The flagship X350d Power version has a chrome-plated underride guard in the front bumper and LED headlamps. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
The flagship X350d Power version has a chrome-plated underride guard in the front bumper and LED headlamps. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

To those who thought the Nissan-engined, four-cylinder Mercedes X-Class bakkie wasn’t “pure” enough to carry the three-pointed star, the much-anticipated six-cylinder X350d recently entered the arena.

Not only does it have a genuine Benz engine in the snout, but with gladitorial outputs of 190kW and 550Nm it’s become SA’s most powerful double cab, outgunning VW’s Amarok V6 (165kW and 550Nm), which has until now single-handedly ruled the muscle-bakkie arena.

The price tag is also pure Benz: at R904,188 for the “entry-level” X350d Progressive and R973,188 for the more extensively equipped X350d Power derivative. Both come with a six-year/100,000km warranty and maintenance plan.

These prices exclude a raft of optional extras and accessories available for extra money — including a canopy, style bars and bed liner — which could make the price breach the R1m mark.

The standard equipment level in the X350d Power we road tested is decent if not over-endowed. It includes items such as electrically adjustable front seats, LED headlights, and seven airbags (see full list below) but you’ll have to pay extra for items such as navigation, a 360° parking camera, and a lane-keeping assist that vibrates the steering wheel when you cross lines without indicating.

The cabin has a premium feel except for cheap-looking plastic on the lower dash. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
The cabin has a premium feel except for cheap-looking plastic on the lower dash. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

Also, the steering column is adjustable only for height, not reach — a curiosity in such a premium vehicle.

The infotainment is controlled by a knob and a touchpad between the front seats, and the age of touchscreens hasn’t yet come to the Benz bakkie. Nevertheless, in terms of user-friendliness the cabin ergonomics are good and I like that not all the functions are hidden away in a digital labyrinth; there are physical buttons to quick-access the main media and climate-control features.

Space inside the cabin is plentiful up front, but back seat passengers have a bit of a tight squeeze in both leg and headroom, and the rear backrest angle is also quite upright.

Mercedes set out to build the market’s most luxurious bakkie but things are a mixed bag in terms of the cabin look and feel. Most of it conforms to the brand’s premium standards and there’s plenty of brushed metal to give the interior a classy vibe. The turbine-style air vents are a visual and tactile highlight, as is the stitched soft-touch material covering the top of the dashboard and upper parts of the doors.

However, the hard and plasticky lower part of the dashboard seems rather low-rent at the price.

The test vehicle came with a lockable hard tonneau cover from Merc’s options catalogue. Picture: DENIS DROPPA
The test vehicle came with a lockable hard tonneau cover from Merc’s options catalogue. Picture: DENIS DROPPA

The 3.0l engine is paired with a 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic gearbox and the X350d gets permanent four-wheel-drive instead of the selectable 4WD of the four-cylinder X-Class models (the X220d and X250d). The off-road ability is enhanced by a selectable low-range reduction gear and a rear diff lock.

The permanent 4WD ensured excellent traction particularly in the wet weather we’ve been experiencing in Gauteng lately — though it makes for quite a large turning circle.

The V6 is fairly refined but sounds “whooshy” in that typical bakkie way, and it’s a strong performer. Once it shakes off some initial turbo lag this Benz hustles forward with plenty of gusto, with strong cruising legs and an easygoing penchant for climbing steep hills.

Fuel consumption averaged 11.ll per 100km, which is acceptable but not great (Mercedes claims 9l).

For reasons we can’t necessarily explain, the X350d is not as quick as VW’s less powerful (on paper) Amarok V6. Mercedes-Benz claims a 7.9 second 0-100km/h sprint time for the X350d, but we took both vehicles to the Gerotek test facility near Pretoria and conducted acceleration tests using a Vbox.


Mercedes-Benz X350d 4x4 Power

WE LIKE: Performance, ride quality, most of the interior

WE DISLIKE: Rear seat space, some cabin trimmings, price

VERDICT: A luxury double cab with a compelling badge and a price to match


The Benz recorded a 0-100km/h time of 9 seconds versus the Amarok’s 8.2 seconds. The X350d also lagged in the overtaking stakes, achieving 60-120km/h in 8.3 seconds against the Amarok’s 7.7 seconds.

Both these V6 bakkies are still considerably quicker than all the opposition, including the Hilux 2.8 and Ranger 3.2 but, to settle those braai-side arguments, the Amarok V6 remains the“Porsche” of  bakkies.

With solid-axle rear suspension paired with coils instead of the traditional leaf springs, a smooth ride is one of the selling points of the X-Class.

For a bakkie, the ride quality is good, though it still feels noticeably more choppy than an SUV. As with any bakkie, putting a load in the back would smooth out the ride.

As a workhorse, Merc’s luxury double cab pays its dues with a useful 1-ton payload and 3.2-ton towing capacity.

Adventure-seeking owners will find this Benz has decent off-road credentials too, with its permanent all-wheel drive traction and selectable low-range transfer case.

Its obstacle-tackling repertoire includes a generous 220mm ground clearance, the ability to climb gradients of up to 45°, and ford through water up to 600mm deep.

The transmission also has an Offroad setting — along with Eco, Comfort, Sport and Manual modes — which change the gearshift strategy to best suit the conditions.

In summary, Mercedes-Benz has produced a powerful and very capable luxury double cab, but it’s got some strong competition.

Objectively it’s not easy to make a case for the Mercedes X350d costing R155k more than the top-of-the-range V6 Amarok which sells for R818,200. But there is admittedly a lot of cachet in that Benz badge.

Tech Specs

Engine

Type: V6 turbo diesel

Capacity: 2,987cc

Power: 190kW

Torque: 550Nm

Transmission

Type: 7G-Tronic automatic

Drivetrain

Type: 4Matic permanent all-wheel drive with low-range and rear diff lock

Performance

Top speed: 205km/h

0-100km/h: 7.9 seconds (claimed); 9.0 seconds (as tested)

Fuel consumption

9.0l/100km (claimed); 11l/100km (as tested)

Emissions

236g/km

Standard features

Climate control, Infotainment with 8-speaker audio system, electric windows, electric mirrors, central locking, cruise control, rain sensor, reversing camera, LED headlamps, Keyless-Go, height-adjustable steering, hill-start assist, downhill speed regulation, Dynamic Select, Artico/Dinamica seats, electrically adjustable front seats, ABS brakes, seven airbags, trailer stability assist, tyre pressure monitor, 18” alloy wheels with 255/60 R18 tyres

Warranty

Maintenance plan: six years/100,000km

Price: R973,188

Lease*: R20,772 per month

* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit

Motor News star rating

Design * * * *

Performance * * * *

Economy * * *

Safety * * * *

Value For Money * * *

Overall * * * *


COMPETITION

VW Amarok 3.0 TDI V6 Extreme 4Motion, 165kW/550Nm — R818,200