Much as with a cut of filet mignon, the compact size of the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class doesn’t necessarily translate into your getting less. Not only does this junior crossover boast impeccable build quality and a cabin trimmed in top-shelf materials, but its demeanor while on the move is also suitably refined. The GLK is utterly composed at high cruising speeds, and it rides and handles as well as most luxury sedans. And being a Mercedes-Benz, the sharply chiseled GLK feels like it’s built out of a single block of granite.
There are two versions of the 2015 GLK-Class from which to choose: one for those who want to prioritize performance over fuel economy and another that does the inverse. The GLK350 packs a muscular, 302-horsepower V6 that moves the compact crossover with gusto, while the GLK250 Bluetec, though obviously not as speedy, uses a 2.1-liter 4-cylinder diesel to achieve an extraordinary combined fuel economy estimate of 28 mpg.
Many of the same high-tech features seen in Mercedes’ big-money models are available in the GLK, though mostly as options to keep the base price of the GLK attractive to a wider swath of luxury brand intenders. That said, checking off a few option packages can very quickly boost the bottom line by 8-10 grand. The other demerits levied against the Benz include its rather small backseat and cargo areas, and small rear doors that make it difficult for taller adults to get in and out of that rear seat. This lack of practicality is the main reason the GLK fell short of our top marks and received a pair of "B" ratings.
As such, if you’re looking for a more family-friendly crossover with ample space for people and things, then you may want to consider roomier competitors like the 2015 Acura RDX, 2015 Audi Q5, 2015 BMW X3 or 2015 Volvo XC60. But if the various charms of the GLK have you loving the idea of putting one in your driveway, then you certainly have our approval.
While the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLK350’s V6 delivers brisk acceleration that borders on exciting, the diesel engine is truly extraordinary for its combination of stout pulling power and fuel economy indicative of a compact car. Although the diesel can feel a bit flat-footed when you’re pulling away from a stop, it soon hits its stride and is notably refined and silent.
Drive 100 yards down the road and you can’t help but marvel at the feeling of solidity the GLK exhibits. The drive is mostly supple; although more severe bumps and ruts can be felt, the sharpness of the jolt is ably absorbed. Some consumers might find the drive quality too firm, but we think the GLK’s crisp, controlled handling more than compensates. That said, the Acura RDX and Volvo XC60 are reasonable alternatives if you want a softer ride.
For the most part, this Benz’s cabin is serene, with little in the way of engine, road or wind noise. At faster highway speeds (over 70 mph), however, wind noise rises in a big way. The latter is likely an unfortunate side effect of this crossover’s blocky design and relatively upright windshield.
The 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class is a compact, five-passenger crossover available in two trim levels defined by engine: the gas-powered GLK350 and the diesel-powered GLK250 Bluetec.
Standard equipment on both models includes 19-inch wheels, automatic headlights, automatic wipers, LED running lights, foglamps, rear privacy glass, roof rails, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, power front seats (10-way driver and eight-way passenger), driver memory settings, power lumbar adjustment for the driver seat, MB-Tex premium vinyl upholstery, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a cargo cover. Standard electronics features include Bluetooth phone and sound connectivity, the COMAND electronics interface (with a 5.8-inch display), the mbrace2 emergency communications system and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, HD radio and an auxiliary sound jack.
The Premium 1 package adds a power liftgate, auto-dimming rearview and driver-side mirrors, a panoramic sunroof, a 115-volt household-style power outlet, satellite radio and an iPod/USB sound interface. The Leather package adds leather upholstery, memory functions and four-way lumbar adjustment for the front passenger seat and upgraded head restraints. Adding the Multimedia package gets you a navigation system, real-time traffic and weather, a 7-inch display, a rearview camera, 10GB of music storage and voice controls.
There are two lighting option groups. The Lighting package adds adaptive bi-xenon headlights with washers and automatic high-beam control. The Ambient Lighting package brings just that for the interior. The Appearance package includes 20-inch wheels (19s on the GLK250) and aluminum roof rails. Rounding out the extensive list of option packages is the Sport package, which adds 20-inch AMG-styled wheels (19s on the GLK250), aluminum roof rails, unique LED running lamps and AMG-designed styling elements.
There are also a variety of safety-related options highlighted in the below Safety section.
Stand-alone options include running boards, a trailer hitch, an automated parking system, keyless ignition and entry, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a dual-screen rear seat entertainment system, satellite radio, the iPod/USB sound interface and a premium Harman Kardon sound system. Also available is a less sophisticated and less expensive navigation system that doesn’t require the full Multimedia package.
From the pleasing finish of the standard MB-Tex upholstery to the wood and metallic accents seen throughout the cabin, the 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class looks and feels like a true luxury car on the inside. Indeed, if there is any inexpensive plastic used in the GLK’s interior, it’s certainly not evident — not something we can say for every car in this class.
The use of a steering-column-mounted gearshift lever frees up center console space, allowing for a spacious storage bin under a sliding panel. This is not only handy but also makes the front seat area feel less crowded.
Cabin controls are a little complicated at first, but the combination of dashboard buttons, steering wheel controls and the multifunction COMAND knob provide a reasonable solution for the operation of the complicated stereo, navigation and phone functions. The climate controls are simple to use, but are mounted a little low.
Maximum cargo capacity is a rather skimpy 54.7 cubic feet, highlighting one of the few drawbacks of the 2015 GLK’s packaging. That’s significantly less cargo capacity than in most other small crossover SUVs. It’s a similar story in the backseat. Legroom is tight for adults, and small rear doors make it difficult to exit the car gracefully. Headroom is ample for all, however.
The 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class comes standard with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, active front head restraints, front side airbags, front pelvic airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag and a driver inattention monitor. The mbrace2 communications system provides automatic crash notification, on-demand roadside assistance and a system that alerts the owner when a selected speed or boundary is exceeded by another driver (say, a teen or valet).
The Lane Tracking package adds blind-spot and lane-departure warning systems. The Driver Assistance package adds adaptive cruise control and active blind-spot and lane departure warning systems that will also steer the auto in the event of driver inaction. It also includes active braking, which automatically applies the brakes if a crash seems imminent and the driver hasn’t reacted. Also optional is a Parking Assistance package that includes front and rear parking sensors, a surround-view camera and an automated parallel parking system.
In crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the GLK received the highest possible rating of "Good" in the moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests. The GLK’s seat/head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts. The IIHS also rated the GLK’s optional frontal collision warning and mitigation systems collectively as "Superior."
In SUVS brake testing, the GLK350 4Matic came to a stop from 60 miles per hour in 117 feet, while a GLK250 performed the same feat in 124 feet. For this class, the former is a short distance, while the latter is average.
The GLK350 has standard rear-wheel drive, with 4Matic all-wheel drive as an option. All-wheel drive is standard on the GLK250 Bluetec. All 2015 GLK models come standard with a 7-speed automatic transmission with manual gear selection capability via steering wheel paddles.
The GLK350’s 3.5-liter V6 develops 302 hp and 273 pound-feet of torque. An automatic stop-start system shuts down the engine to save fuel when the auto comes to a stop. In SUVS testing, a GLK350 4Matic sped from zero to 60 miles per hour in 5.9 seconds, making it just as quick as the 6-cylinder versions of the Audi Q5 and BMW X3. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 21 miles per gallon combined (19 city/25 highway) for rear-wheel-drive models and 21 combined (18 city/25 highway) for 4Matic AWD models. (Note that SULEV versions sold in select states have slightly higher miles per gallon ratings.)
The GLK250 Bluetec gets a turbocharged 2.1-liter 4-cylinder diesel engine good for 200 hp and a V8-like 369 lb-ft of torque. At our test track, the GLK250 posted a 0-60 time of 8.2 seconds — not exactly slow but certainly off the rapid pace set by this segment’s jocks. On the upside, the GLK250 Bluetec is one of the most fuel-efficient luxury crossovers out there, with EPA ratings of 28 miles per gallon combined (24 city/33 highway). These figures are certainly thrifty, but are essentially equal to the more powerful Q5 TDI and lower than the Lexus NX 300h hybrid.
Properly equipped, any GLK can haul up to 3,500 pounds.
Solid feel; sophisticated drive and handling; powerful V6 engine; efficient diesel model; luxurious, impeccably crafted cabin; abundant safety features.
It’s neither the roomiest nor the cheapest, but the 2015 Mercedes GLK is nonetheless a sophisticated and impressively well-built small crossover SUV that should satisfy discerning luxury buyers.