2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class (© Mercedes-Benz USA)Click to enlarge picture

Just three years after its launch, Mercedes updates its GLK compact crossover for the 2013. The big news is the addition of a 4-cylinder diesel engine, due early 2013.

No mainstream luxury brand boasts the cachet and reputation for quality of Mercedes-Benz. The vehicles are smooth, quiet and the very definition of refinement. Of course, the price of entry is awfully high, but the brand's entry-level models are floating within reach of more buyers. For 2013 Mercedes is updating its smallest crossover, the GLK, while adding diesel power. The result is a small family hauler with a mid-$30,000s price tag with even more refinement and a choice of willing power or thrifty fuel economy.

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Model lineup
For 2013 the Mercedes-Benz GLK lineup expands from one to two models. The gas-powered GLK350 4Matic has a new engine, and it's joined by the diesel-powered GLK250 BlueTec 4Matic, both with standard all-wheel drive. So far, Mercedes has only released an equipment list for the GLK350 because the GLK250 BlueTec won't be available until early 2013. Standard features in the GLK350 include MB-Tex vinyl upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, 8-way power-adjustable front seats, agility-control suspension with selective damping, Bluetooth connectivity, and 19-inch wheels.

The GLK is also loaded with safety equipment. Over and above the usual features, it has a driver knee airbag, Mercedes' Attention Assist, trailer-stability assist and active front head restraints. Optional safety equipment includes adaptive bi-xenon headlights, blind-spot assist, lane-keeping assist, and active versions of both of these features that nudge the vehicle back into its lane.

Other notable options include leather upholstery, rearview camera, navigation system, satellite radio, iPod interface, power liftgate, panorama sunroof, and an AMG Styling package with aluminum roof rails, 20-inch wheels, AMG-specific grille, front and rear fascias, and running lights.

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Under the hood
The GLK gets two new engines for 2013. A new 3.5-liter V6 replaces an older engine of the same size. It makes more power and gets better fuel economy. Horsepower is up from 268 to 302, and torque improves from 258 to 273 lb-ft. Environmental Protection Agency fuel-economy ratings will improve slightly, but they are not yet available.

The 2013 model year also marks the debut of a diesel engine in the GLK. The R-, GL- and ML-Class all offer a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6, and now the GLK gets a 2.1-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder diesel. It produces 190 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, and is the choice for those looking for fuel economy. Both engines are paired to a 7-speed automatic transmission with manual shift capability through a pair of steering-wheel shift paddles.

The GLK's all-wheel-drive system sends 55 percent of the power to the rear wheels during normal cruising. When the rear wheels lose grip, more power can go to the front. While the GLK does have some mild off-road capability, it lacks the low-range gearing and locking differentials needed for more aggressive off-roading.

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Inner space
The GLK's interior is revised and slightly improved for 2013. Some of the harder plastics have given way to more substantial soft-touch surfaces befitting a Mercedes. The dash is redesigned, but the placement of the controls isn't different. It is soft to the touch top and bottom, and in between it features a large expanse of standard burl walnut trim. The gauges get the brand's latest look, which includes a white-and-gold color scheme and a helpful 4.5-inch information screen in the middle of the center gauge. The shifter also moves to a stalk on the steering wheel, which opens up more small-items storage space on the center console.