PREMIUM PICK-UP

Go­ing one-tonne bet­ter, Benz builds a lux­ury work­horse (on Nis­san foun­da­tions)

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - MOTORING - CRAIG DUFF

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

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