- 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.
2014 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class
The boxy shape's a big departure from crossover realness; the cabin's softer to the touch.
Following last year's update to make the small crossover look more like the modern Mercedes lineup, the 2014 GLK still has the boxy, angular good looks seen on SUVs of yesteryear. That's a good thing for shoppers who like traditional SUV styling, but it may come across as a little more formal, a little more rigid than most of the other, softer-looking luxury crossovers on the market.
By comparison, the GLK looks more ready to tackle the dirt than those other urban wagons. That's an intentional design statement, even if it's a little reminiscent of older Japanese utility vehicles of yore. The GLK could use some of the modern design cues from the larger ML-Class–at least in our opinion–as it looks more like an off-roader than it really is.
Inside, it's less of the same this year. In the past, the GLK's instrument panel has borne a striking resemblance to BMW's interiors, composed from dark plastics and a dark band of wood curved just so. The plastics are softer now, and the band's swelled into a more organic shape--wood on some models, metallic plastic on others, with new details formed in and gimballed vents drilled into the span, breaking up the surface. The gauges and controls still are remarkably straightforward, but the vaguely retro tone that lingered through the cabin is gone, replaced by something much more contemporary.
2014 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class
With electric steering and a more responsive V-6, the GLK's become a little more carlike; we'd still pick the diesel.
There are two available engines in the 2014 Mercedes-Benz GLK–a direct-injected V-6, and the turbodiesel four-cylinder that it should've come with from day one. We've driven both, and the GLK's excellent road manners remain, even with the now-electric steering. As for the drivetrains, that's all going to be a matter of personal preferences–assuming smaller, boxy and German is your cup of tea.
With a big advantage in fuel economy, the diesel's the clear choice. The 2.1-liter turbocharged diesel four spins out only 190 horsepower, but typical of diesels, it's a torqueaholic at 369 pound-feet. With standard all-wheel drive and the paddle-shifted seven-speed automatic, the burbly four pushes the GLK to 60 mph in an estimated 8.0 seconds, with a moderate amount of the classic oil-burner vibration and noise. Top speed's also limited to 130 mph. With highway fuel economy of 30 mpg, the GLK is a leader in its class, along with the new Audi Q5 TDI.
There's the V-6, which is more in line with expectations to the recent GLK. It's a 3.5-liter V-6, like the engine in previous models, but this six is a new design as of last year--one shared with the E-Class. With direct injection and standard stop/start technology, the more efficient V-6 also knocks out more horsepower--302 hp, versus the 268 hp of the 2012 model. Coupled to the carried-over seven-speed automatic, which gets paddle controls and a shifter on the steering column instead of the console, the new V-6 feels gutsy and vibrant. It sounds it, too, noticeably more throaty at full bore, but just as smooth and responsive. Mercedes quotes a 0-60 mph time of about 6.5 seconds this time, a couple of tenths quicker than before, with a top end of 130 mph identical to previous models.
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 liked the GLK's light but precise and well-weighted steering feel when it was hydraulically actuated; now that it's made the switch to efficient electric power steering, it's lighter and a little less precise, but reasonably dialed in to what's happening under the tire treads.
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.
2014 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class
Comfort & Quality
The cargo hold is on the small side, but four adults will find plenty of space and comfort in the GLK.
The GLK's interior never struck us as particularly spartan, but it did have a lot of hard plastic. The quality of that plastic, and of the interior's styling, improved last year. The wide band of trim across the dash has swelled into a more organic shape, and it's trimmed in wood or a metallic plastic, and studded by gimballed vents for an upscale look. The dash cap is padded, leaving only the sides of the center console that run along the transmission tunnel covered in tougher stuff.
On the spec sheet, you'll see standard vinyl upholstery, but leather is an option. The ersatz stuff is good enough that only you and your auto-loan underwriter will know the difference.
Rated to seat five, the two front-seat passengers have the most space in the GLK. Tailored and bolstered for long-distance support, the firm chairs offer plenty of room for tall drivers to find a good driving position. The steering wheel tilts and telescopes on all versions--power-actuated on some--and with good visibility all around, it's simple to find an ideal driving position. We wouldn't mind a little softer bottom cushion, though, and the GLK's sunroof trims some of the headroom from what on first glance looks like soaring space.
The second-row seats offer up enough knee room and three children will fit across the bench seat. No third-row seat is offered, but the rear seat folds and splits to expand the storage area. Sometimes, that's a necessity, because the GLK's cargo area is smaller than that in some competitive crossovers, like the Volvo XC60. With the back seat up the GLK has 23.3 cubic feet of room to load--a 28-inch suitcase will just fit lengthwise--and it's handily outpaced by the 30-plus cubic feet of space in the Volvo. With the rear seat down, the GLK has a cargo area of 54.7 cubic feet, and an almost perfectly flat load floor measuring nearly 66 inches long.
The cargo space is a bit shy of that in other luxury crossovers, but for passengers, the GLK's cabin is roomy, with firm seats and an interior spruced up with a better grade of trim and more small-item storage.
2014 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class
Crash-test scores are lacking, but the GLK doesn't lack high-tech safety features, like blind-spot monitors.
Last year, a slew of new safety features found their way to the GLK, and the 2014 GLK earns good crash-test scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
That body gave the luxury crossover its top score of "good" in all relevant tests, although it has not tested the GLK in the new and tougher small-overlap front crash test. Unlike last year, the GLK is no longer an IIHS Top Safety Pick. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), on the other hand, hasn't tested the smallest Benz utility vehicle at all.
New safety features added last year included Attention Assist, which uses cameras to measure drowsy driving--and to suggest a coffee stop when needed. MBrace2 seeks to avoid distracted driving by offlining smartphone activity to the ute's audio and Bluetooth controls, while active park assist uses the GLK's electric power steering and parking sensors to accurately place the vehicle in a parallel parking spot--with the driver manning the accelerator and brake.
Lane-keeping assist is now available: it nudges the GLK back into the proper lane when it detects a swerve over the lines. And finally, blind-spot monitors and adaptive cruise control are now offered on the GLK as options. All the customary safety features are included in the GLK, too: 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.
2014 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class
Voice controls, in-car Facebook feeds, and a big LCD screen dunk the GLK into the mobile slipstream.
The GLK may be the smallest crossover in the Mercedes-Benz lineup, but it's certainly not bare-bones. You'll find many of the safety, tech and luxury features available on the flagship GL-Class, and just about everything the ML-Class has to offer, too.
Mercedes-Benz has been a tech pioneer for quite some time in the automotive industry, combining cutting-edge features with an impeccable luxury finish. As of last year, the GLK incorporates mbrace2, a mobile-app connectivity suite that brings in Yelp, Facebook, and Google Street View to the driving environment, along with other services like geofencing and remote vehicle data access via a smartphone app.
Entertainment options include a Multimedia Package with a rearview camera, enhanced voice commands, and Mercedes' COMAND roller-knob controller for ancillary controls, coupled with a hard-drive-based navigation system. A Lane Tracking Package combines safety features including blind-spot monitors and lane-keeping assist, while another Driver Assistance package brings in adaptive cruise control and active blind-spot assist with brake intervention.
All V-6 GLKs with all-wheel drive come with power windows, locks, and mirrors; cruise control; automatic climate control; Bluetooth and iPod connectivity; power front seats; wood trim; 19-inch wheels; and MB-Tex upholstery, a synthetic material that does a good job of passing itself off as leather. A new 5.8-inch LCD screen displays output for the audio system. Paddle controls for the shifter--now relocated to the steering column--are standard. Diesel GLKs come with all-wheel drive and similar equipment.
Many of the GLK's options are bundled into packages. A premium package rolls up memory seating and power tilt/telescope steering; a power tailgate; an iPod interface; satellite radio; a panoramic sunroof; and a garage door opener. Another package bundles leather seating with memory seats and ambient lighting. An AMG Styling package gets unique body add-ons, LED daytime running lamps, aluminum roof rails, and 20-inch five-spoke wheels.
Stand-alone options include satellite radio; a harman/kardon sound system; parking sensors teamed with active park assist; the panoramic sunroof; a trailer hitch; running boards; heated front seats; 19-inch wheels; the iPod interface; and keyless entry and pushbutton start.
2014 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class
Fuel economy makes big gains with the turbodiesel--but Benz' gas engines aren't bad, either.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz GLK does much better on fuel economy than do earlier models of the same vehicle built between 2010-2012.
With the V-6 gasoline engine, the GLK 350 with rear- or all-wheel drive is mostly rated at 21 mpg combined, with slightly variations from 18 to 19 mpg city, and 25 mpg highway). The one exception is the slightly cleaner "PZEV" version of the rear-wheel-drive model, sold in about a dozen states that use California's stricter emissions standards, which comes in at 22 mpg combined (19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway).
Opt for the torquey, fuel-sipping GLK 250 BlueTEC with its turbodiesel four-cylinder and 4MATIC all-wheel drive, and your numbers improve considerably. It's rated at 28 mpg combined (24 mpg city, 33 mpg highway).