Motoring

With Liam Bird - Mercedes Benz X-Class

X marks the sweet spot

“Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz? My friends all drive pick-ups, I must make amends. Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends…”

Just a minute, what was that? What did you just say? Mercedes Benz, pick-ups? Are you sure?

Well, yes. This is the Mercedes Benz X-Class and, as you can clearly see, it is indeed a pick-up. It’s what Ms Joplin would’ve probably, and in a no-doubt very laid-back drawl, referred to as truh-uck. It is, say Mercedes Benz, the first pick-up to come from a premium manufacturer (Volkswagen, makers of the rather plush Amarok might dispute such claims, but they weren’t available for comment) and it’s the fourth member of their Commercial Vehicles line-up – Citan, Vito and Sprinter being the other three.

It’s easy to see why Mercedes Benz has built such a thing. Not only are more and more people driving pick-ups as recreational/family cars these days – look around next time you’re doing the school-run, it’s a trend that’s very much on the rise – Mercedes Benz are also part of a platform (and more) sharing alliance with Renault-Nissan. As a result of such relationships Nissan have their Navara, Renault their very similar Alaskan – which as a result of Brexit may, or now may not, be coming here soon – and Mercedes Benz, well, they have this, their all-together more well-appointed X-Class.

Three-pointed star badge kudos aside, just like its Far-Eastern and Gallic cousins the crew-cab only X-Class is capable of carrying a tonne and towing another 3.5. It’s got selectable four-wheel drive, can be specced with diff-lock, an automatic gear-box, Trailer Stability Assist and extra ground-clearance, and it comes with a host of safety-kit as standard such as Hill-Start Assist, Stop-Start, myriad airbags, a reversing camera and an all-important 5-Star Euro NCAP rating. You’ll still need a load-bed cover though if you want carry both passengers and luggage without getting one or the other wet, but at least there are plenty of rope-eyes with which to tie your friends and family, sorry, I mean your bags, down.

Power incidentally comes from either a turbo-charged 2.3 litre 4-cylinder 163bhp diesel or a similarly sized twin-stage turbocharged 4 offering 193bhp. A 3.0litre 258bhp V6 diesel will be available by mid-2018.

It’s the 193bhp unit, as fitted to a mid-range Progressive X-Class (Pure is the entry level, Power the range-topper) that I drove recently, from Shropshire’s RAF Museum Cosford to the Italian-esque village of Portmeirion – made famous in the 60s by The Prisoner series – and a very agreeable couple of hours behind the wheel it was too.

Because the X-Class/ Navara/Alaskan chassis uses a multi-link rear-axle and coil springs, rather than the more usual leaf-springs you usually find propping up the load bed of a pick-up, the Mercedes Benz boffins have been able to make this luxury load-lugger drive, well, more like a Mercedes – albeit a 2.3 tonne one. It’s no rocket-ship by any stretch of the imagination and there’s little joy to be had from making the engine work unnecessarily hard or from trying to throw the X-class around on a Welsh mountain B-road – the steering is far too slow for such things.

But relax a little, let the 7-speed auto-box do its thing and the X-class makes a surprisingly quiet and comfortable mile-muncher. Only the worst of surfaces bring out the tell-take pick-up shimmy and best of all there’s very little bounce – no leaf springs you see!

It all feels very nicely built and laid-out too. Those familiar with Mercedes interiors will instantly recognise the dials, the seven inch high-definition screen that sits centre stage in the dashboard, and rotary controller and touchpad in the centre console for the sat-nav and DAB. Even the single, trademark, Merc wiper/lights/indicators column stalk puts in an appearance. Granted, some of the plastics used here and there are very much of the hardwearing type, but this is a working vehicle first and foremost, a family car a distant second – even if in some cases it’s a leather-trimmed one. You do get a very Nissan looking key though (should such things matter) and that lovely, chunky steering wheel from the C-Class saloon, doesn’t adjust for reach – a minor niggle perhaps.

Throughout our meandering route from Shropshire to Gwynedd we deliberately searched for all types of roads and surfaces. We cruised the smooth(ish) M54 and tackled the Mid-Walian mountain roads; we drove through deep snow and floodwater, on the sands at Black Rock; we even tackled some light off-roading, after lunch, in Bala. The X-Class coped with it all, without complaint.

As a four-wheel drive pick-up that’s been built to appeal to those who like to work and play hard, or at least those who like to look like they do, the X-Class did exactly what it should’ve done and left us feeling that it would’ve easily coped with much more. It is expensive – over £40K if you add all the toys – but, you’ll pay less in tax thanks to the current one-tonne pick-up loophole, and if you’re savvy enough to register it for business use you’ll get VAT back too.

All things considered it’s easy to see why this new ruggedly handsome Mercedes Benz appears highly desirable. It’s hard not to sing its praises.


MERCEDES BENZ X-CLASS – 250 D 4-Matic 140 kW 4WD Auto Progressive

Engine: 2.299 cc 4-cylinder 16 valve turbo-diesel

Transmission: 7 speed auto with selectable 4Matic All-Wheel Drive

Power: 187 bhp @ 3,750 rpm

Torque: 332 lbft @ 1,500 – 2,500 rpm

0-62mph: 11.8 sec

Max Speed: 109 mph

Mpg: 35.8 (combined)

CO2: 207 g/km

Weight: 2,234 kg

Price: £37,987 on the road

 

Many thanks to Caroline and everyone at Mercedes Benz’s UK press office for the loan

of the X-Class.

www.liam-bird.com

@bird_liam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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