Hi, guys: Love your column and could really use your advice! I drive nearly 90 kilometres a day, 90 per cent of which is highway, with no traffic. I'm looking for a small, luxury SUV big enough to handle my hockey gear, skis or mountain bike. I'm more interested in highway fuel economy than how fast it can do 0 to 100 km/h. I'm considering the Range Rover Evoque, the Mercedes GLK 250 diesel, Lexus RX450h or possibly the BMW X3. Any suggestions? – Sharif in Toronto
Vaughan: You've put together a good list, Sharif. The Evoque has been a huge hit for Range Rover – can't make them fast enough – and although I like its aluminum construction and classy interior, the styling is way too trendy. Doesn't it look like an elephant sat on the roof and flattened the backside?
Cato: No. It looks like Land Rover chief designer Gerry McGovern cleared the decks and said enough of the same old in small SUVs. He's something of a fashionista, one of the few car designers in the world who does not wear a black suit with either a black or white shirt. Just like those skin-tight, bespoke Savile Row suits Gerry wears, the Evoque looks like nothing else in this group.
I like the look because it turns aerodynamic design on its head.
I also like the Ford-sourced, 240-horsepower, turbocharged four-banger under the hood. It's a juicy powerplant and, if you avoid using its power, pretty fuel-efficient. But not nearly as fuel-efficient as the Mercedes-Benz GLK diesel – and the base $46,995 Evoque is $3,500 more expensive than the GLK 250 BlueTec ($43,500).
Vaughan: Now you're talking, Cato. I like the lower price. Mercedes does not like being the world's No. 3 German luxury brand behind BMW and Audi, so it's coming out with a raft of new products in places where they've never been before. Yes, there is even a CLA coming that will compete with the Honda Accord.
And, as you rightly point out, Cato, Merc is also dropping prices, which is giving BMW fits. The latest GLK isn't all-new; it's been spruced up. But the diesel – a four-cylinder turbo – is new. Cato and I have driven this one and it's terrific and priced to drive BMW right around the bend.
Cato: Because BMW is as focused on profitability as any car company can possibly be. Bimmer types, I'm sure, took one look at that $43,500 price tag – a price lower than the gas-powered GLK350 4Matic at $44,900 – and started to spin and sputter and saying things like, "How is this possible? Mercedes must be losing money on every one."
That's true, according to one Merc insider. Cleaner diesel technology is expensive, adding perhaps $3,000-$5,000 to the cost of a vehicle, remember. Not seeing that price premium here. Sharif, the GLK fits you perfectly.
Vaughan: Okay, next is the Lexus RX450h. The "h," of course, means hybrid and you don't want one.
If 90 per cent of your driving is highway, with no traffic, why lug around a heavy, expensive battery and electric motors? They'll be doing nothing for you 90 per cent of the time. Hybrids are great for stop-and-go city driving, but that's not you.
Cato: Sharif could switch careers and become a livery driver, shuttling rich people around in his ritzy RX hybrid. Certainly the price is something aimed at the wealthier among us, such as you, Mr. Moneybags Vaughan. Look at the RX hybrid's price: $56,750. That's $13,000 more than the GLK diesel.
Vaughan: I can do the arithmetic, Cato, and so can Sharif.
I mentioned that BMW is being tormented by Mercedes. Canadians who cannot buy a BMW X3 with a diesel are similarly frustrated by the Bavarians. This 3-Series with the SUV body is sold with a diesel in Europe. Why not here?
The vehicle you didn't mention, Cato, is the Audi Q5. I like it a lot, but it doesn't have a diesel available either – although one is coming later this year, if you're prepared to wait.
Cato: Audi has a Q5 hybrid ($56,600) right now and it does have some autobahn-friendly features. Eyeball these numbers: combined horsepower of 245; 0-100 km/h in 7.1 seconds; fuel economy at 6.9 litres/100 km; and the capability of travelling three kilometres at 60 km/h on battery power alone.
That's not bad fuel economy. Still, the GLK is better for the highway, Sharif.
Vaughan: Sharif's needs scream diesel and, right now, the GLK has it and that makes it my choice.
One thing you might not like is a seven-gallon tank under the floor for the additive that gets shot into the exhaust to stop particulates. If you run out, the engine won't start.
Cato: One last thought. In just a few weeks, Jeep is bringing to market a a version of the Grand Cherokee with an excellent Fiat-supplied diesel. You might want to wait and have a look-see.
HOW THEY COMPARE
|2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK 250 BlueTEC||2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque fived-door||2013 Audi Q5 Hybrid quattro|
Track, front (mm)
|2.1-litre four-cylinder, turbodiesel||2.0-litre four-cylinde, turbocharged||2.0-litre four-cylinder, turbocharged, with electric motor and traction battery|
|200/369 lb-ft||240/251 lb-ft||245/354 lb-ft|
|All-wheel drive||All-wheel drive||All-wheel drive|
|Seven-speed automatic||Six-speed automatic||Eight-speed automatic|
Curb weight (kg)
Fuel economy (litres/100 km)
|7.2 litres combined||11.4 city/7.1 highway||6.9 litres combined|
Base price (MSRP)
Source: car manufacturers
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.