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2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK-class

Hi, Jeremy: I love your insights about cars. Vaughan is okay, too. He likes old Porchs (sic) and Vee Dubs so I'll give him a pass, even though he's cranky. A year ago, I wrote to you asking about Subaru and the Ford Escape and you recommended the Subaru Forester, Vaughan the Volkswagen Golf diesel.

I'm glad I waited, because I just snapped up a Mercedes-Benz GLK 250 diesel. It's the car I was hoping VW would make. For years, VW has teased with cool designs, but never made a decent-size family vehicle that was affordable and fuel-efficient. So after five VWs, we go our separate ways. Merc was never on my list because I never saw myself driving that tier of vehicle. But it made the fuel-efficient, four-wheel-drive, right-sized vehicle I needed. We drove the Hyundai Santa Fe, but it was too wide for us. Nice car, but German sensibilities trumped it.

Tell Vaughan I have a loaded 2003 VW 1.8 turbo wagon, five-speed, with electronic stability control, for sale with 171,000 km on it. The first $3,000 will take it. – Kirk in Toronto, in the Beach

Vaughan: The first $2,000 should take it because that's what it's worth. And by the way, Porsche is spelled P-O-R-S-C-H-E. A "Porch" is that thing on the front of your house that needs painting.

Cato: Cranky? You? Never.

Ah, to the meat of this letter. Kirk isn't looking for advice, but validation. And that interested me. He also dug into a trend that's hugely important: the push downmarket by premium brands, especially Mercedes. Rest easy in the Beach: you made a good choice, Kirk, even though owning a Mercedes makes you feel phoney, like you've forsaken your middle-class roots.

Vaughan: Cato, the Dr. Laura of car journos, is at it again. Practising without a licence. Look, we gave the GLK diesel a rave review on our TV show and at least you limited your observations to the car.

Cato: Let me remind you that here in Globe Drive I predicted that Mercedes will sell "boatloads" of the $43,500 GLK 250 BlueTec which starts at $1,400 less than the gas-powered GLK, both with all-wheel drive.

Vaughan: Yeah, Merc is suddenly putting out some good stuff. However, Kirk, you've blown way past your Vee Dub budget by buying the Merc.

You could have had two Ford Focus hatchbacks, each with a 2.0-litre, gas, direct-injection engine and six-speed automatic for less than you spent on the GLK. The Ford Focus hatch is the successor to the Golf wagon that you liked so much. Great little driver and terrific value. But you guys in the Beach need a fancy nameplate in the driveway.

2013 Ford Focus Titanium hatch Ford Ford  

Cato: No, you have it all wrong with Kirk. He feels as though he's abandoned his core values by going with Mercedes. This letter isn't from some status-seeking wannabe; it's a cry for sympathy and acceptance.

Vaughan: Oh, no; not more of this from you, Cato.

Cato: Kirk, forget Vaughan; I'll validate your choice. Mercedes has brought to market exactly the vehicle VW should be offering. VW has the Tiguan compact SUV and it's similar in many ways to the GLK diesel. Except VW in Canada doesn't sell a Tiguan diesel, despite offering diesels all through its lineup.

And, yes, Hyundai is pushing upmarket with the Santa Fe. Hyundai feels its brand is now strong enough to make the move to greater profits. But again, no diesel. No diesel with Forester, or the Escape, either. So right now, Mercedes is selling the most fuel-efficient compact SUV with all-wheel-drive at any price.

Vaughan: Cato, a loaded Santa Fe Sport with AWD would have saved Kirk at least 10 grand on the Merc. And the fuel economy of the Santa Fe's four-cylinder gasoline direct inject engine wouldn't be much less than the Merc diesel.

You do know, don't you, that the Mercedes diesel requires an eight-gallon tank of ammonia-like stuff under the floor to spray into the exhaust to clean it up to standards? If you run out of that stuff, the engine won't start. Neither new Focus hatchback would have that problem.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport Hyundai Hyundai  

Cato: Hang on now: a Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Limited lists for $38,499. That's within $5,000 of the GLK diesel.

And nowhere does Kirk hint at even the mildest interest in a Focus or any other compact hatchback. You've run that idea in from way out in left field.

One other thing: that rant about the urea after-treatment sounds a little cranky.

Vaughan: I'm not cranky. I gave him good advice last year which he chose to ignore.

If waiting a year is no problem maybe he should hang around until next year when the seventh-generation Golf hits Canada. That might be what he really wants.