The 2012 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 is the second-cheapest Mercedes you can buy in this country, and yet you’d never guess it by the way it looks, feels and drives. Close the GLK’s doors and the metallic thump is reminiscent of closing a bank vault — all that’s missing is that spinning wheel thing. Drive over railroad tracks and the GLK feels as if it’s made from a solid block of concrete — there’s no jarring or jiggling greeting your backside. This sort of impenetrable feeling is a hallmark of Mercedes’ current lineup and certainly makes any sort of anticipated GLK price premium seem worth it — though in reality, the GLK is actually quite competitively priced.
Aside from sharing that iron-clad feel with the C-Class sedan upon which it is based, the GLK’s well-sorted steering and ride are remarkably similar as well. The C and GLK now differ in engine fitment, however, as the GLK350 soldiers on with its 268-horsepower V6, while the C350 has been upgraded for 2012. This isn’t exactly a problem, as the GLK still offers class-competitive power, though fuel economy is below average.
The GLK’s cabin is a chip off the old Mercedes block, with a distinct emphasis placed on the word “block.” There’s nary a curve in sight, with a design that harkens back to pre-1990s Benzes. When done up in black, it’s quite austere and unmistakably German in its aesthetic. Whether you like the look or not will be a matter of preference, but the GLK’s materials and construction are undeniably top-notch. An abundance of convenience, technology and especially safety features are available for further embellishing.
The main drawback to the GLK is that it may be a little too compact for some. Its backseat and cargo area are smaller than most vehicles in the class, making the Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Volvo XC60 better choices for families. For just a little more money, you could also step up to the much larger Acura MDX or Lexus RX 350. Yet for singles or couples with limited people- and/or stuff-hauling needs, the 2012 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 is a well-made crossover that earns its hallowed three-pointed star.
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class consists of only a single model: the GLK350. When equipped with all-wheel drive, it receives a 4Matic moniker.
Standard equipment includes 19-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights and wipers, front and rear foglamps, roof rails, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, eight-way power front seats, MB-Tex premium vinyl upholstery, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a cargo cover, Bluetooth, the COMAND electronics interface and a six-speaker sound system with a single-CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
The Premium 1 package adds a power liftgate, a panoramic sunroof (optional separately), rear parking sensors, auto-dimming mirrors, a power-adjustable steering wheel, driver memory functions, front-seat four-way power lumbar adjustment, a compass and satellite radio (optional separately). The COMAND package adds a navigation system, a larger infotainment display, real-time traffic, digital music storage and voice controls. The Multimedia package is similar, but adds a rearview camera and an iPod interface (optional separately). A six-CD changer can be added to both of these packages.
The Lighting package adds bi-xenon headlamps, headlamp washers and LED running lamps. The Full Leather Seating package adds interior accent lighting and extended leather trim further available in special request colors. An AMG Styling package adds 20-inch wheels and special styling flourishes inspired by Mercedes’ high-performance AMG lineup.
Stand-alone options include Mercedes-Benz “mbrace” emergency telematics, front and rear parking sensors, a trailer hitch, running boards, keyless ignition/entry, heated front seats, a rear-seat entertainment system and an 11-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system. Also available is a less advanced navigation system that includes iPod integration.
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 268 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque. A seven-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive are standard. 4Matic all-wheel drive is optional.
In Edmunds performance testing, a GLK350 4Matic accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.2 seconds, an average time for this segment. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway and 18 mpg combined with rear-wheel drive. The highway number drops to 21 with 4Matic, which is on the low side for the segment.
The GLK comes standard with stability control, antilock disc brakes with brake assist and brake drying, active front head restraints, front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag and driver/passenger pelvic airbags. Parking sensors and Mercedes’ mbrace emergency telematics are optional.
In Edmunds brake testing, a GLK 4Matic came to a stop from 60 mph in 119 feet — a good number for a compact luxury crossover.
In crash testing done by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the GLK received the top rating of “Good” in the frontal-offset, side impact and roof strength tests.
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz GLK’s most notable characteristic is the rock-solid feel its chassis and unibody construction display over every bump and road imperfection. Even the worst potholes and railroad tracks are greeted with a muted thump and absolutely no body shudder or unpleasantness transferred to your backside. The ride may be on the firm side for some people, but the GLK is otherwise a nicely tuned luxury vehicle that glides along freeways with confidence and comfort.
Through corners, the GLK feels very much like the tall C-Class it is. It remains well-planted despite its top-heavy nature, and its steering is well-weighted and offers plenty of feedback. We wouldn’t describe the GLK as particularly fun compared to an Audi Q5 or BMW X3, but it seems just right for its likely clientele.
The same could be said for power, as the V6 provides sufficient, though not breathtaking, acceleration. On the highway, though, it is remarkably quiet, emanating an almost imperceptible purr. When pushed aggressively, the dual exhausts give off a notably Germanic growl. The seven-speed transmission is remarkably smooth — even in Sport mode — but it can be a bit slow to downshift at times.
The GLK’s cabin looks as if its designers stuck exclusively to rulers when penning the many surfaces — there’s barely a rounded edge to be found. While this produces a rather austere and stark environment (particularly in black), the interior is solidly crafted with top-notch materials and tight panel fits. The standard MB-Tex vinyl upholstery is not only nicer than many makers’ real leather, but we actually thought it was leather until we peeked at our GLK test car’s equipment list.
Cabin controls can seem a little complicated at first, but the combination of physical dash buttons, steering wheel controls and the multifunction COMAND knob are a reasonable solution to complicated stereo, navigation and telephone functions. The climate controls are the standard Benz units, which means they are fairly simple to use. They are mounted a little low in the GLK, though.
Maximum cargo capacity is 54.7 cubic feet, which is less than every compact and midsize competitor (often considerably so). The same goes for backseat room, making it a better choice for singles or couples without kids rather than families. Headroom is ample for all passengers.
|Vehicle Traction||Rear Wheel Drive|
|Exterior Color||Red Multi-Coat|