I’ve always tried to make sure I use my vehicles as more than just transportation – making use of the “utility” in “sport utility vehicle” – and that goes for my current vehicle (the Keithmobile-E, a 2014 Mercedes-Benz GLK 250) as well.
I somehow imagine that not many people use their Mercedes SUVs for much other than driving around and maybe pulling a boat or something similar – but not me!
I’ve filled the back of my GLK 250 to the roof with bags of mulch and soil (with my cargo protector in place, of course), I’ve carried large items on my roof rack, and of course I’ve towed my fair share of trailers.
The trailers I tow are mainly U-Haul utility/cargo trailers, though I’ve made use of their full capacity – hauling all kinds of things, like mulch, soil, gravel, and other heavy things. I’ve also used some of their bigger enclosed trailers for carrying furniture long distances (enclosed to protect things from the weather). And the biggest thing I towed was a huge platform trailer with a small excavator on it.
All that said, the GLK is not exactly the ideal tow vehicle – although it can pull 3500 pounds, its low tongue weight rating makes it hard sometimes to make use of that full capacity. Because the GLK is a fairly heavy vehicle on its own (around 4200 pounds curb weight), and it doesn’t have heavy-duty suspension, it’s cargo carrying capacity is somewhat limited.
That heavy weight also impacts its braking capacity – the GLK can brake fine on its own, but add a trailer and stopping distances increase quite a bit.
Also, the GLK has a fairly short wheelbase, which isn’t always ideal when towing – especially if the trailer is on the longer side.
Finally, although I have the factory tow package (which includes the 7-pin connector), the GLK is not wired for a brake controller, so adding a hard-wired one would be very involved. (Though these days there are wireless brake controllers, which is a nice compromise – and one I’ll be using with the camper trailer I’m renting this fall.)
Still, despite these shortcomings, the GLK isn’t an awful tow vehicle (it’s actually rated to tow quite a bit more in Europe due to different standards), and all things considered I’m happy to have these limitation for the other benefits it gives me (comfortable ride, small size that fits in my garage, good fuel economy, etc.).
After a lengthy hiatus, it’s back to form with a bunch of new desktop wallpapers – this time the theme is “the car I’m driving these days.”
It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these, so to make up for it here’s a bunch of wallpapers of the Mercedes-Benz GLK 250 – which should come as no surprise to anyone who knows what I’m driving these days.
Towed trailers full of dirt, gravel, other construction materials, and a small (but heavy) excavator
Carried numerous long bits of lumber, piping, and boxes on the roof rack
Hauled hundreds of pounds of (bagged) dirt and mulch in the back
Driven on dirt roads in the pine barrens of NJ
Cruised around downtown Manhattan
Carried 4 adults around during the 3 months my parents-in-law were visiting from Australia
Made several long road trips:
From NJ to Chicago, IL
Back and forth from NJ to MA several times
Achieved a maximum of 35.5 MPG (with an average of 32.4 over 12,365 miles)
As you can see, I’ve used the GLK 250 in all of its roles: as a passenger vehicle, as an off-road vehicle, and as a utility vehicle. The diesel engine has also come through for me and delivered that excellent fuel economy that I expected (slightly better than the EPA ratings, actually).
Overall, it’s clear that choosing a GLK 250 as the next Keithmobile was absolutely the right choice – it has never let me down and it has shown itself to be extraordinarily capable in all the roles I expected it to fill and with all the duties I wanted it to perform.
Long Distance Cruising
This is where the GLK 250 really shines – at highway speeds the 7-speed transmission is sitting in its highest gear while the engine is turning a leisurely (and fuel-sipping) 2,000 RPM. However, even at that low RPM the diesel engine has oodles of torque available – the first (smaller) turbo kicks in at just 1,800 RPM. So if you need to accelerate, there’s no need to downshift – all that power is just there, ready to push you up to whatever passing speed you need without any fuss or bother.
Although it’s not the ideal tow vehicle, the GLK 250 is no slouch. With all that torque from the diesel engine, it has no problem at all getting going, even with a fully-loaded trailer.
The main limitations on towing are the brakes and the hitch tongue weight limit. The brakes on the GLK are great, but the GLK is a fairly heavy vehicle on its own, and when you add a heavy trailer it does put a bit of a strain on them (there is no trailer brake module either, though I believe some aftermarket solutions are available). The hitch tongue weight limit is mainly down to the fact that the rear suspension is designed more for comfort – and thus, isn’t well suited for extremely heavy loads.
That said though, the GLK is a very pleasant vehicle to tow with – it controls very well under load, and the good rear visibility makes reversing with a trailer a breeze. Plus, the AWD system means you won’t spin any tires when, say, reversing a trailer across a wet lawn into your back yard.
You wouldn’t think a “luxury” SUV would actually be good at hauling cargo, but the GLK is actually surprisingly capable. I added a cargo area protector to the rear – one originally designed for pets, so it’s waterproof – and with this I’ve had no trouble at all hauling bags of mulch, bales of hay, various sizes of plants, lumber, bags of concrete mix, and so on, all without making a mess of the interior.
Being the Keithmobile-E
The really good thing about the GLK is just that it’s really good at being “the Keithmobile.” It continues to be such a pleasurable place to be and a true joy to drive, whether it’s a short hop up the street or a multi-day road trip. Overall it just “fits” me well, like a glove or a comfortable pear of shoes.
Even when I’d only just recently started driving it, everything about it – the handling, the response, the placement of the various controls – felt intuitive and natural, and that continues even more so to this day.
All in all, the GLK 250 just suits me really well – which is the reason I chose it in the first place, right? But the point is, even after a year I’m still very pleased with it, and I will continue to be very pleased with it for as long as I have it – which I expect will be a long, long time.
The little SUV from Mercedes that won the right to carry on the name “Keithmobile.”
When my venerable old 2003 Mitsubishi Outlander’s repair costs started exceeding the value of the vehicle itself, it meant that it was finally time to start thinking about a replacement – something to take on the designation of “the Keithmobile-E.”
I had an idea of what sort of car I wanted – basically, something similar to my Outlander, but newer (and maybe a bit nicer). This is basically the “compact SUV/crossover” category, and these days that encompasses a LOT of cars.
I looked at countless vehicles across several model years – I didn’t want anything brand-new, but at the same time I didn’t want anything more than a few years old. It was a long list of vehicles, but I eventually narrowed it down to two – one of which I’ve already reviewed.
The other vehicle – and obviously the one that won out in the end – was a 2014 Mercedes-Benz GLK 250.
It almost goes without saying that the GLK is a very nice car in all respects – the interior is a very comfortable place to be, and everything is just very well put together and nicely arranged. The particular model I ended up with has all the nice little touches that you’d expect, and though many are becoming fairly standard on new cars these days, they all feel very new & exciting to me since my old car had none of them!
Visibility out of the GLK is also very good (especially for this type of SUV) – certainly no worse than in my old car. Although there is a rear camera, it’s entirely possible to reverse this car without it and not have it be a dangerous guessing game of “what might be hiding in my blind spots.”
Size-wise, the GLK is almost identical to my Outlander – which is surprising since it looks bigger. But it’s the same length, almost the same height, and only 1 inch wider – so it fits exactly into the same spot in my garage. Very handy!
As for technology, the GLK has an easy to use media system with nice easy-to-reach buttons for switching modes (a feature I really like and which some cars don’t have). The built-in navigation is perfectly serviceable – though nothing spectacular.
But now let’s get to the real reason I chose this car – the engine. The are two types of GLK class vehicles – the 350 and the 250. The former has a 3.5 liter V6 gasoline engine, while the latter has a diesel. Specifically, a 2.1 liter twin-turbo inline-4, putting out an even 200 HP and an incredible 369 lb-ft of torque.
This is the reason I went with the GLK 250.
I drove both vehicles before settling on the 250, and while the 350’s engine was plenty powerful, I found that power to be a bit difficult to control. The throttle in the 350 was very fiddly – seemingly dead at first, and then it kicked in with a surge of power that was quite difficult to modulate, especially at slower speeds.
The 250’s diesel on the other hand delivers its power smoothly and without any fuss or bother. Additionally, most of that power is available at lower RPMs – as is typical of diesel engines – and which is similar to where the power in my old Outlander was available.
All that low-end power from the diesel also helps with towing, and the GLK is no slouch there either with a maximum trailer weight of 3,500 lbs – quite a bit more than my Outlander could tow!
Even with the relatively low horsepower for a vehicle of this weight (some 4,246 lbs), the GLK 250 gets up and going like nobody’s business – there is a slight delay right off the line, but the smaller of the two turbos spools up very quickly and power delivery after that is very even. It’s not the quickest thing in the world – in many ways it feels faster than it is – but it’s no slouch, either. Acceleration is steady – one might even say relentless.
Even at highway speeds the power is always there should you need it – just put your foot down and you just ADVANCE and suddenly you’ll find yourself going a lot faster than you meant to be.
All that power gets to the ground via a 7-speed auto which I would describe as “buttery smooth” – in normal driving I can hardly even tell when it’s making the shifts. It also helps that it makes those shifts very quickly, and unlike a lot of cars these days it doesn’t mind moving up & down through those gears at your command. (As a nifty trick, it will even downshift to help control your speed while going downhill – something I’ve never seen any other automatic gearbox do.)
Of course, it also has AWD – Mercedes’ 4MATIC system – so even when conditions get slippery there’s no problem getting all that power to work.
The engine does have variable valve control but there’s no sudden “surge” of power at any point – it is always very smooth and controlled, and (once the turbo has spooled up) very linear.
Even with a heavy AWD system and a rather chunky aerodynamic profile, the GLK 250 still manages to get a very decent 24 city/33 highway MPG – and in practice it does even better. Combine this with a 17.4 gallon fuel tank and the GLK 250 has an incredible cruising range.
On top of this, the GLK is a tremendously comfortable place to be for long periods of time, making it the perfect choice for long-distance road trips. The suspension just soaks up the bumps, but without feeling floaty or disconnected as can happen with too-soft suspension systems. It’s soft enough to make rough roads comfortable, but tight enough to let you attack corners in this heavy SUV with confidence.
As for that diesel engine – I’ve driven several diesel vehicles now (an Audi A4 wagon, a Fiat 500L, and now this GLK 250) and I have to say, they do take some getting used to. With diesels, all the power is generally down low in the rev range – no high revving needed – and the addition of turbos makes things even stranger if you’re only used to naturally aspirated engines. But of course the upside is torque, torque, torque! None of these cars is particularly fast per se, but they are definitely quick!
When used in an SUV application though, I think a diesel is a perfect fit – power to get a bulkier SUV moving, but small enough to be fuel efficient. It’s a shame they aren’t more common (at least here in the US).
The GLK does have a few downsides, though – none serious enough to turn me off, obviously, but your opinion might differ.
Foremost is that rear seat legroom is… not that great. As I said, this GLK is the same length as my Outlander – but the GLK has a bigger engine compartment, so that extra space has to some from somewhere. In this case, that space came from the rear seats (the front seats and cargo area are virtually identical to my old Outlander). It’s not exactly bad, but it’s not great – especially if you put the front seats all the way back. Now, I rarely have passengers (and I don’t put my seat that far back) so this wasn’t a big deal for me – but this might be a major drawback for people who regularly carry more than 2 people.
In addition to the slightly restrictive rear legroom, the rear wheel arches intrude into the rear door openings a bit more than I’d like, which makes getting in & out of those back seats a little tricky at times. It’s not terribly difficult by any means, but it is noticeable. If you have passengers with any sort of mobility restrictions, they won’t be happy in the back of a GLK.
Another minor downside with the GLK is that later model years moved the transmission lever to the steering wheel column. It’s not like the old steering wheel systems of yesteryear by any means, but it does take some getting used to. More than once I found myself reaching down to change gears before remembering it’s now just a tiny little stalk on the steering column.
All-in-all though I think the GLK 250 is a fantastic SUV – the diesel makes it a blast to drive, and although very comfortable it’s still got plenty of “utility” going for it as well. If you’re after a small-ish SUV with some style and comfort, you might want to give a GLK a look!