A class above?


The market for ‘lifestyle’ 4×4 pick-ups in the UK has boomed in recent years, and indeed although new LCV registrations have fallen lately, this sector bucked the trend and continued to grow. Seeing an opportunity, manufacturers who have previously not been a contender have introduced their own offerings, often a ‘rebadged’ version of another truck.

Unique in the LCV market, this sector is very sensitive to brand. Although based on the popular and capable Mitsubishi L200, the Fiat Fullback has failed to make significant inroads in the UK. Renault, who market the Alaskan, a Nissan Navara clone, have been hesitant to bring it to our shores, possibly recognising that a badge can make or break a vehicle launch.

Mercedes-Benz made a clear statement of intention in 2016 by releasing images of a concept pick-up. These early images and press releases made no secret of the aspirations of the company – to launch a premium vehicle with a strong brand identity and to attack the market dominated in particular by the Volkswagen Amarok and the Toyota Hi-Lux Invincible.

It was never going to be possible to hide the fact that the production version of the X-Class is based on the relatively new Nissan NP300 Navara. Mercedes-Benz have been at pains to stress however that the vehicle is not just a Nissan with a different front grille. Serious work has been done, including a redeveloped chassis, a widening of the track by 70mm (and an extra 50mm in the cab) and an overall ‘refinement’ exercise.

Specification and features

The X-Class is offered in one, double cab body style, two power outputs (163 or 190PS, both using a 2.3 litre Diesel engine) and three trim levels, Pure, Progressive and Power. The 163PS model has a 6 speed manual gearbox, the 190PS a 7 speed automatic.

Our test vehicle was a range topping (for the time being) X250d 4 MATIC Power. At this trim level the pick up comes with a very comprehensive level of equipment. In the cab, an infotainment system with a 7 inch HD screen, 8 speaker sound system, DAB radio, reverse camera, ‘Thermotronic’ dual zone climate control and electrically adjustable and heated leather seats are all offered. Externally, 18” wheels, LED headlights and chrome rear bumpers combine to impress the eye. From a safety perspective, all models in the range benefit from Active Brake Assist, Lane Keeping Assist, Traffic Sign Assist and Hill Start Assist. Mercedes-Benz have a long list of optional equipment, and the test vehicle was very well equipped with additions such as COMAND online (with navigation and live traffic), style package (including 19” wheels, roof rails and running boards), parking package with a 360 degree camera and a winter package. These come at a cost however, and along with a couple of other items the total price of these options was a whopping £6570 (excluding the load area ‘top’)…

The cab environment

Unsurprisingly, there is a definite air of quality evident as soon as you enter the vehicle. The dash is dominated by the centrally mounted media unit and no fewer than six chrome ‘jet engine’ air vents. There is a brushed chrome trim finish to the front of the dash which is pleasing to the eye and ‘lightens’ the general feel. Mercedes-Benz continue their somewhat puzzling philosophy that a touch screen is a driver distraction, and the media unit is therefore navigated by a rotary control between the driver and passenger seats (and buttons on the steering wheel). Directly above this is a ‘touch’ mouse type gadget, but in practice we found this very easy to activate unintentionally when reaching for the dial, creating unwanted changes in radio station for example. Switches for various functions (some as part of the optional equipment) are all within easy reach, but a little scattered over a number of areas of the dash with no uniformity. Cab storage is always a challenge for cab designers in this sector but very adequate door bins are provided together with a centre console and glovebox giving additional capacity for ‘bits and bobs’. Overall, the cab is a very pleasant environment for both driver and front passenger. Due to the raised position of the rear seats, passengers did complain of restricted headroom but otherwise complimented the space and comfort provided.


Load area

It’s possible that many prospective X-Class owners will not be overly interested in the load carrying capabilities but it compares admirably with most of its peers in the sector. Offering a 1587mm long load bed, a payload of just over a tonne and a 3.5 tonne towing capacity there isn’t much that can beat it.

On the road

A quick push of the button and it’s immediately very noticeable that a great job has been done in keeping engine noise in the cab to an absolute minimum. In addition, on the road there is very little noise intrusion from wind or tyres, an exceptional achievement given the size of the vehicle, mirrors and tyres. There is no issue in holding a conversation in hushed tones at any speed.

Performance? Very adequate as you would expect from a 190PS unit. Plenty of low down torque and the 7 speed automatic transmission is an absolute delight, calculating the timing of changes perfectly and executing them almost imperceptibly. Kick down for a quick overtaking manoeuvre is achieved without hesitation and effortless, rapid acceleration is there on demand.

The independent suspension on the X-Class becomes apparent immediately when driving on unmade road surfaces at speed. The truck takes rough surfaces and potholes in its stride achieving a remarkable, almost unbelievably comfortable ride for the driver and passengers. Although whilst on test there was no opportunity to put the X-Class through its paces in a true off road environment, the author has previously driven the vehicle on a very gruelling course alongside its main competitors, a task that it coped with admirably and without drama.

Although no accurate fuel consumption measurements were taken, the trip computer suggested that we achieved an average of 29.3 MPG whilst the vehicle was with us, the majority of use being on open, rural roads with a little urban motoring mixed in.


Mercedes-Benz have achieved what they set out to do – to introduce a vehicle to the sector with a strong image of quality, capitalising on the brand strength and to challenge the competition, some of whom have had things their own way for quite a while. It’s not just marketing gloss though, the vehicle stands out a mile both from a visual perspective but also cab quality, driveability and equipment. However… the manufacturer has been very bullish (some would say overly optimistic) on pricing. The truck is very expensive compared to its competition and, more specifically the Navara which comes in £5800 cheaper in its top of the range guise (without options on both vehicles). There is no doubt however that careful, strategic marketing (which has been first class so far) combined with the brand strength will overcome this to a degree. There is also the prospect of an enhanced residual value which will contribute to easing the total cost of ownership.

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