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May 7, 2013

Review: 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK 220 CDI

Photos by Ulysses Ang
Tune in to MTV and chances are you’ll see a Mercedes-Benz somewhere there. And it’s not on MTV Classics, mind you. No sir! Save for the one or two you’ll see with wire wheels and eight-track decks, most are the modern variety used to dress (pimp) up rap videos. It’s one slick marketing move—transforming Mercedes’s image from your daddy’s car to Puff Daddy’s (excuse me, P. Diddy’s) car overnight. It’s not anymore the car for the rich and geriatric. It’s hip and it’s cool. It’s the new yuppie mobile!

The perfect statement of Mercedes-Benz’s new-found “yuppie-ness” is found in the GLK. Though the moniker sounds like it’s made by a person with difficulty swallowing, the model designation sounds better than MLK, which looks like “milk” when viewed from a far; this removes confusion when people pull up behind you and say, “that’s a great looking Benz you have there.  Is that the MILK 220?” In any case, the chosen nomenclature does make more sense as the GLK does look like a baby GL or even the legendary G. Despite its mid-cycle facelift, it resists the temptation of going sleek and is instead made up of all corners. Sure, the bumpers and headlamps have been re-cut to soften the silhouette somewhat, but the GLK still looks all angular and macho. The long, low hood lends it a sedan-like shape, while creating the illusion of a pushed-back shape.  This impressive stance is complimented a flat roofline and rising greenhouse.  Even the alloys are bling-worthy: they’re full 20-inch rollers (with staggered fitment no less), literally filling the entirety of the wheel arches. If there’s one criticism you can throw against the GLK, it’s how some of the detailing leans towards being too much of a traditional off-roader. Items such as the chrome roof rails and side step board (which do a better job of ruining a good pair of pants more than anything else) could have been deleted.

It certainly doesn’t look it, but the GLK is actually based off the C-Class 4MATIC. So don’t expect it to crawl over rocks and huge ruts. Thankfully, Mercedes-Benz has dispensed with the hardcore off-road package and has instead focused on offering the yummy AMG Sports Package instead. What you get is a rear-biased 45:55 all-wheel drive system, a sports suspension lowered by 20 mm, and a re-tuned electric power steering rack for a more direct feel. This unique power distribution gives the GLK a very stable and responsive on-road feel with surprisingly minimal body roll. The steering is remarkably resistant to unwanted steering wheel feedback making the GLK a much more comfortable and compliant long-distance travelling companion.

The revised GLK receives a brand-new diesel: a 2.2-liter CRDi 4-cylinder engine with pretty potent numbers: 170 horsepower and 400 Nm of torque from as low as 1,400 rpm. On the road, these figures feel much more thanks to Mercedes’s 7G-TRONIC 7-speed automatic. At traffic lights, it’s quick on its feet: a light tap of the long-travel throttle is enough to launch this car effectively. During regular driving, the revs rarely climb up but thanks to a twin turbocharger system, it gives the GLK some surprisingly good grunt and some stellar city fuel mileage: 11.67 km/L. It even has an ECO start/stop feature which automatically switches the engine off when the car comes to a stop. And yet, select ‘S’ on the dashboard, mash the throttle and it can obliterate the 100 km/h mark in just 8.8 seconds all the way to a top speed of 205 km/h.

At P 4.480-million, the GLK 220 CDI certainly isn’t cheap. In fact, it sits precariously close not to the C-Class on which it’s based on, rather to the larger, much more comfortable E-Class. Nonetheless, the GLK does feature an extensive list of standard equipment including adaptive HID headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, electronic front seats with memory, and even a power tailgate. The GLK also parks by itself thanks to its standard active park assist.

The more practical set would probably walk straight to the E-Class, but if you do opt for the GLK, it’s still a well-rounded and mightily impressive compact SUV. The fit and finish are first rate, actually beating its M-Class bigger brother. The high-cut and angular dash may look to have prioritized fashion over function (those round vents are just to die for), but the GLK’s ergonomics are square-on perfect and the control layout is pretty easy to understand. It even features an indirect ambient lighting running through the entire length of the cabin enhancing the feel good atmosphere. Perhaps the only exception is when you want to enter a radio station manually which is entered through the dash-mounted telephone pad. Oddly, there’s no way you can enter it via the COMAND wheel.

The driving position is more car-like than SUV, since the seats aren’t mounted too high.  There’s still a towering feel though since the side glass is cut much higher than that of the C-Class, though this doesn’t hamper visibility one bit. The rear occupants are treated to equally excellent accommodations, but like the C-Class, the knee room can get a bit tight, especially if you have tall passengers. The theater seating arrangement though is very welcome.

The Mercedes-Benz GLK, especially with its new CRDi engine, is the right crossover to spell out success. Unlike its rivals, the GLK needs no explanation. It features bag loads of style along with excellent dynamics, bulletproof build quality, and now, impeccable real-world performance. The new GLK exudes strength and embodies a refined character and individuality. Its winning combination of a modernized exterior, luxurious interior, and numerous safety and comfort features means the GLK sets itself apart from the competition. And no other luxury compact SUV can come close.

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