Out­back sur­vival rat­ing on four big­name dual-cabs.

A THREE-POINTED STAR IN THE NORTH­ERN FLIN­DERS RANGES MIGHT BE A RARE SIGHT, BUT THAT’S WHERE WE TOOK THE X-CLASS FOR ITS FIRST OUT­BACK STOUSH AGAINST THREE TOP RI­VALS.

4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - WORDS TOBY HAGON PHO­TOS CRIS­TIAN BRUNELLI

IT’S A TOWN of 18 at the north­ern end of the Flin­ders Ranges, but that doesn’t stop the peo­ple of Blin­man tak­ing an in­ter­est in the lat­est new­comer to the 4x4 ute class. Parked out­side the pic­turesque lo­cal pub on a crisp morn­ing, the Mercedes-benz X-class has at least one keen admirer, ea­ger to learn more about what is the un­doubted dar­ling of the dual-cab class, a cat­e­gory with its fair share of ad­mir­ers th­ese days.

Along­side the gleam­ing three-pointed star is the lat­est ad­di­tion to the Hilux fam­ily, the Rugged X; but the stick­ers, snorkel and rock rails are sim­ply not get­ting the at­ten­tion of an all-new player. It’s in­dica­tive of the shift that’s carv­ing through the ute seg­ment: in its 50 years on Aus­tralian roads, the Toy­ota Hilux hasn’t been un­der the pres­sure it’s ex­pe­ri­enc­ing now. New play­ers, re­ju­ve­nated favourites and beefed-up old timers alike are lin­ing up to take a piece of the turf dom­i­nated by the car that first ar­rived here in 1968.

We’ve also en­listed two of our favourites – the Volk­swa­gen Amarok and Ford Ranger – for the first out­back back-to-back test of the lat­est Benz new­comer. We’ve put th­ese utes through their paces on four-wheel drive test tracks and in the sub­urbs, and this is our first chance to see how they stand up to the pun­ish­ment of the out­back, from cor­ru­ga­tions and washouts to rocks and creek cross­ings.

In each case we’ve opted for mod­els with plenty of gear, re­flec­tive of the chang­ing tastes within that 4x4 seg­ment. Buy­ers, it seems, can’t get enough when it comes to dual-cab utes. But do they re­ally want some­thing as ex­trav­a­gant as a Mercedes-benz?

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