2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC: Thrift can be fun
It isn't often that we describe a Mercedes-Benz vehicle as a "steal." Mercedes-Benz products frequently offer good value, especially when one factors resale into the equation, but a below-market, almost-too-good-to-be-true purchase? No, not really. But now we have driven the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC, a vehicle we think legitimately deserves that kind of description. In the 2013 GLK250 you get all the benefits of the refreshed 2013 version of the GLK: heavily revamped interior, more dramatic exterior, convenient size and sharp handling, plus an uber-sophisticated twin-turbo diesel engine accompanied by 4MATIC all-wheel-drive, all for a lower list price than the gasoline-powered GLK350 4MATIC. Yes, the GLK250 offers 102 fewer horsepower than the GLK350, but due to its immense low-end torque that horsepower difference isn't as noticeable as you might imagine. And the upside is much better fuel economy and, we estimate, better resale value.
While many consumers have been willing to spend premium prices to obtain the longevity, range and fuel economy of a diesel engine, Mercedes-Benz is essentially throwing all those advantages in for free. The GLK350 4MATIC has a $39,090 MSRP, while the GLK250 BlueTEC 4MATIC is being offered at $38,590 MSRP. So excuse us if we call it a "steal."
While we like the handy size and sporty demeanor of the GLK250 BlueTEC 4MATIC (if not its long, hard-to-remember name), its key advantage versus others in its lofty segment is the high-tech diesel engine, which does everything but clean your closets for you. Mercedes-Benz claims it is the most powerful 4-cylinder diesel engine available among all the world's SUVs, and we find it impressive that it wrings an even 200 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque from just 2,143 cubic centimeters of displacement. Many factors are responsible for these happy statistics including its four-valves-per-cylinder configuration, its vane-type variable valve timing and its high (29,000 pounds-per-square-inch) fuel pressure from its direct-injection system.
2-Stage turbocharging provides optimum charge air
But those features are just the beginning of the story. The new engine also features an innovative two-stage turbocharger system that uses a small high-pressure turbocharger and a large low-pressure turbocharger that are connected in series. In operation the intake air is compressed not once but twice, and it is also treated to a large intercooler that reduces the temperature of the compressed air by more than 280 degrees (F) so that a larger volume of air can enter the combustion chambers. Because of all this technical trickery, the engine is breathing optimized charge air no matter the engine speed.
What we felt on the road was high torque, even relatively low in the rev range, virtually no hint of turbo lag and quick throttle response. In fact, we figure if we put most upscale empty-nesters behind the wheel of the GLK250 BlueTEC, they wouldn't detect that the sprightly little crossover was powered by a diesel. Instead, they would simply appreciate the GLK BlueTEC's broad torque curve that makes it an easy-going partner for both around-town excursions and long-distance cruising.
Diesel as clean as a contemporary gasoline engine
Those who might wonder about the environmental effects of driving a diesel can rest assured that the state-of-the-art "clean diesel" engine in the GLK250 BlueTEC meets the exhaust emission regulations of all 50 states. This means it is as "clean" as a current gasoline-fueled engine thanks to the use of AdBlue injection, a water-based urea solution that helps convert smog-causing nitrous oxides into nitrogen and water. The AdBlue tank need to be refilled according to routine vehicle maintenance schedules.
The bottom line on the new GLK250 BlueTEC 4MATIC is extra value. While occasionally we did miss the extra 100 or so horsepower provided by the gasoline engine, we think for most drivers the horsepower shortfall is more than offset by the added fuel economy -- 24 mpg city/33 mpg highway -- the stout amount of low-end torque and the added driving range before a fill-up offered by the diesel-powered version. The fact that you get all this without paying a premium over the cost of a GLK350 4Matic is icing on the cake.
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