By Emme Hall.
The next time you’re in the car at a red light, take a look at the cars around you. No doubt more than one will be a compact crossover. We love our CUVs here in America. But what if you want something on the luxurious side with excellent driving dynamics? Look no further, as we compare the 2013 Mercedes Benz GLK 350 4MATIC and the 2013 Audi Q5 3.0T Premium Plus. Which piece of German engineering will take the AutoComparison prize?
The Audi Q5 3.0T rolls of the showroom floor with a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 good for 272 horsepower and 295 lb/ft of torque. Power goes to all 4 wheels via the Quattro system and n eight-speed automatic. The Q5 with this 3.0T engine goes from zero to 60 in 5.8 seconds, a very impressive time for this segment. EPA fuel economy estimates are 18 mpg in the city, 26 on the highway, and 21 combined.
Standard equipment on the 3.0T includes 19” wheels, an automatic start/stop system, 8 way power and heated front seats, 10-speaker sound system with CD player, auxiliary audio jack, and satellite radio, Bluetooth and iPod integration, keyless ignition/entry, a panoramic sunroof, and a Multi Media Interface. If you want all the bells and whistles, like navigation, a rearview camera, and (my favorite) a heated/cooled cupholder you’ll have to upgrade to the Prestige trim line. However, you can add the S-line package, which includes performance tires, adaptive suspension, Audi Drive Select, and a sport steering wheel with shift paddles. A rear seat entertainment system is also available.
The Audi Q5 accelerates smoothly off the line and the 8-speed transmission delivers quick shifts. Although the ride is firmer than most luxury crossovers, I never found it uncomfortable. In fact, I preferred a stiffer suspension as the Quattro will definitely keep you planted in the corners and you might find yourself yee-hawing through the twisties more than you should. My only complaint is in the steering. While it is responsive, it just feels very artificial. You never really know what the pavement is doing underneath you, leaving you feeling quite disconnected from the road.
The 2013 Mercedes Benz GLK 350 has some new tricks up its well wells. The new engine is still a 3.5L V6, but it’s 15% more efficient while at the same time giving you more hp and torque, 302 and 273 respectively, up from last year’s 268 hp and 258 lb/ft torque. The 7 speed automatic scoots you to 60 in 6.5 seconds, compared with the 7.2 of last year. The GLK will get 19mpg in the city and 24mpg on the highway.
The GLK really stepped up its interior game in 2013. Out went the old plasticky looking dash, in came the soft touch leather. A 5.8-inch display is standard, but my test model had the Multimedia package with a 7” screen, navigation, Bluetooth, backup camera, and Sirius satellite radio. It’s all controlled from the COMAND system, which is not the most intuitive system, but it’s learnable. Last year’s model had the gear selector on the center console, this year they’ve moved it up to the steering column. On the whole with the new round vents, wood and chrome accents, the interior takes a step towards what Mercedes Benz customers have come to expect: not the boxy, utilitarian look of the 2012, but an understated elegance.
The engineers at Mercedes Benz seem to have hit that sweet suspension spot. Like Goldilocks, I found the ride not too harsh, not too soft. My daily commute has been a construction zone for way too long, and the GLK was pretty good at swerving around any potholes that I know are there, while at the same time taking one for the team when I found a new one. My test model was equipped with the optional 4MATIC AWD system, which only enhanced my confidence and control on the road. This year the hydraulic power steering has been nixed in favor of electric, saving fuel at the expense of feedback. However, the system works better than most, maintaining a slight heft at parking lot speeds and weighting up nicely as you accelerate.
The winner here is the 2013 Mercedes Benz GLK 350 4MATIC. At $39,090 it is a few thousand less than the 2013 Audi Q5 3.0T Premium Plus Quattro ($43,900) and offers great handling with a better steering feel.