Tarted up Navara?

We take a good, hard look at the new Mercedes X-Class

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Can the new Benz ute shake it’s far eastern origins and make a positive impact for the luxury brand in the uber-competitive Aussie market?

 

For some time now, we have been awaiting this all-new dual-cab ute to hit Aussie shores. In the anticipation of its arrival it has been shrouded by remarks of simply being a re-badged Navara, and while it does share the same chassis and powerplant, make no mistake, the three-pointed star has carried out substantial engineering work to call this car their own. We drove it very recently at the Australian launch. The X-Class is distinctly Mercedes-Benz, and it’s a winner.

 

With an increase in width (and wheel track) of 70mm over the Navara, this really is a new vehicle. Body work, chassis, suspension, active and passive safety aids and interior comforts have been the focus of extensive development and have come together well to form a ute which, we believe, will see strong sales.

 

THREE MODELS

Pure (base), Progressive (mid) and Power (top) are the three models in the X-Class range. Each has the option of either a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic, and the option of either the 120kW/403Nm single-turbo diesel (in the X 220 d) or the 140kW/450Nm twin-turbo diesel (in the X 250 d). There is also a new engine coming late this year; it will be a Mercedes-Benz V6 turbo diesel and will make 190kW and 550Nm. Right across the board though, Mercedes-Benz has loaded the entire active and passive safety suite as standard. This equates to: a five-star ANCAP rating, ABS, Active Brake Assist (Autonomous Emergency Braking), 4MATIC traction control, Downhill Speed Regulation, Lane Keep Assist, Tyre Pressure Monitoring, two child restraint anchors and seven SRS Airbags.

 

DRIVING

So far, we’ve only driven the X-Class with the twin-turbo 2.3-litre diesel four-banger; identical in all ways to the Navara engine: 140kW @ 3750rpm and 450Nm between 1500 and 2500rpm. Running through a sharp acting and smooth operating seven-speed automatic gearbox, the performance is adequate. A bit of extra weight and deadening dulls the experience of acceleration, but there is enough there. And like the Navara, this X-Class has similar fuel economy figures and more improved NVH levels.

 

There’s also a single-turbo option with less power and torque (120kW/403Nm), but the engine on everyone’s lips is Mercedes’ own 3-litre V6 diesel. It was going to take the crown of being the most powerful ute available, but Volkswagen have slipped on some boxing gloves, gone back to the dyno and eked 190kW and 580Nm from their own 3-litre V6. Let the games begin!

 

INTERIOR

Step inside, and you are immediately hit by that classic Merc’ feel. But it is a slightly more toned down affair than you would expect, it is ‘real’ ute. While classy, it is not over-the-top. Across the three models Pure, Progressive and Power, there are a host of interior customisation options, from plastic flooring right through to contrast-stitched leather pews with heating. Mercedes-Benz has put in a solid effort at appealing to a wide range of buyers.

 

DRIVING EXPERIENCE

Crawl underneath, and you’ll notice there is a progressive-rate coils spring very similar to the one Nissan recently re-launched the Navara with. We’re not sure who has been cheating on their homework, but we don’t mind. We’re more concerned with the drive, and this X-Class feels confident and planted right up to the limit of tyre traction. While Nissan’s V3 Navara is a nice, car-like ute with lots of polish, the X-Class takes it that little further. The extra track width and chassis strengthening no doubt goes a long way in this regard.

 

Throughout the on-road, gravel and light off-road driving we did, the X-Class held very high levels of refinement, comfort and sound deadening. This is another clear point where the Navara is good, but the X-Class is better. The only criticism we could muster is Defender-esque clattering from rocks flicking up in the wheel arches, which would no doubt become tiresome on long gravel drives.

 

TOWING/LOAD RATINGS

The good folk at Nissan took three swings to finally hit the Navara’s suspension squarely on the head, but it looks like Mercedes took only one. Those who say only leaf springs can haul loads are wrong. A correctly rated and tuned coil spring will be able to haul loads equally as well as the leafers, but can give you better overall dynamics at the same time. We drove the X-Class with 650 kilograms of dead weight secured in the tray (which fits a pallet, à la Amarok), and found the ute to remain nicely balanced and responsive. The rear did sit down a little, as you’d expect. But most importantly, the rest of the setup, most notably the front end, still worked well.

 

SAFETY

Mercedes-Benz has fitted the entire X-Class range with a host of safety features as standard. It is a class-leading line-up.

 

In addition to ABS, Downhill Speed Regulation and the 4MATIC traction control, there is also Lane Keep Assist, Active Brake Assist (Autonomous Emergency Braking), Tyre Pressure Monitoring, two child seat attachment points and a total of seven airbags across the board … along with a five-star ANCAP rating.

 

VERDICT

While many will write this ute off instantly for being a tarted up, ripped off Datsun, the truth is not so simple. No, it’s not a ground-up development from the famed Stuttgart manufacturers. But despite it’s relatively ‘common’ roots, the X-Class has been developed to make a marked and noticeable improvement over the Navara in all of the important spots: Refinement, technology, safety and comfort. Of course, the driveline currently offers zero improvement, and we aren’t so sure about serious off-road work … yet.

 

2018 Mercedes-Benz X-Class X 250 d Power Specifications

 

  • Engine: 2.3-litre, four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel. 140kW @ 3750rpm. 450Nm @ 1500-2500rpm.
  • Transmission: Seven-speed automatic gearbox, or six-speed manual; selectable 4WD and
    two-speed transfer case.
  • Dimensions: 5340mm long, 1920mm wide, 1819mm high. 3150mm wheelbase.
  • Ground clearance: 222mm.
  • Suspension: Independent front; multi-link
    coil-sprung rear suspension.
  • Fuel capacity: 73 litres, 10 litres reserve.
  • Weights: 2234kg kerb, 3250kg GVM, 1016kg payload.
  • Towing: 3500kg towing capacity. 5475kg GCM.
  • RRP (excluding on-road and dealer delivery): From $45,450 (X 220 d ‘Pure’ model with six-speed manual); to $64,500 (X 250 d ‘Power’ model with seven-speed auto), as reviewed.