THE ute market is growing so quickly, luxury brands want in on the action.
The Mercedes-Benz of pick-ups, the new X-Class, has just gone on sale in Europe and lands in Australian showrooms in early 2018.
Mercedes is yet to confirm price but early indications range from $40,000 to $60,000 for twin turbo four-cylinder diesel variants and closer to $70,000 for the V6 turbo diesels.
Depending on your point of view, it will be an expensive Nissan Navara or a cheap way into a big Benz.
Nissan? The X-Class uses Nissan four-cylinder engines, is based on a Navara frame and is made on the same production line as the Navara in Spain.
However, unlike other model sharing arrangements, it’s not simply a Nissan with a new badge.
Mercedes has made extensive changes, adding strengthening beams to the chassis, four-wheel discs in place of rear drum brakes and wider axles.
The body is 70mm wider than the Navara and every panel is unique to the X-Class; the only visible carry-over parts are the side glass, door handles, key fob and rear-view mirror.
The X-Class will have some technology firsts for the class, such as automatic emergency braking standard and a high-resolution 360-degree camera.
As it wears a Benz badge, you might expect it would come with the works. But it has some notable omissions.
The flagship X-Class comes only with faux leather seats even though the top end Toyota HiLux and VW Amarok have genuine leather. Radar cruise control and lane-keeping technology are not available at any price. It also misses out on Apple Car Play/Android Auto.
It’s a good first effort but we’re not sure it’s a better drive than an Amarok.
The ride comfort is better than the Navara but the X-Class still gets the jitters on patchy roads. The massive turning circle of 13.4 metres – thanks in part to wider axles – is worst in the class.
Power outputs are unchanged from Nissan’s diesels: the 2.3-litre turbo produces 120kW/403Nm and the twin-turbo 140kW/450Nm.
Verdict: The X-Class probably will rank among the top three or four utes in the segment and many will buy it for the badge alone. But there’s already room for improvement.
The MercedesBenz X-Class ute.