Would you buy a bakkie with a threepointed star on the grille? Even if it cost a hefty premium? Mercedes-Benz is betting that their investment in Euros in the “high nine figures” will lure new buyers into the mid-size-pickup market segment; those looking for a double cab that is rugged and stylish, capable off-road as well as safe at speed on tarmac. The world is ready for a “premium” bakkie, reckons Merc, and their formula is a clever one.
The ladder-frame chassis is shared with the Renault-Nissan alliance and is the basis of the new Navara and Alaskan respectively. But it’s been tweaked and reskinned, judging by the X-Class Concept revealed in Stockholm in October, and presented in two forms – those of “stylish explorer” (a roadbiased version), and “powerful adventurer” (off-road biased with big tyres, winches and carbon body armour).
What the two concepts share externally is a distinctive Benz grille, bulging bonnet, swept-back headlights shod with LEDs, a wide track, super-clean surfacing and a most unusual tailgate treatment. Different interior trims show the possibilities, with borrowings from C-Class and V-Class on the seats, switchgear and telematics, so there are many visual and ergonomic cues familiar to current Benz followers that will make it to the production models.
Mercedes-Benz X-Class Images
The safety bar has been set high, and the X-Class will get a long list of standard driver-assistance systems, using radar, lidar and ultrasonic sensors. The high levels of comfort and low levels of NVH (a key Mercedes trait) will also be key, achieved in part by using a five-link rear suspension and coil springs. Off-road ability is ensured by a combination of a live rear axle, centre and rear differential locks, and electronic traction control. Top flight models will feature a V6 diesel coupled to a 7-G-tronic automatic transmission and 4Matic permanent all-wheel drive, with reduction gearing. Lower down the scale, drivetrain options will encompass four-cylinder diesel and petrol options (our guess is the new Nissan 2.3-litre turbodiesel and 2.5-litre petrol) in both manual and automatic guises, and in both 4x2 and 4x4 variants. A payload in excess of 1.1 tons and towing capacity of 3.5 tons is possible.
Production of the X-Class starts in earnest in the 2017 last quarter in Spain at Nissan’s Barcelona plant, supplying Europe, Australia and South Africa, with dealer sales starting in the 2018 first quarter. Latin America will be supplied from the Renault plant in Cordoba, Argentina.