Thursday, July 11, 2013

The GLK, first with a face-lift in 2013, and now a new diesel engine this model year, has become a staple in the Mercedes-Benz model line up. We had the opportunity to try this new diesel in an afternoon test drive, thanks to fellow MBCA member and Euro Motorcars Bethesda Sales Professional, Eric Scott.

At first glance,the GLK 250 doesn’t look like an SUV because it has such a short overall length. I kept pulling up too far in parking places and at fuel pumps, especially because I am used to driving the longer ML. The GLK rides like a C Class Sports Sedan, a little rough on patched pavement but just as nimble with a great with a great turning radius. This, combined with the short length, makes the GLK a perfect urban vehicle.

This model is equipped with a turbo-charged, four-cylinder, direct injection BlueTEC diesel engine. I found this intriguing. This is not the "olde tyme" diesel engine! There’s no hint that this car is powered by an oil burner. In fact, you need to remember to get in line at the "diesel only" fuel line, and use the fuel with the green-handled nozzle! The prominently green filler cap labeled "Diesel Only" and the sign on the inside of the fuel door on the right side of the car are also helpful reminders!

Riding in the GLK does not give much indication of the diesel power either. There is no smoke, very little turbo lag and minimal engine chattering. The lag was easily compensated for by feathering the accelerator, and there were only occasional sounds of clattering, as if someone were clacking drumsticks together in the distance.

When the GLK came out in 2010, I found the exterior styling too boxy and not reminiscent of other M-B SUVs in the line up. Other M-B models look similar to their bigger cousins. However, the GLK looks nothing like the ML, GL or even the ├╝ber square and boxy G-wagon, nor does it have the graceful, classic Mercedes-Benz lines of the C-Class wagons.

Driving the GLK on DC city streets and the local parkways showed that it can handle some tough driving conditions without issue. It has nice engine performance and great fuel mileage—an average of 23 mpg on the day we drove it. Driving the GLK on rough, unpaved park roads along the Potomac demonstrated that is was every bit a Mercedes-Benz with a solid ride and handling. This 4MATIC model was light and responsive to the touch, with just a tad bit of torque steer.

The turning radius is impressive, especially for a four-wheel drive vehicle. Acceleration was good, not AMG style that throws you into the back seat, but still plenty of giddy up and go to get around that slow poke puttering in the fast lane. Secure handling gives peace of ming that this little SUV is going where you’ve asked it to go. The onboard computer system will tell you if it thinks you are not qualified to go where you think you want to.

When I spent a little too much time looking at the scenery on the Clara Barton Parkway, the lane keep assist kicked in, and I got the steering wheel vibration nudge. The park assist and side assist let you know when you are too close to anything that might interfere with your forward or backward movement. The rear camera was a great help, even if it does stay on for 100 feet after the car is going forward, just to let you see if, indeed, you ran over something.

Interior instrumentation, radio/navi and seating is directly related to the current generation W204C Class. My only complaint is that the HVAC controls are a tad out of reach, so that the driver’s eyes leave the road to change the settings.

Seating and ergonomics are comfortable. The rear seats fold down, and the boxiness of the body allows for a large hatch opening. There is plenty of room inside to carry what you bring home from the big box store or the local farmer’s market.

If you are in the market for an urban hauler with good fuel economy and a comfortable ride with all the qualities of a Mercedes-Benz, the GLK 250 is certainly worth taking out for a test drive of your own!        -  William West Hopper