New & Used Mercedes-Benz GLK Class: In Depth
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The Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class is more of a squat, all-weather hatchback than anything you'd mistake for an off-road vehicle. It remains the smallest true crossover of Mercedes' lineup. The GLK is based on C-Class sedan underpinnings just as is the brand's GLA, but offers a very attractive turbodiesel option.
As a compact crossover utility vehicle, the GLK goes head-to-head with the likes of the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Audi Q5, BMW X3 and several other similarly-sized luxury crossovers. A refresh is expected for the 2016 model year as well as a name change from GLK to GLC, a nod to its C-Class roots.
MORE: Read our 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLK review for pricing with options, specifications, and fuel economy information
Roughly the same size as the compact C-Class luxury sedan, the GLK offers a package that’s essentially a tall, chunky wagon, and unlike other compact utes doesn’t seek to emulate larger utility vehicles—like in Mercedes-Benz’s case, the M-Class and GL-Class. Stylistically, it looks more like a luxed-up Subaru Forester from some angles. An AMG Styling Package includes deeper front and rear aprons, 20-inch, twin-five-spoke AMG wheels, LED daytime running lights, and aluminum roof rails. Inside, the GLK feels a lot more like a luxury car though than a utility vehicle, with excellent switchgear. The seating position is lower than you might expect, with more of a crossover stance than the boxy sheetmetal might indicate.
From its introduction through the 2012 model year, the GLK was offered only in a single model—the GLK 350, powered by a 268-hp, 3.5-liter gasoline V-6 engine. With a seven-speed automatic (including steering-wheel shifter-paddles) and a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive, the setup earned a 0–60 mph of about 6.7 seconds.
The powertrain options improved for the 2013 model year with the V-6 upgraded with direct injection, which bumps power to 302 hp and drops the 0–60 mph time to 6.5 seconds. The GLK also added its long-awaited diesel early in 2013 as a late 2013-model-year vehicle; the turbocharged, 2.2-liter diesel is sold as the GLK 250 BlueTEC in the U.S., and comes only with all-wheel drive and the paddle-shifted automatic. The GLK remains the only Mercedes SUV or crossover to go without an AMG performance variant.
Stop/start technology was applied to both powertrains for the 2013 model year as well, yielding 19 mpg city and 25 mpg highway in the GLK350. The Bluetec diesel model is rated at 24/33 mpg.
In either configuration, the GLK is tuned almost entirely as an on-road vehicle, with relaxed but responsive steering feel and more settled ride and handling overall compared to most other compact utes. But it does offer good traction for snow along with modest capability in sandy and muddy conditions with its available all-wheel-drive system.
From a purely practical standpoint, the GLK makes a lot of sense, with a great driving position and plenty of space for four adults (three can fit in a pinch in back). The rear bench seats fold forward to expand the cargo area to about 55 cubic feet. While interior appointments aren’t quite as lavish as those from Mercedes-Benz’s other models, it does come with all the expected luxury-car features, including automatic climate control, a panoramic sunroof, and Bluetooth connectivity; a power liftgate, navigation system, and rear entertainment system are options. The 2013 update also brought the GLK Mercedes' app and connectivity suite, mbrace2.
Mercedes recently announced plans to rename most of its SUV and crossover offerings to better mesh with its established sedan and coupe nomenclature. As a result, the GLK will be renamed GLC, as it shares components with and is roughly the size of the C-Class sedan. The name change is planned to go into effect when the next generation of the mid-size crossover comes to market, likely for the 2016 model year.
Mercedes has shown a sketch of a planned GLC-Class coupe that would be a smaller companion to the GLE-Class coupe that recently made its debut. The GLC coupe would be sized and styled to compete with the BMW X4, essentially a compact crossover with a fastback profile for a sportier look and slightly reduced utility.