If you're concerned about the "green" effect plus good fuel economy in an automobile, Mercedes Benz thinks they have the answer with their GL320 Blue Tec diesel powered AWD SUV. Back in 2007, the Mercedes E320 with Blue Tec diesel engine was named "2007 World Green Car."This same technology has been applied to Mercedes' fullsize GL320 sport ute. Powered by a Blue Tec V6 diesel, the GL produces 210-hp and a whopping 398 ft/lbs of torque at 1,600 - 2,400 rpm.

The resulting fuel economy is EPA rated at 17 city, 23 highway mpg. Now that's impressive for a heavy SUV with heavy engine.

But unlike a gas engine, Blue Tec owners can expect well over 100,000 miles, probably 200,000, before an overhaul.

So what is Blue Tec? It's a system that includes an oxidation catalytic converter and particulate filter in addition to new technologies that reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. Blue Tec uses AdBlue injection, which is a process that adds precisely meas-ured quantities of a urea-based solution into the exhaust stream.

This enhances long-term emissions performance that meets stringent BIN 5 standards.

Most folks commonly know that diesel engines produce black smelly smoke and make a lot of noise. Not so with BlueTec engines.

They're quiet, smoke and smell-free. And best of all, BlueTec achieves significantly better fuel mileage and longer cruising range (up to 700 miles)than a comparable gasolinepowered luxury car.

Teaming BlueTec with MB's 4Matic transmission produces a sensation that is no different from a gas engine. Off-the-line acceleration, however, is not neck-jerking but a gradual and quick rpm build-up. High-speed passing is similar.

The trade-off, however, is high torque. So much so that the GL320 is rated for a max towing capacity of 7,500 pounds; considerably more than Cadillac's Escalade Hybrid at 5,800 pounds. If you need a tow vehicle, the GL is a top performer.

As for ride and handling, The GL, which is a stretched version of MB's M-Class SUV, glides over potholes and railroad crossings with its 20-inch tires.

Handling too is superb for a large SUV.

The GL feels planted in sharp turns with nary any body lean. And it's easy to park.

The interior is posh and loaded with accommodations.

Even the cup holders are heated/cooled. And the third row seat allows seating for seven although like most third row's, the seat is mainly for kids.

Step-in is a low (for an SUV)21 inches while cargo load height is 32.5 inches.

The third row seats flip down/up automatically via switches mounted on the "D" pillar.

There's a small storage bin beneath the cargo floor, and for more space, merely fold the second row 60/40 seats (74 inches of depth). With the third row up, there's only enough storage for grocery bags (18.5 x 40 inches).

Instead of a console mounted transmission shifter, MB, like BMW, opted for a columnmounted shifter whereupon you tap the stalk for the desired gear.

It takes some getting used to.

But there's also paddle shifters for manual up/down shifts.

Like all diesel-powered vehicles, the GL gets pricey. Fully loaded with rear entertainment, adaptive damping system, rear view camera/GPS/Logic 7 audio system, power folding mirrors, power liftgate and more, The base price goes from $58,200 to $69,815. In comparison, The Escalade V8 Hybrid bottomlines at $75,330.

For off-road jaunts, MB also offers a package consisting of low-range gearing, locking center and rear differentials and driver adjustable air suspension.

A lifelong resident of Lehigh County, Nick Hromiak has been writing about cars and trucks for 21 years. Hromiak was a longtime outdoor and automotive writer for The Free Press while under past owners. He is amember of International Motor Press Association and has been published in several national magazines and weekly newspapers.

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