What is it?
It’s been a long time coming, some would say, but Mercedes-Benz have finally entered the hotly contested pick-up market with their brand new X-Class. Before I go on, let’s get rid of the elephant in the room; yes, Mercedes-Benz have partnered up with Nissan to produce the X-Class, which means that it shares some parts with the Navara.
When I first put my X-Class images onto social media, feedback from a lot of folk was to simply discount it as a re-bodied Navara, but personally I feel that is a bit unfair.
- Yes, the X-Class shares the same engine and gearbox, though Mercedes has fettled with the software so the gearing is better.
- Yes, it shares the same chassis, but again Mercedes have modified it to accommodate the new body and axles which give the X-Class ventilated disc brakes all-round.
There are a lot more differences, but I'll get onto those later.
On the road
The launch began at RAF Cosford, near Telford, where we met up for bacon butties and a short presentation. By 11.00am we were given the keys to our chosen steed and on the road heading for Bala.
There are three versions on offer in the UK, Pure, Progressive and Power. We had the 'Power' which was fitted with the 7-speed automatic gearbox and twin-stage turbo giving us 190bhp on tap. I'm not going to say that it was a 'rocket ship', but it had a nice amount of power when I needed it.
From the M54 and A5 we found ourselves heading towards the B4391, and over the last few days this parts of Wales had had its fair share of snow and ice, but today the heavy rain had washed the majority of it away leaving many sections of road flooded. This didn't bother the X-Class, it seemed at home weaving its way along the partly submerged narrow Welsh lanes.
It's worth noting at this point that the current X-Class is only part-time 4wd, meaning that until you turn the 4x4 dial it's permanently set to 2wd and power goes straight to the rear wheels. There's nothing wrong with this set up of course, it's main advantage over permanent 4wd is fuel saving.
After lunch at Gorwelion in Bala we took another X-Class on the off-road course at Bala 4x4, which I’ll get to later. Because daylight wasn’t on our side, we then hurriedly headed towards Cerrigydrudion which is the start of the EVO Triangle, but with ice and snow still in abundance we took our time and decided to stop off at Llyn Brenig for a quick photoshoot. The track leading down was covered in ice, and, after engaging 4WD, the X-Class didn’t falter and again proved its worth.
Later that evening, over pre-dinner drinks at Portmeirion, a colleague asked what I thought of the X-Class so far, I replied "It’s alright." To be fair, the whole of the day was spent getting places quickly before the sun disappeared, I wasn’t really focussing on the drive, nor the experience. However, that all changed the following morning when we had the day to ourselves with no rush to return to Telford.
Having had not a great sleep that night, I was feeling a little worse for wear, and no, it wasn’t alcohol related! Jumping into the X-Class, Muddy Madam and I casually made our way towards Bala, on to Cowen, then headed to Wednesfield, after a few short diversions totalling a 3 hour, 120 mile, return drive this is when I got that Mercedes-Benz feel.
On the road the X-Class is quiet, we drove over, or in some gnarly pot holes and it shrugged them off like they weren’t there. It was however quite noisy when driving along a road that had just been resurfaced, loose stones didn’t half make a racket whilst hitting the wheel arches!
From the A5 and M54 we took a detour to the Sainsbury’s at Wednesfield, and threading it through the busy carpark wasn't as daunting as you would imagine due to its good visibility.
With its pedigree, I had no doubt that the X-Class was going to be competent in the rough stuff; though unladen, and on road tyres, I was expecting the X-Class to slide everywhere and struggle on some of the steep inclines whilst threading our way around Bala 4x4 centre, but it didn’t, it was boringly efficient, even with a few days of heavy snow, frost and rain on the course.
If you take your off-roading seriously, there's a rear axle differential lock available for an extra £495 +VAT, and a 20mm increased ground clearance kit for £220 + VAT. I'm not convinced by the latter as any decrease in tyre pressure or heavy load will discount it immediately.
Although the X-Class shares some of the interior switchgear with the Navara, Mercedes have done a really nice job of transforming what is essentially a working vehicle into something that has a touch of class about it.
Because the dashboard, bonnet and door panels are all high, it’s akin to driving a car. In any other sort of 4x4 you’re usually sat up high looking down on all that you survey, but not so much in the X-Class, and that’s OK as visibility is still very good.
The whole driving experience, and feel in the front was relaxed and rather chilled out, however, sit in the back and it’s a different matter. The rear seat is positioned quite high; taller passengers will not have a great view of the road ahead or to the side, and will probably bang their heads on the grab handle above the door (like I did, numerous times!).
The eight-way electrically adjustable driver and front passenger seats are some of the comfiest that you'll rest your bum on, and with deep sides you're not going anywhere whilst speeding around corners or during scary off-road side slopes!
On the subject of bad visibility, the rear window is quite a slim affair and you can't actually see the pick-up bed, never mind the tail gate through the rear view mirror, so spending an extra £570 + VAT on the PARKTRONIC parking sensors and 360˚ camera is worthwhile in my opinion.
The infotainment system is worthy of a quick mention as it's easy and straight forward to use, even for me!
Engines ’n transmissions
The X-Class comes with one engine, the 4-cylinder 2.3ltr diesel and a choice of two power outputs. The X 220d has a single turbocharger offering 163hp and the X 250d has a twin-stage turbocharger that offers 190hp.
Transmission wise, the X 220d comes with a six-speed manual box in the Pure and Progressive model lines. The X 250d on the other hand is available in all three model lines: Pure or Progressive and Power, with a choice of the manual or the seven-speed automatic.
Throughout both days our X 250d which was fitted with the 7-speed auto averaged 32.6mpg, which isn't far off MBenz's combined figure of 35.8mpg. I didn't think our figure was too shabby as the roads and conditions were at times quite challenging, and I wasn't dawdling!
From wafting along scenic Welsh roads, to threading ourselves through narrow single track lanes, the X-Class always felt unflustered. Of course, the 190bhp Renault derived 2.3ltr engine could’ve offered more, but for the time being it was ample.
With a towing capacity of 3.5t, a 1.1t load capacity and prices starting from just over £27k + VAT, the X-Class isn't a folly for Mercedes-Benz, it's a genuine attempt at breaking into the popular pick-up market.
Will you see them parked outside builders merchants or farmers markets?
I don't know, but there's no reason why you shouldn't, other than cost. Having said that, HMRC sees the X-Class as a light commercial vehicle, which brings with it a fixed BIK rate and a company car tax bill of around £100 a month, which is more palatable for business users.
Not that there isn’t anything wrong with the current line-up, but the X-350 V6 with permanent 4WD will be in the showrooms in the middle of 2018, and that’s when I believe the X-Class will come into its own.