MERCEDES-BENZ has pulled the covers off its X-Class one-tonne ute, which will go on sale in Australia early in 2018.
This will be Benz’s push in to one of the best-performing new vehicle segments at present, and it will fill a niche it’s not currently in.
Before you start asking what a German company best known for its luxury cars is doing with a ute, the X-Class will sit in the company’s vans division. Remember that Benz make cars, trucks, buses, vans and SUVs.
These will be backed by six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic transmissions and part-time 4x4.
Around the middle of the year, Benz will unload its key weapon, with its own V6 diesel engine producing 550Nm and backed by a seven-speed auto and full-time, 4MATIC 4x4 with a low range transfer case.
The X-Class X350d will join the Volkswagen Amarok as the only V6 diesel in a class where four- and five-cylinder engines are the norm, but it will trump the 165kW VW with its 190kW.
The range-topping X350d will also include a dynamic select drive system, offering five driving modes including Comfort, Eco, Sport, Manual and Off-road modes. This system customises the various drive and chassis systems to best suit the driving conditions and will be the first of its kind for a ute in Australia. Fuel-saving stop/start technology and paddle transmission shifters are also part of the X350d package.
The entry level X220d makes 120kW from its single turbo-diesel engine, while the X250d makes 140kW from the bi-turbo engine. Benz hasn’t revealed torque outputs for these engines, but the power figures are in line with the Nissan Navara; so expect 403 and 450Nm respectively from the Renault-developed engines.
The ladder chassis is also derived from the Navara platform and includes the unique-to-class five-link coil spring rear suspension. The X-Class will only be offered with rear coils, while Nissan still offers the option of leaf springs at the rear for towing or load-carrying.
The X-Class will have a towing capacity of 3500kg and payload up to 1100kg, so it will be interesting to see how Benz has calibrated that rear-end when we get to drive it. The X-Class rear-end is fitted with disc brakes as opposed to drums found on most 4x4 utes.
A wider wheel track for the X-Class should improve its ride and stability over its donor Navara. The Benz has 1632mm front and 1625mm rear tracks, as opposed to 1570mm track front and rear on a Navara. The 3150mm wheelbase is the same on both vehicles.
As can be seen in these first images of the production-ready model, the X-Class is a tamed down version of the two concept vehicles shown last year. Gone are the 35-inch off-road tyres and 22-inch rims; the production car will have a choice of 17-, 18- and 19-inch wheels in a variety of styles. The bodywork is also toned down, but is clearly Mercedes-Benz with the signature grille and styling elements.
The interior is all Benz, with components sourced from the C-Class passenger car and V-Class van ranges. This will give buyers in this ute segment never-before-seen choices of materials and features and, most of all, luxury. We expect leading levels of connectivity for devices on the move as well, with the 8.4-inch A/V screen connected to navigation and 360-degree cameras.
You can see where compromises have had to be made as the Nissan/Benz platforms were melded. For example, the HVAC controls sit very low in the centre stack, while there’s an acre of vacant space above them that would have been a much more practical location. In fact, the entire dashboard looks a bit plain and hit-and-miss in its execution.
Likewise, the steering column lacks reach adjustment, which is a carry-over from the Navara. Yet the X-Class brings a fresh face to the busy market, and with it comes a level of style and prestige not yet seen in the segment. How well that style and equipment actually works we’ll just have to wait to see.
Safety will be top level with the X-Class employing pre-collision assist, lane-keeping assist, trailer-sway control, stability control and seven cabin airbags to protect occupants. LED headlights offer excellent night-time visibility for improved safety.
The X-Class will be available in three levels of specification: Pure for the tradies and farmers market; Progressive adds extra features; and Power is the top-spec for those who want Benz levels of features and performance.
Australian-delivered X-Classes will be built at Renault/Nissan’s plant in Barcelona, Spain, which also manufactures the Navara for European markets and Renault’s Alaskan pick-up (which is also shares the D23 platform).
European deliveries will start later this year, and we’ll have to wait until then to know if Mercedes-Benz has succeeded with its new ute.