DRIVE: MERCEDES-BENZ X-CLASS

THE SHAKE-UP OF THE DUAL-CAB MAR­KET HAS BE­GUN, WITH THE AUS­TRALIAN LAUNCH OF THE X-CLASS.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents -

MERCEDES-BENZ’S foray into the bur­geon­ing 4x4 dual-cab ute mar­ket has be­gun, with the Aus­tralian launch of the X-class. The workhorse Benz is avail­able in three mod­els – Pure, Pro­gres­sive and Power – with a to­tal of 13 vari­ants (in­clud­ing some 2WDS in the base-spec Pure) across this spread, and a choice of two diesel pow­er­plants: a sin­gle-turbo 2.3-litre four­cylin­der (dubbed X220d and putting out 120kw and 403Nm), or a 140kw/450nm bi-turbo 2.3-litre four cylin­der, aka X250d. The pric­ing for 4x4 mod­els starts at $50,400 for the Pure X220d with sixspeed man­ual, and tops out at $64,500 for the fully loaded Power X250d with the seven-speed au­to­matic op­tion ticked. All four-cylin­der X-class 4x4 utes are du­al­range, part-time 4x4. The much-dis­cussed 190kw/550nm TDV6 vari­ant (with per­ma­nent all-wheel drive and dual range case) will join the ros­ter late 2018. The X-class will only be avail­able in dual-cab for­mat. (It’s worth not­ing that Mercedes­benz Vans Aus­tralia reps didn’t dis­count a fu­ture sin­gle-cab model.)

A CLASS OF ITS OWN

SINCE first an­nounced, the X-class has copped a ton of neg­a­tive com­ments ow­ing to Mercedes-benz lever­ag­ing its part­ner­ship with Nis­san-re­nault to use Nis­san’s Navara as its base ve­hi­cle, rather than start­ing from scratch with a ground-up de­sign. The over-used so­cial me­dia cries of “it’s just an ex­pen­sive Navara” are tire­some and sim­ply in­cor­rect. Yes, the X-class utilises the Navara chas­sis, but does so while adding its own im­prove­ments, fo­cused pri­mar­ily on strength­en­ing the chas­sis with ad­di­tional brac­ing and cross-mem­ber tweaks. This is just one of the dif­fer­ences be­tween the two; the X-class track is big­ger over­all than Navara (5340mm long, 1920mm wide; 50mm wider than Navara) with the track mea­sur­ing 70mm wider than the Navara’s, while the X-class runs ven­ti­lated discs front and rear across the range, as op­posed to the Navara’s front disc/rear drum setup. The Navara sus­pen­sion – IFS with dou­ble wish­bones and coils up front/multi-link coil­spring live axle rear – is car­ried over, but Benz has added its own sus­pen­sion ‘tune’ to X-class, in­clud­ing a thicker sta­biliser bar at the rear to aid on-road han­dling. It

has also tweaked the steer­ing, claim­ing it is one-third less lock-to-lock com­pared to Navara and “more di­rect”.

As a re­sult of the in­creased girth, all sheet­metal is unique to X-class, with the ad­di­tional width ev­i­dent in the larger in­te­rior and glass­work, plus the rear tub. The X-class load-lug­ging area can be op­tioned as ei­ther a cab-chas­sis or ute tub (com­plete with Nis­san’s clever ad­justable an­chor point sys­tem). The ute tray is big­ger, al­low­ing an Aussie-spec pal­let to fit. Over­all us­able load area is an im­pres­sive 2.446m², and pay­load ranges from 1016kg to 1037kg. Tow­ing ca­pac­ity is 3500g, with a ball-weight limit of 350kg.

WHATCHYA GET?

MERCEDES-BENZ be­lieves the dual-cab mar­ket is split into three types of buy­ers and, to an ex­tent, its three-tier range re­flects this, as Scott Wil­liams, Mercedes­benz Vans prod­uct and project man­ager, ex­plained.

“We’ve got a workhorse-ori­ented ve­hi­cle (the Pure), which is some­thing for some­one who is per­haps a farmer or landowner, or a small busi­ness owner,” he said. “He’s look­ing for a ve­hi­cle that can do the job, day in, day out, and is durable…”

Mercedes-benz sees the Pro­gres­sive as fit­ting the “dual-use” mar­ket where it is used for work dur­ing the week and “to ex­tend your per­sonal lifestyle with” on week­ends, pur­su­ing out­door hob­bies. The Power is, ac­cord­ing to Wil­liams, more aimed at those shift­ing ve­hi­cle types.

“We’ve got some­one (for the Power) who is prob­a­bly com­ing from an Suv-type per­spec­tive,” he said. “They’re quite happy to use the ve­hi­cle dur­ing the week, but on the week­end it again be­comes an ex­ten­sion of an ac­tive lifestyle … so they want some­thing that is more SUV ori­en­tated in re­gards to safety, com­fort and pas­sen­ger car func­tion­al­ity.”

For its $50,400 ask­ing price, the Pure X220d six-speed man­ual (the X220d is only avail­able with man­ual gear­box) is rea­son­ably well kit­ted-out with stan­dard equip­ment in­clud­ing 17-inch steel wheels, halo­gen head­lights, rub­ber floor­ing, black fab­ric (man­ual-ad­just) seats, rear-view cam­era, four 12V sock­ets, trailer wiring, an Au­dio 20 CD in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem with touch­pad con­troller and 7-inch colour dis­play, con­sole-mounted air ducts for rear pas­sen­gers, seven airbags, a tyre pres­sure mon­i­tor sys­tem, Ac­tive Brake As­sist (with au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing – the only one in its class with this fea­ture), ESP, ABS, rear diff-lock, five-star ANCAP safety rat­ing, and Lane Keep­ing As­sist. You can op­tion the bi-turbo diesel donk if you wish, which then al­lows you to tick the sev­en­speed au­to­matic op­tion. Stump up an ex­tra $1300 for the Pure Plus op­tion pack and you gain Park­tronic park as­sist and the ad­justable load se­cur­ing rail sys­tem.

The mid-tier Pro­gres­sive starts at $53,950 for the X250d six-speed man­ual (with cab chas­sis tray; the cheapest ute­tub Pro­gres­sive is $54,900) and tops out with the ute-tub auto X250d at $57,800. On top of the Pure specs, this higher price snares colour-coded front/rear bumpers, 17-inch al­loys, heat-in­su­lated wind­screen, rain-sens­ing wipers, a Garmin MAP PI­LOT GPS sys­tem, car­peted floor, dash ac­cents, leather steer­ing wheel, shifter and hand­brake, rain-sens­ing wipers, and the same in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem as Pure but with a dig­i­tal au­dio sys­tem and eight speak­ers. To tack the Com­fort op­tion pack onto your Pro­gres­sive – elec­tric-ad­just seats, cli­mate con­trol and stowage net – will set you back $2490. There’s also a Style pack (LED head­lights, elec­tric open­ing rear win­dow, run­ning boards, roof rails and 18-inch al­loys) for $3750.

The top-end Power (only avail­able with the ute-tub) kicks off at $61,600 for the six-speed man­ual X250d, with Benz ask­ing $64,500 for the seven-speed self-shifter ver­sion. The Power ups the ante with 18-inch al­loys, LED head­lights, heated

(yes, heated) side mir­rors, heat-in­su­lated wind­screen glass, leather seats, M-B’S COM­MAND On­line mul­ti­me­dia sys­tem, sat-nav and touch­pad, elec­tric-ad­just front seats, Park­tronic park as­sist, auto cli­mate con­trol, ad­justable load rails, a 360-de­gree cam­era, and even more sound dead­en­ing.

LOOK AT ME

THE X-CLASS styling is sleek and so­phis­ti­cated; for what is a ‘workhorse’, the ve­hi­cle’s ap­pear­ance does a great job of hid­ing that. The big Benz grille and badge of­fers an ag­gres­sive look, but not overly so, and blends well into the front guards. The steel wheels are a bit of a let-down on the Pure – es­pe­cially at the ask­ing price – and the grey front end clashes with most of the body colours avail­able. The up­per two mod­els, how­ever, with their colour-coded bumpers, look far more im­pres­sive. The 17and 18-inch al­loys on the two up­per-spec ve­hi­cles are well-fin­ished and the wider stance of the X-class def­i­nitely adds a sense of pur­pose to its ap­pear­ance.

The in­te­rior is even more im­pres­sive; the cabin (es­pe­cially in the Power) ex­udes that sense of lux­ury Benz is hop­ing helps dif­fer­en­ti­ate the X-class from oth­ers in its class. Step in­side the Power cabin and you can (sort of) start to jus­tify the pric­ing, with the vast amount of leather and high­grade fin­ishes sur­round­ing you.

THE END STORY

THERE’S no doubt the X-class is up against it some­what in re­gards to mar­ket per­cep­tion. The fact that Benz has done a com­plete re-en­gi­neer on the Navara base ve­hi­cle will still be dif­fi­cult for some to com­pre­hend, as will the heftier pric­ing range. How­ever, if you look at the ve­hi­cle it­self and dis­miss the Navara com­ments, adding in the many unique fea­tures – four­wheel discs, re­vised sus­pen­sion, wider track and body, fit and fin­ish, spec lev­els, etc. – you will serve this lat­est en­trant into the dual-cab 4x4 ute mar­ket more jus­tice. And it de­serves that.

A high-end play tool, or a se­ri­ous play-cum­work bat­tler?

Time will tell how the mar­ket re­ceives this lat­est dual-cab. Will it be an­other Toorak Trac­tor or a se­ri­ous off-road/tradie ute con­tender?

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