With a segment-leading 190kW of power the X350d ups the ante on all fronts. Picture: SUPPLIED
With a segment-leading 190kW of power the X350d ups the ante on all fronts.           Picture: SUPPLIED

The Mercedes-Benz X-Class, which first appeared in four-cylinder diesel engine guise, has just docked in SA with a V6-engined diesel derivative badged the X350d.

The new Mercedes-built V6 bolsters the existing Nissan-made four-cylinder range with a 3.0l diesel engine mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. Maximum power is rated at 190kW which outguns the 165kW produced by the segment’s only other V6 bakkie, the VW Amarok, although both vehicles have an identical 550Nm torque figure.

The new X350d exists as a five-seat, four-door double cab in a range of two trim grades:  Progressive and the higher-spec Power.

The two are mechanically identical but the more affordable Progressive comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, air vents in electroplated silver chrome, leather-lined steering wheel and parking brake, seats in black fabric or an optional leather/microfibre, and an infotainment system with eight speakers.

The high-end Power specification adds a chrome-plated under-ride guard in the front bumper, chrome-plated rear bumpers, larger 18-inch alloy wheels, and LED headlamps, and comes with a dashboard with extra trim elements and electrically powered front seats. It also benefits from a louder Audi 20 infotainment system equipped with a multifunctional touchpad.

Further optional extras for both can be had, including  an electrically opening rear window, a sports bar which can be combined with a roll cover in black or silver, a styling bar, hard cover, hardtop, stowage box, and load-bed liner, among others.

Cabin is classy and typical of Mercedes-Benz design tastes. Picture: SUPPLIED
Cabin is classy and typical of Mercedes-Benz design tastes. Picture: SUPPLIED

Both X350d models have an impressive array of comfort and safety features which according to Mercedes-Benz Commercial is seldom seen in this segment. The protection includes seven airbags, and optionally, Active Brake Assist, Traffic Sign Assist and Active Lane Keeping Assist.

Mercedes-Benz points to its ladder-type frame that it says forms the basis for heavy-duty transport loads and off-road driving assignments. All four wheels are suspended independently with the verifiably cushy double-wishbone front axle design. Mercedes-Benz says the aim for the X-Class was a high-level of driving dynamics almost equal to the company’s passenger car ranges.

According to its maker: “Whether for a sporty driving style, comfortable long-distance touring, or off-road driving in difficult conditions, the V6 always ensures serene and efficient progress.” This I found to be a true reflection on the Western Cape roads when I drove the X350d at its media launch last week.

It’s a terrific job of driving texture that Mercedes-Benz has done here. For comfort cruising I’m still undecided if it’s better than the Amarok, and I’d have to drive them alongside each other.

There’s a touch of stiffness that lurks in the X-Class suspension when it comes to challenging any strip of tarmac. It has a discernible light-footedness, its body feeling light and controlled when driven with verve on any type of road.

Both 4MATIC X-Class models get rear and centre diff locks to assist the new V6 motor to boss its way past typical off-road obstacles. Despite passenger car origins, the engine is married to a two-speed transfer case for low-range gearing which distributes torque to any wheel or wheels with the most traction.

Three selectable all-wheel-drive modes, Hill descent control and off-road ABS are available and the X-Class V6 is able to climb gradients of up to 45 degrees and ford through water to a depth of 600mm, so not many obstacles will stop it. The vehicle didn’t miss a beat at its launch event, effortlessly clawing its way up a short but testing off-road course with little to no rock scraping its underbelly.

The other upside of the new V6 engine is that it gives it genuine velocity on open roads. The engine delivers ample power to spear past slower traffic, or towards its 205km/h top speed. Also useful will be its 1-ton payload rating and 3.2 tons of towing capability. Seemingly its 1920mm width doesn’t match the Amarok class uniqueness in being able to handle a Euro pallet loaded sideways.

Admittedly I drove it more vigorously on the tarmac sections, and the X350d I spent the day in returned an average 11.5l/100km/h, though Merc’s claimed figure of 9.0l may be achievable with restraint.

Drawbacks? Well just one so far. The mechanical feel of the transmission gate feels too flimsy for my liking and for this level. Regardless, if you’re on the prowl for a V6-powered luxury pick-up, this is one of only two brand options. And it’s also a good one.

Pricing

Mercedes-Benz X350d Progressive R904,188                               

Mercedes-Benz X350d Power R973,188

Prices include 6-year/100 000 km maintenance plan