BUYERS GUIDE - UTES & CAB CHASSIS MEDIUM
The X-Class was released in Australia in April 2018. The ‘Benz dual-cab ute was based on the Nissan Navara, using its chassis, axles, most body parts, four cylinder diesel powertrain and driveline. Rumours in mid-2019 suggested the X-Class may be discontinued and it was, in late 2020.
At launch the X-Class was powered by Renault-Nissan
common rail diesel 120kW and 140kW engines. Manual six-speed and auto seven-speed boxes were available.
Changes to the Navara included sound deadening, revised coil spring suspension and damper settings, slightly wider front and rear track dimensions and four-wheel ventilated disc brakes.
Low-range gearing and a rear diff lock were standard.
Also standard across the range was traction and stability control, Active Brake Assist (Autonomous Emergency Braking) and Lane Keeping Assist.
At launch, there were plans to add a full-time-4WD version, powered by the aluminium block and head, three-litre Mercedes-Benz V6 diesel.
Unlike the Navara range the X-Class wasn’t offered with single and extra-cab bodies or heavy duty rear leaf springs.Three specification and equipment levels were available: Pure, Progressive and Power, and there were 13 variants.
A high-torque V6 diesel engine was released from late-2018, with 190kW and 550Nm, in a full-time-4WD version. This engine has been used in many Mercedes-Benz passenger car and van models – from the G-Class to the latest E-Class.
The ‘Benz press kit for the X-Class launch claimed a payload of over one tonne and said that the cargo area can hold 17 full 50-litre barrels.
We challenged them to load it like that and not exceed the rear axle load rating: it was PR rubbish of course.
Like all other dual-cab utes the X-Class was flat out containing a half-tonne in its tray.
Claimed trailer towing capacity was 3500kg, but the coil-sprung Navara struggled with heavy ball weights, so that needed qualification as well.
The X-Class Power came with a 360-degree camera and all ute models were equipped with a reversing camera. The 360-degree camera was optional on the Progressive range.
Optional on all models, the Plus Package included the Parktronic parking assistance system.
Pure standard equipment included a grained front bumper in black and black rear bumper; powered mirrors;17-inch steel wheels; vinyl flooring; 18cm display screen; manual six-speed transmission; rear differential lock and tyre pressure monitoring.
Progressive models picked up heated mirrors; rain-sensing wipers, Garmin navigation system; 17-inch aluminium wheels; bumpers in vehicle colour; carpet; leather steering wheel rim, handbrake lever and gear lever knob; eight speakers and adjustable load-securing rails.
Power models got leather-look seats; LED headlamps;18-inch aluminium wheels; Comand multimedia and navigation system; auto-dimming mirror with compass readout; 360-degree camera; power-adjustable front seats and climate control.
Pricing four the four-cylinder diesel models started at $45,500 for the base 120kW manual cab/chassis and rose to $64,500 for the 140kW automatic ute.
‘Benz V6 powertrain
The X 350d 4Matic flagship X-Class model
arrived in Australia in December 2018 with the proved Mercedes-Benz 3.0-litre 190kW (258 hp)/550Nm V6 diesel engine, mated to a 7G-Tronic Plus seven-speed automatic transmission and permanent all-wheel drive.
Permanent all-wheel drive with low-range reduction and a differential lock on the rear axle ensured traction on a wide range of surfaces.
The all-wheel drive system was fitted with a central differential, which distributed the drive force between the front and rear axle at a torque distribution of 40:60 percent. This delivered an optimum level of traction in normal driving conditions, but the 4Matic permanent all-wheel drive system continuously adjusted the torque distribution to match the driving conditions.
When driving off-road 4H could be selected first. This distributed the drive force between the front and rear axle at a torque distribution of 30:70 percent, which was ideal for driving on rocky, sandy or snow-covered terrain.
The 4L mode distributed the drive force between the front and rear axle at a torque distribution of 50:50 percent.
Dynamic Select gave the driver a choice of five driving modes, from relaxed and comfortable to sporty and dynamic. These modes modified engine response, automatic transmission’s shift points and the ECO start/stop function.
Standard equipment included seven airbags, internally vented disc brakes on the front and rear and an attachment system for two child seats.
Lane Keeping Assist in the four-cylinder models was changed for the X350d 4Matic to Active Lane Keeping Assist, meaning if a driver unintentionally departed from the lane not only would pulsed steering wheel vibrations occur, but one-sided braking was also applied to manoeuvre the vehicle back into its lane automatically.
Additionally there was ESP trailer stabilisation, a tyre pressure monitoring system, cruise control, a reversing camera and, in the Power model, a 360° camera.
The X 350d 4Matic was available in Progressive and Power equipment levels. RRP at launch was $73,270 and $79,415, respectively.
On and off road
Our July 2018 test vehicle was a top-shelf
four-cylinder Power ute that we drove firstly empty and then with 250kg in the tray.
With and without a load the X-Class was a cut above other utes in this class: quieter and with car-like ride and handling.
The suspension was Euro-firm, but the X-Class never stepped out of line on rough surfaces and handled corrugations with ease.
The spring rates and damper valving were very well matched and that’s unheard of in the ute market, where mismatched springs and shockers are the norm.
The X-Class was the only new ute we’ve tested that didn’t need a suspension upgrade. (Since then we’ve found similar suspension quality in the Ford Raptor and the LDV T60 Trailrider.)
The front and rear seats were the most comfortable and supportive chairs we’ve found in any ute. Even long-legged rear seat passengers had good under-thigh support.
Off-road the X-Class Power ute was nobbled by having optional side steps that reduced ground clearance, but excellent suspension travel allowed it to climb and descend rocky trails without much need for traction control intervention.
The 4WD and low range dial control, and the diff lock switch worked well and engagement and disengagement were rapid.
The twin-turbo engine had ample grunt for all on and off road conditions, cruised at 2100rpm at freeway speed and delivered overall economy of 8.5L/100km.
The Comand navigation system allowed map zooming from 20m to global scale, so it was quite useful for route planning; unlike other systems that don’t provide a real zoom function. However, it lacked mapping of some bush trails in our test area.
We loved the 360-degree camera that presented a split-screen image of the vehicle from above – drone-like – as well as clear-focus images of the ground in the front and rear of the vehicle. The camera was a boon when manoeuvring in tight situations, both on and off road.
The 2018 Mercedes-Benz X-Class Power model was easily the best ute we’ve tested in this class. The contrast with the company’s horrible military-grade G-Wagon Pro tray-back could hardly be more stark.
However, while we loved the X-Class, few buyers saw it as good value for money. Global sales were well below expectations and in Australia M-B unloaded only around 100 per month. In July 2019 a report from respected industry publication Automotive News Europe, said that Mercedes-Benz planned to axe the X-Class ute prematurely.
Revealed in late 2016 and launched in South Africa in 2017, the marque’s first luxury pick-up truck was uncharted territory for ‘Benz and sales weren’t helped by the fact that everyone knew it was a tarted up Nissan Navara.
Barely 12 months on from its debut in Australia, the X-Class was under a cloud and a year later, it was all over.