► New highfalutin pickup truck arrives 2018
► Pure, Progressive and Power trim levels
► 254hp V6 promises most car-like drive
Here it is, the new Mercedes-Benz X-class – Mercedes’ attempt to do for the pickup what most of us have forgotten it did for the SUV with the original M-class back in 1997.
Which is to say turn a piece of farm equipment into a fashionable family vehicle.
Ute bakkie believe it, and so forth. (Sorry.)
X-Class = Mercedes-Benz first pickup*
Now, some of you will already be arguing that Mercedes is late to this party. Pickups have been the marker of people dangerously into lifestyle for at least two generations now – helped in part by a tax dodge that makes them much cheaper to tax than almost any other more conventional company car.
Thing is, every existing pickup is still basically horrible to drive, especially on the road. Whereas the X-class, we’re told, ‘will drive like a Mercedes.’
The proof of this will actually come in around about October 2017, when we finally get behind the wheel – but as part of the launch event in South Africa we have been promised a passenger ride, which should at least give us some idea about comfort levels. More on this in a separate story later.
Has Mercedes really built a pickup from scratch?
It’s not every day we get a brand new -class of Merc, is it? Particularly in an all-new market sector for the brand. So you probably won’t be surprised to learn that Mercedes has cheated.
The X-class is not only based on the latest Nissan NP300 Navara, introduced in 2016, it will be built by Nissan for Mercedes in the Navara factory in Spain.
Before you start saddling that high horse, it’s worth a) remembering that Nissan has decades of experience with these kinds of machines (although that’s not always been good news), and b) knowing that Mercedes has made an extensive number of changes that go way deeper than the rather fetching visual reskin.
This includes using its own 254bhp V6 turbodiesel at the top of the range.
Plus, if you’re going to build a pickup with car-like driving characteristics, the Navara is a good place to start, as it’s one of only two competitors in the so-called ‘one-tonne’ segment that gets all-round coil-spring suspension.
All of the others – including the Volkswagen Amarok and Ford Ranger – feature leaf springs at the back.
How similar is the X-class to the Navara really?
While the X-class is strikingly different from the outside at first glance – if somewhat skinny and anaemic-looking compared to the original concepts – stare a little more closely and you’ll see the proportions and things like the windows are largely identical.
That said, the Mercedes’ load area is a slightly longer, and both the bodywork and the wheel track is wider (by up to 62mm, like-for-like) than the Nissan, something that’s said to contribute to the improved road manners, alongside reworked suspension settings.
At launch, however, the X-class will be powered by a pair of 2.3-litre four-cylinder diesels, and both of these are Nissan. The X220d is a single-turbo version with 161bhp while the X250d is a sequential twin-turbo with 187bhp; both get selectable four-wheel drive, and the option of a seven-speed automatic to replace the standard six-speed gearbox.
The X-class V6 will arrive mid-2018, badged X350d and will rumble to the tune of 406lb ft as well as the headline 254bhp – meaning it outguns the top spec 221bhp Amarok V6 for power, but only matches it for muscle.
The V6 gets permanent four-wheel drive, complete with variable centre diff, and a seven-speed auto as standard.
What’s the X-class interior like?
Until we find out exactly how much effort Mercedes has put into retuning the chassis, the cabin is where the biggest difference between the X-class and rival pickups lies.
The latest Amarok is good, in a giant Golf kind of way, but you can spec the X-class to be like a proper premium vessel.
The Mercedes parts bin helps – the dials are C-class, elements of the centre console, including the floating screen, come from the V-class; at 8.4 inches across with the optional COMAND Online infotainment system, this is the biggest screen in this mid-size pickup sector (you get a 7.0-inch unit as standard).
Mercedes has also gone for it with personalisation. There are six seat fabrics (including two optional leathers with contrast stitching), three interior trim choices and two colours of headlining. The combination of brown finishes looks particularly classy, and remarkably similar to one of the original concepts.
The V6 even gets a Dynamic Select, for a choice of Comfort, Eco, Sport, Manual and Off-road driving modes.
What’s the X-class like for standard equipment?
There are three trim levels: Pure, Progressive and Power.
Pure is the closest the X-class gets to a working pickup, with an unpainted front bumper and steel wheels – almost no-one is expected to buy this in the UK. You do still get luxuries such as air-con, seven airbags and LED lighting for the load area, but these are combined with an easy-clean plastic interior floor.
Progressive gets painted bumpers, 17-inch alloys, eight-speakers, aluminium door sill finishers, etc, etc, and starts to look like a Mercedes you can park outside your house. Most buyers will likely opt for Power, however, which looks like a Mercedes you could park outside the office.
The X-class Power gets 18s as standard, chrome underbody panelling at the front, a chrome bumper at the rear and Artico artificial leather on the inside. There’s a more powerful infotainment system, climate control, keyless go and electrically adjustable seats. Plus full-LED headlights. It’s practically civilised.
Just don’t expect reach adjustment for the steering wheel. This is one limitation of the Navara chassis Mercedes wasn’t able to overcome; the wheel is height-adjustable only.
Obviously Mercedes is keen to sell you options, and these range from a substantial selection of in-house designed truck accessories, such as pseudo roll bars (two versions labelled Style and Sport), three choices of tonneau cover, a paint-protecting bedliner and a waterproof storage box, to 19-inch alloys, an electrically operated opening rear window on the back of the cab, and a 360-degree parking camera.
A Mercedes-designed hardtop canopy for the load bed helps the X-class do its best impression of an SUV, too.
Will it off-road?
More rugged types will be pleased to note you can delete the rear bumper (allowing the tailgate to open 180 degrees while improving the departure angle) and adapt the X-class for harder work off-road.
A locking rear-diff, 20mm higher off-road suspension and proper underbody cladding made from 2-3mm stainless steel are all available. Every X-class sold in Europe will come with the lower Comfort suspension as standard.
It’ll still wade to depths of 600mm, either way. Maximum payload is rated to 1042kg, and it’ll tow up to 3.5-tonnes, matching the best in class.
How much does the Mercedes X-class cost and when does it go on sale?
The X-class is set to go on UK sale before the end of 2017 – though some 600 or so especially keen customers started making reservations at the beginning of the year, and only these prescient soles are likely to actually get their pickups before Christmas. General dealer supply won’t start until early 2018.
We’re expecting UK pricing around August 2017, but you shouldn’t be surprised to learn the X-class will be the most expensive pickup on the market. In Germany, the entry-level price-point is 37,294 euros (including 19% VAT).
So whaddaya reckon? Can you see yourself cashing in the GLE for an X-Class? Or is Mercedes taking premium a step too far…?
Let us know in the comments section below.
* Yes, we know there have been Mercedes pickups before – but only on a semi-official basis
In need of nerdier-still details? For the exhaustive full story on the new Mercedes X-class, hop over to our sister site Parkers here.