Mercedes-Benz took the wraps off the production-ready version of the X-Class, the prestige brands premium level entry into the ever-growing Ute market.
Forecasting that by 2026 the global Ute market will have grown by 43 per cent gives a firm indication of the importance placed by Mercedes-Benz to gain entry into this now lucrative sector of the mass passenger market.
Delivery Magazine and PowerTorque Magazine were invited to attend the extremely comprehensive launch programme held in Cape Town, with South Africa being one of the major intended markets. The country also has a long history with the German manufacturer, dating back to Daimler having established a presence as far back as 1897 and commencing vehicle manufacturing in 1948. Today it manufactures the C-Class Mercedes-Benz, producing over 115,000 cars in 2016, together with assembling 4,300 trucks in CKD form from the Fuso range and importing fully built Vito and Sprinter vans.
There are three design and equipment variants for the X-Class to choose from as well as four or six-cylinder engines, rear-wheel drive and engageable or permanent all-wheel drive, a six-speed manual transmission and a seven-speed automatic transmission. In addition there are six different trim levels, including two leather variants.
The market launch in Europe is scheduled for November 2017, with South Africa at the beginning of 2018 followed by Australia and New Zealand in October 2018, ahead of Argentina and Brazil scheduled for the following year. Pricing for the European market starts from the equivalent of $55,000 (AUD).
Built on this platform, the distinctive design of the X-Class is available in three model variants to suit different lifestyles and work environments:
The X-Class PURE basic variant is ideal for rugged, functional use as a workhorse. At the same time its comfort and design make it perfect for visiting customers or suppliers and for private activities.
The X-Class PROGRESSIVE is aimed at people seeking a rugged pickup with extra styling and comfort functions – as a calling card for their own business, while also being a comfortable yet prestigious vehicle for private use.
The X-Class POWER is the high-end design and equipment line. It is aimed at customers for whom styling, performance and comfort are paramount. The X-Class POWER is a lifestyle vehicle beyond the mainstream – suitable for urban environments as well as for sports
and leisure activities off the beaten track. Through its design and high level of equipment it reflects an independent and individualistic lifestyle.
The background to the development of the X-Class is based initially on product sharing with Nissan and using the Navara model range as the basis for the new Benz. But while the external design lines of the X-Class in general terms obviously owes its heritage to Nissan, the Mercedes-Benz treatment has transformed the interior to replicate that of the B-Class passenger range.
When moving to the high end models such as the Power versions, the underpinnings take on a new engineering dimension, with a Mercedes-Benz powertrain of engine, transmission and independent suspension, drive axles with wider track, disc brakes all round and a complete safety suite that includes lane departure assist, adaptive cruise control and the majority of the other exclusive safety features found on the Mercedes-Benz passenger car range.
In an interview with Delivery and PowerTorque, Volker Mornhinweg, executive vice president for Mercedes-Benz vans explained the challenges involved in profiling the top of the line models to suit the demands of a prestige level Ute that now stands above all other contenders in this rapidly growing segment.
“We have engineered the X-Class for up to 1.1 tonnes payload and a towing capability (braked trailer) of 1,650 – 3,500kg (dependent on engine and equipment). We wanted roll stability performance on the highway to match the standards expected from a Mercedes-Benz Passenger car, without the harshness of ride associated with the more workhorse types of designs,” he said.
“In the same way we want to offer a choice of engines and we have four from which to choose, staring from the X200 with a four cylinder petrol offering 122kW and 238Nm, through the X220d four cylinder diesel with 120kW and 403Nm, the X250d with 140kW and 450Nm right up to the top of the range X350d V6 diesel that offers 190kW and 550Nm. A seven-speed automatic transmission is available on request for the 140 kW/190 hp X 250 d and X 250 d 4MATIC models,” Mr. Mornhinweg added.
The top X-Class X350d model will come as standard with permanent 4MATIC all-wheel drive and the seven-speed automatic transmission, 7G-TRONIC PLUS with steering-wheel shift paddles and ECO start/stop function. The DYNAMIC SELECT system is additionally available. There are five drive programmes to choose from: Comfort, ECO, Sport, Manual and Offroad. These modify the engine characteristics, the automatic transmission’s switching points and the ECO start/stop function.
Coil springs are used both at the front and the rear, which contributes to a harmonious suspension comfort. The comfort suspension is designed in such a way that it achieves a high level of driving dynamics and ride comfort on the road, while also delivering maximum off-road capability in conjunction with 4MATIC all-wheel drive.
The elaborately designed comfort suspension consists of a double wishbone front axle and a rear multi-link solid axle that is ideal for transporting heavy loads and has good articulation capability.
With 1632 millimetres at the front and 1625 millimetres at the rear, the
X-Class has a wider track than most competitors. This provides the ideal prerequisites for optimum driving stability and higher cornering speeds.
At 3150 millimetres, the wheelbase is also longer than many other mid-size pickups. This reduces vibrations during the journey and makes for smooth and reliable straight-running stability. Mercedes-Benz is the only manufacturer in the segment to opt for large, internally vented brake discs on both axles as standard. The front axle has brake discs with a diameter of 32 centimetres and the rear axle with a diameter of 30.8 centimetres.
PowerTorque and Delivery Magazines have been invited to take part in the first drive programme during the event held on the outskirts of Cape Town with access to the executive team responsible for the overall design and development of the X-Class. A full report will follow this week.