Spe­cial de­liv­ery: the Star dual-cab we orig­i­nally or­dered

Wheels (Australia) - - Contents - RYAN LEWIS

Three-pointed tray­back now closer to the pointy end

BE­LIEF was jus­ti­fi­ably high when Merc an­nounced a dual-cab ute foray, but the X250d’s car­ry­over Nis­san driv­e­train meant it wasn’t quite as Benz-like as an­tic­i­pated. Some found it hard to be­lieve, de­spite its ad­vances, that X-class was more than a Navara with a three-pointed star on it.

The X350d is the one with the po­ten­tial to get the mes­sage through. It scores a Mercedes en­gine and gear­box, and other fun­da­men­tal changes that sup­port its per­for­mance hike. It’s rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent un­der the skin, not only to the Span­ish-built Navara with which it shares a pro­duc­tion line, but to the X250d as well.

The en­gine is a burly 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 pro­duc­ing 190kw and 550Nm – 50kw and 100Nm more than the 2.3-litre X250d. It’s mated to a seven-speed auto that’s con­trol­lable via pad­dle shifters, and feeds a per­ma­nent all-wheeldrive sys­tem with a fixed 40:60 rear-bi­ased torque split. Of­fi­cial fuel econ­omy is 9.0L/100km.

With a claimed 7.5sec 0-100km/h the X350d sits along­side the Volk­swa­gen Amarok V6 as one of the seg­ment’s quick­est, and it gets there with­out the harsh­ness as­so­ci­ated with most oil­ers. It’s an ef­fort­lessly fluid pow­er­train.

A heavy fo­cus on cre­at­ing a car­like driv­ing experience in­cluded a more com­pre­hen­sive ap­proach to im­prov­ing on al­ready im­pres­sive lev­els of noise sup­pres­sion and cabin re­fine­ment. The light steer­ing is un­changed from the X250d and a Sport mode sharp­ens throt­tle re­sponse and al­ters gear shift points for greater ur­gency. There are also Eco and Com­fort modes and a man­ual set­ting.

We’ll re­serve judg­ment on the X350d’s re­vised sus­pen­sion un­til the lo­cal launch late this year be­cause Aus­tralian ver­sions will get a raised sus­pen­sion set-up and 222mm of ground clear­ance. Ini­tial im­pres­sions of the over­seas spec with an un­laden tray sug­gest that, while firm, Mercedes has struck a ride and han­dling bal­ance that’s more co­op­er­a­tive for fast road driv­ing than other bouncy du­al­cabs. The X350d’s com­po­sure on gravel is equally im­pres­sive.

The rear axle is vari­ant-spe­cific, with the op­tion of an elec­tron­i­cally ac­ti­vated lock­ing dif­fer­en­tial. The trans­fer case is also new, bor­rowed from G-class, and al­lows the se­lec­tion of the low-range gearset while on the move.

Hit the trails and the X350d will han­dle as much as most peo­ple will ever throw it at. The off-road­spe­cific mode tack­les 45-de­gree in­clines and will wade through wa­ter up to 600mm deep.

An up­graded brak­ing pack­age brings ven­ti­lated discs to all four cor­ners plus a stronger booster and larger di­am­e­ter master cylin­der. Stop­ping confidence could be im­proved by re­duc­ing pedal stroke and re­mov­ing the spongy feel.

Wide tracks trans­late up­wards to a cabin that’s 50mm broader as well as 30mm taller than Navara’s. Space is gen­er­ous, though there’s min­i­mal tradie fo­cus with a lack of stor­age or work­horse fea­tures. But the cabin is a calm, com­fort­able place, even af­ter hours of driv­ing. Stan­dard equip­ment is at the pointy end of the class, in­clud­ing a com­pre­hen­sive ac­tive safety suite.

Two vari­ants will be avail­able lo­cally – Pro­gres­sive and Power. Pric­ing and spec will be an­nounced closer to the launch in De­cem­ber, though ex­pect start­ing money in the mid-$70k range, where it will meet the Ford Ranger Rap­tor.

Any­body who felt that the X250d failed to de­liver the com­plete Benz experience will be pleased by the X350d. This feels like the ve­hi­cle Mercedes had in mind when it promised a dual-cab ute. It’s a lit­tle more pol­ished, more ca­pa­ble on and off the road, and aligns with what’s ex­pected when there’s a three-pointed star on the snout.

Re­fine­ment and com­fort; gutsy per­for­mance; safety equip­ment PLUS & MI­NUS Brake pedal feel; last-gen in­fo­tain­ment in­ter­face is a shame Model En­gine Max power Max torque Trans­mis­sion Weight 0-100km/h Econ­omy Price On sale Mercedes-benz X350d 2987cc V6, dohc, 24v, turbo-diesel 190kw @ 3400rpm 550Nm @ 1400-3200rpm 7-speed au­to­matic 2285kg 7.5sec (claimed) 9.0L/100km (EU) $75,000 (es­ti­mated) De­cem­ber

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