2012 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class Review

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2 Reviews
2018
The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
February 13, 2012

Rugged looks and lower gas mileage put the 2012 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class in an SUV state of mind, but its ride and handling are more carlike than you'd think.

Luxury brands have gone all-in on compact crossovers, and Mercedes-Benz fields its own GLK-Class in the pitched battle that pits X3 against Q5, SRX against LR2. New in 2010, the GLK is essentially unchanged for the 2012 model year, carrying over its surprisingly carlike handling and tall-wagon packaging.

The GLK delivers the usual blend of strong performance and flexibility, but its buff, rugged appearance casts a conservative shadow. It takes the opposite tack of crossovers like the Q5, the SRX, and Volvo's XC60, and even avers from the softer look adopted by the larger, American-made Mercedes M-Class. The GLK's a clean, distinctive-looking ute, but its styling is something we've had to let grow on us. While the same angular ideas work well on the bigger GL-Class ute, on the small GLK they remind us more of some smaller, lackluster efforts like older Mitsubishi Outlanders and Subaru Foresters. The same doesn't hold true inside, where a dash strikes a more Germanic tone, though it's dressed in some plastics that could bear another layer of refinement. The layout's straightforward, though, and there's a wide swath of wood trim to dress it up.

A turbodiesel's still on hold, so the GLK remains available with a single drivetrain. Its 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine earns it a GLK350 badge, and gets teamed with a seven-speed automatic and 4MATIC four-wheel drive, which uses anti-lock brakes to dampen wheelspin. The drivetrain's strong enough to give the roughly 4,100-pound GLK quite good acceleration of 6.7 seconds to 60 mph, and the GLK feels relaxed and swift in everyday driving. On-road performance is striking for its car-like cadence: the GLK scoots to speed quickly, corners neatly, and its steering has the kind of heft and accuracy we like in four-door sedans. The GLK's 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 not anything like 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.

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Interior room and cargo space are ample in the 2012 GLK. The front seats are supportive and nicely tailored, and 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. The standard upholstery in the GLK is a synthetic, and most passengers will never know the difference; leather is, of course, an option.

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, a panoramic sunroof, and Bluetooth connectivity. A six-CD changer, Sirius Satellite Radio; a rear-seat, twin-screen DVD entertainment system; a power liftgate; a navigation system; bi-xenon headlamps with washers; LED taillights; and 20-inch wheels are among the options. For the new model year, Mercedes has--hallelujah!--relocated the USB port from the glove box to the center console.

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2012 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class

Styling

The GLK's angularity is refreshing in its own way, though we've grown more fond of the rounder shapes of other luxury crossovers.

Chiseled good looks of another time--that'd be a compliment for a Hollywood actor, right? It's less decisive for the Mercedes-Benz GLK, which casts its lot with crisp, angular forms while the rest of the luxury-crossover world goes gaga for smooth surfaces and very softly rounded shapes.

Parked next to an Audi Q5 or a Volvo XC60, the GLK looks downright butch--and we think it's entirely intentional, since Mercedes actually has a long history of building military-grade SUVs like the Gelaendewagen. The unintended consequence is that the GLK ends up looking more like a traditional SUV--or like an older Mitsubishi Outlander or Subaru Forester--when it's actually among the most carlike vehicles in the class, in terms of handling and features.

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Inside, it's more of the same: The GLK's instrument panel bears a striking resemblance to BMW interiors—and a lower-set version of what's used elsewhere in the M-B lineup—but the gauges and controls are remarkably straightforward. A wide swath of wood trim that helps dress up some of the obvious plastics and underscores a vaguely retro tone that lingers through the cabin.
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2012 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class

Performance

It looks like an SUV, but the Mercedes-Benz GLK behaves like the better crossovers, with brisk acceleration and tautly controlled moves.

The Mercedes-Benz GLK is offered, for now, with a V-6 engine and automatic transmission, and a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive. There's little difference between those versions: both steer and ride more like the crossovers with which they compete, than the SUVs the GLK's styling so heavily suggests.

The engine in the GLK is a 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine, which makes all U.S.-market versions GLK 350s. A long-rumored diesel version is still in the offing; we suspect it's coming in the 2013 model year, along with a mild makeover. The six-cylinder generates plenty of power--268 horsepower in all--and connects to a seven-speed automatic with a couple of nicely spaced launch gears and quick, firm and smooth shifts. The combination gives the 4,100-pound GLK some very brisk acceleration numbers; Mercedes says it will reach 60 mph in about 6.7 seconds, and the GLK feels relaxed delivering that power in normal driving. Shift paddles and an aggressive throttle tip-in also underscore that this crossover SUV is truly meant for the open road, not the boulder-strewn one.

The GLK looks like an SUV and is billed as a luxury compact SUV, but its performance leans much more toward large sedan—that is, it accelerates faster and turns better than its styling would lead you to expect. We like the GLK's light but precise and well-weighted steering feel, and adding 4MATIC all-wheel drive doesn't dampen the GLK's enthusiasm too much. The queasy body motions and pitchiness you find in some other comparable vehicles during abrupt maneuvers is remarkably absent here. If anything, the GLK has lots of lateral ride stiffness, which you'll feel as side-to-side head toss on rough pavement. Otherwise, Mercedes-Benz has tuned the GLK's suspension to be taut but well damped; it doesn't allow the GLK much body motion, but the suspension will soak up most roughness from the road and the cabin stays tight and quiet even over rough roads or in high-speed cruising.

Off-roading is not the GLK's forte. But its four-wheel-drive system adjusts as the various traction systems determine where torque is needed most. What the GLK does do well is get you home safety in foul weather; the 4MATIC system excels in distributing power smoothly on a snowy road and avoiding wheelspin.

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2012 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class

Comfort & Quality

There's comfortable seating for four adults in the Mercedes-Benz GLK, but cargo space is on the small side.

Upright styling and a high grade of interior materials give the Mercedes-Benz GLK an inviting interior, and four adults will find plenty of space inside for themselves and their carry-ons, but overall cargo space is a little shy of some compact luxury crossovers.

The GLK's front seats are tailored and bolstered with the firmness and support that's a hallmark of German sedans, and taller drivers won't be pressed to find a comfortable driving position, though the sunroof trims out some of the headroom. The second-row seats offer up enough knee room and three children will fit across the bench seat. No third-row seat is offered.

On the spec sheet, you'll see standard vinyl upholstery, but since Mercedes' U.S. dealers clamor for option-rich cars, we doubt you'll ever see a GLK without leather seats.

The GLK's rear seat also splits and folds to boost cargo space, which the GLK needs to better compete with larger crossovers like the Volvo XC60. With the rear seat down, the GLK has a cargo area of 54.7 cubic feet. With the seats folded forward, the cargo space is almost perfectly flat and measures nearly 66 inches long. With the back seat up there's still a very respectable 23.3 cubic feet of cargo space, but the 30-plus cubic feet of space in the Volvo outpace the Mercedes handily.

The GLK combines a high-quality interior with a comfortable and usable cabin that luxury buyers will appreciate. There's nice trim and detailing throughout; though given the lower price point, it's not surprising that the interior appointments, up close, aren't quite up to the level of those in M-B's larger and more expensive SUVs.

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2012 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class

Safety

Mercedes' reputation for safety precedes the GLK, and its crash-test scores are up to the heritage.

Mercedes-Benz' storied reputation for building safe cars comes from years of innovation and good crash-test scores. The GLK is no different, and like the other Mercedes SUVs, its strength goes beyond its driving capabilities.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hasn't put the GLK through its tests or through its updated scoring system, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has. The IIHS gives it "good" ratings across the board, which makes the GLK a Top Safety Pick again for 2012.

All the customary safety features are included in the GLK package: there are dual front, side and curtain airbags as well as anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control. Active front head restraints are standard, too, and the GLK has emergency systems that will automatically contact emergency dispatch if you're in a severe crash.

Thanks to the relatively high seating position and low shoulder line, the Mercedes-Benz GLK has impressive outward visibility—better than most other luxury crossovers.

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2012 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class

Features

Connectivity and luxury are in ample supply inside the Mercedes-Benz GLK.

The Mercedes-Benz roots are never very far from the surface in the GLK, even though it's a smaller, entry-level crossover ute. Far from spartan, the GLK has almost all of the luxury features you'll find in the bigger M Class and GL Class utes.

Every GLK comes with a comprehensive set of standard features. They include dual-zone climate control; Bluetooth and iPod connectivity; power front seats; 19-inch wheels; and a panoramic sunroof.

A six-CD changer, Sirius Satellite Radio; a rear-seat, twin-screen DVD entertainment system; a power liftgate; a navigation system; bi-xenon headlamps with washers; LED taillights; and 20-inch wheels are among the options. Leather upholstery is an option, too, but we doubt you'll ever see a vinyl-spec GLK at your local dealer.

Mercedes-Benz has been a tech pioneer for quite some time in the automotive industry, combining cutting-edge features with an impeccable luxury finish. In addition to a set of controls and displays that also bring the feeling you're in a luxury vehicle, the twin sunroof design lets a lot of light in and the high-end Harman/Kardon audio system has awesome sound and the ability to connect to an iPod and USB stick at the same time.

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2012 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class

Fuel Economy

With its mid-size gas mileage, the compact Mercedes-Benz GLK could really use the long-awaited diesel option.

Gas mileage is one of the reasons luxury-ute buyers have steered away from larger vehicles, but the Mercedes-Benz GLK might give them pause.

By the measuring tape a compact crossover, not a mid-sizer even, the GLK may drive like a smaller vehicle, but it gets fuel economy ratings of a larger SUV. The V-6 and seven-speed automatic combine for an EPA-rated 16/23 mpg on rear-drive models, which drops to 16/21 mpg on all-wheel-drive models.

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Part of the issue, of course, is that the GLK only comes in GLK350 guise, with its comparatively large-displacement V-6. And it's quite heavy. Mercedes-Benz has suggested that it is considering adding a four-cylinder turbo-diesel model to the GLK lineup in a future model year, but no official announcements have yet been made.
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June 7, 2015
For 2012 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class

good value

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very dependable car , never give me headache... nice sport utility .
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April 17, 2015
For 2012 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class

Really good, but not perfect

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I really like my GLK, but it does have a few issues. Mine only has the "Premier" package so it has electronics from the 1990's. No backup camera, nav, integrated car management system. All of that costs... + More »
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