Motoring: Baby Benz gets refreshed styling

The baby of the Mercedes-Benz SUV lineup, the GLK, only joined the fleet in 2010, but there are big changes under the hood for 2013.

Mercedes-Benz’s smallest SUV

KINGSTON, On.: The baby of the Mercedes-Benz SUV lineup, the GLK only joined the fleet in 2010 but already it is getting its first makeover in 2013.

It will take a GLK-class aficionado to notice the changes outside although there are a few, but where the big news lies is under the hood.

New for 2013 is a new four-cylinder turbo diesel engine that is simply loaded with torque.

Mercedes says this is the most powerful four-cylinder diesel engine in the SUV world, putting out 200 hp and 369 lb/ft of torque, while delivering impressive fuel economy numbers of 7.2L/100 km for combined city/highway driving. It is available in the GLK 250 BluTEC 4MATIC for a starting price of $43,500.

For those who prefer to go the gasoline engine route, the GLK 350 4MATIC sports a 3.5-litre direct injection V6 engine that makes 302 hp and 273 lb/ft of torque for a starting price of $44,900.

Mercedes-Benz Canada sells more than 5,000 GLK models a year and expects sales to spike even more this year with the introduction of the four-cylinder diesel.

In fact, we were told at the launch of the vehicle in late April that the company would not be surprised to see a take rate of 80 per cent or higher with the diesel version.

Unlike competitors in the premium sport compact SUV segment like the BMW X3, Audi Q5 and Range Rover Evoque that have a more rounded look, the GLK maintains the traditional angular, somewhat boxy SUV look like its G-Class big brother.

But that’s not to say it’s not attractive because the GLK would equally at home in high-end shopping mall parking lots or gravel cottage roads.

For the 2013 model year, the GLK again features short overhangs, an upright front end, a steep windshield and taut roof line. There is more use of exterior chrome as accent pieces and as part of a new front grille treatment that has the Mercedes emblem front and centre, much like on other passenger car models.

The back end gets a newly designed bumper and taillight look with LED lights and chrome skid plate incorporating twin tailpipes.

The GLK 250 comes with five triple-spoke 19-inch alloy wheels, while the 350 gets five twin-spoke 20-inch alloys, which are part of an optional AMG Sport Package ($1,100) on the GLK 250.

Driver and passengers are coddled in luxury as the interior enhancements on the GLK-Class result in a premium look and feel. The Direct Shift selector for the seven-speed automatic transmission is now on the steering column, creating space in the centre console for cup holders, which can be concealed with a retractable cover.

The dash has been completely redesigned with posh-looking dark ash trim in the GLK 250 and aluminum in the GLK 350.

Heated front seats are standard with a range of ARTICO and leather upholstery on both models. A six-speaker sound system is standard and part of the infotainment setup featuring a 5.8-inch colour display and Bluetooth interface for hands-free phone operation.

My driving partner and I had an opportunity to test both the GLK 250 and 350 and both had the optional COMMAND navigation package with its larger seven-inch display with rearview camera and enhanced voice command. A Premium Package ($3,600) adds Sirius satellite radio, parking assist, panoramic sunroof, ambient lighting, media interface and power tailgate.

Optional safety features are included in a Driver Assistance Package ($800) that includes Blind Spot Assist and Lane Keeping Assist.

I drove the gasoline-powered GLK 350 on the first day and quite enjoyed it. It is quick (0-100 km/h in 6.5 seconds, according to Mercedes-Benz), quiet and smooth. It handles well, more like a car than an SUV like others in that compact SUV segment.

There is a bit of body roll on hard cornering, but otherwise it is a very composed vehicle except when you encounter the worst potholes that Ontario and Quebec winters can throw at you. I found the gas pedal a bit too sensitive for my liking, but that no doubt is a result of a lack of seat time in the vehicle. The electric steering is light, but does offer feedback.

The second day we put our butts into the diesel version of the GLK and wow, it is outstanding.

While not quite as quick as the gasoline model (0-100 km/h in 8.0 seconds, according to Mercedes-Benz) it does move out well from a stop.

Fuel economy is best in class (we averaged 6.8L/100 km) and there is none of the diesel clatter that we remember from the diesel engines of old.

The GLK only comes with all-wheel drive, and while urban folks won’t have a huge need for it, AWD is welcome on those few snowy days we encounter in Ontario and other parts of Canada.

So with a price tag starting in the mid $40s, the GLK is not for everyone. But for those who want the Mercedes badge and the prestige that comes with it, the GLK makes driving a whole lot of fun.

The GLK is available at Canadian dealers now.

 

Mercedes-Benz 250

and 350 GLK 2013

 

Body Style: compact premium sport utility vehicle.

Drive Method: front-engine, all-wheel drive.

Engine: GLK 250—2.2-litre twin- turbocharged direct injection four-cylinder diesel engine (200 hp, 369 lb/ft of torque); GLK 350—3.5-litre direct injection V6 (302 hp, 273 lb/ft of torque) mated with a seven-speed automatic transmission.

Cargo Capacity: 450 litres, with back seat folded 1,550 litres.

Towing Capacity: 1,588 kg (3,493 lb).

Fuel Economy: 250 GLK 8.3L/100 km city, 5.9L/100 km highway; 350 GLK 11.1L/100 km city, 8.1L/100 km highway.

Price: GLK 250 BlueTEC $43,500; GLK 350 4MATIC $44,900.

Website: www.mercedes-benz.ca

 

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