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The scoop on three discounted drives Add to ...

Hi guys: I love your weekly TV show and newspaper column. I’m currently driving a 2003 Acura TL with 160,000 km on the odometer. Although the car still drives like it’s new, I find myself longing to make a switch, especially considering all the purchase and lease deals available out there. I’m particularly drawn to the looks of the Mercedes GLK350 4Matic, but I'm unsure if it would be comfortable to drive on a daily basis (I’m 61). I'm also considering the Lexus ES350 and the BMW 328i xDrive. I would relish your opinion on the merits and drawbacks of each. – Ernie in Toronto

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Cato: Ernie, you’re shopping the deal; that’s what these three very different rides have in common.

BMW and Mercedes-Benz, of course, are pounding away, trying to win the title of No. 1 premium brand in Canada. They’re doing it with discounting.

Lexus is just trying to hold on to existing customers until a wave of new models washes into dealers. The deals from Lexus are all about holding the fort until reinforcements arrive.

Vaughan: A very nice job of mixing your metaphors there, Cato. And while doing so you managed to overlook something very important in Ernie’s question.

I tell you earnestly, Ernie-boy, there’s a world of difference between the Mercedes crossover you’ve asked about and that Bimmer – and the Lexus that wants to be a Bimmer.

You’ve got to sort out your priorities: do you want a sport-ute or a sporty sedan. It’s the difference between two chocolate and one vanilla. What flavour do you actually want?

Cato: Vaughan, I was with you right up to the point you went chocolate and vanilla on us. Why you wandered into the dessert menu is a mystery.

As for Ernie, it’s obvious: he has $40,000-something to spend, wants a handout from a car company and he’s exploring his options.

GLK 350

Vaughan: The GLK ($43,500) is the sport-ute based on the Mercedes C-Class sedan. Mercs are built for comfort and the GLK, while not the roughest and toughest sport-ute, is probably, in my humble opinion, the most comfortable one on the road.

If your 61-year-old bones feel any discomfort driving the GLK on a daily basis, then you’d better see Cato’s chiropractor because you two must have similar problems.

Cato: I love this. You, whose idea of exercise is a stroll along the beach apparently looking for an ice cream stand, taking shots at super-active guys like Ernie and me.

As for the GLK, it’s been a smash hit for Mercedes mostly because it’s in the sweet spot of the market for luxury crossovers. Personally, I find the cabin a little cramped. The soft-ish ride quality may be not suit Ernie, either; he’s coming from a pretty sporty TL.

Look, Ern, Mercedes has a $1,250 cash incentive in play here – whether you finance or lease. You can combine that with a 1.25 per cent finance rate for five years, too. And if you bargain hard, you can squeeze another $1,000-$2,000 out of the dealer, too.

2011 Lexus ES350.

Vaughan: The ES350 ($42,150) is the sloppy, soft Lexus – more like a Toyota Camry than a BMW.

If you want to go Lexus – which isn’t a bad idea given how much money it’s throwing around – then go for the IS250 or even the 350 with more power. It’s a tight, sporty sedan and, yes, your ancient bones can handle it. It drives so well you’ll think you’re 60 again.

Cato: Oh, harsh.

Ernie, with the Lexus, you’re looking at a $3,000 factory-to-dealer rebate and you should negotiate for all of it. Try for some sort of discounted finance rate, too. The car? A little dull – like Vaughan – but incredibly reliable – like me.

Vaughan: To the Bimmer. BMW lives or dies on how well the 3 sells. Year after year it shines. With the xDrive – why don’t they just call it four-wheel-drive? – you’ve got a car that’s a pleasure to drive plus will go through snow up to the bumpers.

Cato: Another deal: $44,000 for the sedan, and BMW has a $3,000 cash incentive in play, along with whatever dealer discount you can nail down, Ernie.

Vaughan: Cato, if old Ernie wants chocolate, then it’s the Bimmer.

Cato: Ernie, I agree with Vaughan’s conclusion – it’s his chocolate/vanilla premise that’s confusing all of us, but what’s new about that?

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.

HOW THEY COMPARE



2011 328i xDrive

2011 Lexus ES350

2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK350

Wheelbase (mm)

2,760

2,775

2,750

Length (mm)

4,541

4,855

4,525

Width (mm)

1,817

1,820

1,840

Height (mm)

1,421

1,450

1,698

Engine

3.0-litre six-cylinder

3.5-litre V-6

3.5-litre V-6

Output (horsepower/torque)

230/200 lb-ft

268/248 lb-ft

268/258 lb-ft

Drive system

All-wheel drive

Front-wheel drive

All-wheel drive

Transmission

Six-speed manual

Six-speed automatic

Seven-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)

1,635

1,635

1,850

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

12.3 city/7.6 highway

10.9 city/7.2 highway

13.0 city/9.3 highway

Price (MRSP)

$44,100

$42,150

$43,500

Source: car manufacturers

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