What is it?
The Mercedes-Benz X-Class is the brand’s first entry into the pick-up market and, it claims, the first such model in the premium market.
Off-road capable, upmarket design, targeted trim levels.
The launch of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class bring desirability of a level never before seen to the pick-up sector. The vehicle combines upmarket comfort, finishing and technology with proper off-road ability, but one pays a premium for the badge.
‘Pick-up by Mercedes-Benz’ is not a phrase one might expect to hear, but it is now fact, as the Mercedes-Benz X-Class arrives on the market.
In launching what it describes as the first such vehicle offered by a premium manufacturer, Mercedes is hoping to attract two very different kinds of buyers, and is targeting versions of the X-Class specifically at the different markets.
The model is marketed by the brand’s commercial vehicle arm – indeed the entry-level X-Class will be hoping to appeal to those who need such a vehicle for their work, and like the idea of a badge with rather more kudos than, say, the Toyota Hilux or Nissan Navara.
The Mercedes is rather more closely related to the Nissan than one might think. Strip off the bespoke bodyshell, with looks that clearly follow the design language of Mercedes SUV models, and underneath is effectively the mechanical specification of the Navara, including its tough, ladder-frame chassis.
However, Mercedes expects the biggest sales for its new model to be of vehicles in the top of the three specification levels. There are plenty of buyers who are attracted to the pick-up as a lifestyle choice, and the hope is that the combination of Mercedes-Benz premium quality and tech in the pick-up format will be a winner.
Buying and owning a Mercedes-Benz X-Class
Mercedes-Benz will offer the X-Class with a three-way engine line-up, though the range-topping X 350 d with its 258hp and 550Nm of torque won’t be in showrooms until the middle of 2018. Currently, the choice is between the X 220 d, with a 2.3-litre turbo diesel engine of 163hp and 403Nm, and the X 250 d – this adds an extra turbo to the same powerplant, boosting horses to 190hp and torque to 450Nm.
Six-speed manual or seven-speed auto gearboxes are available depending on model, while unlike rivals there is no two-wheel-drive option – every X-Class comes with selectable 4WD, running with the rear wheels powered in normal use but including cockpit-selectable all-wheel-drive in both high and low range.
In fact, while this may be an upmarket pick-up, the makers are keen to emphasise it’s a proper pick-up, with the off-road ability one might expect and commercial users will require.
So the X-Class can wade through water up to 600mm deep, and it can tip sideways to a shade under 50 degrees. It also boasts a towing capacity of up to 3.5 tonnes, and can be supplied with a 221mm ground clearance which gives it an angle of approach of some 30 degrees and a 22-degree ramp angle.
Okay to get the big ground clearance (plus 20mm on standard) requires spending on the options list, but the capability to match more traditional pick-ups is certainly there. Also on that options list, for example, is a differential lock.
This target marketing is also evident in the trim levels. There are three; Pure, Progressive and Power, with the Pure costing from £27,310 (plus VAT) and aimed at commercial users. It includes steel wheels, black fabric upholstery and such like. Once one starts going up to Progressive or Power grades, less robust features such as alloy wheels, painted panels and silver trim come into play.
Progressive versions cost £1,200 (plus VAT) more than Pure variants, while Power is another £3,500 on top, and only offered with the more powerful 2.3-litre engine. Equipment includes LED headlamps, electric mirrors, electrically adjustable front seats, leather trim and controls on the steering wheel.
Being a Mercedes-Benz, the options list is extensive, and depending on the depth of the wallet one can specify everything from parking sensors and camera to heated seats and even heated windscreen washer jets.
Where the X-Class certainly scores is on its safety package. Euro NCAP has already tested the model and given it a top five-star rating, and the standard specification includes autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping, traffic sign recognition and hill-start functions, as well as a reversing camera.
Inside the Mercedes-Benz X-Class
As mentioned the extent of the interior ‘ambience’ will depend on which level of X-Class one goes for, and not surprisingly our launch event test model is to top Power specification. But common to all is an elevated driving position which gives good vision except out of the rear, which has only a small window cut into the rear bulkhead of the passenger cabin.
Every X-Class is to double cab format, which means two rows of seats each with their own set of doors. The rear is usefully spacious too, with a bench seat offering enough width and height to easily accommodate three adults – the model benefits from being both longer and wider than the Nissan it is related to.
On the downside, there is not much space to store stuff, particularly considering pick-ups don’t come with boots. There is, of course, the load bed, which is 2.1 metres square.
The Mercedes is quite a lot more expensive that the Nissan, and a fair amount of this goes into providing the premium interior finish buyers of the three-pointed star badge expect. The surfaces are all soft touch and of high quality, as is the switchgear, and the layout is typical of the brand’s car output. There is some tough and scratchy plastic, but it’s down by the footwells where it’s most needed.
Driving the Mercedes-Benz X-Class
Does it feel like a pick-up to drive? Yes, but a very upmarket one. The powerplant is smooth in its power delivery and refined to boot. Motorway speeds are achieved with no fuss – rest to 60mph takes around 12 seconds. At such speeds the cabin is quiet to a degree that will impress those coming out of other pick-ups – especially the absence of wind noise.
The steering is well weighted, though the fact that this is a big, high-slung machine with a solid rear axle never lets one forget that one is driving a pick-up truck. There is a degree of hauling it through corners required and the effects of poor surfaces do find their way to the cabin.
At the end of the day, this is probably the most upmarket pick-up truck on the market, with a price to match. Successful business owners who like such vehicles could well be attracted to it, being able to drive a Mercedes-Benz while still claiming the tax benefits that comes with it being designated a commercial vehicle.
The Mercedes view that the best sales will be of the upper trim levels is probably pretty accurate. It’s difficult to imagine too many examples of the X-Class being used as workhorses on building sites, but bosses visiting those building sites, and the urban lifestyle crowd, will likely consider the desirability of a Mercedes to be worth paying the £6,000-odd price hike over an equivalent Nissan Navara.