DRIVING into the iconic village of Portmeirion something was clearly wrong with the car. It was working perfectly, but rather than a suitably Prisoner-esque Lotus Seven, we were driving the new Mercedes X-Class.
To be specific, the range-topping Mercedes X250 d 4MATIC Power.
Much is being made of the fact that the X-Class is the first pickup truck from a premium brand. Rightly so. The premium pickup market is growing quickly and Mercedes’ obvious goal is to come straight in at number one. After the first UK drive of this new addition to the Mercedes line-up, we can confirm that this is a very achievable goal.
Under the skin of the new Mercedes X-Class
Thanks to a technology partnership between Mercedes, Renault, and Nissan, the X-Class shares much with the excellent Nissan Navara, and the forthcoming Renault Alaskan, due next year.
The new Mercedes X-Class has the same chassis, the same 2.3-litre turbo diesel engine, and the same multilink rear suspension as the Navara. Granted the engines are tuned differently – you get 160bhp in the X220 and 190bhp in the X250 – and in our X250 the engine was almost perfect. It’s quiet and refined, provides enough power, and the seven-speed automatic transmission executes gear changes seamlessly.
Almost perfect. The X250 has enough power, but a bit more would be nice. There is a 3.0-litre V6 version due later next year that should solve that.
For practical purposes there is plenty of power and torque available. The X-Class can carry a one-tonne load in the rear and tow a 3.5-tonne trailer. The ability to switch between two and four wheel drive, and low range gear ratios means all but the most demanding off-road conditions are tackled with ease. No fuss, no messing around, the X-Class just calmly carries on. There are also options for a locking rear differential and a 20mm increase in ride height, just in case you need them.
Despite this the X-Class still achieved 30mpg over the course of our test. This is slightly down on the reported 35mpg, although in fairness Welsh mountain roads will consume more fuel than a steady motorway cruise. The emissions of 207g/km are exactly where you would expect a diesel pickup to be. The less powerful X220 versions do offer a slightly improved 200g/km, although whether that’s enough of a difference to make the sacrifice in power worthwhile is debatable.
The suspension gives the new Mercedes X-Class one of the most comfortable rides a pickup can offer. There is a bit of firmness that prevents it wallowing round corners, but nothing you couldn’t live with. All things considered – it being a pickup truck for instance – the handling is excellent. The steering is precise and nicely weighted so, despite an unavoidable lack of feedback, it’s remarkably car-like to drive.
This is where the new Mercedes X-Class stands out. It boasts flared wheel arches and a much more fashionably rugged appearance. The iridium silver grille is the highlight of the front end – except on Pure models which only have a black grille – and the moulded bonnet emphasises the imposing size. At first glance it looks very much like the Navara but the finer details make all the difference.
It’s not aggressive, it’s not ostentatious, it just has presence. At 5.3m it’s also slightly longer than the Navara, which does increase the size of the load bed, making the X-Class a bit more practical.
The interior is, unfortunately, a little less practical. It’s sufficiently roomy, enough for adults to sit comfortably in the rear seats, but the X-Class could do with a bit more storage. A few useful little cubby holes and a second cup holder would be nice, but there’s no faulting the quality and feel of the cabin. The stitched leather dashboard and brushed aluminium trim is a nice combination, and the seats are marvellously supportive and very comfortable. It’s also wonderfully quiet. The soundproofing removes all but the faintest trace of wind, tyre, and engine noise.
There’s no shortage of equipment in the range-topping Power model we drove. Standard specification includes:
- DAB infotainment system with Bluetooth
- Keyless operation
- Reversing camera
- LED headlights
- Electrically adjustable front seats
- Driver aids including active brake assist and road sign recognition
There are a wide range of option packs that can fill any gaps between the standard specification and your personal requirements, but it isn’t really necessary.
The only shortcoming we could think of is the apparent lack of adaptive cruise control, either as standard or an option. While it’s not the end of the world, it is the sort of thing we would like to see in a premium vehicle. Hopefully this will be rectified when the V6 model arrives.
Who is going to buy one?
That will depend on who is doing the buying. The new Mercedes X-Class is definitely going to be desirable, but the price could also dissuade many private buyers. The range-topping X250 d Power comes in at just under £41,000. That is a lot for a pickup, even more if you delve into the options list.
Prices for the X-Class start from £27,310 for the entry-level X220 Pure, but by the time you add VAT, and all the other associated “on the road” costs, the price rises to around £33,000. If you want a practical, comfortable family car you will get more from an equivalently priced Mercedes SUV.
It also depends on which specification you choose. The entry-level Pure and mid-range Progressive are undoubtedly well equipped, but then so is the much cheaper Navara. Would you rather have the Mercedes or a few thousand pounds in the bank?
However, this all comes with a hefty exception. If you are a business user or company car driver the Mercedes X-Class becomes a very different proposition. If you can claim back the VAT through your business, or take advantage of competitive lease deals and the lower company car tax rate on double-cab pickups, then the X-Class makes a bit more sense.
Correction, it makes a lot more sense.
When you take all that into consideration the Mercedes X-Class has the potential to be the pickup of choice for high-end builders, architects, property developers, and construction company directors. Maybe even a few civil engineers could be persuaded. It’s a rugged alternative for days when your E-Class might struggle, but it doesn’t expect you to sacrifice too much of the luxury. The fact that it looks equally smart in town just emphasises how flexible an X-Class could be.
As a business choice, or if the premium price tag simply doesn’t bother you, then you have to opt for the Power specification. Dip into the options to personalise it a little, and you will have a comfortable, well equipped, stylish, functional, and frankly very cool, premium pickup. On that basis the new Mercedes X-Class is going to be a resounding success.
Option packages available on the new Mercedes X-Class
- Style Package, specifically for the POWER line, includes privacy glass; electric rear windows; running boards; roof rails; and 19-inch six twin-spoke light alloy wheels (£1,345 excl. VAT)
- Style Package for the PROGRESSIVE line adds LED high-performance headlights with LED daytime running lights; LED tail lights; privacy glass; running boards; roof rails; and 18-inch six twin-spoke light alloy wheels (£2,190 excl. VAT)
- Comfort Package for the PROGRESSIVE line features eight-way electrically adjustable driver and front passenger seat with lumbar adjustment; THERMOTRONIC automatic climate control; ARTICO leather with DINAMICA microfiber upholstery; and a storage net for the passenger footwell (£1,235 excl. VAT)
- Parking Package, for the PROGRESSIVE and POWER lines, includes PARKTRONIC parking sensors and 360˚ camera, which features networked cameras in the front grille, wing mirrors and tailgate to capture a complete bird’s-eye view of the vehicle’s immediate surroundings to assist in avoiding obstacles and pedestrians when parking (£570 excl. VAT)
- Plus Package (PURE line) adds PARKTRONIC parking sensors and load rail securing system (£700 excl. VAT)
- Winter Package, across all three model lines, adds heated seats and heated washer fluid jets (£340 excl. VAT)
- Smoker Package adds an ashtray for the cupholder and lighter in the 12V socket (£30 excl. VAT)
- A differential lock for the rear axle to enhance off-roading capabilities is available for £495 excl. VAT
- Increased ground clearance by 20mm can be added for £220 excl. VAT
- Three standard non-metallic paint choices – danakil red, chisana white and granite green
- Metallic paint can be added for £510 excl. VAT, with a choice of kabora black, axinit bronze, cavansite blue, bering white, rock grey and diamond silver