Our Mercedes X-Class long-termer: you drive our car

Published: 11 November 2019

► Steve Moody runs an X-Class
► Running a posh Merc pick-up
► Is it really just a Navara in a frock?

Month 5 living with an X-Class: you have your say

One of the problems with the X-Class is trying to explain to people exactly where it fits in the grand scheme of things. These double-cab pick-ups are often used for transporting dead sheep to pits, transporting asbestos sheets to pits, transporting cement to fill in pits. In all those scenarios and more, a leather-lined cabin and lovely razor-sharp alloy wheels don't seem quite the tools for the job. And the best part of £50k seems a lot of money for pit-centred activity. So we've roped in a few likely types who might fit the bill for such a vehicle.

Farmers, as we know, have mattresses stuffed with £50 notes (and €50 notes too for the next few weeks, perhaps) and so could easily afford an X-Class. Especially if you're like John Parry, who seems to own every blade of grass in my neck of the woods and four Land Rover Discoverys in various states of distress, for jobs ranging from pulling horseboxes to the pony club to wading through fields of foetid, sticky mud.

His first thought is the X is a bit too bling: 'I think if I turned up at a shoot in this, the guns would think I'm a chav. It's a great big German tank and it gets noticed. At least in my old Discovery I can chug about happily under the radar, but I do like the fact that, as a Merc, it'll go wrong a lot less.'

Surgeons also earn a lot of money and could afford an X-Class, and Andrew Woodward is a tree surgeon. I don't know if tree surgeons are on the same day rate as their medical equivalents, but he's got a Toyota Hilux and carries a vast array of chainsaws, ladders and possibly tree bandages and tree stethoscopes, and is in the market for a new pick-up, having run the Hilux for five years.

X-Class LTT engine

'The Hilux has been brilliant – it never goes wrong – but this is brilliant. It just has everything, and the quality is superb. I'd love it. But my only concern would be getting it dirty!'

Mark Williams owns an engineering firm that does something with wind turbines and electricity. He explained it to me; I didn't really understand. But it means he occasionally heads off into distant fields to look at boxes full of equipment, and also rides, runs, swims, paddles and all of that stuff I should do more of. He has a Volvo XC90, paid for by the company, for such a lifestyle.

'I do like the idea of being able to chuck all the work kit in the boot during the week, and all the cycling and watersport kit in at the weekend, while up front it's still comfortable. It does both jobs.'

I point out to Mark that because it's a pick-up and subject to different rules, he would pay £1200 a year in company car tax for the X-Class compared to the best part of £8000 a year in tax for the XC90. Fortunately he was sitting down when I told him.

'Wow. I'm now very, very interested. Obviously the XC90 is more refined, more comfortable, possibly has better fuel economy and more equipment, but nearly seven grand a year saved? For what I need a car for, I would certainly look at the Merc next time round, although there's not much space in the rear for such a big car.'

John, the farmer, is still to be convinced though: 'The cabin is a bit too plush for a pick-up if you ask me. Not sure a season's worth of dust and oil would look great on the leather-clad dashboard. It might make me feel like I had to get it cleaned out once in a while.'

X-Class LTT offroad

Having failed to grasp how the touchpad for the infotainment works ('Why doesn't it just have buttons?'), we take it down some of his rough tracks. John starts to warm to it. 'Its off-road ride is superb. There's lots of suspension travel, it really soaks the bumps up and this engine is a monster. It's really quick and obviously very useful off-road.'

Tree surgeon Andrew is also impressed – by the practical touches and the quality. 'The back is finished superbly – in my Hilux this is all bare metal, and when you're lifting tools in and out it gets scratched to hell. Everything in here is covered in tough plastic; much better,' he says.

'The quality of the hardtop is also incredible. It looks like nothing could damage it. It's very impressive, and actually when you look at the price, it's not too bad considering what you get.

'Then there are details like the side window. The way that unlocks off the central locking is great for security, and it lifts right out the way so you can get tools out that are a long way back. And two windows between the cabin and the loadbed mean you can get really long objects in here that go right through. Handy for dogs, too – you can get ventilation in when you're driving.

'The only problem I'd have is my customers thinking I was doing far too well, and wanting me to drop my prices.'

The X-Class proves an interesting proposition for all three: part workhorse commercial vehicle, part SUV. It certainly isn't for everyone. But for the right person, with the job or the hobbies (or both) that need posh gruntwork, it ticks an awful lot of boxes.

By Steve Moody

Logbook: Mercedes-Benz X350d 4Matic

Price £47,405 (£56,484 as tested) 
Performance 2987cc turbodiesel V6, 253bhp, 7.9sec 0-62mph, 127mph 
Efficiency 31.3mpg (official), 24.3mpg (tested), 237g/km CO2 
Energy cost 24.6p per mile 
Miles this month 1244 
Total miles 4845


Month 4 of our Mercedes-Benz X-Class pick-up long-term test: a French road trip

What to travel in to Le Mans is always a difficult question to solve. You might end up in some sort of supercar, look flash at the Channel tunnel, make some noise in an empty piece of France, cruise through Arnage regally, and then spend four days in the same pants and attempt sleep in a tent the size of a carrier bag.

Or you might take an X-Class and still do it in style, with three mates aboard, and all the food, drink and camping comfort you need to turn your stay into a five-star lounge in the sun of La Sarthe.

I consider myself an expert in few areas, but packing is one of them, using up every cubic centimetre to best effect – my logistical skills would have kept Scott fully kitted and fed to the South Pole and back again. Yet I barely have to bother with the X-Class. We just throw everything we can muster in the loadbay to fill it up, lock the lid down and set off for France.

Fully laden, the brakes don’t have quite the same bite, but that big diesel still gets the truck off the line, and we sprint along France’s smooth autoroutes at 130km/h easily and with barely a murmur, albeit with the fuel gauge travelling even more quickly. It gets a bit thirsty, as you might imagine.

There are also no complaints about space and comfort from The Dr and Strangely-Brown in the back, which is unusual, although the Merc’s sat-nav is showing its age; it’s not the most quick-witted and it’s lacking in useful traffic info. The dreaded Rouen, graveyard of many a sat-nav, is its downfall, although visits to the prison, red light district and some tall ships prove instructive.

The threatened rain at Le Mans doesn’t materialise, so the X-Class’s four-wheel drive goes unused. But the X serves a more significant purpose once moored on the campsite, as the loadbay – plastic-lined and with the canopy as a sunshade – becomes the perfect spot for keeping merguez sausages and beer cool, one of the most vital tasks any vehicle can perform at Le Mans, other than driving round extremely fast for 24 hours.

I’ve been to the Le Mans 24 Hour a lot of times and never in anything as brilliantly useful as this Mercedes-Benz. We even get quite a few looks and comments. More than you’d get in a common old Audi R8, anyway.

By Steve Moody

Logbook: Mercedes-Benz X350d 4Matic

Price £47,405 (£56,484 as tested)
Performance 2987cc turbodiesel V6, 253bhp, 7.9sec 0-62mph, 127mph
Efficiency 31.3mpg (official), 24.3mpg (tested), 237g/km CO2
Energy cost 24.5p per mile
Miles this month 1877
Total miles 3601


Month 3 living with a Mercedes X-Class: Nissan-ish bits

Mercedes X-Class: Nissan bits aplenty?

So a farrier told me the other day that I'd wasted my money, because the X-Class is just a Nissan Navara with a different badge stuck on it. Certainly, the cheap plastic bottom half of the dashboard, sticky-up gearstick, air-con controls and lower window line are pure Navara; the key is Nissan, rebadged.

But I've driven the latest Navara, and excellent shire horse that it is, it can't hold a candle to the X because the Merc, with its thoroughbred premium-brand engine, gallops like Tiger Roll.

The rattly four-pot-only Nissan would still be puffing up hills while the 253bhp V6 and seven-gear, snappy-Sport-moded Merc had roared into the distance. Stick to nailing metal to horses, mate.

By Steve Moody

Logbook: Mercedes X350d 4Matic

Price £47,405 (£56,484 as tested) 
Performance 2987cc diesel V6, 253bhp, 7.9sec 0-62mph, 127mph 
Efficiency  31.3mpg (official), 24.2mpg (tested), 237g/km CO2 
Energy cost 23.6p per mile 
Miles this month 654
Total miles 1724


Month 2 living with a Mercedes X-Class pick-up: tip runs aplenty!

X-Class rear load bay

An unintended consequence of owning a truck is that I now appear to be lumbered with endless mundane jobs that previously I never had to countenance, or could easily find an excuse for avoiding. For example, do you know how many bags of horse manure you can fit in the back of an X-Class? Lots, is the answer. It would have been none, if I had a 488 Pista.

Our house is now entirely clutter-free too, thanks to my wife taking a scorched-earth policy to any item not proving its usefulness within the previous month. Old chairs, discarded toys, a wardrobe or two – all ended up heading to the dump. The youngest even started offering to do jobs around the house: he thought he was off to the tip too, if he didn’t buck his ideas up.

The one issue I have is with the dogs, who aren’t keen to go  under the bootlid, and so have to go in the back with the kids. 

By Steve Moody

Logbook: Mercedes X350d 4Matic

Price £47,405 (£56,484 as tested)
Performance 2987cc diesel V6, 253bhp, 7.9sec 0-62mph, 127mph
Efficiency  31.3mpg (official), 24.8mpg (tested), 237g/km CO2
Energy cost 24.2p per mile
Miles this month 781
Total miles 1070


Month 1 of our Mercedes-Benz X-Class long-term test: the introduction

Mercedes-Benz X-Class pick-up

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 X-Class LTT side pan

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

By Steve Moody

Contributing editor, adventurer, ideas pitcher, failed grower-upper

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