg. Those ratings are just a little below a Lexus 450 hybrid, and that’s pretty impressive.
And impressive is what sums up the GLK 350. The drive, power, handling, fuel mileage and the comfortable ergonomic interior has set a bar that might be hard for other mid-size SUVs in the same class. If you can live with a stripped down base version, and there is no real reason you can’t, then at $38,590 it’s a very good deal. But should you decide to pay for the upgrades then the GLK350 gives an overall driving experience that will leave you saying, sehr schön, sehr schön.
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC
Price as tested: $57,625
EPA ratings (estimated): 24 mpg city/33 mpg highway and 28 combined
MPG (as tested in mixed condition): 30 mpg
Engine (as tested): Inline-4 Twin-Turbo Diesel (200 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque)
Wheelbase 108.5 in
Length, Overall 178.3 in
Width, Max w/o mirrors 74.25 in
Height, Overall 66.9 in
Track Width, Front 60.1 in
Track Width, Rear 62.5 in
Min Ground Clearance 7.9 in
Passenger Capacity 5
Passenger Volume 102.9 ft
Front Head Room 39.02 in
Front Leg Room 41.4 in
Front Shoulder Room 55.2 in
Front Hip Room 53.2 in
Second Head Room 39.7 in
Second Leg Room 35.1 in
Second Shoulder Room 55.4 in
Second Hip Room 52.5 in
48-months/ 50,000 miles