PEO­PLE POWER

That is, peo­ple who can af­ford $70K for a life­style four-door ute

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page - IAIN CURRY & JULES LUCHT

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 ?

FIRST IM­PRES­SIONS

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.

THE COM­MUTE

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.

THE SHOP­PING

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.

SUN­DAY RUN

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.

THE FAM­ILY

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.

THE VER­DICT

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.

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