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.
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.
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.
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.