RID­ING SHOT­GUN Mercedes-benz X-class ute re­veals promis­ing signs on- and off-road.

4 x 4 Australia - - First Look - WORDS MATT RAUDONIKIS

WHEN Mercedes-benz un­veiled its X-class ute in Cape Town back in July, there was no drive com­po­nent on the pro­gram. That will have to wait un­til the of­fi­cial launch in Oc­to­ber this year and the Aus­tralian re­lease in April 2018. How­ever, there was the op­por­tu­nity to ride shot­gun in an X-class on a pri­vate test track com­pris­ing both on- and off-road sec­tions. While we didn’t ex­pect to learn a lot from this brief ride-along, it did re­veal some in­ter­est­ing el­e­ments of the car that in­di­cate Mercedes-benz may well de­liver on its prom­ise of a pre­mium per­for­mance pick-up.

The driver was one of Benz’s own test driv­ers, and he sure knew how to pedal... he didn’t hold back. The ve­hi­cle was an X250d Power, so a top-spec ute with the 450Nm bi-turbo four­cylin­der en­gine backed by a seven-speed auto and part-time 4x4. The first thing you no­tice as you drive off in the X250d is that Mercedes-benz has done an im­pres­sive job of in­su­lat­ing the cabin from road and en­gine noise. The Re­nault 2.3-litre diesel can be vo­cal and harsh when pushed hard in the Nis­san Navara, but there was none of that as the driver held the throt­tle to the floor around the test track.

He didn’t lift off around the bends ei­ther, and this is where the sec­ond rev­e­la­tion be­came ev­i­dent – the X-class han­dles like no other one-tonne ute, ex­cept maybe a VW Amarok. More test­ing will be needed to con­firm this but, in­ter­est­ingly, the X-class and Amarok have the widest wheel tracks in the one-tonne 4x4 ute class. The im­proved dy­nam­ics come courtesy of the Mb-tuned sus­pen­sion that starts with the wider wheel track front and rear over the donor D23 Navara, as well as a spring and damper set­tings that are more in tune with Benz char­ac­ter­is­tics.

The wider track is due to the be­spoke disc-brake-equipped rear axle and front con­trol arms that are 75mm wider than those

Un­der the skin

The new X-class is based on the D23 Nis­san Navara, but has been ex­ten­sively re­worked for the Benz ver­sion of the du­al­cab ute.

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