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Mercedes-Benz GLK-class

New engines breathe new life into this ute.

Although the German home market gets to enjoy the C-class in wagon form, Mercedes-Benz has wisely chosen a small SUV to take on the role of a compact utility vehicle here in the U.S. The GLK-class looks nothing like the C-class on which it’s based, of course. The boxy, upright exterior is a departure from its carlike competitors (chiefly, the BMW X3 and the Audi Q5) and gives the GLK an advantage in passenger and cargo space and in outward visibility. The rear seat is roomy, and the driver reaps the benefits of a redesigned interior with a more stylish dashboard and instrument cluster. We don’t, however, count the flimsy gear selector on the steering column as an improvement. It’s all good under the hood, though, where there are two new engines. The 3.5-liter V-6 is a polished, powerful mill with the ability to save fuel by automatically shutting down when the car comes to a stop. Those seeking even greater efficiency will want to opt for the new diesel four-cylinder. Sold as the GLK250 BlueTec, the 2.1-liter engine is suitably lively and well mannered to serve in this $38,000 luxury crossover. The GLK rides comfortably on standard nineteen-inch wheels, but it exhibits too much body roll in corners. The X3 and the Q5 offer better handling and a sporty character that is absent in the Mercedes.

COMPETITORS

Audi Q5

BMW X3

Infiniti EX37

Volvo XC60

new for 2013

The GLK benefits from a much-needed freshening for 2013. The V-6 engine is replaced with a more powerful unit, and a 2.1-liter diesel four-cylinder is a new offering in the U.S. The update brings the small Benz’s interior in line with our expectations. All the GLK needs now is to trade its dowdy look for some more stylish duds.

SAFETY EQUIPMENT

ABS; front, front side and pelvis, side curtain, and driver’s knee air bags; traction and stability control; and tire-pressure monitoring are standard. Optional equipment includes swiveling headlights, lane-departure warning, blind-spot assist, adaptive cruise control, adaptive high-beams, and active parking assist.

MPG

CITY 16

HWY 21–22

PRO

Pleasant ride

Plenty of space

Great engines

CON

Frumpy styling

Unimpressive handling

Base Price: $37,995–$39,995

SPECIFICATIONS

DRIVE: Rear-wheel, 4-wheel

TRIM LEVELS: GLK250 BlueTec, GLK350

BODY STYLE: SUV/crossover, 5-passenger

ENGINES: 2.1L turbo-diesel I-4, 190 hp, 369 lb-ft

3.5L V-6, 302 hp, 273 lb-ft

TRANSMISSION: 7-speed automatic

PASSENGER VOLUME: 102.9 cu ft

CAPACITIES: Towing 3500 lb; cargo (rear seats up/down) 23.3/54.7 cu ft

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