TO UTIL­ITY & BE­YOND…

Philip As­tor nav­i­gates the un­fa­mil­iar ter­rain of the Mercedes pick-up truck, be­fore slip­ping be­hind the wheel of a plush, pow­er­ful Range Rover

Town & Country (UK) - - CARS -

‘APICK-UP?!’ Even Lady Brack­nell could not have been more flab­ber­gasted when it was pro­posed that I should write about a pick-up in these es­teemed pages. In fair­ness, the X-class is no or­di­nary truck. OK, it is based on the well re­garded but es­sen­tially util­i­tar­ian Nis­san Navara; yet in terms of in­te­rior plush­ness and on-road han­dling, the team at Mercedes-benz has done a good job of trans­form­ing it into a truly pre­mium model.

It’s qui­eter for a start, with more so­phis­ti­cated sound in­su­la­tion, and it boasts im­proved sus­pen­sion and bet­ter trac­tion than the Navara. In­side, if you’re a reg­u­lar Mercedes driver, you will feel im­me­di­ately at ease with the ro­tary-con­trol gizmo that op­er­ates the ‘in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem’; and as in more ortho­dox Mercedes ve­hi­cles, the ‘info’ is re­vealed on a smart dis­play screen that floats sur­re­ally, but in your line of sight, above the dash­board.

The en­gines cur­rently avail­able are the same as the X-class’ Ja­panese kins­man, and even the twin-turbo 250 d is a lit­tle slug­gish: 0 to 60mph takes 10 sec­onds or more. The good news, though, is that Mercedes prom­ises a spright­lier 3-litre V6 later in the year.

My use of the X-class co­in­cided with Lon­don Fash­ion Week, when the edi­tor of this mag­a­zine and its sta­ble­mate Harper’s Bazaar (who just hap­pens to be my wife) gets fer­ried from show to show in a glam­orous Mercedes-benz sa­loon. This year there was a fancy re­cep­tion at Buck­ing­ham Palace, and I was con­fi­dent that my prince among pick-ups, with its de­signer air vents in­spired by jet en­gines, and bold three-pointed star on the front grille, was quite stylish enough to chauf­feur her there and back. But it was not to be; for while my wife was con­tent to be driven to do the weekly shop­ping at M&S, the edi­tor felt that for stately events her limou­sine was some­how more be­fit­ting.

Which raises the ques­tion of who the X-class is in­tended for. I dare say that in these days of ‘cakeism’, there is in­deed a healthy mar­ket for those who want to com­bine in one life­style ve­hi­cle a hardy work­horse with the ex­tra lux­u­ries and pres­ence that a Mercedes-benz be­speaks. It would cer­tainly be fam­ily-friendly, with the kids thrown in the back seats and their moun­tain bikes in the cargo area. Plus, you could tow a horse­box with their three ponies in­side, or your own eight­metre yacht, ac­cord­ing to choice and cir­cum­stances. Al­ter­na­tively, if you were out­ward bound across ul­tra-tough ter­rain, or even climb­ing the odd grouse moor, you would have the re­as­sur­ance of a low-range gear­box, rear diff lock and hill-de­scent as­sist. And not to be sniffed at are the fis­cal ben­e­fits that come with be­ing cat­e­gorised as a light com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle.

Cer­tainly, I was able to put it to good use in ad­dress­ing one of the out­stand­ing tasks of my mar­riage. It had been made very clear to me, in the spirit of mar­i­tal com­pro­mise, that much of the stuff from my bach­e­lor days was no longer re­quired, so it has been lan­guish­ing for years in stor­age. At last, the X-class pro­vided the per­fect means of cart­ing it all off to auc­tion; and a very smooth trip it was too. But that was, I hope, a one-off oc­cur­rence; and to be hon­est, a pick-up truck is prob­a­bly not for me.

If I were in the mar­ket for a com­pa­ra­ble ve­hi­cle, I would be look­ing at one SUV in par­tic­u­lar. We spent a shoot­ing week­end in Jan­uary with friends in Wilt­shire, and hav­ing heard good things about the Range Rover Ve­lar, I re­quested a loan. For the pur­poses of a re­view I will sim­ply say this: when it comes to com­fort, per­for­mance, ver­sa­til­ity and de­sign, I couldn’t fault it. And Jus­tine, as both my wife and edi­tor, agreed. Mercedes-benz X250 d 4Matic Power from £34,100 (www.mb­vans. co.uk). Range Rover Ve­lar, from £45,145 (www.lan­drover.co.uk).

Above: the Mercedesbenz X-class. Right: the Range Rover Ve­lar

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