MER­CEDES-BENZ X-CLASS GOES TO LIM­POPO

MER­CEDES-BENZ x-CLASS x250D 4MATIC pOWER

Driven - - CONTENTS - Re­port & Im­ages by BERNIE HELLBERG (TCB ME­DIA)

Do­ing what a bakkie should be do­ing — in style

AT fIrsT glANce, THe Mer­cedes-BeNz X-clAss MAy NoT look lIke IT BE­LONGS IN THE BUSH. NOT BE­CAUSE IT WON’T CUT IT IN THE GREAT OUT­DOORS, IT’S JUST SO HAND­SOME THAT IT LOOkS MORE ROGER MOORE THAN BEAR GRyLLS. BERNIE HELLBERG SPENT A WEEk­END WITH THE 250D 4MATIC POWER DE­RIV­A­TIVE ON A GAME FARM IN LIM­POPO AND RE­PORTS THAT THIS BakkIE IS MUCH MORE THAN IT SEEMS.

The nat­u­ral beauty of the Lim­popo prov­ince is a closer drive from Gaut­eng than most may be­lieve. Within an hour’s drive from the Big Smoke, and less even from the Cap­i­tal, city slick­ers can be in the mid­dle of the Bushveld, glamp­ing it up on a grand scale.

Hav­ing cov­ered the point of just how much the light com­mer­cial seg­ment means to the SA econ­omy in a pre­vi­ous edi­tion of Driven, we’re free to dis­cuss what’s im­por­tant on this ve­hi­cle, the ex­pe­ri­ence on the open road, rather than how much sense it makes eco­nom­i­cally.

Some might say that a premium bakkie cost­ing just shy of R800,000 doesn’t make any kind of eco­nomic sense, but then that’s not what hav­ing a Merc pick-up is about. What it is about, is be­ing able to go where you want, when you want, and do­ing it in style.

IN FOR THE LONG RUN

Mer­cedes-Benz sel­dom does any­thing in half mea­sures – okay, let’s not men­tion the first gen­er­a­tion A-Class, shall we – so when the time came to de­velop a new gen­er­a­tion of Mer­cedes-Benz bakkie (yes, there was a pre­vi­ous at­tempt), they part­nered with one of the best in the bakkie-build­ing busi­ness, Nis­san.

So, in case you haven’t no­ticed, the X-Class shares a plat­form with Nis­san’s Navara, chas­sis and sus­pen­sion, en­gine line-up, and over­all body sil­hou­ette in­cluded.

In our opin­ion, it is a great part­ner­ship that’s de­liv­ered ex­cel­lent re­sults for both par­ties, and our 4Matic tester is a prime ex­am­ple of how the col­lab­o­ra­tion worked well. We’ve said be­fore that the Navara plat­form is ex­cel­lent in its own right, and how Mer­cedes-Benz made it even bet­ter, cre­at­ing the first-ever premium bakkie that’s be­yond the reach of even its clos­est com­peti­tor, Volk­swa­gen’s Amarok.

THE IN­TE­RIOR

Our time with the X-Class 250d 4Matic Power dur­ing our brief Lim­popo in­ter­lude showed that the range-top­ping man­ual bakkie fea­tures a de­cent level of equip­ment as stan­dard, in­clud­ing cruise con­trol, seven airbags and tyre pres­sure mon­i­tors.

As usual for a lux­ury car, an ex­ten­sive op­tions list in­cludes ex­tras such as Ca­van­site Blue metal­lic paint (R4,600), CO­MAND on­line (R26,732), Park­ing pack­age that in­cludes a 360° cam­era (R14,950), and Style pack­age that adds run­ning boards, pri­vacy glass in the rear, and high-per­for­mance head­lamps among other fea­tures for a cool R11,500. Ad­di­tional trim fea­tures, the Traf­fic As­sist pack­age, and sev­eral ex­ter­nal en­hance­ments took the price of our tester to well over R860,000 (base price cur­rently is R796,145). That is not cheap.

Yet, the price makes more sense when you climb into the cabin, where a Mer­cedes steer­ing wheel with per­fo­rated leather joins stylish air vents, a stitched dash­board with wood trim and first-class elec­tron­ics.

Mer­cedes’ seats are more com­fort­able than what you might find in ri­vals, though a lack of reach ad­just­ment for the steer­ing wheel dis­ap­points.

ON THE ROAD

Pres­tige know-how emerges on the road, where the X-Class feels much qui­eter than ri­vals. Wind and road noise is lower than ex­pected, as is the hum from Nis­san’s en­gine.

A faster steer­ing rack ranks among the fun­da­men­tal changes in­tro­duced by Mer­cedes to the Navara plat­form. Tested

“...THE PRICE MAKES MORE SENSE WHEN YOU CLIMB INTO THE CABIN, WHERE A MER­CEDES STEER­ING WHEEL WITH PER­FO­RATED LEATHER JOINS

STYLISH AIR VENTS, A STITCHED DASH­BOARD WITH WOOD TRIM AND

FIRST-CLASS ELEC­TRON­ICS.”

AL­THOUGH OUR WEEK­END DRIVE TO LIM­POPO OF­FERED LIT­TLE IN THE WAY OF OFF-ROAD­ING, SAVE FOR A FIVEKILOMETRE STRETCH OF CORRUGATED GRAVEL ROAD BETWEEN THE MAIN AR­TE­RIAL AND OUR LODGE DES­TI­NA­TION, IT’S LIKELY FAIR TO AS­SUME THAT MOST X-CLASSES WON’T EVER SEE A TOUGHER OFF-ROAD TER­RAIN THAN THIS, DE­SPITE ITS OVER­ALL CA­PA­BIL­ITY.

on wind­ing coun­try roads, the X-Class’ quicker re­ac­tions to steer­ing in­puts make it a sat­is­fy­ing ma­chine to drive, helped by a beefed-up rear anti-roll bar which keeps the body rel­a­tively flat while cornering.

Like the Nis­san, Mer­cedes’ of­fer­ing ex­hibits a fid­gety when un­laden, feel­ing un­set­tled over re­peated bumps that have you jig­gling away in the cabin.

Power comes from the Nis­san-shared 2.3-litre tur­bod­iesel en­gine, which de­liv­ered 140 kW and 450 Nm in the X250d that we had on test.

pROp­ERLY CA­pA­BLE

Al­though our week­end drive to Lim­popo of­fered lit­tle in the way of off-road­ing, save for a five-kilo­me­tre stretch of corrugated gravel road between the main ar­te­rial and our lodge des­ti­na­tion, it’s likely fair to as­sume that most X-Classes won’t ever see a tougher off-road ter­rain than this, de­spite its over­all ca­pa­bil­ity. I’m re­minded of the fact that, at launch, Mer­cedes set up a for­mi­da­ble test sec­tion for the me­dia launch drive – in­clud­ing a 200 km-long road trip, com­plete with a cross­ing of the in­fa­mous Dui­wel­skop Pass in the Klein Ka­roo. This old Voortrekker trade route had some of the tough­est ter­rain that I had driven to date, and, as ex­pected, the big Mercs han­dled the rough stuff like it’s been do­ing it for decades.

LAST WORD

De­spite a rel­a­tively short off-road drive, the com­bi­na­tion of gravel, high­way, and city roads proved the big Merc’s prow­ess over and over, leav­ing us with lit­tle doubt of the car’s ca­pa­bil­ity. It is a thor­ough­bred leisure ve­hi­cle in the mould of Merc’s best of­froad­ers, and only truly gets a frown from us where cabin util­ity, and un­laden ride qual­ity is con­cerned. Once you’ve rinsed off the dust of your first non-as­phalt ex­cur­sion, you too will ap­pre­ci­ate the X-Class for what it is, down­right ready to get down and dirty on your ev­ery ad­ven­ture.

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