Comparison: Mercedes-Benz GLK vs BMW X3

BMW X3 | February 23rd, 2009 by 39
bmw x3 30sd e83 2008 25 1

Two weeks ago at the Chicago Auto Show, I had more time to spend with the Mercedes-Benz GLK, a vehicle that is a direct competitor …

Two weeks ago at the Chicago Auto Show, I had more time to spend with the Mercedes-Benz GLK, a vehicle that is a direct competitor to the BMW X3 Sports Activity Vehicle. Built on the same principle as the X3, the GLK 350 is Mercedes’ attempt to take over the entry premium SUV/SAV segment.

I decided to break down the comparison into multiple sections, I will focus on exterior and interior design, engine, fuel consumption, performance and pricing.

Exterior Design

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Mercedes-Benz GLK – 3 out of 5 stars

The Mercedes Benz GLK350 is very boxy when compared to the other Mercedes models, with flat sides and distinctive creases. It is clear that MB had no intention of marketing the GLK as a smaller version of the popular ML-Class models. It reminds me mostly of the 90s style, orthogonal body with plenty of creases. But in the same time, Mercedes Benz managed to give the GLK a more aggressive, something that many SUVs are missing.

The P-shaped headlights are not the most appealing design element on the GLK, it somewhat reminds me of  a truck coming out of Detroit’s factories. The front-grille was designed with aggressiveness in mind and with the large three-pointed star logo dominating the front design. The rear-end design is quite simplistic, keeping the same square look with large taillights boxing the rear and side of the car. Oh, let’s not forget the dual exhaust tips.

Mercedes Benz GLK measures 178.2 inches in length, it is 79.4 inches  wide and 66.9 inches tall. The wheelbase is measured at 178.2 inches.

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BMW X3 – 4 out of 5 stars

The BMW X3 is still on the first generation and it received a minor facelift in 2006. The X3 is a well executed sibling to the more popular BMW X5, the older brother that takes the crown among the xDrive line up. Let’s face it though, the X3 isn’t quite the most appealing BMW we have seen, but the facelift version seems to be more along the lines of what we expect from a smaller SAV. The front-end has suffered some minor changes, Angel Eyes headlights and a redesigned front-bumper, add a M Package to it and it becomes more bearable. Openings below the front bumper are now larger, and the fog lights have been moved up into the main bodywork.

The non-boxier, sportier look and with the design lines flowing easier, make the X3 score a few points more than the GLK. The rear-end reflects the first generation X5, with its flat, squarish design.  In the facelifted version, the rear bumper received a very subtle restyle, and the taillight clusters now house LEDs instead of traditional bulbs.

Our score: Even though the X3 looks a bit outdated when compared to the other BMWs (the next generation will change this feeling), I still prefer the more agile, sportier look on the X3.

Interior Design

Mercedes Benz GLK

Mercedes Benz GLK – 3 out of 5 stars

The interior design of the GLK is a close copy of the one found in the C-Class model, dominated by a tiered dashboard that wraps around into the door panels. It is trimmed with good-looking, high-quality materials, along with decent chosen colors: black matter for the instrument cluster and central display; and the lower section of the dash in black, gray or beige.

Due to the new graphics and revised colors, the instrument cluster is highly readable under any light conditions, including the new COMAND infotainment system.

The Mercedes Benz GLK can fit up to five passengers, but it suffers of the same problem as the X3: poor rear-seat space. The trunk offers 23.3 cubic feet of load space. Premium sound system is included along with all the technology whistles and bells: Bluetooth connection, iPod adapter and power seats adjustable in 8-ways. The panoramic roof completes the image of an X3 competitor.


Photo Source: Autoevolution

BMW X3 – 3.5 out of 5 stars

The X3 has come a long way as far as interior design, when the first model was launched in 20003, many BMW fans complaint about the low-quality interior design, from the materials used to trim options. But, BMW listened to its peers and in 2006, the interior received a major overhaul and fixed some of the major issues. The center console benefits from improved-quality materials, and a new steering wheel.

Some chrome accents are present in the steering wheel, air vents levers or the shift gear knob. Add the navigation system and you will get the simple, but good looking BMW interior design.

Same thing as the GLK, the X3 is a five seater vehicle with limited rear-space and legroom. Trunk space is a bit more  generous, around 30 cu feet, so extra points for the X3 here. The amazing panoramic roof found on the 3.0 liter version is one of those perks that you enjoy having in your car.

Our score: As much as I enjoy luxury in my car, the GLK interior is too blend for me, showing no character and offering an oversized steering wheel. So, I’ll go with the X3 on this one.

The Engine and Performance

Mercedes Benz GLK – 3 out of 5 stars

The GLK is powered by a 3.5 liter V6 engine, outputting 268 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The propeller helps the GLK run from 0 to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds and reach a top speed of 143 mph, pretty impressive for a small SUV. The transmission is a seven-speed one which includes a manual mode for a sportier approach with shifting through the Touch-Shift paddles on the the steering wheel.

These days fuel economy can break or make a sale, and the GLK is rated at decent numbers: 16 MPG city, 22 MPG highway

BMW X3 – 2.5 out of 5 stars

On the other hand, X3 stays true to BMW’s engine type, a 3.0 liter inline-6 engine producing 260 horsepower and 225 lb-ft of torque. BMW X3 uses a manual or Sportmatic automatic six-speed transmission feeding into BMW’s X-Drive full-time all-wheel-drive system. According to BMW’s official numbers, the X3 runs from 0 to 60 mph in 6.9 seconds(manual) and 7.1 seconds (automatic). It tops out at 136 mph.

The X3 keeps up with the GLK, at 16 MPG city and 23 MPG highway.

Our score: Tough choice here, I drove the X3 many times, but haven’t had a chance to try out the new GLK. But by looking at the numbers, the Mercedes slightly takes the win in this category.


Mercedes Benz GLK 4MATIC starts at $35,900, but with the options added can go as high as $50,000.

BMW X3 is more expensive, starting at $39,700, but it also ads up to over $50,000 when ordering extra options.

Our Score: Obviously the GLK wins here, cheaper is always better, but if you take into consideration BMW’s 4-year maintenance plan, the gap between them becomes smaller.

So, half a point extra for the GLK here.


Without being biased here and by adding up the scores in all the categories, the BMW X3 wins by just .5 points. Of course, this score can go either way, depends on who reviews the car and what their main criteria is. Some people enjoy luxury and gadgets, while others enjoy the car’s handling.

Bottom line is that both cars are a good buy, but with the next improved generation X3 just around the corner, BMW might take over the entire segment.

39 responses to “Comparison: Mercedes-Benz GLK vs BMW X3”

  1. Hehe, I’ve remember this quote from Autoextremist:

    “Scoring a rare clean sweep of our least desirable manufacturer awards – and with more creases in its bodywork than the table cloths at a dry cleaning convention – the Mercedes-Benz GLK crossover is a disaster of epic proportions and winner of the 2008 Autoextremist Answer to the Question that Absolutely No One is Asking Award (but Best Imitation of a Subaru Masquerading as a Mercedes). We gotta better idea, turn this thing into a boat anchor and drop it in the Detroit River.”

    P.S. Horatiu, poti citi aici niste idei. (not english)

  2. dare says:

    If you put Audi Q5 into quotation these two have nowhere to go!
    Cheep plastics, design and poor concepts!
    Learn from Audi!

    Former BMW lover.

  3. Yes, Q5 is the only x3 competition, but it still lacks sportivity…

  4. dare says:

    @Bogdan Gheorghe:
    it actually doesn’t. outclasses x3 in every area. read recent drive tests. it’s praised for superior handling as well.

  5. bmw fan says:

    The BMW x3 is starting to look tired and out dated compared to more modern rivals. Bring on the replacement.

  6. Gil says:

    For me, the X3 gets the top spot for excellent driving dynamics. You buy a car to drive it, not to just look at it. The MB is softer and more compliant, so some people might like this better than the X3. It’s a close call.

    The Audi Q5… is dead last on my list. Test-drove one last week, and yes, while it handles nicely and wins it hands down on exterior AND interior design, it’s scary to take on tight curves at high speed. The feedback just isn’t there, and I found myself tapping the brakes more often than I’d like. And the noise…. they MUST fix the noise coming from the side view mirrors above 60 mph. It drove me and my passenger nuts. The A5 on the other hand…. now THAT was a fun car! Might buy one.

  7. Horatiu B. says:

    @Bogdan Gheorghe: Yup..drove one for a few minutes…not a fan…but I will try to take one around the track soon.

  8. Horatiu B. says:

    @Gil: interesting findings! I might just have to go take an extensive Audi Q5 test drive and put it against the X3. I wonder if Mercedes will loan me a GLK to test drive it :)

  9. Carlos Perez says:

    Sorry but in terms of interior and exterior gtg with the MB, the x3 is just damn ugly, is rides brilliantly well butt man is just so ugly, and the Q5 well not an audi fan so…

  10. Kodey says:

    Screw Audi, X3 might be a little old, but replacement is on the way, so not to fret, Ugh i hate the stupid mercedes, i hate the Q5, Audi is getting better yes, but STILL not in the same range as BMW..

  11. Gord says:

    But these cars (X3, GLK, and Q5) aren’t actually all that off-road worthy are they ?

    Now thats fine in all, but BMW will soon release the V series PAS, and they will have the utility of these cars, so I see no point to the X3 unless it is actually off-road worthy.

  12. Lance says:

    Q5 is one ugly fat duck! Don’t even try to compare a VW with a BMW or Merc. The Q5 drives like a mini van and the build quality is terrible. At least teh X3 is the most reliable car in Germany. As for the interior, all three cars are terrible, but the X3 is near the end of its life and I expect the same interior standard as the Z4, new 7, X5, x6. As for the GLK interior – YUK- I feel like I’m in the 1980’s with the design of that interior dash. What’s up with merc interior? From the C to the new E and GLK – shame!

  13. Kyle says:


    Oh the audacity of some people. I’m sure you are one swell automotive engineer who can out engineer all 3 of these top luxury brands who stand above the rest of the auto industry. its a shame people like you open your mouth.

  14. Babez says:

    Yep – the Mercedes-Benz looks lot more fun. I am not quite sure – but all Beemers have the same look – there is nothing special… they should think about a new “front-design”. And the interior looks very cheap and not exclusive.

  15. BMWDriver says:

    They are both ugly vehicles. The only thing going for the GLK is the newness factor.

  16. Horatiu B. says:

    @Babez: I’m not sure what you mean by all look the same….they really don’t…maybe the X3 with the first generation X5 but that’s about it.

  17. Alina says:

    We should admire GLK for its interior and exterior design,very very nice and robust in the class.
    also in term of drivetrain every thing is excellent and can beat rivals easily.

  18. nendo says:

    I was keen on getting a mercedes glk until i test drove it. Boy was i underwhelmed. The exterior styling looks pretty good with the 20,s but the interior looked cheap and felt like i was in a subaru. I am coming from a mercedes e55 and this was a huge step down in every way.

    Then i test drove the audi Q5 with sline trim and 20 inch wheels. WOW , i was really impressed with it. The styling exterior looked great and interior blew the glk away. Also it felt much zippier and handled better than the glk, less harsh of a ride as well.

    I took a bmw x3 out for a spin and it was god awful in almost everyway except the engine and good cargo room, The car reminded me of 1995!!

    I have test driven maybe 8 small suvs in the segment and ultimatley the q5 easily won for me.
    Now I have a audi 09 s-line sitting in front of my house and couldnt be happier with my desicion

  19. Diana says:

    When do you think the new BMX x3 will be in the market? Do you think its worth buying it now?

  20. Horatiu B. says:

    Diana, the new X3 will be available in early 2010.

  21. Max says:

    Audi does’t have long term reliability. How many older model are out there? There is probably very little if any at all. It is an insult to compare Audi with veterans like Mercedes and BMW.

  22. red-sauerkraut says:

    The Audi engine is not up to snuff. The gear box is really nice, but the car is noisy, and feels like a rolling couch. If you or paying damn near 50Kusd.

    Bring on the n54 powered X3!

    BMW better get a move on!!!!

  23. Rohit Singal says:

    Just signed for a GLK after testing the q5 and x3 as well. There’s no doubt that the q5 had the sportiest handling, impressive for an SUV, with nice interior but the options come in so many whacky and overpriced packages that to get an equivalent vehicle as the GLK we were paying $5,000 more. If this were not the case it would have been a harder decision… the q5 is very nice.

    The GLK has uniqueness in the class in terms of its look (but which people will either love or hate), the most luxurious interior and when pushed performed well on the road in terms of acceleration and handling. Again, almost too comfortable but when I started using the manual shifting was able to get more out of the car.

    The X3 drives like a beamer which is the best part and that’s it. Interior still feels like it’s out of the 90’s. Price adds up too when you try to match up options and they just don’t offer everything the other two do (power tailgate, integrated screen for navigation etc.).

    All in all the GLK brought the most to the table for the best price with the reputation of Mercedes SUVs behind it and that’s why we took it.

  24. Shawn Schroeder says:

    We traded our ’07 X3 on a ’10 GLK. Our lease was up and looked at the LR2, XC60 and GLK. First of all the X3 still has the best drivetrain, driving dynamics and great space efficiency. We choose (wife) the GLK based on the quietness and ride. While the build qaulity is impecable (as is the X3) with a very nice door “thunk” and is good value, it is not as roomy in the rear as the X3. The GLK is not special when going WOT as the 3.5l 7-speed trans shine better at moderate paces. The X3 also give superior fuel econmy 22 v. 18 all around. Mercedes builds a better luxury vehicle, but BMW is still the engineer’s, and enthusiast’s vehicle of choice – among these 2.

  25. :p says:

    The GLK is newer and better in every way then the X3. The X3 looks too 20th century. The new one will come out next year and then we can compare. 2011 BMW X3 will over-take the GLK and Q5.

  26. Heime says:

    I drove the GLK, Q5,Tiguan, RDX and RS350 yesterday. I liked the GLK the best. It’s a Mercedes Benz and it’s well thought out. It’s more luxurious and doesn’t have that rough sporty feel of the q5, plus it’s $5k-$10k cheaper. The MPG isn’t there and the trunk space is smallish but I loved the interior and exterior styling, the driving and overall feel of the car. I’m not considering the x3 due to it’s dated styling and that it’s a BMW. Really, have you seen who drives BMWs?

    • red-sauerkraut says:

      Clearly Heime bought the MB because it fits his ego more than anything else.

      No Heime I have not noticed what other Bimmer owners look like, because unlike you I’m very content driving the ultimate drive machine!

  27. James Hall says:

    The main reason to choose the merc is so that you are not seen a a twat who drives a BMW. Mercedes don’t want the BM’s image of estate agents, drug dealers and golfers.

    • Daniel H. says:

      So your saying MB’s image is fat, old, lazy CEOs who need a super confortable car to take them back and forth from work since they cant be seen using public transportation

      • James Hall says:

        Estate agent by any chance?

      • Glking says:

        most CEO’s i know drive a Porsche,  Mercedes or a Lexus..

        Everyone who is biased here should drive the GLK 350 in “sports” mode. It will take off before the X3 hits the 2nd gear..ha ha ! 
        GLK engine is way better than a x3, x5 or even a Audi Q7. Don’t believe, drive one.

  28. Like many German cars, which has its peculiarities. Navigation is difficult to adjust, but this is not the most interesting of this car at about 10,000 feet, sailing off! Warning appears and becomes unusable.

  29. shane says:

    I think thay are fabulous cars  . they are good in speed .I think the bmw is a little bit better.

  30. anas says:

     all mercedes models are better….say no for bmw,audi,honda and all cars….accept my greetings

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