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, square load bay, good towing capacity.
The launch of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class brings desirability of a level never before seen in the pick-up sector. The vehicle offers proper off-road ability and a good-shaped load bed, 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.
Admittedly, the biggest sales for the new model are expected 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.
Yet this is intended to be a working vehicle as much as a lifestyle choice – it is marketed by Mercedes-Benz’s commercial vehicle arm and the entry-level X-Class, in particular, 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 X-Class is rather more closely related to the Navara 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 Nissan, including its tough, ladder chassis.
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 mid-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.
There is plenty more in the specification to indicate that this can be the workhorse that commercial users will require. The X-Class can wade through water up to 600mm deep, and it can tip sideways to a shade under 50 degrees. The options list includes a 20mm ride-height hike, to 221mm which gives it an angle of approach of some 30 degrees and a 22 degree ramp angle. Also on that options list is a differential lock and additional underbody protection.
Every X-Class is to double cab format, which means two rows of seats each with their own set of doors, so the load bed is not huge. But it is usefully square, measuring 1587mm long by 1560mm wide – longer than the Navara’s and matching it in width.
This all adds up to 2.141 square metres of capacity, with a 1.1-tonne weight limit, and is enough to take a cross-loaded Euro pallet. The X-class can also be specified with a towing capacity of up to 3.5 tonnes.
This target marketing is also evident in the trim levels, of which there are three, Pure, Progressive and Power. The Pure, with a base price of £27,310 (VAT excluded) is likely to be of greatest interest to those requiring the most robust finish. It includes steel wheels, black fabric upholstery and such like, less likely to show any scuffs or marks. Once one starts going up to Progressive or Power grades less tough features such as alloy wheels, painted panels and silver trim come into play.
Progressive versions cost £1,200 more than Pure variants, while Power is another £3,500 on top, and only offered with the more powerful 2.3-litre engine. Pay for this level and the equipment includes LED headlamps, electric mirrors, electrically adjustable front seats, leather trim and controls on the steering wheel.
Being a Mercedes 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.
As mentioned the extent of the interior ‘ambience’ will depend on which level of X-Class one goes for. 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.
The rear is usefully spacious too, with a bench seat offering enough width and height to easily accommodate three adults – the X-Class benefits from being both longer and wider overall than the Nissan it is related to. On the downside, there is not much space in the interior to store stuff, the major compartment on Pure models being located in the centre console and incorporating an armrest and cup holder.
The Mercedes is of course, 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 tough, scratchy plastic, but it’s down by the footwells where it is most needed.
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.
Off road, the X-Class is capable to a degree one might not expect from a pick-up mostly targeting lifestyle buyers. But as mentioned mechanically it is basically the proven Nissan Navara, with its beefy chassis, double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension and solid axle, so perhaps its ability is not so much of a surprise.
The Mercedes-Benz X-Class 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 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 likely pretty accurate. It’s difficult to imagine too many examples of the X-Class being used as workhorses on building sites, but the Mercedes does have the ability to be such a workhorse, if one is prepared to pay the £6,000 or so price hike over an equivalent Navara.
Proper off-road ability
Useful shaped load bed
Strong safety package
Lack of interior storage
|Make & model||Mercedes-Benz X-Class||Nissan Navara|
|Specification||220 D 4-Matic 120 kW 4WD Pure||Visia Double Cab 2.3 dCi 160PS 4WD|
|Price (base, VAT excl)||£27,310||£22,487|
|Engine||2299cc diesel||2298cc diesel|
|Power||163hp @ 3750rpm||160hp @ 3750rpm|
|Torque||403Nm @ 1500rpm||403Nm @ 1500rpm|
|Fuel economy (combined)||37.2mpg||44.8mpg|
|Euro NCAP rating||5 Star – 2017||4 Star – 2015|