It’s probably fair to assume that no launch of any other vehicle this year had been surrounded by so much public interest as that of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class. Having attended that launch earlier this year and having driven two separate vehicles on test in Johannesburg in recent months, I have to say that the X-Class definitely seems to be a hit with bakkie-crazy South Africans.
I know I’ve said it of a couple of vehicles already this year, but the X-Class is officially the one that has attracted the most amount of attention and started the most conversations this year. Whether it be on the road or social media…
But, does that mean that it is a good bakkie? A week spent with the X 250 d 4Matic Progressive automatic revealed a few uncomfortable truths…
What can I expect from the X-Class?
There is no denying the on-road presence of the X-Class. It is a big vehicle with a butch, bold persona – aided in South Africa by the standard 20-mm raised ride height. While the front is its most attractive angle, the bland, boxy rear lets down the image. In Progressive trim the X-Class is adorned with wide 255/65 tyres on attractive 17-inch rims, black front bumper inserts and a body-colour rear bumper.
It’s “aimed at consumers who are seeking a rugged bakkie with extra styling and comfort functions, while also being a comfortable yet prestigious vehicle for private or dual use,” says Mercedes-Benz of the Progressive. So how comfortable is it? Well, typical of Mercedes-Benz, the seats and driving position are possibly the best yet in a double-cab bakkie. Those in the front are comfortable, with lots of adjustment, but the rear bench is perhaps a bit too upright. Similarly, there’s a good amount of space in the front, but the rear again suffers ever so slightly.
Like the X-Class’s posterior, I can’t help but feel that Mercedes-Benz could’ve done more with the design of the interior… The X-Class is touted as a premium bakkie yet the hard plastics and bland design of the dash, while fit-for-bakkie purpose, are anything but… The black roof lining is a nice, un-bakkie-like touch, though I’d happily pay for one of the optional interior trim finishes over the standard, bland black plastic inserts.
Is it loaded with lots of safety features and other nice toys?
As anyone familiar with German cars will attest, the list of optional extras is normally as long as that of standard equipment; and Merc’s premium bakkie is no exception. Progressive models receive as standard heated and auto-dimming exterior mirrors; a tyre-pressure monitor; leather-covered handbrake lever, gear knob and steering wheel; electric seats; rain-sensing wipers; cruise control; hill-start assist; downhill speed regulation on this 4×4 version; trailer stability assist; and a handy load-securing rail system in the loadbox.
However, the likes of a reversing camera (R5 649), navigation (R8 474), or Parktronic with 360° camera (R14 950) are optional… Naturally, there are five options packages to choose from, and you can kit out your X-Class with 24 individual accessories (or nine accessory packs).
Disappointingly, features such as keyless entry and start, automatic climate control and LED headlamps are the reserve of the top-spec Power model.
What’s it like from behind the wheel?
All four-cylinder X-Class models share the same, Nissan-derived 2,3-litre turbodiesel motors – the X 250 d featuring the twin-turbo version that produces 140 kW power and 450 Nm torque. And it’s torque that this motor prioritises: it doesn’t rev as freely as expected but it pulls strongly from low down.
Fitted with the generally well-functioning seven-speed automatic transmission, the X 250 d offers a largely relaxing drive. It is not, however, the best-riding bakkie out there; despite riding on independent five-link rear suspension. It’s good, but not the best. However, handling wise, it’s certainly one of the more engaging bakkies, responding positively to inputs, offering a good amount of chassis control and feeling planted on the road.
Having driven the X-Class 4Matic extensively off road on its launch, this is one area where it undoubtedly shines – being comfortable and capable with very good off-road characteristics (such as a 600 mm wading depth and 100-percent gradeability rating).
Mercedes-Benz claims a combined-cycle fuel consumption figure of 7,9 l/100 km and 9,7 in town. However, I could do no better than 12.
Should I buy one, or look around?
By its own admission, Mercedes-Benz knows that the X-Class will remain a niche product in the double-cab bakkie segment. But here’s the rub, the X 250 d 4Matic Progressive AT costs R723 811 – a lot of money for a vehicle that falls short on some of its promises… Especially when its Volkswagen Amarok Extreme rival offer more equipment and a better ride, for less.
It’s a good bakkie, but the badge on the nose doesn’t justify the premium – no matter how much attention it grabs or conversation it starts.
The Mercedes-Benz X-Class is sold with the manufacturers PremiumDrive full maintenance plans of six-years/100 000 km.
CyberStoep rating: 6,5/10