Three stars for Merc’s latest bakkie
ALWYN VILJOEN rides softly in the X-Class
THE first thing people ask about any new car is what it costs, especially in the case of Merc’s new X-Class doublecab.
But here’s the thing — whatever recommended retail price we report on these pages should be treated only as a starting point.
For in the case of cars aimed at the masses, the price will drop with a steep discount or good trade-in — thanks to a glut of new models in South Africa. It therefore behooves any buyer to demand that discount.
In the premium car market, the amount will rise with every optional add-on, for premium brand cars are all about paying the price — much like mountain biking is all about getting the scar.
The X-Class is a premium brand bakkie, which means its prices begin where those of the Nissan Navara and the VW Amarok top out. Yes, it’s dear, and that’s the whole point.
So if you have to ask the price, can we recommend you do the sensible thing and instead go inspect any of the fine used cars advertised in these pages?
Those who can afford the full price know it’s all relative, for while the X-Class is the most expensive bakkie in SA right now, it is also the most affordable offroader in the Merc stable, cheaper by far than the G-Class or their original mountain flattener, the Unimog.
And when it comes to flattening mountains, the X-Class can.
To prove this point at the X-Class launch, yours truly went over an old steep ox wagon trail near Uniondale using only in 4x2. Going down was even steeper, and here the downhill speed regulator held the big bakkie to 8 km/h in four high or 5 km/h in four low.
The X-Class gives a very comfortable ride over dirt roads, more so even than the old Navara, which I used to rate as the most pliant ride on dirt.
Using the highly unscientific test of two fat blokes bouncing on the back, we also deduced the X-class should carry about half a ton without much influence on the ride, which is a very difficult thing to achieve with suspension. Like the Navara, Merc uses coil springs at the front and rear, with a multi-link solid axle that gives good articulation and helps make the heavy loads possible. The front wheels are guided by double triangle wishbones.
So, the X-class is a soft ride on dirt roads and can carry a load, making it is a real bakkie, as one would expect from its Navara origins.
It was not on dirt that the X-class impressed me most, but on tar. The race has yet to be staged, but to my mind, Merc’s tuned suspension will be more than a match for the VW Amarok 3-litre V6 turbo diesel — another bakkie that is not just carlike in its handling, but race carlike.
If the race has to stop suddenly, 32 cm vented brake discs in front and 30,8 cm disks at the back bring the bakkie to a halt.
For unplanned stops, the X-Class offers the same raft of active safety features as all Mercedes-Benz cars, from seven airbags to active brake assist and lane keeping.
INSIDE THE CABIN
While it is sumptious in there, it is a bit fiddly. Clearly the buttons in this cabin are not aimed at guys wearing gloves on site, instead, the COMAND Online multimedia system offers concert-hall acoustics, intelligent navigation and intuitive communications. A fast hard-disk navigation with high-quality 3D-view map display takes into account Live Traffic Information (traffic information in realtime) to enable dynamic route guidance, with the aid of which traffic jams can be avoided and travel times can be reduced.
Dig deeper and you find the X-Class is as much computer as it is a bakkie. An engaging media display, an Internet browser, an integral 80GB hard disk and a DVD player are also included in the host of equipment. In addition to innovative operation of the ergonomic touchpad with controller, the multimedia system can also be operated using voice control via LINGUATRONIC.
These gizmos do not come cheap. The pre-installed Garmin costs R5 850, the optional Garmin Map Pilot R8 474, while the COMAND Online system adds R26 732. The Parktronic system adds R14 950.
UNDER THE HOOD
Nissan’s award-winning 2 298cc turbo diesel makes 140 kW and 450 Nm, sending the power to all four wheels via either a sixspeed manual, or a seven-speed auto, which adds R27 025 to the base price.
For those who want to tow, the X-Class towbar adds another R6 900 and if a canopy is required to protect stuff in the load bin, Merc dealers offer one at an eye-watering R67 147, all of which can quickly take the base R763 256 price for the six-speed X-Class to well over R800 000.
WARRANTY AND BUYING OPTIONS
The Mercedes-Benz X-Class comes standard with the manufacturer’s Premium-Drive, designed to give customers complete peace of mind. It is one of the leading full maintenance plans in South Africa and ensures superior cover for 100 000 km/six years, whichever occurs first. For a nominal cost, customers have the option of extending the maintenance plan up to a maximum of 180 000 km/eight years, whichever occurs first.
Merc’s new X-Class doublecab is the most expensive bakkie in SA right now and also the most affordable off-roader in the Merc stable.