Google+

BBC Autos

Joyride

Mercedes' diesel darling

About the author

Editor of BBC Autos, Matthew is a former editor at Automobile Magazine and the creator of the digital-only Roadtrip Magazine. His automotive and travel writing has appeared in such magazines as Wired, Popular Science, The Robb Report and Caribbean Travel + Life. He lives in Los Angeles with his wonderful wife and four-year-old daughter.

 

  • 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC
    (Daimler)
  • 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC
    (Daimler)
  • 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC
    (Daimler)
  • 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC
    (Daimler)
  • 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC
    (Daimler)
  • 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC
    (Daimler)
  • 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC
    (Daimler)
  • 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC
    (Daimler)
  • 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC
    (Daimler)
  • 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC
    (Daimler)
  • 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC
    (Daimler)
  • 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC
    (Daimler)
  • 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC
    (Daimler)
  • 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC
    (Daimler)
  • 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC
    (Daimler)
  • 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC
    (Daimler)
  • 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC
    (Daimler)
  • 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC
    (Daimler)
  • 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC
    (Daimler)
  • 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC
    (Daimler)

HIDE CAPTION

There is one question that American automotive writers invariably pose, usually over dinner, during the launch event for a new vehicle, no matter what vehicle it happens to be: “How about a diesel version?”

Most automakers’ representatives will then present a sad but salient argument against diesel in the US. Not Mercedes-Benz. The company has a long and unbroken history of diesel power – the longest, in fact: Its 1936 260D was the world’s first diesel-powered passenger car, and the first in a line that stretches to this one: the new GLK250 BlueTEC, the first diesel in the compact-SUV segment of the market, one that includes the Audi Q5 and the BMW X3.

A thorough freshening for 2013 gave the GLK more style and substance, with smartly revised front-end styling, an upgraded interior and, in the gasoline V6-powered GLK350, more power and improved fuel economy. Mercedes considers its smallest SUV to be a gateway to the brand, a first three-pointed star for buyers who, with careful cultivation, may become regulars. As such, it is a model that gets a lot of attention The GLK250 BlueTEC is a late-year addition to the range.

Providing the motivation in this newest GLK is a 2.1-litre, 4-cylinder diesel engine, matched to Mercedes’ excellent seven-speed automatic transmission and 4Matic all-wheel drive (there is no rear-wheel-drive GLK250). With twin turbochargers and direct fuel injection, the engine delivers 200 horsepower and 369 foot-pounds of torque. The turbos are sequential – a small, high-pressure turbine that spools up quickly and a larger one that comes on later and provides the bulk of the oomph. The result is seamless power delivery, with minimal turbo lag. A testament to its versatility, this 2.1-litre diesel, which debuted in Europe back in 2009, is set to power Mercedes' rear- and all-wheel-drive E-Class models for 2014, as well as the company's full-size Sprinter van.

Price-wise, the GLK250 BlueTEC starts at $39,495 (inclusive of the $905 destination charge), placing it neatly between the rear-wheel-drive GLK350 ($37,995) and the all-wheel-drive GLK350 4Matic ($39,995). That said, like all Mercedes-Benzes (and all vehicles from premium German automakers, for that matter), that price is bound to escalate. A Mercedes spokesman noted that the average transaction price for a GLK is $43,000, but the tested vehicle, loaded to the gills with all manner of optional safety, comfort, convenience and style features, ballooned to an eye-widening $57,635.

And yet, the GLK’s fiscal liberty is forgiven (or at least momentarily forgotten) with a stab of the throttle. On the road — on any road, truth told — the GLK250 BlueTEC is a winner. Over smooth asphalt, the SUV reveals its sporty C-Class origins with predictable body motions and admirable grip in the curves, and on rougher patches – and even off the pavement entirely – it is never less than fully composed, thanks to a stout structure and generous wheel travel. The GLK350’s V6 is a model of decorum, but the GLK250’s diesel four is hardly unrefined. The engine manages to conceal its cylinder count during all but the most full-on acceleration. And the monumental rush of torque, which peaks at a very low 1600 rpm, is thoroughly satisfying.

Plentiful torque is nice, but exemplary fuel economy may be the GLK250’s greater virtue. Even with standard all-wheel drive, the SUV returns an admirable 24mpg in the city and 33mpg on the Interstate, handily topping the GLK350 4Matic’s 19mpg city and 24mpg highway – figures, it should be noted, that are achieved on pricier premium fuel. Like the six-cylinder diesel engine in Mercedes’ M- and GL-Class SUVs, this engine receives minute injections of AdBlue, a water-based urea solution that mitigates noxious emissions, ensuring that the diesel GLK is meets the same standards of cleanliness as its gasoline-powered sibling, even in California, whose California Air Resources Board has crafted some of the nation’s toughest emissions regulations. The solution is contained in a small on-board reservoir, which is refilled at regular service intervals, says Mercedes.

Refined and easy to live with, the GLK250 joins a growing field of diesel-powered passenger vehicles, from the $24,290 Volkswagen Beetle TDI to the $93,905 Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTEC. These modern diesel-powered vehicles are neither noisy nor smelly, and thanks to the ever-improving availability of ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel in the US, drivers are no longer forced to fill up alongside the big rigs at highway truck stops. And that, unless you have a yen for a greasy burger and a free shower, is very good indeed.

The 2013 GLK250 BlueTEC is landing in North American Mercedes-Benz dealerships now.

Vital stats: 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC 4Matic

  • Base price: $39,495, inclusive of $905 destination charge
  • As tested: $57,635
  • EPA fuel economy: 24mpg city, 33mpg highway
  • Drivetrain: 200hp, 2.1-litre twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel engine, seven-speed automatic transmission
  • Major options: Parktronic parking assist, $970; Harman/Kardon audio system, $810; brushed aluminum running boards, $670; heated front seats, $750; Keyless-Go, $650, Premium package (garage door opener, integrated compass, auto-dimming mirrors, power liftgate, panorama sunroof, MP3 media interface, SiriusXM with 6-month service, 115V AC outlet), $3,450; Full leather seating package, $2,100; Lighting package (bi-xenon headlamps with active cornering, headlamp washers and active high-beam assist), $1,290; Multimedia package (rearview camera, voice-control GPS navigation, six-disc CD/DVD changer), $2,790; Sport Appearance package (19in allow wheels, aluminum roof rails), $990; Driver Assistance package (active cruise control, blind-spot assist, active lane-keeping assist, brake assist system, collision mitigation system), $2,950
Plentiful torque is nice, but exemplary fuel economy may be the GLK250’s greater virtue.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.