That is, people who can afford $70K for a lifestyle four-door ute
Australia’s best-selling vehicles are the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger so little wonder car companies are keen for a slice of the lucrative double-cab ute pie. Mercedes has prior commercial vehicle history, so little wonder it’s the first prestige brand to take a stab at a premium ute, named X-Class.
But does the range-topping X250 Power DualCab have a blend of class and practicality to endear itself ?
IAIN: There’s a profitable bandwagon called the double-cab ute segment and Mercedes has jumped on board.
JULES: I wouldn’t believe it unless I’d seen it. Lifestyle utes are now in the big time, right?
IAIN: The X-Class is helping normalise big spend on utes. Ours is $61,600 before onroads, the auto gearbox — which everyone will buy — is another $2900, so it’ll be more than $70K drive-away.
JULES: It looks brilliant. I love the tough chrome front end and it’s got a pretty rear too, for a truck.
IAIN: I agree it’s striking but, having seen the concept X-Class at the Geneva Motor Show, for me the real thing is a bit plain. I wanted a revolution of ute styling.
JULES: At least it looks as if it belongs in the Benz family. One for the discerning tradie.
IAIN: Merc cut development time by basing it on the Nissan Navara, so the ladder frame chassis, 2.3-litre turbo diesel and 4WD are shared. Thank goodness the styling differentiates the two, although it still looks a bit Navaraish in profile.
THE LIVING SPACE
JULES: A beautifully laid out dashboard in a leather-trimmed cabin — that’s sumptuous. IAIN: It’s man-made leather but that’s normal these days. This is the range-topping Power grade. I hope buyers do their research and learn there is, in fact, no extra power over the Pure and Progressive versions.
JULES: Maybe it means they’ve powered-up the specification.
IAIN: You should work in marketing. It has lots of good kit and, importantly, it feels like a real Benz inside.
JULES: Goodies included keyless entry, 360-degree camera, climate control, powered seats, park assist and lane keep assist.
IAIN: Familiar Benz bits, too, among them the excellent navigation screen, leather steering wheel, circular air vents and curved aluminium dash, although this was an extra-cost option. Still some great wads of hard plastic though, reminding us it’s a ute. And the key? It’s a Navara thing, not Benz. I’d want better for my $60K-plus.
JULES: Utes ride high, which is great, but are so big they’re awkward as a daily drive. Sorry, this Merc’s the same.
IAIN: It’s still a truck, so it’s cumbersome in town, but on highway drives it shines. Even with no load in the tray it feels composed, comfortable and very well insulated.
JULES: It’s the most comfortable ute I’ve driven. They’ve set it up well, haven’t they?
IAIN: It uses coil rather than leaf springs on the rear, making it feel less utilitarian and more SUV-like. Plus Merc’s improved the springs and dampers over its Navara donor. It would have been unGerman not to.
JULES: Biggest boot in the world so I can fit loads in. Not great how it all flies around in the tub.
IAIN: Plus you really need a tray cover for security purposes.
JULES: I ended up putting groceries in the footwells as the kids’ car seats were in place. Not terribly practical.
IAIN: I got more attention in Woolies car park than Justin Bieber in an orange Lamborghini. So many people — OK, men — knew about the X-Class, asked what I thought and said they were interested in buying one.
JULES: It’s slow.
IAIN: It’s a ute.
JULES: So much else feels Mercedes-like I was expecting it to fly but it still accelerates like a truck.
IAIN: It’s not a powerful engine, even in the ute class. There’s a 190kW/550Nm V6 version coming in December. That’ll solve it.
JULES: It doesn’t sound too diesel-y and it is very smooth to drive.
IAIN: Utes typically handle like barges but the X-Class is up there with VW’s Amarok as the finest cornering double-cab I’ve tested, even if the steering is vague. It does a decent job of mopping up bumps. I could confidently carry speed into corners as the (optional) 19-inch tyres are on-road specific.
JULES: It handled our gentle off-road course without fuss too. $64,500 plus on-roads (pricey)
5 stars, 7 airbags, AEB, reversing camera, lane keep assist, 360-degree camera, tyre pressure monitor (good) 7.9L/100km (good) 3 years/ 200,000km (avg), $2350 for 3 yrs/60,000km (expensive) Full-size (good) 2.3-litre 4-cyl twin-turbo diesel, 140kW/ 450Nm (trails top-sellers) 1021kg payload (good) IAIN: With some all-terrain rubber, it’d be a handy off-road tool. Will owners use it in such a way? I’m guessing 1 per cent.
JULES: Kids loved it. It is a truck after all. Plus they got rear air vents.
IAIN: Five-star safety, seven airbags and segment-first auto emergency braking are safety wins.
JULES: It’s the easiest car to get our four bikes into, although I did find the tailgate heavy.
IAIN: I sat in the rear and I’d not be happy riding here for long. Seats are uncomfortable; you sit upright and the floor’s pretty high.
JULES: It’s better riding up front but storage space is lacking. There’s nowhere to even put my phone properly, so where would tradies put all their work gubbins?
IAIN: Since the off-road controls will rarely be used, these should be relocated to allow better storage spots.
JULES: Lovely design, comfortable and the best ute I’ve driven. I just don’t see how you could have one as a family car. It was too big to park at school but I loved how I could just abandon it up a grass bank instead.
IAIN: Very good in many areas, including an excellent towing capacity of 3500kg, but for this price I’d want it to be class-leading in every area. The V6 version will be the new hero at $80K in Power spec. That makes more sense in our era of massive spend on lifestyle utes.