Mercedes compact SUV, the GLK series, has recently undergone its first thorough refresh since being introduced Stateside in 2010. The miniature G-series looks of the earlier model have been given a makeover, with a sleeker fascia, hood and lights being the most prominent features. The GLK’s appearance is still a bit polarizing, and remains somewhat wheel-dependent. The test model’s 20-inch, diamond-cut wheels really bring its chamfered form into focus, while the smaller, more basic footwear leaves it appearing a bit top heavy.Inside the GLK350 things have changed even more, and there’s no controversy here: this is about the richest interior in any midsized luxury ‘ute, with plush moldings, lots of gorgeous real wood and polished trim, all set off on the test vehicle by a combination of almond and mocha contrast stitch and seat piping. The upright seating positions mean plenty of room for four occupants and lots of cargo room, despite exterior dimensions that are smaller than the others in the class, such as the Lexus RX350.
Technology is another GLK strong point; Mercedes latest generation Comand navigation/infotainment software being easy to use and fast in response. And the color screen between the instruments makes the monochromatic displays in the competing BMW and Lexus crossovers look very 20th century. The way Mercedes incorporates lane departure warning should serve as an example to the whole industry as well. Instead of shrill verbal warnings, the GLK350 gently buzzes the steering wheel if you wander, a much classier way of chastising an inattentive driver.
Changes under hood are equally pleasant: the GLK350 now runs the latest, direct gasoline-injected version of the company’s 3.5-liter V6 family, were an additional 34 ponies bring the total to 302hp. This refined mill’s 273lb-ft of torque make it feel effortlessly fast at all sane speeds, and is smoothly meted out by the slick 7-speed tranny and updated 4Matic AWD hardware, leading to no muss, no fuss four-seasons progress.
The chassis tuning on this latest GLK350 feels just right; the ride is given priority over handling, meaning this Benz absorbs rough roads without unduly upsetting occupants, yet can still string together a set of corners without embarrassment. It is also very refined, with both road and wind noise well muted. Brake and steering linearity and feel are deliberate and precise as well.
As a whole, the updated GLK350 comes out as one of the most compelling in a set of very competitive vehicles, with a unique look, lovely interior and compelling blend of strait line stonk and rough stuff compliance that is missing in many rivals.
EPA ratings: 19/24mpg; 21 combined
Price as tested: $53,025
Here is what Mercedes has to say about the GLK350.