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2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTec (Mercedes-Benz)
2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTec (Mercedes-Benz)

From one VW TDI owner to another ... what should I buy next? Add to ...

Hello, Michael and Jeremy: I enjoy how you present a balanced and interesting discussion of the merits of each vehicle and at the same time you don’t take things too seriously. My wife and I are close to retirement and looking to replace our aging 2002 VW Beetle TDI with another diesel car.

I say car and not VW as I have recently had rather large VW repair bills. Other than the broken springs, failed turbocharger, fragile suspension, falling windows, electrical gremlins and self-destructing plastic covers, this car has been fun to drive, it has returned reasonably good fuel economy and it is generally comfortable. And I say this as someone on the wrong side of 300 pounds and taller than six feet.

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So, what would you recommend in the realm of small diesel cars that are available now or in the next year or so (assuming the VW can hold steady)? If you think that VW has mended its ways and been able to achieve better reliability, I might also be open to another one, albeit reluctantly. – Alex in Burlington, Ont.

Vaughan: “The wrong side of 300 pounds” in a Beetle? Maybe that has something to do with the ”broken springs,” Alex.

Cato: Lighten up on the weight wisecracks, Vaughan. You’ll have a human rights tribunal on you faster than Toronto Mayor Rob Ford can dispatch a deli delight. Besides, Alex is Adrien Brody-esque compared to His Worship.

Vaughan: Nevertheless, I understand Alex’s pain because I’m a VW TDI owner myself. The repair bills are murder. But the new seventh-generation Golf arrives next year and maybe it will be better.

Cato: Whoa, cowboy. A bit of balance here. Your Golf TDI is even older than Alex’s and you have, what, 300,000 km on the clock? And counting. How long do you and Alex expect a car to last? The weight of expectations is, shall I say, heavy here.

Other than Alex’s turbo, all his VW problems have been with things other than the diesel. And I’m not surprised about the turbo. All the heat generated by turbos – using hot exhaust gases to spin a turbine can be damaging over time. That said, VW diesel engines are reliable – world-class. So Alex needs to think about a diesel Passat sedan ($26,575 base) or maybe a Golf wagon TDI ($27,025 base).

Vaughan: I say sit tight until next year when the new Golf arrives. It’s already on sale in Europe and, by the time it arrives here, we’ll have a year’s worth of data on its initial quality and reliability. Besides, many more diesels are on the way to give you some real alternatives in oil burners.

Cato: A tsunami of them. The Diesel Technology Forum, a lobby group in the United States, says 22 new “clean” diesel vehicles will be introduced in the United States this year and more than 50 new diesels will reach the U.S. market by 2017. What the Americans get, we get. Alex, you’re going to have more choice in diesels than you ever imagined.

Vaughan: I’m curious about Mazda’s diesels. I know there’s one coming in the Mazda6. It also has a diesel CX-5 on sale now in Japan. That’s Mazda’s nifty little SUV. I like that vehicle a lot with its gas engine; diesel would make it all the better if it’s coming here.

And I’d really like a diesel in the new Mazda3, but I don’t know if it’s coming. I like what’s going on at Mazda these days, but I admit I have not driven one of their diesels yet.

Cato: Ah, but I have. Every time I say “diesel” in the presence of someone from Mazda, they get all giggly like a teenager talking about a first crush. They coo and they act all adolescent. Shocking.

The Mazda people can’t wait for diesels. Here’s why: their SkyActiv-D engine is strong and smooth and doesn’t need a urea after-treatment to keep the tailpipe ejections clean.

If Alex needs something right now, though, the Mercedes GLK diesel – GLK250 BlueTec at $43,500 – is here now and we both like it. It’s certainly bigger than an 11-year-old Beetle.

Vaughan: Or Alex could wait for something even larger, which would be the Jeep Grand Cherokee; it gets a diesel later this year. A great vehicle with a gas engine that diesel would make even better.

Cato: Or wait a month or two until Audi launches its Q5 TDI.

Vaughan: Audis are great cars, but not cheap. I’d like to see a TDI in an A3. That might actually motivate me to blow the dust off my wallet.

Cato: That would create a bigger dust cloud than the 1883 eruption of the Krakatoa volcano. “Vaughan uses wallet: a global warming incident.”

Alex, go drive a Golf TDI wagon. It’s affordable and big enough for you.

Vaughan: I say sit tight. Try to keep your Veedub alive and out of the repair shop until next year when you’ll have many more diesel choices.

HOW THEY COMPARE



2013 Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI Trendline2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK250 BlueTEC2013 Volkswagen Golf wagon Comfortline TDI

Wheelbase (mm)

280327552578

Length (mm)

486845254556

Width (mm)

183518401781

Height (mm)

148716981504

Engine

2.0-litre diesel, turbocharged2.1-litre four-cylinder2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel, turbocharged

Output (horsepower/torque)

140/236 lb-ft200/369 lb-ft140/236 lb-ft

Drive system

Front-wheel driveAll-wheel driveFront-wheel drive

Transmission

Six-speed manualSeven-speed automaticSix-speed manual

Curb Weight (kg)

152419251494

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

6.8 city/4.4 highway7.2 combined6.7 city/4.6 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$26,575$43,500$27,025

Source: car manufacturers

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Fridays at 8 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV

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