Mercedes-Benz’s X-Class bakkie about to shake up the market
Motor News was privileged to be driven in the preproduction Mercedes-Benz X-Class to get a first glimpse of the final product, writes Lerato Matebese
Mercedes-Benz’s X-Class bakkie looks poised to shake up the establishment when it officially arrives in SA at the end of 2018’s first quarter.
The current crop of players — including the stalwart Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger, Isuzu KB, Mitsubishi Triton, Nissan Navara and the Volkswagen Amarok — all play a specific role in the market. However, the X-Class will most likely occupy the upper echelons of the segment as it caters to buyers looking for a premium offering.
It is fundamentally based on Navara underpinnings, but the German manufacturer is at pains to assure us much work has been done to get the product more in line with its design proviso. One of the elements was to make the vehicle feel more SUV in its ride quality, while managing to fulfil its utility role too.
In the metal
We attended the global reveal of the model in Cape Town and, following the unveiling of the stunning concept models in 2016, the anticipation to see the production models was palpable. In the metal the X-Class has been decidedly toned down from the concept, with the front now borrowing cues from the GLS SUV. The wheel arches have been squared off, while the rear has thin vertical tail lights that, according to one of the designers present at the unveiling, was to accentuate the length of the load bin.
The cabin has been given a thorough makeover to further differentiate it from the Navara with the company’s crosshair air vents and floating infotainment screen similar to those of its passenger cars.
According to one of the test engineers who managed to take us for a jaunt on a private track in the Cape, one of the main objectives of the project was to be more refined than its rivals, yet still be capable for on and off-road applications.
So, what does the lineup look like? Four engine derivatives have been confirmed, starting with a 2.0l petrol making 122kW and 238Nm powering the X200 — although this has initially been confirmed only for left-hand drive markets.
There is also a pair of 2.3l twin-turbo, four-cylinder diesels, essentially the Renault-Nissan engine, with the least powered at 140kW and 403Nm (X220d), while the more powerful (X250d) musters 140kW and 450Nm. These will have switchable all-wheel drive systems. Engines will be allied to a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmission.
For those with a penchant for more power and refinement, there will be the flagship X350d powered by the company’s familiar 3.0l V6 turbodiesel making 190kW and 550Nm that will be paired to a seven-speed automatic gearbox and feature a permanent 4matic all-wheel drive system.
Three trim levels will be available in the form of the basic Pure with black plastic valances and steel wheels; the intermediate Progressive for customers looking for more comfort and quality over the standard trim; and the flagship Power that will offer all the trimmings and cater for the more lifestyle-orientated buyer.
Depending on the trim level, there will be alloy wheels ranging from 17 inches to 19 inches. Cabin space is obviously similar to that of the Navara, thanks to a 3,150mm wheelbase.
We were afforded the brief ride in the new model to get a glimpse of where the X-Class will likely fit in and how far the company has gone to ensure it stands out.
We rode shotgun in one of the turbodiesel variants, not particularly certain which variant it was as there was no model designation on the vehicles, around a smooth racetrack, peppered with some cones to emulate a lane-changing exercise to see how the model fares.
From where I sat, it felt comfortable and well insulated, but this was at around 100km/h, so I cannot attest to how it will feel at the national speed limit.
Off the beaten track, it proved fairly competent as it drove over the various obstacles, inclines and declines, thanks to the ground clearance of 202mm and approach and departure angles of 28.8° and 23.8° respectively.
A water wading depth of 600mm puts it on a par with the Ford Ranger. The surround cameras that project images on the screen replace the guesswork involved in wheel placement while you are peering out the window to see where the vehicle is treading.
Following the short drive, it would be premature to ascertain where the model fits among its main competitors, thus we will have to reserve our opinion until October when we will drive the model in Chile, South America.
It is indicatively priced at a starting price of €37,294 (about R555,393) in Germany before taxes. However, that does not include all the requisite import duties and other taxes that have to be added in SA, so you can expect the final pricing to be much further north of that figure when the vehicle arrives here in April 2018.
It will be interesting to see where the X350d will be priced relative to the superb Volkswagen Amarok V6 TDI. Let the bakkie wars begin.