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Mercedes-Benz GLK (Mercedes-Benz)
Mercedes-Benz GLK (Mercedes-Benz)

Best of the lot

After four Accords, it's time for an SUV Add to ...

Within the next 12 months I will be looking to switch my car. I have a special-edition 2005 Honda Accord with all the bells and whistles and I put a lot of miles on it each year, 80 per cent of which are highway. Perhaps I should consider diesel. It's currently at 230,000 km. It is my fourth Accord and I love it; it is a comfortable ride, reliable and inexpensive to maintain. However, it's time for a change. My better half has a Corvette and a Jaguar XKR. I'm looking for a small to mid-sized SUV that has storage capacity and can seat four when the kids come home. I'm drawn to the Mercedes GLK, BMW X3, Acura SUVs or the Jeep Grand Cherokee. I'd appreciate your opinion on these in terms of quality, reliability and maintaining the vehicle. If you have other suggestions, I'd love to hear them. – Maggie in Mississauga, Ont.

More related to this story

Vaughan: First of all, Margaret, why is it time for a change? If you “love” the Accord, then keep it. You'll easily get 10 years out of it and, if you continue to drive it at the current rate, it will have 353,846 km on the clock by my rough calculations when you finally trade it in. With 80 per cent highway driving, that should be no problem. I'm sure you remember what Benjamin Franklin said.

Cato: "A penny saved is a penny earned." Words you live by, I know. But what will you do with that pile of pennies in your basement when Canada no longer has them in circulation?

Look, in typical know-it-all fashion, you are trying to turn Maggie's thinking into yours. But very few people in this world truly want to hold on to their cars until the bumpers fall off. Maggie wants a change and she's clearly envious of her partner's sports cars. She wants something sportier than her Accord, just not a two-seater. Who are you to change her mind?

Issue two is the wider economy. As New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize laureate Paul Krugman rightly points out at every chance he gets, we need to feed this economy. The mess in Great Britain – back in official recession, occasional rioting in the streets – is evidence enough that rigid austerity is not the road out of the Great Recession. I am not saying everyone should go buy new cars, but Maggie clearly can afford to take some of the money out of her stuffed mattress and use it to drive something sexier.

Vaughan: Paul Krugman is a Marxist. He could be writing Chairman Mao's Five-Year Plans with his point of view.

Cato: He's a professor of economics at Princeton, has written numerous scholarly articles and, unlike you, won a Nobel Prize for Economics.

Vaughan: No Cato, he didn't. He won the Nobel Memorial Prize which was a late add-on. The old dynamite inventor only intended the prizes in his name to be given for achievements in Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature and Peace. The Memorial Prize for the dismal science came much later and that's how your idol Krugman snuck in.

Cato: You are making it sound as though Krugman orchestrated a fraud. Not so, and you know it. In any case, let's deal with Maggie.

Vaughan: I just did.

Mercedes-Benz GLK

Cato: First, the GLK – $43,800 to start with all-wheel drive. Merc has a $3,000 national incentive on offer here, so Maggie will need to work for a deal. In summary: busy sheet metal, tight cabin and somewhat busy ride.

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee

Vaughan: I think Ben Franklin would take the Jeep over the Mercedes. The Grand Cherokee ($37,995 base) is a Mercedes M-Class under the skin. I like the Cherokee – er, sorry – I mean the Grand Cherokee. It's a solid vehicle with a fabulous interior. And, Mags, they're going to put a diesel in it next year or the year after. Wait for it.

2012 BMW X3

Cato: I'd say the BMW X3 is the one for you, Maggie. Why? Your “better half” has a 'Vette and Jag; the Bimmer sends you in that direction. Most nimble handling of this lot, well priced at $41,900 minus at least $1,500 in factory sales sweeteners and some sharp styling.

Acura has just reinvented its RDX SUV and, at $40,990, it's a good value. But this one might be a little tame for you, Maggie. But very nicely equipped for the price.

Vaughan: The X3 is okay, but it's hard to climb into. My first choice is still the Accord until 2015.

My second choice is the Grand Cherokee because it's a Mercedes underneath and also has Chrysler chief designer Ralph Gilles' aesthetics everywhere else.

Cato: The Grand C is a mountain of SUV for the money, I'd agree. It's No. 2 on my list. No. 1 is the X3. Flip a coin for No. 3 – heads the GLK, tails the RDX.

HOW THEY COMPARE



2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo

2012 Mercedes-Benz GLK350

2012 BMW X3

Wheelbase (mm)

2,915

2,755

2,810

Length (mm)

4,821

4,525

4,640

Width (mm)

1,938

1,840

1,881

Track, front (mm)

1,763

1,690

1,661

Engine

3.6-litre V-6

3.5-litre V-6

3.0-litre six-cylinder

Output (horsepower/torque)

290/260 lb-ft

268/258 lb-ft

240/221 lb-ft

Drive system

All-wheel drive

All-wheel drive

All-wheel drive

Transmission

Five-speed automatic

Seven-speed automatic

Eight-speed automatic

Curb weight (kg)

2,114

1,850

1,865

Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

13.0 city/8.8 highway

13.0 city/9.3 highway

10.9 city/7.8 highway

Base price (MSRP)

$37,995

$43,800

$41,900

Source: car manufacturers

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

Follow on Twitter: @catocarguy

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