The 4X4 ute segment continues to grow in Australia, in terms of both sales and offerings. While sales figures continue to grow, more manufacturers are looking to move into that space. The latest is the …

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Apr 18 2018
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The 4X4 ute segment continues to grow in Australia, in terms of both sales and offerings. While sales figures continue to grow, more manufacturers are looking to move into that space. The latest is the Mercedes X-Class, which is looking to slice up their own piece of the delicious profit pie.

As we all know, and as many discuss at length, the new Mercedes X-Class is not a ground-up development. Rather than get in on the ground floor, the good folk from Stuttgart decided to team up with Nissan. They take the bones of the coil-sprung Navara, and tailor it to their own needs. How much is actually different? Well, that depends on the spec levels. Let’s have a look at the most important, juicy details.

There’s a Nissan engine under the bonnet (A Mercedes V6 and gearbox is coming soon).

Aussies love their engines, and talking about torque and revs and pounds per square inch. It might not be the case so much in the econobox segment, but when it comes to 4WDs and utes, then it is 100% front-and-centre.

So, what engine does does the Mercedes X-Class have? For now, you’ve got one option: Nissan’s 2.3-litre four-cylinder diesel. Power, in both single and twin-turbo form, is identical between Mercedes and Nissan. That means 120kW @ 3,750rpm and 403Nm @ 1,500-2,500rpm (single) or 140kW @ 3,750rpm and 450Nm @ 1,500-2,500rpm (twin). Like in the Navara, this engine gives the X-Class smooth, refined and noticeably torquey performance, especially with a slick seven-speed gearbox controlling affairs.

But Mercedes-Benz isn’t just leaving it there. Coming soon will be an engine from their own gene pool; a 3.0-litre diesel V6 currently used amongst other models. This is going to make 190kW and 550Nm, which is more than the current V6 165kW/550Nm Amarok. But, Volkswagen was quick to throw their own riposte, announcing a bump in grunt up to 190kW and 580Nm from their own diesel six-banger. So yes, a bit of a battle of power is brewing here between the German brands, let’s see what happens next? Interestingly, Mercedes have another version of the V6 diesel that makes 190kW and 620Nm in their high-specced sedans and SUVs …

The suspension tune is all Mercedes.

Yes, Mercedes has used the Nissan platform to build their X-Class. But, it ain’t no Toyota Lexcen. Using the independent front suspension and five-link live rear axle, Mercedes have done their own complete suspension tune. Importantly, the wheel track has been widened by 70mm. This will improve the centre of gravity noticeably, and makes the X-Class feel a bit more planted.

It’s also very interesting to note Mercedes is using a progressive-rate coil spring in the rear end, which looks almost identical to Nissan’s latest V3 update. Clearly, somebody has been copying homework…

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We think Mercedes have done a stellar job with the X-Class interior. It’s nice but not too nice, if you know what we mean.

So, calling the X-Class a tarted-up Navara is wrong. Those who do are missing the point that while Nissan had a few false starts in tuning the suspension for their ute, Mercedes seems to have got it nailed in the first instance. We drove one loaded with 650kg in the tray, and while more power and throttle response would definitely be nice, the steering and suspension handled the extra weight well. If you can’t tell, we’re looking forward to the V6 …

The tech is strong in this one.

Where Mercedes does go hard is with technology, especially in the higher-specced models. Autonomous Emergency Braking, which they call ‘Active Brake Assist’. There’s also a 360-degree camera for tight manoeuvring, Lane Keeping Assist, rain-sensing wipers, a man-made leather upholstery and an 8-speaker digital sound system. How much? The POWER specification starts at a fairly sharp $61,600 with a manual gearbox, and goes up to $64,500 for the seven-speed automatic.

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Plus, it’s worth noting the Mercedes X-Class has seven airbags for safety, and has a five-star ANCAP safety rating.

it’s not all about luxury.

That’s right, Mercedes is getting their pov-pack on with rubber floors and steelies (17″). That’s the ‘Pure’ specification, which starts at $52,400 for a twin-turbo 4WD with a tub and manual gearbox. The automatic is $55,300. You get Lane Keep Assist and Brake Assist, which is quite impressive for the bottom specification, but not a whole lot else.

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Does this look familiar?

Lower-specced models have a proper 1-tonne+ payload as well, which is assuring to know it’s more than just a show pony. And, there is a 3,500kg towing capacity available, however you’ll need to keep an eye on your GCM at the same time.

What is different, compared to the Navara?

Alrighty then, let’s get down to the nuts and bolts. While the engine and gearbox are currently the same, let’s run through what’s different:

Interior: It’s all-new, and all Mercedes. They have definitely brought a sense of their class into this ute. But also importantly, they haven’t overdone it with soft-wearing finishes. It still feels like something you could get a bit dirty and not have a fit.

Exterior: It’s an all-new look. It no doubt has a strong presence, which is important for the brand.

Suspension: Mercedes took Nissan’s sketch, but then did the colouring-in themselves. It’s their own tune in terms of spring rates and shock absorbers, and the track width has been widened out 70mm, making it 1632mm rear and 1625mm front.

Chassis: It’s the same platform, but Mercedes have made efforts to strengthen the chassis torsionally. Cross-members are thicker, and there are a few extra braces about the place. There’s also a bit more sound deadening, but we would have loved to see a bit more in the wheel wells.

Price: Naturally, the Mercedes X-Class will cost more than the Navara. Where the Datsun goes for $54,490 for a top-spec auto, the X-Class will cost $64,500. Is it worth it, well.. good question. It’s a more refined ute, no doubt. But that sense of value is up to you, dear reader.

How does it go off-road?

Unfortunately, we can’t answer that question too strongly just yet. We’d hazard a guess it would be quite good in the meantime; Nissan’s Navara is a solid performer in this regard, so we can’t see the X-Class taking a backward step in this regard. There’s a rear locker available, and Mercedes aren’t exactly short in tough, capable 4WD heritage…

For the full write-up of driving impressions, you’ll have to grab a copy of our magazine. Print or digital, it’s a bi-monthly hit of all that is good in Australian 4WDing. Tech, travel, gear and 4WDs. It’s got it all!

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