New Zealand Company Vehicle - - CONTENTS -

WITH the mod­ern util­ity of­ten seen as a re­place­ment for the con­ven­tional cor­po­rate sedan, the Nz­com­pa­nyve­hi­cle Ute of the Year award is al­ways go­ing to be an in­ter­est­ing one. Ev­ery man­u­fac­turer look­ing to flour­ish in to­day’s mar­ket is go­ing to have a util­ity of­fer­ing some­where in its line-up. The once agri­cul­tural pick up has been re­placed with all lev­els of so­phis­ti­ca­tion, cul­mi­nat­ing – for the mo­ment – with the ar­rival of the on-road per­for­mance ute. But there are other ute cat­e­gories yet un­tapped. And that think­ing has ex­tended to those brands which were once as­sured of their suc­cess by virtue of their ex­clu­siv­ity and ex­cel­lence, such as Mercedes-benz, which has ex­tended its ve­hic­u­lar reach into the ute mar­ket with the X-class. The X-class may not be a fromthe-ground-up-build, and doubt­less if Mercedes-benz had been so in­clined, a Stuttgart-de­signed and built X-class would have been some­thing quite dif­fer­ent. Given that Mercedes-benz is not shy of spend­ing R and D dol­lars on its core prod­uct, the X-class, like the Vito van and to a cer­tain de­gree, the Sprinter, have been built on the back of the pas­sen­ger car lines with a lit­tle bit of part­ner­ship as­sis­tance. As far as the un­tried wa­ters of build­ing a ute is con­cerned, it made good sense for Mercedes-benz to not rein­vent the wheel and thus we have an ute bear­ing the three­p­ointed star, but which looks strangely fa­mil­iar, on the out­side at least, to some­thing Ja­panese rather than some­thing pure Euro. But at this point, the re­sem­blance to any­thing we have so far seen in the ute mar­ket stops. In­side, the Mercedes-benz ute has an in­trigu­ing in­te­rior, the ‘busy’, but func­tional and dif­fer­ent’ dash­board a back­drop to the strik­ing chrome high­lights on the air con­di­tion­ing vents which serve to high­light the ve­hi­cle’s nomen­cla­ture; this is an X-class, and you won’t for­get it. Sub­jec­tive vis­ual tastes aside, if you travel about 200 yards in the X-class, you’ll un­der­stand why we chose it as a wor­thy win­ner of our Ute of the Year award. The on-road han­dling is noth­ing short of re­mark­able, fol­low­ing in the wheel-tracks of other Mercedes-benz com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles, which re­de­fine the term “car-like-to-drive.” And when this is the sig­na­ture de­sign cue to which all ute man­u­fac­tur­ers subscribe, to have your ve­hi­cle’s on-road virtues de­scribed as “the best han­dling sus­pen­sion pack­age on the mar­ket to­day,” is high praise in­deed.

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