Mercedes-Benz X250D

Farms & Farm Machinery - - Contents -

It’s no se­cret that Mercedes-Benz’s new X-Class is based on Nis­san’s Navara, but don’t think for one minute that it’s a Navara car­ry­ing a ‘three-pointed star’, as the X-Class has been re-en­gi­neered from the ground up. You’d ex­pect noth­ing less from a car com­pany that prides it­self on engi­neer­ing ex­cel­lence.

Were Benz’s en­gi­neers happy not start­ing with a clean sheet to de­sign a dual-cab ute? Prob­a­bly not, but with pres­sure to come up with a mar­ket-ready prod­uct as soon as pos­si­ble, us­ing the Navara as a start­ing point saved two or three years of de­vel­op­ment time. Mercedes-Benz has a tech­nol­ogy-shar­ing agree­ment with the Re­nault-Nis­san al­liance, so the Navara was read­ily avail­able.

In cre­at­ing this X-Class, Benz’s en­gi­neers took a Navara and re­moved the body and the pow­er­train from the chas­sis, then the lad­der frame was strength­ened with ex­tra cross-brac­ing and re­in­forc­ing, and the track widened via longer wish­bones up front (+62mm) and a longer axle at the rear (+55mm). Disc brakes were fit­ted to the rear in place of the Navara drums and linked to high-end safety kit in­clud­ing au­ton­o­mous brak­ing. New springs, dampers and sway bars were then fit­ted, as was a re­vised steer­ing sys­tem for fewer lock-to-lock turns. Then the Navara’s pow­er­train, re-mapped no doubt, was re-in­stalled.

In the mean­time, Benz de­signed and built a wider body that was fit­ted on this re-en­gi­neered chas­sis. This is not a case of badge engi­neer­ing, this is re-engi­neer­ing.

POW­ER­TRAIN AND PER­FOR­MANCE

The X-Class Re­nault-sourced 2.3-litre four-cylin­der bi-turbo en­gine shares the same 140kW (188hp)/450Nm power and torque num­bers with the Navara and comes close to match­ing it in per­for­mance de­spite be­ing 160kg to 180kg heav­ier de­pend­ing on the spec level.

The ex­tra weight comes from the frame strength­en­ing, wider body, equip­ment vari­a­tions and ex­tra sound dead­en­ing. That means, in this com­pany – Amarok aside – the X-Class is one of the stronger per­form­ers. The ex­tra sound dead­en­ing is es­pe­cially sig­nif­i­cant as the X-Class is much qui­eter than the Navara and, in fact, is one of the qui­etest utes here with the Amarok and HiLux. Re­fine­ment was ob­vi­ously a de­sign ob­jec­tive that Benz placed high on the pri­or­ity list.

ON-ROAD RIDE AND HAN­DLING

The same can be said for the chas­sis, as the X-Class of­fers what is the most com­fort­able ride here com­bined with very lit­tle road or sus­pen­sion noise. The X-Class also feels very solid and tight, far more so than most of the utes here and a world away from the Navara.

The X-Class not only of­fers a rel­a­tively sup­ple ride but it han­dles with a con­fi­dence that bet­ters all but the Amarok and pos­si­bly the Ranger in this com­pany. The wider track (wider than all but the Amarok) no doubt helps here, as does the in­creased tor­sional rigid­ity and sus­pen­sion tune.

LOAD CAR­RY­ING

The ex­tent of the re-engi­neer­ing in­volved in turn­ing Navara into X-Class can been seen in the 340kg in­crease in gross ve­hi­cle mass (GVM) and the 220kg in­crease in gross com­bined mass (GCM). That puts the X-Class’s GVM at 3,250kg and its GCM at

6,130kgm, which means it bet­ters all of the utes here – in­clud­ing pre­vi­ous class cham­pi­ons Ranger and BT-50.

In turn, this means good pay­load num­bers (even if the X-Class is rel­a­tively heavy) and a class bench­mark 3,500kg tow­ing ca­pac­ity.

With our test 900kg pay­load on board, the X-Class didn’t, how­ever, live up to the ex­pec­ta­tion of those num­bers and felt the least com­posed of the nine utes, chas­sis wise. It still was rea­son­able enough to drive but sim­ply felt the weight most in terms of steer­ing con­fi­dence and gen­eral sta­bil­ity even if it’s not far be­hind the Navara and Tri­ton in chas­sis load per­for­mance. More pos­i­tively, the flex­i­ble en­gine and short-geared seven-speed auto meant a much bet­ter per­for­mance from the pow­er­train with the big load on board.

A work light and 12-volt out­let in the tub are pos­i­tives and, as per the Navara, there are high-mounted ad­justable tie-downs.

OFF ROAD

Like the Navara, the X-Class has a rear locker, and en­gag­ing it keeps the elec­tronic traction con­trol ac­tive on the front axle, which is good news. Like the Navara, the X-Class scaled our steep set-piece climb with the rear locker en­gaged but did so with con­sid­er­able dif­fi­culty and couldn’t make the climb with­out it.

The X-Class ac­tu­ally did a lit­tle bet­ter than the Navara and its sus­pen­sion feels a lit­tle softer and more sup­ple, which is a bonus off road. The fact that it sits a bit lower than the al­ready low Navara is, how­ever, a neg­a­tive. Off road, the X-Class isn’t up with the fron­trun­ners but it’s also not the worst. In­ter­est­ingly, it claims a deeper ford­ing depth (600mm) than the Navara’s 450mm even though the en­gine air-in­take ar­range­ment looks the same.

CABIN AND SAFETY

The X-Class’s cabin pre­sen­ta­tion is much more up­mar­ket pas­sen­ger car than ‘work­ing Joe’ ute and stands out from all here thanks to fea­tures like the high-tech cen­tre con­sole touch­pad and ro­tary dial con­trol for the nav, en­ter­tain­ment, phone and me­dia. The ‘tablet’ style touch­screen also adds to the pas­sen­ger-car feel. Tilt-and-reach steer­ing wheel ad­just­ment is also a nice touch and one that’s lack­ing in nearly half the utes here.

The X-Class’s cabin is wider than the Navara but still isn’t no­tably big, while the rear ‘sta­dium’ seat­ing isn’t ideal for taller adults as it com­pro­mises the rear head­room. All mod­els come with five-star ANCAP rat­ing and ad­vanced safety equip­ment: no­tably au­ton­o­mous brak­ing, a fea­ture unique in this class.

PRAC­TI­CAL­I­TIES

The X-Class is not just a flash re­cre­ational ute but comes in three equip­ment lev­els – Pure, Pro­gres­sive and Power – where the ‘Pure’ is very much a work-spec ute. The range in­cludes cabchas­sis vari­ants, a lower-spec (sin­gle turbo) 120kW en­gine and the op­tion of a man­ual gear­box. There’s even a 4x2 model.

Right from launch, Benz of­fers some fac­tory ac­ces­sories but will take a while for af­ter-mar­ket ac­ces­sories to come on stream, and, even then, that will de­pend on how well the X-Class sells. A thin­ner spread of deal­ers in coun­try ar­eas com­pared with bigvol­ume car com­pa­nies is an­other prac­ti­cal­ity con­sid­er­a­tion.

Dual-cab 4x4s are boom­ing – not just in Aus­tralia but also across the globe – and Mercedes-Benz wants a slice of the ac­tion

The large screen for au­dio and nav­i­ga­tion stands tall like a drive-in the­atre

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