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Re-styled GLK an attractive choice

The enticement for this updated wagon is the price, but that's just where it begins

Have you ever started out ordering a $9.99 pizza and by the time you were done adding all toppings the bill was much more? Who hasn't?

Well, entry-premium shoppers will need to pay strict attention to the 2013 GLK's menu since its "toppings" are much more tempting than extra cheese and sausage. And much more expensive.

Before you know it, what begins as an attractively priced, sub$50,000 mid-size "square back" can quickly balloon into a fully loaded luxo-wagon that could have you wishing that Mercedes' delivery policy is "30 minutes or it's free."

Of course that's not the case, but most of the brand's entry models start out with a pretty appealing pricepoint to which you can start piling on the toppings. That's in contrast to the higher-priced models, of course, that start out with much more.

The GLK, which is based on the entry-level C-Class car platform, has been around since the 2010 model year and has gained rapid acceptance with its bold looks and practical shape. Although not the roomiest model in its class (both the BMW X3 and Audi Q5 offer more interior space), the GLK looks somewhat more car-like due to a low stance and ample glass area.

The 2013 GLK is a more-of-everything proposition, not counting its unaltered dimensions, of course. The revised nose is fitted with a larger grille, headlight pods and lower air intakes, while at the opposite end there's a new bumper with nifty integrated twin exhaust outlets. An optional AMG package adds lower front, rear and side panels plus added air-intake trim. Nineteen-inch wheels are standard, with a choice of 20-inchers available.

The upgraded cabin gets a new instrument panel along with a quartet of oversized fresh-air outlets and a restyled floor console. Among the numerous cabin add-ons is a premium leather interior and genuine wood trim.

Perhaps the most important decision facing GLK shoppers is the choice of powertrains. The base all-wheel-drive (4MATIC) GLK350 comes with a 3.5-litre V6 that makes 302 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. That's up slightly from the previous 3.5's 268/258 rating, due to a switch to direct fuel injection whereby fuel is delivered directly to the combustion chamber (instead of through the intake manifold) under very high pressure. The V6 also gets stop/start control that shuts off the engine in stop-and-go situations to save fuel, and then fires it up again once the brake pedal is released. Fuel economy numbers are 11.1 l/100 km in the city and 8.1 highway.

Available for the first time is a 2.1-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder in the all-new GLK250 4MATIC. It produces 190 horsepower and an astounding 369 pound-feet of torque. That's a V8 torque number.

All of M-B's turbo-diesels get the BlueTEC handle since they use a special urea solution called AdBlue that cleans up the exhaust gasses after they've passed through the catalytic converters. A 9.5-litre reservoir of AdBlue lasts about 16,000 kilometres.

Both engines feature seven-speed automatic transmissions, with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters for the V6.

Mercedes-Benz claims the 1,865-kilogram GLK350 can manage a zero-to-60-mph (96 km/h) sprint in 6.5 seconds, while the GLK250 takes 1.5 seconds longer, although the diesel's fuel-economy numbers are sure to be much better than the V6's.

Both models include plenty of standard power and comfort items, however allowing temptation to take root can seriously inflate the base price with extra-cost premium interior and exterior packages, fancier wheels and a navigation/ rearview camera package.

Then there are the various electronic safety watchdogs, such as a radar-guided Blind Spot Assist that alerts you to any overtaking vehicles. Lane Keeping Assist causes the steering wheel to vibrate if you stray outside your lane (and corrects the GLK's path if you fail to respond). Also on the menu is a camera-based Adaptive High Beam Assist that automatically monitors your high/low-beam headlight strength at night, while adaptive cruise control maintains a pre-set distance to the vehicle in front and will bring the car to a stop if necessary.

The improved GLK continues to provide a more affordable alternative to the next-in-line $61,000 Mercedes-Benz ML-class.

It's also well suited for all-around urban use and for those of more modest means who know when to hold the toppings.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:

2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class

Type: Four-door, rear/all-wheel-drive mid-size wagon

Engines (hp): 3.5-litre DOHC V6 (302); 2.1-litre DOHC I4, turbo-diesel (190)

TRANSMISSION:

Seven-speed automatic Market position: Smaller-sized luxury utility-style wagons continue to be popular as more buyers gravitate to less expensive, more fuel-efficient transportation options. The GLK is one of the leaders in this category.

POINTS:

Modest front and rear redesign improves GLK's looks; more powerful and fuel-efficient V6 a welcome change; new turbo-diesel choice should also prove popular; High-tech optional safety gear impresses, but ratchets up price; All-new interior should become a major selling point; Not the roomiest in its segment, but no less appealing.

SAFETY:

Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; driver's knee airbag; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control.

MPG (city/hwy) 11.1/8.1 (V6); Base price (incl. destination): $46,900

BY COMPARISON

Audi Q5 Base price: $36,500 Attractive wagon offers a great ride with a top-grade interior. AWD standard.

BMW X3 Base price: $37,700 Base 240-hp turbo four is more economical; 300hp six-cylinder option.

Cadillac SRX Base price: $37,000 Good size and power plus plenty of standard luxury items. Worth a look.

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