If you like your workhorses posh, Mercedes-Benz’s first pickup could be for you
The idea of a luxury pickup might have seemed rather peculiar not so very long ago, but not these days. Posh trucks are all the rage in Europe, and especially in the UK, where 2017 sales are expected to be 15 per cent up on 2016’s at 55,000.
Top of the pickup sales heap is the Ford Ranger, but up at the plusher end of the market where the Volkswagen Amarok lives is where you will find the X-Class. A joint effort with Renault-Nissan, the X-Class is based on the Nissan Navara, but the number of familiar-looking body panels is small enough to convince you that this is no copycat drone. That and the very different interior.
Mercedes-Benz X-Class X250d 4Matic Power
Engine 2.3-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged diesel
Torque 332lb ft
Gearbox 7-spd automatic
Top speed 112mph
Fuel economy 36.7mpg
CO2 rating 207g/km
The Renault-built 2.3-litre turbo four diesel comes in two powers: 161bhp in the single-turbo, six-speed manual X220d, and 187bhp in the twin-turbo X250d, which has a seven-speed automatic gearbox. Both have selectable four-wheel drive. Certain markets will be getting a 163bhp petrol engine, but the one to watch out for in mid-2018 will be a 255bhp, 542lb ft V6 diesel with permanent four-wheel drive and a beefed-up seven-speed automatic. All X-Class variants will have a low-range gearbox and the option of a locking differential.
Towing capacity is 3.5 tonnes, and up to 1067kg will go in the 1587mm by 1560mm load bed.
You won’t see many entry-level X-Class Pure pickups in the UK as it’s a stripped-back work truck. Progressive trim, with colour-matched bumpers, alloy wheels, and faux-chrome dash surrounds will be a more popular choice.
Establishing the X-Class as a premium pickup will be the top Power trim, which comes with leather-covered steering wheel, seats and dash, LED lights front and rear, keyless go, 18-inch alloys and electrically-adjustable front seats. A seven-inch central infotainment screen is standard across the range.
Mercedes has tried to lift the tactile surfaces above the level of the Navara’s, and it succeeds in the top half of the dash, but the plastic bits around the gearbox housing and aircon control panel aren’t quite as premium-feeling. The company has tried to take the agricultural edge off the engine by adding more sound-deadening.
We tried the X250d and the X220d, and found the weaker variant to be a little lacking in power even when there was no load in the back. The 187bhp X250d feels the happier of the two on the highway, and is a comfortable match with the seven-speed automatic gearbox.
Although the light hydraulic steering starts off by feeling pretty dead and slow, that becomes a positive attribute when you’re driving off-road. The X-Class is leagues ahead of its leaf-sprung rivals in ride comfort, thanks to all-round multilink coil spring suspension front and rear. Working the X-Class hard on rough gravel tracks might make you think you’re in a mid-range SUV rather than a separate-chassis work truck. The wider front and rear track really helps to give it better dynamics and grip than the Navara.
The gap between the lifestyle pickup and the SUV market is narrowing all the time and the X-Class is in the vanguard of that movement. It’s the best pickup so far in terms of its ability to blend workability with comfort. Mercedes has started low on the ‘premium’ aspect, giving them more headroom to develop the product along those lines. As it stands, it’s nicely distanced from the Navara.
Prices start at £27,310 (excluding VAT) for the X250d Pure. The better-specced Power trim is £34,100, which turns into nearly £41,000 when VAT is added. That’s £3,600 above an equivalent Volkswagen Amarok and £6,500 above a Navara. And we haven’t even got the X350d V6. That will be the big one, in more ways than one.