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A Mercedes-Benz bakkie you say?


According to Mercedes-Benz, the bakkie market is growing at a rapid rate with expectations suggesting a 43% growth worldwide by 2026.

It's only logical that they are wanting to capitalise on that market with the world's first truly premium bakkie. I flew to the global unveiling of the much anticipated X-class in Cape Town to get a first-hand experience.

Isn't it just a re-skinned Nissan Navara?

One of the X-class’ biggest talking points has been its sharing of underpinnings with the new Nissan Navara. Despite having the same ladder-frame chassis and even being built alongside the Navara in Barcelona, the X-class receives a revised coil-spring suspension setup, different gearbox software and additional hardware changes, Mercedes-Benz claims is bespoke to what their version of a bakkie should be.

In terms of the dimensions, the X-class shares its 3 150 mm wheelbase with the Navara, but with a 85 mm gain in overall length (5 340 mm vs. 5 255 mm), 70 mm in width (1 920 mm vs. 1 850 mm) and a 11 mm drop in height (1 819 mm vs. 1 830 mm). 

The looks

Although not as radical as the concept, it still has a unmistakable Mercedes-Benz face, with the front end taking after the SUV offerings from the brand. A variety of bumper design options are also available depending on specification levels, while LED headlights are standard on the top spec Power model.

The rear also differs from the concept in that it adopts a more traditional look rather than the wraparound lights, yet it still comes across as fresh and simple. Another element I like is the fact that Mercedes-Benz has custom made load bin accessories specifically for the vehicle.

What's it like inside? 

Unlike the Navara, the X-class features a Mercedes-Benz specific design with a variety of colours and materials on offer, including a segment first wood trim finish. It most certainly comes across as the most luxurious pick-up this side of the Volkswagen Amarok.

Aside from the Power, the X-class can be had in two other spec levels; Pure and Progressive with these model featuring a 5.4-inch colour display on the centre facia, as opposed to the range topper's 8.4-inch COMAND Online system. The Power also gets electric front seats with two way lumbar support, dual-zone climate control, a multi-function touchpad and ISOFIX mounting points as standard.

Is it safe? 

Without doubt the safest bakkie ever made, the X-class boasts a number of safety tech, both standard and optional, including items such as Active Brake Assist, 360 degree camera system and Parking Assist, seven airbags, tyre pressure monitor, Trailer Stability Assist and Lane Keeping Assist with Traffic Sign Recognition.

Engine line up

In terms of power, the X-class will initially be offered with a choice of two Nissan sourced diesel engines both displacing 2.3-litres, and later a Mercedes-Benz-made diesel V6 as the top-spec unit.

For the base X220d, the engine produces 120kW/403Nm, while the X250d features the flagship Navara’s twin-turbo setup with ratings of 140kW/450Nm. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard on both models with a seven-speed automatic optional on the latter. Both however can be had with either rear or selectable four-wheel drive.

Available from next year, the X350d’s 3.0-litre mill develops 190kW/550Nm, linked to  Mercedes-Benz’s 7G Tronic gearbox, with drive going to all four wheels via the familiar 4Matic all-wheel drive system with five modes (Comfort, Eco, Sport, Manual and Off-Road) as part of the Dynamic Select system.

Driving the X-class?

Our drive both on-and-off-road was short, but what I can say is that the X250d I drove felt really good with loads rear-end grip, informative steering and good power delivery. On the off-road course, I found the ride to be comfortable mostly thanks to that revised suspension.

Will it work in South Africa?

We as South Africans are very critical when it comes to our beloved bakkies, hence the reason for Mercedes-Benz designing the X-class specifically to meet market demands also shared with other areas such as South America, Australia, New Zealand and Eastern Europe.

On the face of it, the X-class comes across as something quite special. It's not going to be cheap and I don't think it will out sell the Toyota Hilux any time soon, but it is unique and has definitely moved the goal posts in the premium bakkie segment.

Article written by Justin Jacobs
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