MERCEDES-BENZ X-CLASS GOES TO LIMPOPO
MERCEDES-BENZ x-CLASS x250D 4MATIC pOWER
Doing what a bakkie should be doing — in style
AT fIrsT glANce, THe Mercedes-BeNz X-clAss MAy NoT look lIke IT BELONGS IN THE BUSH. NOT BECAUSE IT WON’T CUT IT IN THE GREAT OUTDOORS, IT’S JUST SO HANDSOME THAT IT LOOkS MORE ROGER MOORE THAN BEAR GRyLLS. BERNIE HELLBERG SPENT A WEEkEND WITH THE 250D 4MATIC POWER DERIVATIVE ON A GAME FARM IN LIMPOPO AND REPORTS THAT THIS BakkIE IS MUCH MORE THAN IT SEEMS.
The natural beauty of the Limpopo province is a closer drive from Gauteng than most may believe. Within an hour’s drive from the Big Smoke, and less even from the Capital, city slickers can be in the middle of the Bushveld, glamping it up on a grand scale.
Having covered the point of just how much the light commercial segment means to the SA economy in a previous edition of Driven, we’re free to discuss what’s important on this vehicle, the experience on the open road, rather than how much sense it makes economically.
Some might say that a premium bakkie costing just shy of R800,000 doesn’t make any kind of economic sense, but then that’s not what having a Merc pick-up is about. What it is about, is being able to go where you want, when you want, and doing it in style.
IN FOR THE LONG RUN
Mercedes-Benz seldom does anything in half measures – okay, let’s not mention the first generation A-Class, shall we – so when the time came to develop a new generation of Mercedes-Benz bakkie (yes, there was a previous attempt), they partnered with one of the best in the bakkie-building business, Nissan.
So, in case you haven’t noticed, the X-Class shares a platform with Nissan’s Navara, chassis and suspension, engine line-up, and overall body silhouette included.
In our opinion, it is a great partnership that’s delivered excellent results for both parties, and our 4Matic tester is a prime example of how the collaboration worked well. We’ve said before that the Navara platform is excellent in its own right, and how Mercedes-Benz made it even better, creating the first-ever premium bakkie that’s beyond the reach of even its closest competitor, Volkswagen’s Amarok.
Our time with the X-Class 250d 4Matic Power during our brief Limpopo interlude showed that the range-topping manual bakkie features a decent level of equipment as standard, including cruise control, seven airbags and tyre pressure monitors.
As usual for a luxury car, an extensive options list includes extras such as Cavansite Blue metallic paint (R4,600), COMAND online (R26,732), Parking package that includes a 360° camera (R14,950), and Style package that adds running boards, privacy glass in the rear, and high-performance headlamps among other features for a cool R11,500. Additional trim features, the Traffic Assist package, and several external enhancements took the price of our tester to well over R860,000 (base price currently is R796,145). That is not cheap.
Yet, the price makes more sense when you climb into the cabin, where a Mercedes steering wheel with perforated leather joins stylish air vents, a stitched dashboard with wood trim and first-class electronics.
Mercedes’ seats are more comfortable than what you might find in rivals, though a lack of reach adjustment for the steering wheel disappoints.
ON THE ROAD
Prestige know-how emerges on the road, where the X-Class feels much quieter than rivals. Wind and road noise is lower than expected, as is the hum from Nissan’s engine.
A faster steering rack ranks among the fundamental changes introduced by Mercedes to the Navara platform. Tested
“...THE PRICE MAKES MORE SENSE WHEN YOU CLIMB INTO THE CABIN, WHERE A MERCEDES STEERING WHEEL WITH PERFORATED LEATHER JOINS
STYLISH AIR VENTS, A STITCHED DASHBOARD WITH WOOD TRIM AND
ALTHOUGH OUR WEEKEND DRIVE TO LIMPOPO OFFERED LITTLE IN THE WAY OF OFF-ROADING, SAVE FOR A FIVEKILOMETRE STRETCH OF CORRUGATED GRAVEL ROAD BETWEEN THE MAIN ARTERIAL AND OUR LODGE DESTINATION, IT’S LIKELY FAIR TO ASSUME THAT MOST X-CLASSES WON’T EVER SEE A TOUGHER OFF-ROAD TERRAIN THAN THIS, DESPITE ITS OVERALL CAPABILITY.
on winding country roads, the X-Class’ quicker reactions to steering inputs make it a satisfying machine to drive, helped by a beefed-up rear anti-roll bar which keeps the body relatively flat while cornering.
Like the Nissan, Mercedes’ offering exhibits a fidgety when unladen, feeling unsettled over repeated bumps that have you jiggling away in the cabin.
Power comes from the Nissan-shared 2.3-litre turbodiesel engine, which delivered 140 kW and 450 Nm in the X250d that we had on test.
Although our weekend drive to Limpopo offered little in the way of off-roading, save for a five-kilometre stretch of corrugated gravel road between the main arterial and our lodge destination, it’s likely fair to assume that most X-Classes won’t ever see a tougher off-road terrain than this, despite its overall capability. I’m reminded of the fact that, at launch, Mercedes set up a formidable test section for the media launch drive – including a 200 km-long road trip, complete with a crossing of the infamous Duiwelskop Pass in the Klein Karoo. This old Voortrekker trade route had some of the toughest terrain that I had driven to date, and, as expected, the big Mercs handled the rough stuff like it’s been doing it for decades.
Despite a relatively short off-road drive, the combination of gravel, highway, and city roads proved the big Merc’s prowess over and over, leaving us with little doubt of the car’s capability. It is a thoroughbred leisure vehicle in the mould of Merc’s best offroaders, and only truly gets a frown from us where cabin utility, and unladen ride quality is concerned. Once you’ve rinsed off the dust of your first non-asphalt excursion, you too will appreciate the X-Class for what it is, downright ready to get down and dirty on your every adventure.