In an interview with Delivery Magazine in Stockholm, Sweden, Dr. Dieter Zetsche, chairman of the board of Daimler AG and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars personally explained some of the finer details surrounding the display of the first two versions of the yet to be released Concept X-Class ute.
Recognising the importance of the Australian market, which has adopted the ute as a major player in vehicle sales, Dr. .Zetsche elaborated on the details released to the general market.
The two concept models on display represent the higher end of the range spectrum which takes the Nissan Navara NP300 as its base and then builds on that design through its alliance with Renault/Nissan.
The Concept-X will only be available as a dual cab and it will be sourced for the Australian market from the Nissan manufacturing plant located in Barcelona, Spain.
In its top spec’ models the driveline will consist of a pure Mercedes-Benz V6 diesel at Euro 6 and using AdBlue, a corresponding MB automatic transmission and permanent all-wheel drive, again using the MB system that is derived from that used in the Vito light commercial vans.
Mercedes-Benz has modified the existing Nissan Navara ladder-frame chassis, adding additional cross bracing for upgraded strength and to enable higher performance results from the redesigned and uprated coil spring front and rear suspension. The Nissan design of five link rear suspension has also had the Mercedes-Benz treatment, with a completely upgraded spring and damper settings to enable a payload of up to 1.2 tonnes and maintain a towing limit of 3.5 tonnes.
Mercedes-Benz is also using its own rear axle in this top spec model, featuring a wider track that assists stability at speed in an overall package that combines all the current known MB safety features. Centre and rear differential locks are also included to aid off road ability.
While buyers of the top spec’ models get the full Mercedes-Benz experience, there will be alternative 2WD and 4WD models added to the range in time and these will be offered for sale with four cylinder diesel and petrol engines together with additional manual and automatic transmissions sourced from the existing range of Nissan power plant options, but still retaining the dual cab configuration. No single cab or space cab versions will be built as MB believes that future growth in the lifestyle and luxury depends on dual cab versatility.
The interior of the Concept-X has a complete redesign in line with the current MB look and feel used in the C-Class sedan. The inclusion of all the Mercedes-me communications and entertainment systems shows how systems have today become modular for selection and fitment into different vehicle designs. Meanwhile, the exterior virtually bristles with safety systems such as 360 degree radar and sensor monitoring.
While some observers might have thought the Concept-X would be purely aimed at the top end of the ute segment, the decision to include four cylinder engines and optional 2WD/4WD rather than permanent all-wheel-drive in the lower priced and lower spec’d models reflects the driving force of the German manufacturer to achieve global sales across all options of the ute’s potential customer base.
The current sales success of Mercedes-Benz with its passenger cars has provided the impetus for MB to examine other available options and with the new ute it plugs one of the remaining gaps in its overall product line-up. The success of Concept-X is predicated on the assessment by MB that sales of utes will increase by 39 per cent by 2025 on a global basis. Although not announced officially, Dr. Zetsche, together with Volker Morningweg, head of Mercedes-Benz Vans agreed that an AMG high performance version was highly possible within a reasonable timeframe of the offical launch, which is aimed for the end of 2018 and into early 2019.
It should be stressed that the two different models presented for evaluation were, as the description indicates, examples of the concept of the future model. The chassis’ on display featured drum rear brakes and this in Delivery’s opinion would be replaced on the production models with al all round disc brake fitment, especially since the rear axle is sourced from Mercedes-Benz. That scenario would probably not relate to the additional 2WD/4WD selectable models that might feature the standard production Nissan drivetrain and power plant.
Mercedes-Benz Australia is currently considering whether the X-Class ute will be available only through MB passenger vehicle dealerships or additionally through commercial vehicle dealerships for its launch scheduled at the end of 2017 into early 2018.