A range of three variants of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class double cab will make its way to South African showroom floors early in 2018. The partnership with Nissan and the use of the Nissan ladder frame chassis and engine choices is evidence that automakers give strong consideration to the expenses incurred when tooling up for a completely new vehicle. Especially in this instance, where Mercedes is expanding into a relatively untested premium pick-up niche. However, the Mercedes design department insists that although the new Navara chassis is the basis, the rest of the X-Class attributes are solely Mercedes in nature, with the typical flair, style, safety and comfort you’d expect from this German automaker.
Three options are available for the new X-Class, which will be built in Spain: the base model “Pure”, which is touted as a ruggedworkhorse- meets-lifestyle-vehicle; the “Progressive”, which includes added style and comfort features; and the “Power” flagship, which offers all the bells and whistles.
The South African market will receive three engine variants. The entry models − the single-turbo X 220 d (120kW/403Nm) and bi-turbo X 250 d (140kW/450Nm) − are both based on the Navara’s 2.3-litre 4-cyl turbodiesel, while the range-topper V6 turbodiesel (boasting 190kW and 550 Nm) is a well-proven Mercedes-derived mill that’s done duty in platforms from the G-Class to the E-Class. A 122kW 4-cyl petrol variant will not make it the SA market.
The base models are mated to a sixspeed manual or seven-speed automatic 7G-Tronic Plus transmission, and will utilise a selectable 4Matic four-wheel drive system with high- and low-range. Available from mid-2018, the range-topping V6 will boast permanent 4WD and low-range gearing. A rear diff lock is optional through the range. The V6 will feature optional drive-select (called Dynamic Select) offering five driving modes: eco, comfort, sport, manual and off-road. A key safety feature is vented disc brakes all round on the X-Class (unlike the Navara, which makes do with drums at the rear), plus a raft of safety armour including stability control, seven airbags, Isofix, cruise control and a reversing camera, with options for more advanced features including a 360 degree onboard camera, lane keeping assist, traffic sign assist, trailer stability assist and tyre pressure monitoring. Features such as downhill speed regulation and hill start assist are standard.
Coil spring suspension all round echoes the Navara, with a double wishbone front and a multi-link rear locating a solid axle, although Mercedes have modified the settings for firm handling without losing the good levels of articulation associated with the coil springs. The local ride height is 222mm as standard (20mm lower in Europe). Maximum payload is 1042kg, and the towing capacity is rated at 3.5 tons. Dimensions of 5340mm long, 1920mm wide, 1819mm high and a 3150mm wheelbase, plus a wide track (1632mm front, 1625mm rear) underline that this is a large pick-up, with plenty of cabin space and a full-sized load body (1587 x 1560mm).
The off-road DNA is decent, too, with a 600mm wading depth, 30.1 degree approach, 25.9 degree departure and 22 degree breakover angles.
A key element is the interior’s plush and sculpted seats, with plenty of custom trim and seat-covering options, leather on the top models, and borrowings from the C-Class much in evidence. The driver interface includes a two-dial instrument binnacle (plus a small display screen) and the Comand multimedia system linked to the now-typical Mercedes 8.4-inch central display, controlled (in part) via the multifunction touchpad and push-select button in the centre console. Expect voice-control options and more.
Interestingly, Mercedes has developed a full line of bolt-on accessories for the X-Class, ranging from a beefy under-guard to a nudge bar, a rollover (sports) bar, side bars and a streamlined canopy; plus loading kit including a load bed liner, tie-down rails and a storage box.
While the local reveal did not include a self-drive, a whip around Anton Rupert’s Franschhoek race track in the X 250 d derivative in the care of a qualified Mercedes driver revealed something of the vehicle’s breadth of ability. I can safely say that the vehicle handles the tarmac with great roadholding ability and does an excellent job of the off-road bits, which included steep ascents, descents, rocky patches, gravel surfaces and a variety of testing terrain.
My overall impression of the new X-Class is that Mercedes has done an excellent job of marrying adventure, lifestyle and workability in their premium double-cab range. As to the elephant in the room, the pricing, it’s worth knowing that in Europe the base model is ticketed at 37 294 Euro, tucking under the base V6 Amarok. The positioning here is expected to be competitive.