I am looking to trade in my 2007 Chevy Trailblazer. We are a family of four with two dogs. I don't drive a lot (stay-at-home Mom) but need something reliable for summer road trips and carpooling. I am looking at a Mercedes GL or a 2014 Acadia Denali. Cargo space, ease of access, gas mileage, overall comfort are all important and I need this vehicle to keep me happy for another seven years. Any suggestions? – Kelly, Toronto from my iPad
Vaughan: Kelly, I hope you didn't send from your iPad while you were driving. I see someone do that at least once a day.
Cato: Kelly, the Mercedes has the latest in driving-nanny technology, along with a list of technology options that stretches from here to Stuttgart. But in Canada alone, Merc sells not one, but four different GL flavours: diesel V-6, regular V-8, twin turbo V-8 and a super, duper twin turbo AMG V-8. Who would ever have dreamed that the Canadian appetite for big, powerful, technologically-laden SUVs would be so broad?
Of course, we're here to simplify things. So Kelly, scratch your seven-year itch with cheapest GL, the $74,900 GL 350 BlueTEC with all-wheel drive – what Merc calls 4MATIC. And be careful about checking boxes on the options list. You can add thousands without noticing.
Vaughan: I'd skip the Napa leather for $4,800 bucks. The dogs would find that a tasty chew. The standard upholstery is something called Artico – "man-made leather." I'm sure the dogs would spit it out.
However the safety gear is a good idea. With a couple of kids and dogs acting up, you'll need all the "driver assistance" you can get.
The GL is a lot of dough, but it is the best of the big German SUVs. No problem keeping this one for seven years. On the other hand, you'd get very tired of that big Denali in about seven weeks. Compared to the GL, it is a big clumsy truck – ladder frame and all.
Cato: I see the Denali lover as a rich, burly rancher from the country who tows a horse trailer or rig with a pair of Ski-Doos. Kelly, the regular wheelbase GMC Yukon Denali is a beast – all 403 hp of it. GM killed the Hummer brand in bankruptcy, but the H2's spiritual successor lives on in the Denali. Not for you and the kids and dogs.
Vaughan: You'd want all the available driver assistance gear possible if you're going to navigate this monster. Fortunately it has Side Blind Zone Alert, Cross-Traffic Alert Systems and Head-up Display plus Forward Collision Alert and Lane Departure Warning.
Cato: Yeah, but Kelly isn't getting a Denali, so doesn't care.
Vaughan: Even though the Denali gets a five-star score for crash protection and rollover safety? The Denali can crush Smart cars on the highway and not feel a thing.
Cato: What am I going to do with you? Denalis only do that in dumb movies, not real life.
A sleeper choice for Kelly is the Dodge Durango. The basics here also form the basics of the Merc GL, a leftover bit of technology that Chrysler inherited from the former Daimler owners moved on after obliterating, what, $35-billion in shareholder value during the so-called Daimler years.
Kelly, test drive the Durango Citadel model. At $52,495 it's a luxurious gem of an SUV and it answers all the questions you are asking about your next family vehicle. The V-6 is fuel efficient and at 290 hp, it's reasonably thrifty. Forget the Hemi V-8. Save the $2,300 options charge.
Best of all, you will love the infotainment interface. The graphics may look cartoonish, but no one makes a more intuitive interface. No need to crack the 400-pound owner's manual.
Vaughan: Good idea, but sadly Kelly will have to go into a run-of-the-mill Dodge dealer to find one among all the Darts and Journeys. After the Mercedes store with the cappuccino, fresh flowers, a manicure and a shoe shine, she might be appalled at seeing how the common people buy their cars.
However, it's worth it to save 25-large. The Durango is surprisingly classy – the interior is as good as the Mercedes with "Artico." The GL is tops, but Durango is good value. Spend an extra $600 for the captain's chairs in the back to impress the kids.
Cato: The value choice is the Durango. The real deal is the GL.
Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which airs Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.
HOW THEY COMPARE
2014 Mercedes-Benz GL 350 BlueTEC 4MATIC
2014 GMC Yukon Denali AWD
2014 Dodge Durango Citadel
Curb weight (kg)
Fuel economy (litres/100 km)
11.9 city/8.6 highway using diesel fuel
15.3 city/10.0 highway using regular fuel
12.4 city/8.3 highway using regular fuel
Source: car manufacturers
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