MOVING THE GOAL POSTS | Ute Review – Mercedes-Benz X-Class Ute

The Mercedes-Benz X350d sets an interesting challenge for the Japanese – Words and Images by Brenton O’Connor.

Much anticipation has surrounded the new V6-powered variant of Mercedes-Benz’s attention-grabbing ute, the X350d V6. Following the initial launch in early 2017 of the four-cylinder-powered  X220d and X250d featuring Nissan-derived engines and transmissions, the X350d is regarded by purists as the ‘true’ Mercedes with an engine and transmission arrangement directly sourced from the Mercedes-Benz group.

Powering the X350d is a 3.0-litre V6 turbo-dieselproducing 190 kW of power and 550 Nm of torque, linked to Mercedes’ 7G Tronic seven-speed automatic transmission. Acceleration to 100 km/h for the V6 ute is a useful 7.9 seconds, and combined cycle fuel consumption is claimed at 8.8L/100 km.

The X350d is available in two trim variants − the Progressive, with a base retail price (including GST but excluding on road costs) of $73,270, and the top-of-the-range Power, costing $79,415.

In the ‘base’ Progressive model, key highlights include 18-inch light alloy wheels, seven airbags, ‘Audio 20’ head unit with Garmin map pilot navigation, cloth trim, manual seat adjustment, Keyless GO, plus a leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and park brake lever.

The extra $6145 for the Power model  adds LED headlights and LED partial taillights, COMAND Audio and navigation unit, a 360-degree camera with front and rear parking sensors, 19-inch alloys, aluminum trim dashboard, black roof liner, electric seats, Artico man-made leather seats, and additional chrome exterior highlights.

The vehicle tested for this review was the Progressive variant, which had options fitted including metallic paint ($950) and the style pack ($3350) which provides privacy glass on rear windows, electric rear window, side steps, roof rails, LED headlights and partial LED tail lights. Also included was an additional and very worthwhile bedliner ($899) and a full tow kit (including electric trailer brakes) for $2063.

These options brought the price of the vehicle up to $82,083 including GST (but excluding on road costs). To my mind, if you are spending that sort of money on a ute, you would be better off spending the additional $6145 for the X350d Power model, to bring in some essential items that are otherwise not included in the Progressive trim grade. That includes the electric seats and parking sensors which, on a vehicle of this size (and price), should be mandatory.

Our X350d, with its black 18-inch wheels, black roll bar and black privacy glass (along with black metallic paint) was an impressive-looking vehicle. During a trip to Melbourne’s beachside suburb of St Kilda on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I was amazed at the attention the ute caught. Numerous people stared and pointed as I drove down some of the heavily populated streets. If you want a vehicle that turns heads, the X-Class is ideal.

From the power and torque figures mentioned above, it’s obvious that this is a quick vehicle. Impressive both from a standstill and also when overtaking, the huge shove driven by that torque figure makes light work of shifting the 2166 kg kerb weight.

Where the V6 made a huge difference was with towing. As mentioned in my review of the X250d last year, the four-cylinder engine is fine to haul around its own weight; however, if you were to tow the legal maximum weight of 3500 kg, it would be left lacking.

Hooking onto a Pegasus horse float for the evaluation of the X350d demonstrated it was seriously capable, making light effort of both the weight and wind resistance of the tall box hooked to the towbar.

The X350d would be a handy unit for someone wanting to tow a heavy boat, caravan, or horse float. I imagine Benz has the ‘grey nomads’ in mind when it markets this vehicle, as it would be a powerful, economical, comfortable and safe vehicle for long-distance caravanning journeys.

Unlike the four-cylinder variant, the V6 also includes Benz’s  Dynamic Select system, which allows the driver to chose from Economy, Comfort, Sport or Off-Road settings, enabling the driver to customize the engine response and transmission shift strategy.

The V6 X-Class also has a full time four-wheel-drive system known as 4Matic. With this system the driver has the ability to lock the centre diff, and there is also a rear diff lock, and low-range gearbox as standard fit.  The ute is also fitted with steering wheel paddle shifts, should the driver wish to directly control the gear shifts, which is always useful when travelling off-road. I found the steering quite heavy, particularly when negotiating tight car parks, and I would appreciate additional assistance from the power steering system.

When it comes to competitors, the most obvious is the V6 Amarok TDI 580, featuring the same 190 kW output as the Benz, with slightly more torque at 580 Nm. Other competitors, albeit from different classes of vehicles, would be the Toyota Landcruiser GXL V8 turbo-diesel dual cabin, and then some imported options including the Chevrolet Silverado and the RAM 1500.

The ride comfort of the Mercedes is class-leading. Although its closest competitor is probably the V6 Amarok, as VW did not make a model available for subjective analysis, I cannot compare it directly. Compared to the other Japanese utes, which I drove back-to-back with the X-Class, the Benz comes out easily on top, largely due to the coil spring suspension found both at the front and rear of the ute – which is quite unusual in this class of vehicle.

The coil springs provide improved ride quality and are better off-road, due to their ability to offer increased axle articulation in rough terrain. Furthermore, payload is not compromised, as the spring is progressive in nature, which offers a legal payload of 1034 kg.

The interior is near-identical to the X250d, with many interior features borrowed from the C-Class passenger car. There’s a 7-inch colour display mounted like an iPad in the centre of the dash, along with the steering wheel, gauge package and the knob mounted near the gear selector to control the functions on the infotainment system. Unfortunately, the Progressive model misses out on the smart-looking aluminum dash trim.

In-cabin storage is quite limited with a small centre console and small cup holders, which made storage of daily necessities like phone, keys and wallet somewhat difficult. As with the 250d, this ute includes an electrically sliding rear window, which would be ideal when carrying long items such as a fishing rod or a set of skis as it allows them to poke from the tray into the cabin. Also ideal if you have a dog!

Another unique feature that I liked a lot was the adjustable tie-down points in the tray. There are two on each side of the tray that, once unlocked, can be slid along a track, allowing them to be positioned in the most appropriate spot to tie down the cargo being carried. For instance, they’d be ideal when carrying motorbikes as they can be adjusted to the most secure tie-down position.

The X350d is an impressive package, and would be a welcome addition to my garage any time.  If I was spending this kind of money on a ute in this class, I would definitely pay the extra $6000-plus to get the Power grade.

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