- 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 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLK offers two great engine options in a baby-SUV shell, but with the comfort and dynamics of a crossover.
The Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class was redesigned recently, and last year it got a new efficient diesel four-cylinder option. The GLK continues into 2015 unchanged.
What has changed, however, is that the GLK is no longer Benz's smallest sport-ute. With the addition of the CLA-based GLA-Class for 2015, the GLK loses its entry-level status, although it is still the smallest rear-drive-based utility Mercedes offers. It continues to stand out among small, luxurious crossovers, taking the boxy road instead of resembling another tall wagon.
In this way, the GLK takes many cues form the three-row GL SUV as well as the G-Class, Mercedes's oldest and squarest current offering. With its recent redesign, the GLK received new lighting elements that updated the look, as well as a freshened interior that brought the materials up to the level everyone else in the segment is playing at. The styling is straightforward inside and out, with design flourishes shared among all of the current Mercedes offerings.
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 behind the second row 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.
Two engines are available in the GLK. The gas option is a 3.5-liter V-6, while those more concerned with efficiency can opt for a 2.0-liter turbodiesel four. 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 BlueTEC turbodiesel is rated at 190 horsepower, with a substantial 369 pound-feet of torque, and shares the automatic; all-wheel drive is standard. It pulls to 60 mph in about 8.0 seconds, with very little turbo lag away; a system of two differently sized turbos makes is feel more like a naturally aspirated engine. 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 than before. Feedback was never a Mercedes trait, and again it's not abundant here. 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.
2015 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class
The GLK's cabin has a softer take, but the sheetmetal's an homage to SUV realness.
What makes the GLK stand out from the crowded crossover segment is that it actually stands out from the crowd. Its boxy, upright looks separate it from the sleek entries, most of which look more like tall wagons they are than actual SUVs. but Mercedes has credible SUV heritage to pull from, and it chose to with the GLK, which we think make it a handsome choice, although we recognize that not everyone is interested in that look.
Because of its design ethos, the GLK looks more ready to tackle the dirt than those other urban wagons. 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. Again, style can be deceiving.
Inside, it's the dark plastic can make things look a little somber, but the plastics are at least soft, and there's a nice wide band of trim to break things up—wood on some models, metallic plastic on others, with details formed in and gimballed vents breaking up the span. The gauges and controls are remarkably straightforward, and the overall tone of the interior is contemporary.
2015 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class
The turbodiesel's been our favorite GLK; all have carlike steering and good ride quality.
The 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class offers two engines, one for those who prefer gasoline and one for the diesel enthusiasts (although we'd argue that diesel is now mainstream-acceptable, with no drawbacks compared to gas). Like any good crossover, the GLK offers all-wheel drive with both engines.
The gas engine is a 3.5-liter V-6. With direct injection and standard stop/start technology, it develops 302 hp. Coupled to a seven-speed automatic, which gets paddle controls and a shifter on the steering column instead of the console, the V-6 feels gutsy and vibrant. It sounds it, too, noticeably more throaty at full bore, but still smooth and responsive. Mercedes quotes a 0-60 mph time of about 6.5 seconds this time, with a top end of 130 mph. Rear-drive is standard with the V-6, while all-wheel drive is available.
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 minimal 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 Audi Q5 TDI.
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. Feedback is and always low, as Mercedes has always done what it could to isolate the driver's hands from vibration coming from below.
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 are remarkably absent here. The GLK has respectable 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 sensors 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.
2015 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class
Comfort & Quality
Passengers have plenty of room in the GLK, but the cargo hold isn't as large as some luxury crossovers.
The GLK's interior is cleanly designed and made of nice materials for the most part. 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 recently spruced up with a better grade of trim and more small-item storage.
The dash top is padded, leaving only the sides of the center console that run along the transmission tunnel covered in tougher stuff. Vinyl upholstery comes standard, while leather is an option. The ersatz stuff is good enough that only you and your auto-loan underwriter will know the difference. And the metal-look plastic that breaks up the interior does a good imitation as well; real wood is an optional replacement.
The two front-seat passengers have the most space in the five-passenger GLK. Tailored and bolstered for long-distance support, the firm chairs offer plenty of room for tall drivers to find a good 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 steering wheel tilts and telescopes on all versions--with power actuation on some--and visibility is good all around.
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 flexibly 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.
2015 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class
Mercedes has fitted the latest safety tech to the GLK, but there's not much crash-test data to go on.
The GLK has fared very well in the crash tests it has been subjected to. While the federal government's NHTSA hasn't tested the small crossover, the IIHS gives it top marks in all four tests conducted. The GLK also includes a lot of standard and available advanced safety items.
All the customary safety features are included in the GLK: There are dual front, side, and curtain airbags as well as anti-lock brakes, and 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.
The GLK comes with Attention Assist, which uses cameras to measure drowsy driving--and to suggest a coffee stop when needed. The MBrace2 connectivity suite seeks to avoid distracted driving by routing some smartphone activity through the ute's audio and Bluetooth controls. 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 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 offered on the GLK as options.
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. A rearview camera is available, but in this rare case we don't see it as a necessary choice.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the luxury crossover its top score of 'good' in moderate front offset, side impact, roof strength, and seat and headrest tests. The GLK can't be selected for the IIHS's Top Safety Pick award because the group has not yet tested it in the relatively new and tougher small-overlap front crash test.
2015 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class
Your crossover can now read back your Facebook feed: the GLK is a pioneer in SUV social media, if that's a thing now.
The GLK may be small, but it's certainly not bare-bones when it comes to equipment. 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.
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 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; different 19-inch wheels; the iPod interface; and keyless entry and pushbutton start.
Mercedes-Benz has been a tech pioneer for quite some time, combining cutting-edge features with an impeccable luxury finish. 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.
2015 Mercedes-Benz GLK Class
The gas engine has good economy, but the turbodiesel's numbers are excellent.
The Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class does well in EPA testing, with the diesel GLK 250 BlueTEC hitting an impressive 33 mpg highway.
The GLK 350 and its V-6 engine return EPA-estimated ratings of 19 mpg city, 25 highway with rear-wheel drive and 18/24 mpg when equipped with 4Matic all-wheel drive. For models sold in California or one of the other states that use its stricter emissions standards, the "PZEV" version of the V-6 returns 19 mpg city and 26 mpg highway with rear-wheel drive, or 18/25 mpg with all-wheel drive.
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 24 mpg city, 33 mpg highway.