2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK 350 4Matic review:

2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK 350 4Matic

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On the highway is where the GLK350 really comes into its own, soaking up the miles in comfort. The stiff dampers relax a bit at cruising speed, rolling over high-frequency imperfections in the road, such as expansion joints, road sensors, and cracks, without protest. However, lower-frequency imperfections were still transferred into the cabin -- an undulating bit of Highway 101 just south of San Francisco had me and my passengers bouncing around quite a bit in our seats.

Cabin comfort
The GLK350 comes standard with a 5.8-inch color display in its dashboard and the Comand physical control knob on the center console. Using this combination, users can access the array of standard audio sources, which consist of a single-slot CD player and an AM/FM radio, and the standard Bluetooth hands-free calling system (which can also be commanded by voice). But you live in the post-CD 21st century; you need more audio sources, so you'll have to step up to the $3,450 Premium package that adds iPod/iPhone connectivity via a Media interface, MP3 playback from USB, Bluetooth audio streaming, and SiriusXM Satellite Radio connectivity. That same package also gets you crowd-pleasers such as the Panorama sunroof (my passengers couldn't stop gawking at it) and a motorized power liftgate.

Comand display
The Comand infotainment system features navigation, hands-free calling, and an array of audio sources. Josh Miller/CNET

Navigation isn't standard, so the directionally challenged should add $2,790 for the Multimedia package that adds the Comand hard-drive-based navigation system. Along with the hard drive you also get space for storing ripped audio and an enhanced version of the voice command system that adds spoken prompts for address entry for navigation. A rearview camera also comes as part of this package, though I'd like to see such a feature come standard at this price.

Our test model was also equipped with a $2,100 leather package, a $990 Sport Appearance package that includes the aforementioned 20-inch wheels and roof rails, a $650 keyless entry and start system, and the $810 Harman Kardon Logic7 premium audio system.

The GLK is available with two levels of driver assistance tech. The Lane Tracking package for $850 gets you blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping monitoring systems. At this level, the vehicle will let you know if you drift out of your lane or attempt to change lanes into an obstruction, but it won't intervene. To get help from the car, you'll need to step up to the $2,950 Driver Assistance package that gives the car's electronic power-steering system the power to discourage loose lane keeping or merging into other vehicles with force feedback. This system also adds adaptive cruise control with Mercedes-Benz' Pre-Safe braking and collision protection systems. Our vehicle featured the Lane Tracking package, but not the more expensive active package.

Some will like the a la carte accessorizing structure and long list of available options, but I find it a bit tedious. I can understand breaking out certain features, such as the Lane Tracking package, but seeing a $750 line item for heated front seats seems a bit gratuitous in a world where this is an option that you can get as a standard feature on certain Hyundais. At the very least, why isn't that already a part of the $2,100 leather package? There was also an additional $720 line item for Lunar Blue Metallic paint that didn't stand out as particularly special until I saw how much it cost. I think I'll just stick to regular non-metallic paint, thanks.


The connected Benz
Mercedes-Benz offers three levels of in-dash connectivity for the GLK350, but only two of them are worth bothering with. For starters, there's the Mbrace package that adds automatic collision detection, roadside assistance, and stolen vehicle recovery and the Mbrace app for Android and iPhone that can be used to remotely lock and unlock doors, control the horn and lights, locate the vehicle location, and so on. Mbrace will cost you $280 per year after the six-month trial runs out.

For an extra $20 per month, GLK drivers can gain access to the Mbrace Plus level of service, which adds Mercedes-Benz Concierge, destination download, route assistance, traffic and weather, and speed alerts to the Mbrace system.

Finally, there's the $14-per-month Mercedes-Benz Apps package that rolls a Web browser, Google Local Search, Yelp, Facebook, News, and Stocks into the Comand dashboard interface. We've already complained about this system in detail in our review of the 2013 Mercedes-Benz SL550 Roadster.

Users of Mercedes-Benz Apps can search Google and Yelp for destinations, restaurants, hotels, and the like and set the result as a destination for navigation or contact for hands-free calling. Google's 360-degree Street View can also be viewed for each result. Through the Facebook integration, you can navigate to events that you've RSVPd to using the social network, contact friends for hands-free calling, or fire off canned status updates about where you are, where you're going, and when you plan to be there. On paper, this all seems pretty sweet, but in practice the connection and interface are so slow and tedious that you'd have better luck and save much time just using your smartphone for any of these functions. You do have a smartphone, right?

Mercedes-Benz GLK350 4MATIC
The GLK350 is relatively small in size, but big on comfort and class. Josh Miller/CNET

In sum
The 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 starts at $39,090 when equipped with the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. Our GLK350 was significantly more expensive. Factor in $13,110 in options and a $875 destination charge to reach the as-tested bottom line of $53,075.

Even at that price, we're leaving thousands of dollars in options on the table; we skipped the Driver Assistance package, the Active Parking Assist automated parallel-parking system, the in-vehicle Wi-Fi hot spot, rear-seat entertainment, the iPad docks for the headrests, and a few choice styling options. All in all, it's not hard to end up with a $60,000-plus GLK350.

Tech specs
Model 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK350
Trim 4Matic
Power train 3.5-liter V-6, 7-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
EPA fuel economy 19 mpg city, 24 mpg highway, 21 combined mpg
Observed fuel economy N/A
Navigation Optional, hard-drive-based
Bluetooth phone support Standard
Disc player Single-slot CD, optional single-slot DVD
MP3 player support Optional analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, USB connection, Bluetooth audio streaming, iPod connection
Other digital audio SiriusXM Satellite Radio, 10GB HDD music storage
Audio system Optional Harman Kardon Logic7 surround sound
Driver aids Optional blind-spot monitoring and lane-keeping assistant, standard Attention Assist driver alertness/drowsiness monitoring
Base price $39,090
Price as tested $53,075

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