Seven hundred and twenty miles sounds like quite a lot, doesn’t it? I guess it is, really. It’s just over 100 miles more than the distance from Brighton to Inverness, and just 30 shy of London to Montpellier in France. So yes, a reasonable stretch.
But why this particular distance? Well, somehow I managed to spend all 720 miles behind the wheel of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class over the Christmas period this year, which I think means I’ve now got a pretty clear idea of what this truck is all about.
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First off, those initial slogs of distance, the ones where you settle in for the long haul, aware that you’ve got really quite a long way to go, are gulped up greedily by the X-Class.
The ride, though still a little agricultural compared to a traditional SUV, is composed at speed and even during the bends it feels far more refined than you might expect. When you’re travelling around town it is a touch unsettled, but then you do have to remember it’s a ladder-framed chassis pick-up so it’s not going to offer the last word in ride refinement.
The chunky tyres are also a welcome addition – they take the edge off any imperfections in the road, making it just a little more comfortable.
And when I was trundling (you always trundle in a pick-up) along the M4 to Monmouthshire, the sound-proofing added to the cabin meant that I could actually hear my music playing through the stereo, and my girlfriend and I could actually speak to one another without shouting. Which was nice, as it’s often the case in traditional pick-ups that there’s all the noise isolation of an AC/DC concert.
It was even returning an impressive 35mpg, which isn’t half bad considering the X-Class weighs the same as an aircraft carrier.
And at times, it does feel like you’re piloting HMS Queen Elizabeth. Albeit down a small country road, with tractors, cyclists and learner drivers all clouding your forward progress.
However, you do get used to its size rather fast, and the car’s relatively light steering makes driving it around town a touch easier. I was aiming for the furthest-away parking spaces on most occasions, mind you – there’s little chance of nipping into a compact spot in an X-Class.
You’d think, looking at the large rear bay, that the X-Class would be as practical as Bear Grylls working in B&Q – and for bigger items, it is. The Christmas tree, as we found in last month’s report, went in without the merest protest. During my time off it also provided a home for a bicycle.
But without a lockable load cover (which can be added as an optional extra, in fairness) it means you seldom put anything in the bed. Unless you want it to get wet, or stolen.
So when we did need to take items with us that we didn’t fancy being wet or stolen, we had to put them all in the cab itself. Which meant that by the end of the Christmas period, with all its presents, clothes and luggage meant that the cabin of the truck was fit to bursting.
I tried to alleviate the problem by ratchet strapping my bag (which is waterproof) to one of the latching points in the bed. It did help free up some space in the cab for the fourteen wardrobe’s worth of clothes we otherwise had with us, but while we journeyed on the next leg of the trip from Monmouthshire to Dorset, I was constantly checking to see whether it had blown away, or if someone had run away with it. Luckily, neither happened.
Midway through the trip from Dorset up to Cheltenham for a New Year’s party we were able to stop off at home and dump all of our kit of it, and with a renewed sense of space and freedom we set off.
Overall, all manner of people came to ask me “Just what is that parked outside?”
At that point I replied with a fair amount of pride ‘It’s Merc’s new pick-up. The X-Class’. I think that is a testament to how much I’ve enjoyed driving it over the Christmas period. London to Montpellier? Pah. I’d happily do twice that distance in this truck.