Three stars for Merc’s lat­est bakkie

AL­WYN VILJOEN rides softly in the X-Class

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - • al­wyn.viljoen@witness.co.za

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.

PHOTO: SUPPLIED

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.

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