► Steve Moody runs an X-Class
► Running a posh pickup
► Is it really just a Navara in a frock?
If one more wag asks me if I've got any spare tarmac for their driveway, I'm going to get back in my massive manly truck and run them over. Many times, in low range.
Because, while the Mercedes-Benz X-Class I am now running is technically a commercial vehicle and exists in a subset in which tools are stored and heavy machine guns mounted, it may be classed as an outlier. For it is probably the most luxurious commercial vehicle money can buy, apart from a few blinged-up Caravelles and Vitos kitted out for carrying VIPs to the steps of their private jets, and the A-Team van, of course.
The point of running a pick-up truck in a magazine called CAR is to see whether this mighty beast is actually a better option than similarly-priced SUVs. Many complaints about SUVs focus on them being too undynamic and un-car-like. But you could argue they actually need to be more hardcore and off-roader-like. So keep the high driving position and roomy practicality of a mainstream SUV, but add more ruggedness, more testosterone and even more rough-road ability.
Best pickups: new X-Class vs rivals
Before we start taking too many pot shots at SUVs masquerading as something they're not, it should be pointed out our X-Class is not quite all it seems. Beneath its vast metal sheetwork lurks a Nissan Navara, a pick-up that usually has trees or bricks poking out of its loadbed. And you wouldn't compare a Navara with a BMW X5, would you?
So we're aiming to find out just how much of the original pick-up essence survives; has Mercedes done anything more than window dressing, or is this still a bit of a roughneck that's had a shave, slicked its hair down and put on a shirt that's actually been ironed?
You find yourself wondering if perhaps that smart outward appearance will only last until first contact with anything meaningful and intelligent. That's because having driven plenty of pick-ups before, the characteristics they all have in common are dreadful ride, rackety diesel engines, steering that's mostly guesswork, brakes that don't work, a hostility to fitting into parking spaces and the turning circle of the Isle of Wight. They can be painful on country roads, impossible in town and unbearable on motorways.
Mercedes has done more than just swap badges. It's kept the Navara's independent multi-link rear axle, but then beefed it up, widened the track and retuned the suspension with upgraded springs and dampers. It has also slipped in a proper engine as an alternative to the original weedy four-pot. This top-of-the-range X350d 4Matic has the 3.0-litre V6 turbocharged diesel engine of many an executive express, with a hefty 253bhp and 406lb ft, 7G-Tronic gearbox and permanent all-wheel drive. The cheaper ones get a selectable system which is far more agricultural.
In the double cab, it's mostly Mercedes above the knees and Nissan below, with the binnacles and Comand system (a £2.7k option, mind) from the last generation of cars before everything went widescreen. You might think that as a commercial vehicle the only equipment it has is somewhere to put your tabloid and enough rear door to write 'I wish my wife was this dirty', but in fact as standard the X has 18-inch alloys, climate control, electric heated Artico 'leather' seats, keyless go and most of the usual automatic safety-braking and lane-keeping gubbins. While there's no Apple CarPlay, there is something called a CD player. It's been handy for storing receipts.
This vast machine with its assorted little luxuries and welded undergirders can be yours for £47,405, which would get you a mid-level GLC but isn't enough to buy any sort of GLE. (The Navara starts around £25k, by the way.)
There's one other thing that comes as standard but which isn't listed on any spec sheet. That's the ridiculously macho feeling I get from driving it. I'm He-Man, Colt Seavers, a Navy SEAL, that bloke in the Athena advert cradling a baby, all rolled into one. King of the freshly tarmacked road.
Mercedes X350d 4Matic: logbook
Price £47,405 (£56,484 as tested)
Performance 2987cc turbodiesel V6, 253bhp, 7.9sec 0-62mph, 127mph
Efficiency 31.3mpg (official), 26.8mpg (tested), 237g/km CO2
Energy cost 19.5p per mile
Miles this month 289
Total miles 289