Up Market Load Lugger | Mercedes-Benz X-Class Ute

Brenton O’Connor lives with the X-Class in the inner suburbs of Melbourne.

Following on from the successful media launch of the X Class in Tasmania earlier this year, a follow-up opportunity was provided by Mercedes-Benz to spend a week behind the wheel to gain a greater knowledge of the vehicle through regular driving. For the purposes of testing, I put the vehicle through a variety of scenarios to see how it handled each alternative, including city commuting, freeway driving and also some off-roading to trial the vehicle in 4×4, low-range and differential lock.

The vehicle tested was the X250d crew-cabin load bed, in “POWER” spec grade, which is Mercedes talk for the top-of-the-line model in terms of fit out.

The vehicle looked very smart with the optional metallic white paintwork, and the optional Style Pack ($2490) increased the visual appeal with window privacy glass, a neat electric rear window hatch that allows the middle of the rear window to open up facilitating the stowage of long items such as fishing rods or skis, poked through into the cabin for ease of transportation, with power assistance controlled from a switch on the dash. The Style Pack also provides side steps, roof rail and very smart looking 18” six-twin-spoke light alloy wheels.

Powering the X250d is the 2.3-litre Nissan-derived four-cylinder turbodiesel producing 140 kW and 450 Nm of torque, mounted to a seven-speed torque converter automatic transmission. For my week of driving, the average fuel consumption recorded on the in-dash display was 8.3 litres per 100 km – quite good, given that included some off-roading, which by its very nature includes plenty of idle time.

Performance of the four-cylinder diesel is adequate, but by no means powerful, and I feel it would struggle if coupled to a trailer weighing in at the legal towing maximum of 3500 kg, such as heavy horse float, caravan or boat. However, Mercedes is introducing the V6 version of the X-Class, with its own in-house engine, later this year, which will no doubt solve the problems. At that point the X-Class will be the most powerful dual cabin ute on the market when compared with the Amarok V6, Ford Ranger Wildtrak, Toyota HiLux SR5 and the like. The seven-speed automatic is slick shifting and is responsive to throttle input enabling it to choose the right gear at the right time.

The engine management software causes the engine to spike in RPM when first started, which, when in a parking complex is quite annoying, as it draws noise and attention to the vehicle. Being a diesel engine, I’m unsure why the engineers have chosen to do this. Once up and mobile, the in-cabin noise is very low, which demonstrates the effort made by the Mercedes engineers to include extra noise insulation in the vehicle.

Steering feel of the X-Class, both on and off road, is excellent, and inspires confidence in the driver when cornering and the like. Like most dual-cabin utes, the steering column is not adjustable for reach, which in this day and age is ridiculous, given that many low-priced passenger cars include this as standard.

Equally annoying was the offset mounting of the steering wheel with spokes at 10 and 4 rather than 9 and 3, something that should have been rectified by the dealership prior to delivery.

The X-Class (like its Navara sibling) is quite unusual in the suspension department, as it has coil suspension all-round rather than the typical leaf-spring arrangement common on the rear axle of most utes.

The advantages are obvious upon driving the vehicle, as the ride and handling, with reduced body role, is far superior to other utes with a leaf-spring arrangement. The perennial reasoning that the use of coil springs compromises load carrying ability is these days unsubstantiated through the fitment of progressive rate coil springs. This particular X-Class, with all of the accessories fitted, has a very competent legal payload of 963 kg, and by using progressive coil springs designed for this payload it does not suffer from any tendency to ‘bottom out’ under maximum load.

Taking the X-Class off-road for some brief four-wheel-driving into a limestone quarry and farm – all in order to get some great photos of the vehicle, was also a good opportunity to test the vehicle’s off-road credentials.

Engaging 4WD is easy – simply move the dial and select 4WD. Moving to low-range 4WD means stopping the vehicle, engaging neutral and then selecting low range 4WD, all easy. There is also a button to electrically engage the rear differential lock.

Even with its road-oriented tyres, I was surprised how well the X-Class handled wet grass and also greasy wet limestone in the quarry. Off-road, the rear coil springs enable the vehicle to keep its wheels on the ground much easier as the result of enabling greater axle articulation than can be achieved with a traditional leaf spring.

Parking sensors, whilst very handy in the urban jungle, proved to be a real nuisance when off-road, as even long grass would set them off. Manually turning them off fixed the problem, but they revert “on” at each engine restart.

The interior of the X-Class is a hybrid of Mercedes-Benz and Nissan switchgear, with the steering wheel, instrument cluster, navigation screen and controller all derived from the Mercedes-Benz C-Class. However, the climate-control switches, the 4×4 switches, door trims, and electric seat controls are Nissan based, which makes for an interesting mix. As a constant reminder of its origins, the steering wheel features a large Mercedes star embedded into its centre.

The standard seat trim is Artico/Dynamic, which means man-made leather outer and a brushed cotton look in the seat centre. On a vehicle of this grade and price positioning it is fair to anticipate leather seats as standard equipment. Disappointingly, the seat design is both narrow and short in the seat squab.

The changes from the base Navara from which the X-Class is derived are numerous, and the engineering changes and money invested by Mercedes-Benz has created a vehicle vastly different from that of the Nissan.

To create the appropriate brand recognition, Mercedes-Benz has to emphasise that it differs substantially from Navara, especially with the many changes undertaken by Mercedes that include the increased track width and wider body. In its current form, the X-Class is really a step above the Navara in style, ride and handling, safety features and also interior fitout, making it deserving of being recognised as a premium SUV rather than just another 4×4 diesel ute.

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