By Mthuthuzeli Mpiti*
The Mercedes-Benz X-Class is Merc’s very first attempt at the modern bakkie segment. Not only that, Merc argues that this is a “first of a new kind”, as the X-Class is the first premium bakkie to grace the segment. It is worth pointing out that Merc collaborated with Nissan in bringing us the X-Class. Nissan has been in the business of making bakkies since the 1930s. Another reason for the collaboration is that Merc also wanted their fair share of a growing segment and making a bakkie from scratch on their own would have taken long in terms of research and development. Merc is actually no stranger to manufacturing mean trucks. Think of the Unimog 4X4 truck that they have been making since 1950s. Their credibility cannot be doubted in this arena.
The all new X-Class had its global launch here in South Africa in 2017. Fast forward to 2018, I was lucky to be invited to the local launch in George. The launch took place in a specially designed venue in the bundus. This was to make a proper impression of new beginnings for Merc in the leisure bakkie segment. The set-up was mind blowing and dramatic. Whilst everyone was expecting a hotel of some sort, the plot was twisted, and we were handed “keys” to tents where we were going to spend the night, and connect with mother mature under African skies. I know you are thinking Survivor type of camping. It was nothing like that, the tents were well organized and equipped. I’m not the camping type but I would spend weeks in that environment. The drive was scheduled for the following morning, bright and early!
Now, how does this rugged and luxury bakkie drive? First of all, the X-Class bakkies available at launch were the X250d in 4×4, 6 speed manual and 7 speed auto, in Progressive and Power trims. Early in the morning, Merc did not waste time and threw us right into off-road obstacles. The first obstacle experienced was the 30.1 degree approach angle and the 25.9 degree departure angles. The bakkie was put into the ultimate test and it passed with flying colours. The optional 360 degree camera also assisted in keeping things in check when you were not aware of the surroundings. The next challenge was a summit to one of the challenging 4×4 trails I ever come across. We were now in Devil’s Head Pass in the Outeniqua Mountains, east of George. The 2.3L 140kw/450Nm power and torque figures of the engine were put into test in real conditions. They were not spared and when the situation got too extreme and steep, the Mercedes DSR (Downhill Speed Regulation) was on standby to keep things tidy. This system engages whilst 4L or 4H ranges are on, and it allows the bakkie to crawl in controlled speeds without you having to interfere with the brakes. I had to be reminded many times that I must let go of the brake pedal as I had trust issues with the technology. It turns out that I had nothing to fear, the system had everything under control.
What blew me away was the ride quality and comfort of the X-Class, whether it’s on or off-road. This is all thanks to front independent wheel suspension and rear multi-link solid axle that is similar to the one used in Sport Utility Vehicles. It ensures versatility of a double cab with the luxury of a passenger vehicle, while not compromising the rugged and tough credentials of the bakkie. Tiny gravel roads in the Montagu Pass were explored with ease even though the bakkie can be a little bit intimidating from the outside which changes as soon as you hop inside. The Outeniqua Mountain Pass twisties were eaten for lunch although there are limits as you are still riding very high from the ground. Are you listening Mercedes-Benz AMG? Keen on an X-Class AMG in the near future?
The X-Class has a towing capacity of up to 3.5Tons as well as more than 1000kg worth of payload. Inside a command online multimedia system with engaging media display, an internet browser, 80GB hard disk and DVD player is some of the optional or standard equipment you can look forward to depending on the model you choose. An ergonomic touchpad with controller with multimedia is also available. On the safety front, 7 standard airbags ensure the safety of the driver and passengers.
There were few negatives that left me a little bit disappointed. I found the legroom to be a bit of a challenge at the back and I am not a tall guy. I also doubt that 3 adults will seat comfortably there. Lastly, the interior built quality was not what I was expecting in Merc premium bakkie, however this is no C-Class Merc and it’s a first attempt by the manufacturer on the premium bakkie segment. The X-Class is directed at consumers that are already at the Merc brand, and require leisure bakkies to suit their lifestyle. Merc has done enough to entice these guys and ensure that they do not jump ship, and also create a new market for customers who are looking for a bakkie from a premium brand.
*Mthuthuzeli describes himself as a motoring enthusiast with a particular affinity for a German car brand from Wolfsburg. You can also send us your own written or video review and we will gladly publish it. Your contribution will be subject to our editorial policy of course.
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