Before Mercedes-Benz reconfigured its SUV lineup with naming conventions following the same pattern as its cars — before the GLA, GLC, GLE and GLS — there was a humble compact crossover called the GLK. Stylish and boxy, the GLK-Class offered an affordable entry into the Mercedes ute lineup. The GLK 350 was offered with a V6 and either two- or all-wheel-drive layouts, while the 250 BlueTEC offered a torquey diesel turbo-four.
The GLK was relatively short-lived, selling for just six model years in the U.S. It was followed by the slightly bigger GLC-Class, which gave up the squared-off styling for a sleeker, more rounded look. The GLK’s styling made a return of sorts with the Mercedes-Benz GLB class.
Why the Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class?
We owned a GLK 250 BlueTEC for about 8 years, and finally replaced it with a larger SUV as our family grew. We loved it for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it was a joy to drive. Its compact footprint made it maneuverable, and we appreciated its car-like handling.
We also loved the fuel economy. While the gas-powered GLK 350 with its 3.5-liter V6 returned 19 miles per gallon city (or 18 with all-wheel drive) and 25 highway, our little AWD turbodiesel was rated at 24 mpg city and 33 highway, but it wasn’t unusual for us to average 38 mpg on long highway trips. That made for excellent range, and we could make the 500-mile round trip to our cottage and back — plus some driving in between — without having to stop for fuel.
It was also surprisingly space efficient. I once used a GLK to move offices at a previous publication. I was shocked by the amount of boxes I could fit in it with the rear seats folded. It worked well enough for our family with two dogs and one child, but sitting in front of a rear-facing child seat was a little cramped. We only moved up in size after having our second child.
We also enjoyed the all-wheel-drive capability of the GLK. It wasn’t super robust, and I did manage to get it stuck in the snow once on an old logging trail (that one’s on me), but it provided a lot of confidence on loose, wet or snowy roads.
Which GLK to choose?
Get the diesel. The 250 BlueTEC served my family well. It was quick enough to mix it up in highway traffic. The 369 pound-feet of torque was great around town or when towing a pair of jet skis (like the gas-powered GLK 350, it can tow up to 3,500 pounds). Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive system came standard on the BlueTEC, too.
Browsing our listings, the lower-mileage models of both the 250 and 350 are in the high teens to low $20k range. Narrow the offerings down by a radius around your ZIP code, and pay attention to the deal rating on each listing to see how a vehicle compares with others in a similar area.
What else to consider?
Or you could go with the obvious rival, the second-generation BMW X3. The styling is a lot different, and the X3 offered better tech and what was arguably a nicer cabin.
Another worthy contender would be the Acura RDX, with sporty handling and good reliability, but it was also low on tech, and could only tow 1,500 pounds.
You could go with the GLK’s immediate successor, the GLC, if you want a used car that’s just a bit newer (and bigger), with a better interior — but also more expensive.
Of course, used vehicle prices are kind of crazy right now. As such, it might not be completely out of the question to use the money you’d spend on a used GLK for a down payment on a new Mercedes-Benz GLB-Class. It’s a bit of a stretch, but you’d get a warranty and fully up-to-date infotainment and safety features.
But, really, if you’re considering the GLK, it’s probably the GLK you want, and not one of the competitors. There’s really nothing else like it … Except maybe that new GLB.