- Good road manners
- SUV shape in a crossover world
- Nicely contoured front seats
- Advanced connectivity features
- Strong V-6 acceleration
- Is the SUV shape out of touch?
- Leather's an option
- Cargo space is on the small side
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz GLK has car-like road manners, despite its rugged-looking exterior. Following 2013's engines updates, it's now more fuel-efficient, too.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz GLK stands out among small, luxurious crossovers, for its upright lines and rugged stance. It's an almost old-fashioned look in these days of aerodynamic sleekness even for tall utility vehicles; but don't be fooled: Those square-cut looks hide a comfortable and quiet crossover with good driving manners that's a fine vehicle in which to cover many miles.
New for the 2014 model year is a turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine, which boosts fuel-economy ratings almost 50 percent. Like many diesel vehicles, it may over-deliver on those ratings, especially when used on the highway--and it's likely to be a popular option among buyers for whom the GLK may be their primary family vehicle.
Mercedes GLK wears real sport-utility design cues more outwardly than any other vehicle in its class, with the exception of the Land Rover LR2. Other crossovers on the market may have gone over to the school of egg-shaped smoothness and sloping curves, but that's the role of the smaller Mercedes GLA that will be launched for 2015. The GLK's boxy, tall design provides some extra volume inside, but disguises the gentle on-road experience. It's not light or insubstantial--it is, after all, a Mercedes-Benz--but neither is it as heavy or ponderous behind the wheel as the brand's full-size sedans and trucks.
A comprehensive update for 2013 left few details untouched, and it included a largely redesigned interior that conveys the more car-like side of the GLK. Soft-touch materials and a handsome dash encompass a large LCD screen in the center, surrounded by largely intuitive controls. There's ample room for all passengers, and the front seats are supportive and nicely tailored. Finding a comfortable driving position isn't difficult, even for taller drivers. Knee room is fine in the second-row seat, and the angular roofline preserves head room, too.
The rear seats fold forward to expand the GLK's cargo bin, leaving 54.7 cubic feet of space if just two passengers are present. With four people on board, the 23.3 cubic feet of cargo space is on the small side for the category. The standard upholstery in the GLK is a synthetic, and most passengers will never know the difference; leather is, of course, an option.
After three years of chugging along with a single powertrain, in 2013 the GLK adopted a new 3.5-liter V-6 shared with the E-Class, and added a long-awaited 2.0-liter turbodiesel four from the European lineup. The gasoline engine offers quick power, delivered to either the rear or all four wheels via a seven-speed, paddle-shifted automatic, and configured with stop/start control and direct injection to raise fuel economy to a combined 21-mpg rating. The engine is gutsy and vibrant, with a more pleasant sound than before, and it delivers 0-to-60-mph times of 6.5 seconds.
The new-for-2014 BlueTEC turbodiesel is rated at 190 horsepower, with a substantial 369 pound-feet of torque, shares the automatic and makes all-wheel drive standard. It pulls to 60 mph in about 8.0 seconds, with noticeable but manageable turbo lag away from stops. On two different test drives, we substantially exceeded its 28-mpg combined EPA fuel economy rating--a common trait of modern passenger-vehicle diesels.
With either engine, the roughly 4,100-pound GLK feels relaxed and relatively swift in everyday driving. On pavement, the GLK has a car-like cadence to its ride motions and its cornering forces. The steering's gone electric, but isn't completely numb; it corners neatly, though with less heft and feedback than before. The suspension is tuned to be taut but well damped; it doesn't allow much body motion, but soaks up most roughness while the cabin stays tight and quiet. It's certainly not a hardcore off-roader, but its 4WD system will cut its way through foul weather, delivering power smoothly through muddy ruts and tackling the usual all-weather challenges pretty easily.
The GLK's standard-equipment list leaves no question that it's a luxury vehicle. It includes 19-inch wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, power front seats, and Bluetooth connectivity. Satellite radio is available; so are a power tailgate; a navigation system powered by COMAND; and 20-inch wheels. New this year on all models is mbrace2, the Mercedes connectivity suite that puts mobile apps in touch with the vehicle--so that Yelp, Google search, and Facebook are a voice command or fingertip touch away. No SUV from the past ever did that--but more crossovers in the near future surely will.