PRO­DUC­TION MERCEDES-BENZ X-CLASS UN­VEILED

The much-an­tic­i­pated Mercedes-Benz X-Class bakkie was of­fi­cially re­vealed at a global launch in Cape Town re­cently.

Leisure Wheels (South Africa) - - NEWS -

Af­ter the re­veal of the X-Class Con­cept late last year, Mercedes-Benz has now given us a glimpse of the pro­duc­tion ver­sion of its X-Class bakkie. The good news is that the of­fi­cial launch of the bakkie will take place fairly soon af­ter this re­veal. The mar­ket launch in Europe is sched­uled for Novem­ber 2017, with South Africa (as well as Aus­tralia and New Zealand) get­ting the ve­hi­cle in April 2018.

Mercedes re­vealed that there will be three de­sign and equip­ment vari­ants to choose from, as well as a large choice of en­gine op­tions. Rear-wheel drive, op­tional or per­ma­nent all-wheel drive, a six-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion and a seven-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion will also all be on the op­tions list.

The first, more ba­sic op­tion, is the X-Class Pure, which Mercedes de­scribes as ideal for rugged, func­tional use. With steel wheels and ba­sic black bumpers, this ver­sion will be the work­horse of the lineup, but will still of­fer a very Mercedes-like in­te­rior, com­plete with ex­cel­lent safety and com­fort fea­tures. The Pure is fol­lowed by the X-Class Pro­gres­sive, which is aimed at peo­ple seek­ing a rugged pickup with ex­tra styling and com­fort func­tions; a ve­hi­cle, in other words, for the life­style mar­ket. This ver­sion will have the sort of cabin you’d ex­pect in a Mercedes-Benz SUV, but will have a 4x4 sys­tem, lowrange gear­ing, diff lock and op­tional man­ual gear­box. Lastly, the X-Class Power will fea­ture a six-cylin­der oil­burner, au­to­matic 7G-Tronic Plus trans­mis­sion and MercedesBenz’s 4Matic per­ma­nent all-wheel drive. As those spec­i­fi­ca­tions sug­gest, this is the top-end model that will take on the Volk­swa­gen Amarok V6.

EN­GINE OP­TIONS

Four en­gine op­tions were an­nounced at the X-Class re­veal. The first is the X 200, a petrol mill that de­vel­ops 122kW and 238Nm of power. It re­mains to be seen if this petrol pow­er­plant will be made avail­able in South Africa, but we will un­doubt­edly be get­ting the three oil­burn­ers. There'll be an X 220d, which will be a 2.3-litre diesel en­gine with a sin­gle turbo that de­liv­ers 120kW and 403NM. There'll also be an X 250d, the same 2.3-litre diesel, but with a twin-turbo setup that has 140kW and 450Nm of torque on of­fer. The Power model will fea­ture a V6 350d diesel en­gine that'll pro­vide 190kW and 550Nm of torque.

As the shape, pro­por­tions and pres­ence of a 2.3-litre twin­turbo oil­burner with 140kW and 450Nm of torque sug­gests, the X-Class is based heav­ily on the new Nis­san Navara. Dur­ing the re­veal, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Mercedes-Benz waxed lyri­cal about the de­sign of the X-Class, stat­ing that “with its pro­gres­sive de­sign, the Mercedes-Benz X-Class man­ages the fine bal­ance be­tween be­ing both tough and stylish. The pickup em­bod­ies the en­hanced MercedesBenz de­sign phi­los­o­phy of sen­sual pu­rity. By em­pha­sis­ing the sur­faces and fea­tur­ing stripped-down, ex­tremely pre­cise el­e­ments, the purist de­sign draws at­ten­tion to the ba­sic virtues of a pickup in an emo­tion­ally ap­peal­ing way.” While it's im­pos­si­ble not to ad­mire the en­thu­si­asm and po­etry of this state­ment, there's no get­ting around the fact that the X-Class looks an aw­ful lot like the Navara. To be sure, the X-Class is an at­trac­tive bakkie, and the com­pany's de­sign­ers did a good job of slot­ting a Navara into the Mercedes line-up with­out mak­ing it stand out too much, but it's ob­vi­ous that they were op­er­at­ing within fairly nar­row mar­gins. The ba­sic ar­chi­tec­ture was al­ready in place, all they could do was re­ar­range the fur­ni­ture.

THE S-CLASS OF BAKKIES

Mercedes-Benz is adamant that the X-Class is not a dolled-up Nis­san. This ar­gu­ment isn't aided by the fact that the X-Class will be built in Nis­san fac­to­ries; how­ever, Mercedes-Benz en­gi­neers ap­par­ently tweaked just about ev­ery com­po­nent and, while the two bakkies share com­po­nents like a 2.3-litre oil­burner and a multi-link rear sus­pen­sion, it should of­fer a suit­ably pre­mium ex­pe­ri­ence once it hits the streets.

It'll still be a while be­fore we get to test the X-Class prop­erly, but we were given a brief ride in the pas­sen­ger's seat dur­ing the re­veal. We tra­versed some smooth tar­mac, as well as some of­froad ter­rain, and the bakkie cer­tainly seemed com­fort­able, re­fined and very quiet. The cabin ap­pears qui­eter than that of your av­er­age dou­ble cab, and the ride was also im­pres­sive. You could still feel that you were trav­el­ling in a com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle de­signed to carry 1 000kg on the back, but the ride was pleas­ant.

The fea­tures and fin­ishes are also on par with what you'd ex­pect from a MercedesBenz. Look only at the front of the cabin, and you could be­lieve your­self to be in a GLE. The Pure de­riv­a­tive will have a more aus­tere in­te­rior with cloth seats, but even its cabin will be a step above your av­er­age dou­ble cab. The Pro­gres­sive and Power mod­els, mean­while, will boast all the bells and whis­tles. You'll get a large in­fo­tain­ment screen, for ex­am­ple, as well as Mercedes-Benz's Co­mand On­line sys­tem and a 360-de­gree cam­era.

PRIC­ING

The big ques­tion, of course, is price. What will the X-Class cost? The only de­tail that Mercedes-Benz has dis­closed is that pric­ing will start at €37 294 (R556 000) in Ger­many. When it lands in South Africa, you can be sure it'll cost quite a bit more than that. Don't be sur­prised if pric­ing starts around R700 000, with the top-spec Power model cost­ing closer to R1 mil­lion. That's a lot of money for a bakkie, but this is the first prop­erly pre­mium dou­ble cab to go on sale, so we are largely in un­char­tered ter­ri­tory here. Mercedes-Benz just needs to hope that po­ten­tial buy­ers buy into the ar­gu­ment that this is more than a fancy Navara. The lit­tle bit that we've ex­pe­ri­enced to date has us look­ing for­ward to a more thor­ough driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. The com­pany seems to have cre­ated a ve­hi­cle that is wor­thy of wear­ing a MercedesBenz name­plate.

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