First Drive: Mercedes-Benz X-Class Review

The Mercedes-Benz X-Class is one of the newest pickup trucks on the market, having been launched to positive review scores at the back end of 2017. By far the most luxurious and expensive pickup on the market, the X-Class is only available as a double-cab although there is a choice between a 2.3-litre (X220d or X250d) or a 3.0-litre V6 (X350d) diesel engine.

Mercedes-Benz X-Class under review

Mercedes-Benz X-Class: Background

Daimler – the parent company to Mercedes-Benz – is the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial vehicles but it didn’t compete in the industry’s fastest-growing segment; one-tonne, 4×4 pickups. Demand for these vehicles has been growing around the world for the past decade.

Despite Daimler’s expertise in both commercial vehicles and 4×4 vehicles, the German manufacturer decided to turn to its Renault-Nissan-Daimler alliance partner, Nissan, for expertise.

Mercedes’ new pickup is based on the Navara and built at Nissan’s Barcelona factory, but is heavily re-engineered; the difference between the Mercedes-Benz X-Class and the Nissan Navara is a lot more than just a new front and interior.

Engineers at Daimler have spent the last couple of years widening the track, altering the suspension and adding over 100kg of soundproofing to improve driving characteristics and refinement. What’s more, the X-Class is also available with Mercedes’ own 3.0-litre, six-cylinder turbo-diesel model.

Mercedes-Benz X-Class under review

Mercedes-Benz X-Class: Specification

The Mercedes-Benz X-Class is specced unlike any pickup truck that we’ve seen before. There are three trim levels (Pure, Progressive and Power) with even the entry-level model receiving fog lights, air conditioning, central locking, 12v sockets, a reversing camera, cruise control and the Audio 20 system which includes a CD player, satellite navigation, DAB radio, Bluetooth, steering-wheel-mounted controls and a 7.0-inch touchscreen display.

Moving up to the mid-level Progressive trim, the extras are mainly focused on the outside. The utilitarian black plastic bumpers are replaced by colour-coded bumpers and door mirrors, chrome handles and side sills and heated door mirrors. On the inside, chrome surrounds on the air vents, carpet flooring and a more luxurious fabric upholstery is added.

Flagship Power models are furnished with 18-inch alloy wheels, chrome bumper and detailing in the grille, LED lights, folding mirrors, leather seats (electrically 8-way adjustable in the front) and more.

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Mercedes-Benz X-Class under review

Mercedes-Benz X-Class: Interior

Asides from the obvious luxury, the second thing that struck us upon entering the cab of the X-Class was its low stance. The seating position is also quite low which, combined with the high bonnet, proved to be quite an obstacle to seeing objects close to the bumper and we had to rely on the 360-degree camera to avoid hitting anything.

Another slight criticism is the storage. Unlike other pickup truck models that focus on practicality, there seems to be a lot of ‘dead space’ in the X-Class cab and very few useful storage compartments. Apart from that, the interior scores pretty well with the comfortable seats and fit and finish receiving full marks.

Mercedes-Benz X-Class: Powertrain and Performance

The X-Class is the only pickup truck other than the Ford Ranger to be offered with two different engines. Nissan’s 2.3-litre, four-cylinder engine is available on all models (X220d 161bhp/403Nm and X250d 188bhp/450Nm), while Mercedes’ own 3.0-litre V6 (X350d 251bhp/550Nm) is reserved for the top-spec Power models.

The engines are hooked to either a 6-speed manual or either of two seven-speed automatics; the first of which is Nissan’s own and mated to 2.3-litre engines (X220d and X250d) while the Mercedes 7G Tronic gearbox is fitted to the X350d V6 and comes with five driver settings; Comfort, Eco, Sport, Manual and Off-Road. The X350d V6 models are also permanent four-wheel drive.

Despite sharing the same underpinnings as the Navara, the X-Class weighs in around 200kg heavier – or more than 10% – and a lot of that gain comes from the extra soundproofing resulting in the smoothest and quietest ride of any pickup truck. The steering is precise and there’s ample feedback, and there is very little lean going into the bends.

Acceleration times (0 to 62mph) vary considerably between 12.9 seconds for the X220d, 11.8 seconds for the X250d and just 7.5 seconds for the X350d.

One of the downsides of the X-Class’s weight is its fuel economy. Combined figures on the smaller 2.3-litre engine vary between 31.4mpg and 37.2mpg, depending on transmission and output, which falls slightly short of pickups with a similar performance.

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Mercedes-Benz X-Class under review

Mercedes-Benz X-Class: Towing and Loading

The X-Class isn’t simply a luxury 4×4 to look pretty on a driveway; there are some seriously practical elements to it too. For example, the 1,578mm long load bed is the longest in its class, and the 1,560mm width isn’t far from class-leading either. In terms of weights, payloads vary between a respectable 1,066 and 1,087kg and there’s an industry-leading 3.5-tonne towing capacity.

Mercedes-Benz X-Class: Off-road

The independent rear suspension takes to the inconsistencies and bumps of the dirt track much better than the traditional solid live rear axle with leaf spring arrangement for a number of reasons. The most obvious advantage is that there isn’t the loud ‘bang’ and ‘shudder’ when you hit bumps, although it also helps the wheels maintain contact with the ground better which increases traction and safety.

On extreme terrain, however, the independent suspension becomes a bit of a hindrance as its not able to articulate to anywhere near the degree of a solid rear axle. Another issue is the low stature; the X-Class rides with just 201mm ground clearance and this is reflected in the low approach and departure angles (29 and 24 degrees) and wading depth (500mm).

However, the 4-wheel drive systems themselves are impressive. X220d and X250d models receive Nissan’s respected selectable 4WD system while the X350d gets Mercedes’ own permanent system with a 40:60 torque split under normal driving conditions. A rear differential lock will set you back an additional £495.

Mercedes-Benz X-Class: Price and Availability

The X-Class has been in UK dealerships since December 2017 and prices vary between £27,350 and £38,350 plus VAT, making it by far the most expensive pickup on sale. The X-Class, however, is expected to hold its value well and it is backed by a respected LCV dealer network with a three-year, unlimited mileage warranty.