X-class ute re­vealed, set for early 2018 lo­cal launch.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - WORDS MATT RAUDONIKIS

MERCEDES-BENZ has pulled the cov­ers off its X-class one-tonne ute, which will go on sale in Aus­tralia early in 2018. This will be Benz’s push in to one of the best­per­form­ing new ve­hi­cle seg­ments at present, and it will fill a niche it’s not cur­rently oc­cu­py­ing. Be­fore you start ask­ing what a Ger­man com­pany best known for its lux­ury cars is do­ing with a ute, the X-class will sit in the com­pany’s vans di­vi­sion. Re­mem­ber that Benz make cars, trucks, buses, vans and SUVS.

The X-class, a dou­ble-cab 4x4 ute, shares its plat­form with the Nis­san D23 Navara, and it will ini­tially be avail­able with a choice of two 2.3-litre diesel en­gines taken from the Navara range. These will be backed by six-speed man­ual or seven-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sions and part-time 4x4.

Around the mid­dle of the year, Benz will un­load its key weapon with its own V6 diesel en­gine pro­duc­ing 550Nm and backed by a seven-speed auto and full-time, 4MATIC 4x4 with a low range trans­fer case.

The X-class X350d will join the Volk­swa­gen Amarok as the only V6 diesel in a class where four- and five-cylin­der en­gines are the norm, but it will trump the 165kw Amarok with its im­pres­sive 190kw.

The range-top­ping X350d will also in­clude a dy­namic se­lect drive sys­tem, of­fer­ing five driv­ing modes in­clud­ing Com­fort, Eco, Sport, Man­ual and Off-road modes. This sys­tem cus­tomises the var­i­ous drive and chas­sis sys­tems to best suit the driv­ing con­di­tions and will be the first of its kind for a ute in Aus­tralia. Fuel-sav­ing stop/start tech­nol­ogy and paddle shifter for the trans­mis­sion are also part of the X350d pack­age.

The en­try level X220d makes 120kw from its sin­gle turbo-diesel en­gine, while the X250d makes 140kw from the bi-turbo en­gine. Mercedes-benz hasn’t re­vealed torque out­puts for these en­gines, but the power fig­ures are in line with the Nis­san Navara; so ex­pect 403 and 450Nm re­spec­tively from the Re­nault-de­vel­oped en­gines.

The lad­der chas­sis is also de­rived from the Navara plat­form and in­cludes the unique-to--


class five-link coil spring rear sus­pen­sion. The X-class will only be of­fered with rear coils, while Nis­san still of­fers the op­tion of leaf springs at the rear for tow­ing or load-car­ry­ing. The X-class will have a tow­ing ca­pac­ity of 3500kg and pay­load up to 1100kg, so it will be in­ter­est­ing to see how Benz has cal­i­brated that rear-end when we get to drive it. The X-class rear-end is fit­ted with disc brakes as op­posed to drums found on most 4x4 utes.

A wider wheel track for the X-class should im­prove its ride and sta­bil­ity over its donor Navara. The Benz has 1632mm front and 1625mm rear tracks, as op­posed to 1570mm track front and rear on a Navara. The 3150mm wheel­base is the same on both ve­hi­cles.

As can be seen in these first im­ages of the pro­duc­tion-ready model, the X-class is a tamed down ver­sion of the two con­cept ve­hi­cles shown last year. Gone are the 35-inch off-road tyres and 22-inch rims; the pro­duc­tion car will have a choice of 17-, 18and 19-inch wheels in a va­ri­ety of styles. The body­work is also toned down, but is clearly Mercedes-benz with the sig­na­ture grille and styling el­e­ments.

The in­te­rior is all Benz, with com­po­nents sourced from the C-class pas­sen­ger car and V-class van ranges. This will give buy­ers in this ute seg­ment never-be­fore-seen choices of ma­te­ri­als and features and, most of all, lux­ury. We ex­pect lead­ing lev­els of con­nec­tiv­ity for de­vices on the move as well, with the 8.4-inch A/V screen con­nected to nav­i­ga­tion and 360-de­gree cam­eras.

You can see where com­pro­mises have had to be made as the Nis­san/benz plat­forms were melded. For ex­am­ple, the HVAC con­trols sit very low in the cen­tre stack, while there’s an acre of va­cant space above them that would have been a much more prac­ti­cal lo­ca­tion. In fact, the en­tire dash­board looks a bit plain and hit-and-miss in its ex­e­cu­tion. Like­wise, the steer­ing col­umn lacks reach ad­just­ment, which is a carry-over from the Navara.

Yet the X-class brings a fresh face to the busy mar­ket, and with it comes a level of style and pres­tige not yet seen in the seg­ment. How well that style and equip­ment ac­tu­ally works we’ll just have to wait to see.

Safety will be top level, with the X-class em­ploy­ing pre-col­li­sion as­sist, lane-keep­ing as­sist, trailer-sway con­trol, sta­bil­ity con­trol and seven cabin airbags to pro­tect oc­cu­pants. LED head­lights of­fer ex­cel­lent night-time vis­i­bil­ity for im­proved safety.

The X-class will be avail­able in three lev­els of spec­i­fi­ca­tion: Pure, for the tradies and farm­ers mar­ket; Pro­gres­sive, adds ex­tra features; and Power, the top-spec for those who want Benz lev­els of features and per­for­mance from their dual-cab.

Aus­tralian-de­liv­ered X-classes will be built at Re­nault/nis­san’s plant in Barcelona, Spain, which also man­u­fac­tures the Navara for Euro­pean mar­kets and Re­nault’s Alaskan pick-up (which also shares the D23 plat­form from Nis­san).

Euro­pean de­liv­er­ies will start later this year, and we’ll have to wait un­til then to know if Mercedes-benz has suc­ceeded with its new ute. Stay tuned for lo­cal pric­ing.

The X-class is based on the cur­rent-gen Nis­san Navara.

The pro­duc­tion ver­sion X-class has lost some of its con­cept-car looks, but it will bring a new level of lux­ury to the dual-cab bat­tle.

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