If you want the utmost in ultra-high performance that money can buy, you actually have choices. Yet, say you want a small SUV with a four-cylinder diesel engine -- a proposition that, sorry, makes a lot more sense than a 200-mph hybrid for two. Your choice is not which one, but rather which color.
Yep, the '13 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTec 4Matic is the only small SUV (actually the only SUV of any size) sold in the U.S. with a four-pot oil-burner. Which is unfortunate, because a compelling argument can be made for a compact crossover with a four-cylinder diesel.
For one, a tidy (and thus lighter-weight) SUV paired with a small, fuel-efficient diesel means impressive mileage. In the case of the all-wheel-drive 4359-pound GLK250 -- yeah, I know, 4359 pounds doesn't sound terribly light, but it's about as much as an AWD Chrysler 300S sedan weighs -- we're talking 24/33 mpg city/highway and a combined EPA rating of 28 mpg, which matches the combined number of the 2933-pound 2.0-liter Acura ILX. Indeed, after my 161.6 miles of BlueTec-ing, I pumped in exactly 5.001 gallons. (For the arithmetically challenged, that's 32.3 mpg.) Better yet, with a 15.6-gallon tank, the GLK250 offers a cruising range of 515 miles. Solid.
Two, diesels are loaded with low-end torque -- the off-the-line, out-of-corner oomph that can make daily driving an enjoyable chore. With 369 lb-ft available at a low 1600 rpm, the GLK250 offers more grunt than any SUV in its class, not to mention the following eight-cylinder rockets: Audi R8 4.2 (316), BMW M3 (295), and Maserati GranTurismo S (361). Heck, the baby-brick Benz nearly matches the torque output of the Ferrari California (372).
No wonder, then, that the GLK250′s new 2.1-liter will also serve as the base engine in the updated (and comparatively ginormous) Sprinter van.
Whether trudging through town or cruising on the Interstate, the GLK250 BlueTec feels as strong and sprightly as its more powerful (302 hp) but less torquey (273 lb-ft) GLK350 4Matic sibling. At the test track, the diesel scooted from 0 to 60 mph in 7.0 seconds flat, which is 1.2 seconds slower than the gas GLK, but -- wait for it -- 0.2 second quicker than the 2014 Lexus IS 250 F Sport. So, plenty brisk. And although it lags behind the GLK350, the gap, as I mentioned, is not noticeable in day-to-day motoring. After blowing by 60, the GLK250 continues to ride its big wave of diesel torque, surfing past the quarter mile in 15.3 ticks at 87.4 mph. Again, that's quicker (up to 0.3 second at this point) than the IS 250.
Three, the GLK250 BlueTec 4Matic, unlike most diesels, costs less than a comparable gas variant. Jeep's Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel, for example, demands a $4500-$5000 premium over the gas Pentastar. In the GLK's case, the 250 4Matic's $39,495 base price undercuts the 350 4Matic's by $500. Not a lot, but still.
And lest I forget, the GLK250 comes in your choice of 12 colors. So, choose your hue wisely, and your car might end up being as exclusive as if you had bought one of those million-dollar hypercars.