Going one-tonne better, Benz builds a luxury workhorse (on Nissan foundations)
Xmarks the spot. Mercedes-Benz aims to steer buyers out of rival one-tonne utes and into the X-Class, its take on a luxury workhorse. Utes account for almost one in five new vehicle registrations and, says MercedesBenz Vans CEO Diane Tarr, more than half of these are upper-spec versions.
This gives the German brand the incentive to reproduce its success in passenger cars in the light commercial arena.
“The market is moving in this direction … buyers want the ruggedness and off-road ability of these vehicles but they also want passenger car handling and refinement,” Tarr says.
“That’s what the X-Class delivers and we are the only ones in this segment with autonomous emergency braking across the range.”
More than 9000 prospective Australian buyers have registered interest in the X-Class, the first pick-up from a prestige brand, even though it is based on a Nissan Navara that costs $12,000 less.
To be fair, there’s little of the Navara left in the X-Class that you can see or touch. The chassis has been strengthened, the track is extended 70mm to improve on-road manners and the body is 50mm wider, necessitating unique bodywork.
Throw in recalibrated suspension dampers, ventilated disc brakes all-round and a bespoke interior and it’s hard to argue with Benz’s assertion this is as far removed from “badge engineering” as is possible.
Opting to use a donor car, rather than develop its own from scratch, was a matter of timing for Mercedes.
“The association with Nissan saved us three years of development time,” says X-Class product chief Scott Williams.
“The Navara is the third best-selling pick-up globally and we’ve improved it in every area from the ride to the interior refinement.”
The X-Class‘s astonishing 13 variants range from $45,450 to $64,500. That covers cabchassis and tub variants, all dual-cabs for now.
Later in the year, the six-cylinder diesel arrives to supplant the $74,990 Ford Ranger Raptor as the most expensive one-tonne workhorse on sale in Australia.
The X220d will be sold in rear and fourwheel-drive guises, the sole transmission a sixspeed manual. In base Pure trim, it is the workhorse of the range and unashamedly aimed at fleet buyers, with black front and rear bumpers, steel wheels and plastic flooring for easy cleaning.
Lifting the visual bar – at least in the top section of the dash – are elements familiar to Mercedes passenger car owners, such as the infotainment screen, steering wheel and instrument cluster with coloured digital screen between the speedo and tachometer.
To satisfy occupational health and safety requirements of fleet owners, it comes with five-star ANCAP rating, autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection, tyre-pressure monitoring, reversing camera on