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First Drive: GLK 250 Turbo Diesel

Mercedes continues cavalcade of turbo diesels.

by on May.03, 2013

The 2013 GLK 250 is winning fans with a new four-cylinder turbo diesel. Photo credit: Greg Jarem.

Like other German carmakers, Mercedes-Benz has put down a large bet on diesel, rolling out diesel-powered vehicles at a fast clip to meet the American demand for style and fuel economy.

As part of its diesel campaign, Mercedes elected to install its new four-cylinder diesel engine in its GLK sports utility vehicle. The same diesel engine will also be made available in the revamped Mercedes Benz E-Class sedan, starting in September. The first gasoline-powered version of the new E-Class is due in showrooms this month.

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As it stands, the new four-cylinder, Mercedes-designed and Mercedes-built turbo diesel, which is the first four-cylinder diesel Mercedes-Benz has made available in North America, seems to fit perfectly into the GLK. The clatter that seems to have plagued the diesel engine in the past was almost non-existent at ignition, when the vehicle was idling or while driving at various speeds on country roads or on the freeway. It wasn’t exactly whisper quiet, but it was close.

The 200 horsepower from the engine felt available immediately and the 369 foot-pounds of torque was also available, which only added to the driving experience. The overall fuel economy also was good.

Mercedes-Benz representatives maintain the engine in the GLK250 is the most powerful four-cylinder diesel engine in a mid-sized SUV. Its 2,143-cc, all-aluminum, in-line four-cylinder engine makes use of four valves per cylinder and dual overhead camshafts with vane-type variable valve timing. To smooth out the inherent vibration of an in-line four-cylinder engine, two Lanchester balance shafts spin at twice the crankshaft speed.

To ensure responsive power over a broad speed range, the new engine is equipped with a two-stage turbocharger system that’s comprised of a small high-pressure turbocharger and a large low-pressure turbocharger. In order to meet the emission regulations in all 50 states, the BlueTEC system uses AdBlue injection to make the diesel as clean as a state-of-the-art gasoline engine.

The BlueTec turbo diesel in the GLK250, which is now reaching Mercedes-Benz dealerships around the country, is also matched up with a seven-speed transmission and Mercedes’ 4Matic, all-wheel drive system, which the German automaker is making available on more of its vehicles, including all of its AMG models in the future.

The GLK250 is rated by the Environmental Protection Agency at 24 miles per gallon in city, 33 miles per gallon on the highway and 28 miles per gallon combined, which is quite good for a vehicle that is classed as mid-sized sport utility vehicle.

Overall, the driving dynamics are very good. The suspension and electromechanical steering system on the vehicle seem nicely matched to the turbo diesel and the combination delivers a very good ride and handling.

(Click Here to read about Mercedes move to add all-wheel drive to AMG.)

The changes to the exterior and interior of the GLK 250 are modest but nonetheless the vehicle exudes a sense of well being and prosperity that is certainly supposed to be part of the Mercedes-Benz mystique

Mercedes, however, has wisely decided to make a full-suite of the latest safety-assist equipment available on the GLK250. The features including standard attention, which warns drivers on the verge of nodding off, and optional distronic plus cruise control with pre-safe brake assist, active blind spot assist, active lane keeping assist and adaptive high beams. The electrically assisted steering also makes possible an optional active parking assist.

(German unions opening doors at Mercedes U.S. plant. Click Here to read more.)

Pricing for the GLK begins at $38,590, which doesn’t include the $905 destination charge and the addition of technology package for navigation and safety only adds to the price of the vehicle. But the vehicle competes in a segment where the average transaction price quickly moves past $40,000.

In addition, Mercedes-Benz has the figures to show that the GLK is winning over motorists despite some very strong competition from a set of rivals that includes highly touted vehicles such as the AudiQ5 and the BMWX3. The turbo diesel is certain to win over more buyers with its ability to deliver both a pleasant drive efficiently.

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