It felt like a long time coming, but we have finally got our hands on the Mercedes-Benz X-Class to see what it brings to the hotly contested bakkie segment and whether it has the clout to show a clean pair of heels.
There has been much banter surrounding the vehicle and this spiralled even deeper into the bowels of debate during our test tenure with the vehicle. To say that the model elicits a great deal of interest would be a gross understatement on my part as there seems to be huge gravitas when something dons a three-pointed badge on its snout and rump, let alone one in the mould of a bakkie.
The model looks the part with its prominent Merc badge up front floating on satin silver horizontal slats, while the sides remain clean with no creases, ditto the rear load box door flanked by the slimmest of vertical light clusters and only the brand badge and model nomenclature — X250d in this instance — being the only ornate items.
Hop into the cabin, though, and the layout and overall architecture will be similar for most modern Merc owners, particularly the floating infotainment screen, crosshair airvents, instrument cluster and multifunction steering wheel.
Under the bonnet of this version nestles a 2.3-litre twin-turbo engine from the Nissan Navara, replete in this instance with a seven-speed automatic gearbox. It pushes out 140kW and 450Nm. Of course, the engine is not the only thing that the model has borrowed from the Navara, but also the platform and pretty much most of the switchgear and architecture.
Personally this is where things become rather murky. You see, the window switches, climate control system, steering column, which frustratingly only adjusts for height and not reach, and even the key fob have been lifted wholesale from the Navara. The latter in particular is a bit of a let-down as I feel that a Mercedes-Benz key fob looks infinitely better, but it turns out, according to Merc, that changing the key fob would have required an entirely new electric system to be developed, which begs the question, how much of the vehicle is, in fact, Mercedes-Benz?
From my experience, it is the ride quality that feels eons ahead of most bakkies and the distinctly quiet cabin acoustics that can lull you into thinking you are piloting anything but a bakkie. I commend the Mercedes engineers on a stellar job.
The engine, however, lacks the refinement and low-down torque of some of its rivals and you really need to push down on the throttle to get any meaningful momentum. Once it gets going though, it pulls strongly.
Fuel consumption wise, we averaged about 10.8l/100km, which was fair, if some way off the 7.9l/100km claim.
In fact, our Volkswagen Amarok V6, with two more cylinders, an additional 700cc and far superior performance, sits at 11l/100km, which makes the X-Class not particularly thrifty in contrast. While we did not take the vehicle off-road, you can rest assured that it has the right underpinnings to tackle most terrain if the Navara’s prowess off the beaten track is anything to go by.
So, to sum up the Merc X-Class, it is a valiant attempt at the bakkie segment, but it feels as though the engineers had no free rein on this project. It feels like nine parts Nissan Navara and one part Mercedes-Benz X-Class. Also, at a base price of R824 205 before extras in the instance of our test unit, the model commands a R200 000 premium over an equivalent Navara, which I am afraid means that the Mercedes does not warrant the asking price.
There will be a 3.0-litre V6 (190kW and 550Nm) turbodiesel flagship model joining the range in the last quarter of 2018 or first quarter of 2019 depending on availability. According to some reports, this model feels much more superior and in line with the premium status the brand commands.
Expect to pay a base price of about R950 000, which is quite expensive, but perhaps that model will be a much more compelling offer, sticker price not withstanding.
As it stands, the Amarok still firmly rules the bakkie roost as the most complete package. Perhaps the next generation X-Class will be developed in-house by Mercedes-Benz to justify its exorbitant price. – Lerato Matebese
Fast Facts: Mercedes-Benz X-Class X250d 4×4 automatic
Engine: 2 298cc four-cylinder turbodiesel
Power: 140kW at 3 750rpm
Torque: 450Nm at 1 500rpm
Transmission: seven-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 11.8-seconds (claimed)
Top speed: 175km/h (claimed)
Fuel: 7.9l/100km (claimed)
CO2: 207g/km (claimed)
Price: From R824 205