The 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK, reanimated: Motoramic Drives
The Mercedes GLK is an animated little vehicle, and by that, I mean one that looks like a cartoon character—Tigger the hyperactive tiger from "Winnie the Pooh," or the sadistic Tom from "Tom and Jerry:" all sinister grin, oversized grimalkin head, and sly widely spaced eyes. This serves the vehicle well, as Cute Utes, the category into which the GLK fits, are supposed to be, as their name implies, adorable. They're also supposed to hold the promise of utility, though few consumers ever call upon them to deliver on this in ways greater than the capacity to hold a Costco run's worth of toilet paper and frozen quiche. As Bugs Bunny says in a classic Looney Tunes short, "You can get away with nearly anything, in an animated cartoon."
I've never been much of a fan of small crossovers, and not because I'm possessed by the veiled (or overt) misogyny that pollutes many car writers' critiques of these vehicles. What I object to about small crossovers is the way they've come to act as replacements for my beloved and practical small wagons. The roll-out of these vehicles by luxe firms like Mercedes, as well as basic brands like Honda and Ford, has meant the death—at least here in America—of dynamic, attractive, car-like vehicles like the C-Class Estate, and the Honda Civic and Ford Focus wagons.
So it was not with the highest expectations of self-pleasure that I attended the recent launch of the heavily freshened, 2013 GLK, even though it was being held in picturesque Meadows of Dan, Va., which is apparently a place one can fly to, but only if one flies to Greensboro, N.C., and then drives for two hours. True to form, while the revitalized GLK includes—among its oft-heralded collection of 1,000 new parts—a softer nose, a Decepticon-like mouth, some Aladdin Sane LED eyeliner highlighting the upper lid of its headlights, and a motivating member that is at once more powerful and more efficient, I wasn't really won over.
Yes, its newly revised, 302 hp, direct-injection V-6 makes more than adequate power for zipping to Whole Foods and grinding up steep suburban driveways. Indeed, its updated interior is tastefully adorned with bowing expanses of dark polished wood that wouldn't look out of place on the lid of a successful insurance agent's coffin. Obviously, it is available with a comically diverse range of TRONIC-suffixed safety and service features that do everything from turn the steering wheel into a millstone when you accidentally cross the yellow line, to help you park with confidence at the outlet mall. Certainly, it offers an infotainment system, COMAND, that features the same glorious interface that delighted you in 2004 (although I continue to find it a profoundly uninspired platform that has been constantly expanded to distract from its shortcomings, like a modular home with a wine cellar and a sky-lit bonus room.) And speaking of COMAND, it definitively offers command seating—the upright driving position that offers insecure people a false sense of safety while upending the lower center of gravity and concomitant maneuverability that would actually make them safer.