The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - JOSHUA DOWL­ING MOTORING WRITER

A new gen­er­a­tion of lux­ury utes is about to hit the mar­ket

IT could be the most ex­pen­sive ute in Aus­tralia but cashed-up tradies are al­ready putting down de­posits on the new Mercedes-Benz ute — six months be­fore it goes on sale and with­out know­ing the price.

But one thing is cer­tain, it won’t be get­ting grubby on work­sites or car­ry­ing rub­bish.

The Ger­man brand’s first tradie-mo­bile ar­rives in show­rooms in April 2018 to cash in on the boom in su­per-lux­ury utes.

The Mercedes X Class will be one of five mega utes to be re­leased by this time next year, with Ford, Holden, Toy­ota and Volk­swa­gen also plan­ning mod­els that will eclipse $70,000.

More than 7000 buy­ers have reg­is­tered their in­ter­est on­line for the new Merc, which is ac­tu­ally based on a Nis­san Navara, al­beit with ex­ten­sive changes and a com­pletely unique body.

Ken No­ble from Syd­ney’s north­ern beaches, who has owned five Toy­ota HiLux utes over the past 20 years, was the first per­son in Aus­tralia to or­der the new Mercedes ute.

“As soon as I saw the pho­tos I went in and put my money down,” Mr No­ble said.

“I haven’t even or­dered the colour yet, I just wanted to make sure I didn’t miss out.”

As with many own­ers of mod­ern utes, Mr No­ble doesn’t plan on car­ry­ing too much in the back. “I might get some fire­wood in win­ter,” he said.

Tradies en­joy­ing the con­struc­tion boom, fam­i­lies and lux­ury car own­ers are the driv­ing force be­hind the surge in sales, ac­cord­ing to in­dus­try data.

The lat­est utes are more com­fort­able to drive than they were a decade ago and are gain­ing upto-date safety fea­tures as each new model goes on sale.

The rise in de­mand comes as the Toy­ota HiLux is on track to be­come Aus­tralia’s top sell­ing car for the sec­ond year in a row, ahead of the Ford Ranger.

Never be­fore in Aus­tralian au­to­mo­tive his­tory have two utes topped the an­nual sales charts.

So far this year the Toy­ota HiLux leads the new car mar­ket with more than 39,000 sales, ahead of the Ford Ranger (35,600), Toy­ota Corolla (31,000), Mazda3 (27,000) and Hyundai i30 (25,000), ac­cord­ing to the Fed­eral Cham­ber of Au­to­mo­tive In­dus­tries.

In an at­tempt to cash in, sev­eral brands are poised to in­tro­duce utes next year that will push prices be­yond $70,000.

Ford has re­leased teaser im­ages of its up­com­ing Ranger Rap­tor with desert-racer styling and sus­pen­sion, Holden Spe­cial Ve­hi­cles will in­tro­duce a beefedup ver­sion of the Colorado and Toy­ota is pre­par­ing a TRD HiLux that’s more than just a lim­ited edi­tion ac­ces­sories pack.

Volk­swa­gen sells Aus­tralia’s most ex­pen­sive ute in the class at just un­der $70,000 but is plan­ning a power up­grade for its flag­ship Amarok’s turbo diesel V6 to thwart new ri­vals.

More than half of Aus­tralia’s top-sell­ing utes are the most ex­pen­sive ver­sions, cost­ing more than $50,000 — be­fore ac­ces­sories are added. A decade ago, most utes sold be­low $50,000.

Ken No­ble has put in an or­der for the new Mercedes X-Class ute. The leather in­te­rior of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class ute.

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