If you’re an automotive enthusiast, then small luxury crossovers probably don’t light your candle. (Audi’s Red Bull–snorting, 310-hp Q3 with a turbocharged five is one noteworthy exception.) Still, the refreshed-for-2014 Mercedes-Benz GLK deserves your attention.The Diesel We Want, the Efficiency Benz NeedsNever a champion in the EPA fuel-economy department, the Mercedes-Benz GLK gets two significant upgrades in its engine bay for the 2014 model year. First, the GLK250 BlueTec is new to the lineup. Its 2.1-liter diesel four provides 190 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. Benz’s American boss Steven Cannon told us a few months ago that the engine should deliver an EPA highway rating “in the high 30s.” We expect a big jump in city mileage, too, so the GLK250 likely will shame last year’s gasoline-drinking GLK350, which was a bit of a guzzler at 16 mpg city/22 highway. The new diesel GLK will come only with 4MATIC all-wheel drive and a seven-speed automatic gearbox; Benz says the drivetrain has been tweaked to minimize noise, vibration, and harshness.
The rollout of more four-cylinder diesels in the U.S. is long overdue, and we’re pretty psyched. And let’s be clear: Benz isn’t bringing its four-cylinder diesel here for just one car. Investing in emissions and crash compliance means you’ll see the diesel four in the next-gen C-class—a mechanical cousin to the GLK—among other vehicles.For folks who prefer gasoline power, the GLK350 is upgraded with the latest generation of Benz’s 3.5-liter V-6 engine. Now featuring direct injection, the GLK350′s engine is good for 302 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. The older V-6 made just 268 hp and 258 lb-ft. The GLK350 also picks up an engine stop/start system, a feature heretofore exclusive to Mercedes’ hybrid models and a few AMG cars. (The technology is standard in the new SL550 launching later this year, too.) As was the case in the past, the GLK350 comes only with a seven-speed automatic gearbox but can be ordered with either rear- or all-wheel drive.Not a Total Renovation, But Close EnoughThe chunky styling that distinguished the last GLK has now been softened, with a curvy new fascia setting a more graceful tone. This restyled schnoz also brings the GLK’s look in line with the appearance of other new Mercedes models, such as the M-class crossover.Not shockingly, the GLK gets this decade’s must-have automotive fashion accessory: LED daytime running lights. An optional package will upgrade the headlamps to the lighting equivalent of a NASA computer system, bringing an active cornering function, headlight washers, and automatic high beams that dim when cars or pedestrians are detected ahead.Benz’s boffins also restyled the GLK’s back end. The new taillights are now solid red, rather than the red-and-white sandwich of last year’s car. The lower fascia also is remodeled, with a chrome skidplate-type substance and integrated exhaust outlets. For more style, an exterior AMG Styling package remains on the options sheet; it adds 20-inch AMG wheels, different LED running lights, aluminum roof rails, and tweaked fascias.In contrast with the gently massaged exterior, the interior of the GLK was hit harder by the metaphorical wrecking ball. A stylish new dashboard has been installed, with two circular vents in the center and a sweep of metal or wood spanning its width. A 5.8-inch display sits atop the center stack, while upgrading to the Multimedia package nets a seven-inch screen to display the latest iteration of Benz’s COMAND infotainment system. The screen in the IP has been upgraded to color, too. The dash looks nicer than the boxy, plasticky piece in the pre-refresh GLK, and should represent the same leap forward in material quality we saw in last year’s update to the cabin of the C-class.GLK fanatics may also notice that the console-mounted shifter is gone, replaced by a column-mounted gear selector. This, in turn, clears up some space on the center tunnel. A set of steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles are now standard.As was the case when Mercedes updated the C- and E-classes last year, the GLK can now be fitted with an entire warehouse of gadgets and safety features. Standard kit includes nine airbags—including driver and passenger pelvic airbags—active front head restraints, and Benz’s Attention Assist system, which purports to tell drivers that they’re tired and should stop driving. Buyers can pay extra for a power tilt/telescoping steering column, navigation, a rearview camera, a power liftgate, a panoramic sunroof, an automated parking system, leather upholstery, and keyless start. Blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, and radar cruise control are available, as well.
All of the toys and safety tech not only help Mercedes-Benz distinguish its entry-level ute from feature-packed competitors sold by non-luxury brands, but they also will bring the GLK’s price into the could-have-had-a-condo range. Official pricing isn’t out yet, but even if the sticker doesn’t jump much from last year’s $36,755, a fully equipped GLK350 will no doubt crest $50K. We just hope that Benz positions the diesel GLK250 as it did the diesel GL-class—as the entry-level model. We expect the updated GLK350 to arrive this fall, while the diesel model will have later availability, arriving in the first quarter of 2014.