2013 Mercedes GLK350
Wagner in the Mud
By Ron Amadon
DAMASCUS, MD – Do not scoff at a comparison of the renowned German composer Wilhelm Richard Wagner with the GLK350. They have a lot in common.
Wikipedia said Wager’s later works were known for their complex textures, rich harmonies and quickly shifting tonal centers.
The complex texture was the GLK’s ability to go from luxury highway cruiser to mild off road master. The fine finish and materials of the interior are in rich and satisfying harmony, while the polished 302 horsepower V6 works in complete syncopation with the seven-speed automatic and its quick shifting tonal centers.
It may not be quite the “Ride of the Valkyries” but this is a solid work and well worth the consideration of those seeking an upscale yet compact sport utility.
Step inside and the Burl Walnut Wood trim, fine leather and soft touch materials along with excellent fit and finish make it clear this sport utility is a step up. An exceptionally nice touch was the infinitely variable head rests that were the softest I have experienced.
There was an abundance of room up front even with the large panoramic sunroof, and the dual zone automatic climate control quickly warmed the interior on an especially cold April morning. Basic controls for the audio system were fairly easy to figure out. One turns off the system by pushing a speaker button on the upper center console. If you want to figure out everything in the Command System, plan on an evening with some good wine, an easy chair, and the separate 272 page instruction book. Not to mention the 40 page manual on voice commands.
I will continue to applaud Mercedes for providing access to the National Weather Service broadcasts – it is an excellent service and very valuable when foul weather threatens.
The test GLK included the Gracenote media data base. It claims to be the largest source of music and video data on the planet with descriptions of more than 130-million tracks and TV listings for 28 countries. Ahh, that Wagner should have had such exposure!
Ventilation controls are a bit low on the center stack, but temperature settings do pop up on the 7 inch color display screen mounted much higher.
My major complaint with the interior was Mercedes unique shift pattern. You push up on the steering column mounted lever for reverse, down for drive and push a button at the end of the stalk for Park. On the left side of the column are the levers for windshield wiper/direction signal, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, and cruise control. One would become accustomed to all this in time, but it was still easy to hit the shift lever when you wanted to turn on the wipers.
Out on the highway the GLK was a delight – quiet, comfortable and with plenty of power for all driving situations. Ride-wise it was an excellent blend of comfort and firmness and felt glued to the road at higher speeds. The permanent all-wheel drive conquered a muddy back road with aplomb, even if this was like adding the Beetle’s “Hard Day’s Night” in the middle of an opera.
According to the EPA, the GLK should produce between 19 and 24 miles per gallon of premium fuel. I recorded 22 in mostly country and interstate travel. Mercedes lists a 0-60 run in 6.4 seconds and a top speed of 130 miles per hour, maybe a bit slow on some autobahns. (Just kidding.)
A nice touch was the Lane Keeping Assist that instead of sending out a Wagnerian shriek accompanied by flashing lights on the windshield, settled for a vibration through the steering wheel instead.
For the information deprived, there are 49 pages in the owner’s manual of menus and submenus of facts, display messages and details of various warning and indicator lamps.
To the rear, there was adequate room for two 6’ tall passengers but entry and exit was hindered by rather narrow door openings. The two rear seats easily fold down to create an almost flat floor and 54.7 cubic feet of cargo room, yet that is below rivals such as the BMW X3 and the Audi Q5. It should be noted that the GLK is a shorter vehicle and therefore easy to handle around town yet perhaps better suited to empty nesters or those close to it.
Despite some control qualms, the Merc was a most enjoyable ride. One always had the feeling of experiencing something special, a ride for Valkyries who want to downsize from a large sport utility without giving up any luxury touches.
A ticket to the GLK opera I tested came to $54,905 with an extensive list of options totaling $14,910.