X-Class — not just a rebadged pickup

2018-11-28 06:01
PHOTO: sourced

PHOTO: sourced

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THERE are similarities and common parts but don’t write Mercedes-Benz’s X-Class pickups off as simply re-badged Nissan Navaras.

That four-cylinder, 2.3-litre diesel was developed jointly by M-B and the Alliance. Mercedes-Benz calls it OM699 DE23 LA, adding an R to denote the “Reduced Power,” variable-geometry, single-turbocharger version used in its X220d. Nissan calls both versions YS23.

It boasts aluminium block and cylinder head, with dual overhead camshafts operating 16 valves. Fuel injection is via common rail and it’s Euro 6 emissions-compliant. That means low-sulphur fuel only.

The Mercedes is 70 mm wider for more shoulder and hip room. That extrapolates to a broader bin, allowing users to squeeze a DIN-sized pallet between the wheel arches – just like those showoffs over at VW with their Amarok. Sharing the same 3 150 mm wheelbase, X-Class is also 85 mm longer and stands 11 mm lower. Seven mm of that difference is in ground clearance – 222 mm vs. 229. Comparing like-for-like as closely as we could, the Mercedes is 235 kg heavier.

It has disc brakes at both ends, whereas the Nissan has drums in the back. Most safety equipment is the same but individual items and features differ. Suspension is essentially similar but the X-Class has different settings. That apparently translates as “softer,” but more on that later.

X250d and X220d use Nissan transmissions and 4x4 technology. That means selectable 2Hi, 4Hi and 4Lo with downhill crawl and electronic rear differential lock. It’s extremely competent – don’t forget which manufacturer ruled South African off-road racing for eight years in a row before retiring to give others a chance. The just-released X350d boasts all-German engine, gearbox and 4Matic system.

It’s all-Mercedes inside, apart from what is supposedly the original Nissan shift lever with an M-B logo on top. Some journalists get quite anxious about it. That aside, the cabin looks like almost any other living space from the three-pointed star; subdued faux leather upholstery with contrasting stitch work, the iPad­-like screen, the rotating control wheel, the vents, the dash and the instruments.

The standard Audio 20 CD outfit with eight speakers provides most of your music and basic connectivity needs, but satnav is extra. Order either Garmin Map Pilot, at R14 324 including pre-installation kit, or COMAND­ Online at R26 732.

Some users may miss having shift paddles because manual override is via stick only, with one negative consequence of the added body width being a longer stretch for the lever than you might find comfortable.

Further, being a Mercedes-Benz, the list of available options is extensive.

Our test unit was fairly lightweight in that department, adding only self-parking with all-round camera at R14 950; aluminium-look interior trim at R1 495; a soft tonneau cover at R11 913: a towing hitch at R6 900 (the electrics, with anti-sway control, are built-in) and a Style pack with roof rails, running boards, powered rear cab window and privacy glass at R11 500.

So, how does it drive? The short answer is, “like a pickup truck,” albeit a very comfortable one.

Performance isn’t as fast as an AMG but satisfactory, the seven-speed automatic works smoothly and efficiently if not lightning-quick and it’s very stable – a further benefit of the extra width. The only disappointment occurred on moderately rough gravel roads out past the farms. It soaked up ripples quite well but became noticeably bouncy over small potholes. We expected better and suggest that M-B adds Brand N’s optional off road packages to its own price list.

Is it a genuine Mercedes-Benz or just a rebranded Navara? We believe there’s sufficient German DNA to justify the star, but if you insist on brand purity there’s always the X350d.

Test unit from Mercedes-Benz Vans SA press fleet.

THE NUMBERS

Basic price including CO2 tax and VAT: R818 341

Engine: 2 298 cc, DOHC, 16-valve, twin-turbo commonrail diesel

Power: 140 kW at 3750 rpm

Torque: 450 Nm between 1500 and 2500 rpm

Zero to 100 km/h; 11.6 seconds

Maximum speed: 175 km/h

Real life fuel consumption: About 9.3 l/100 km

Tank: 73 litres

Warranty and maintenance: Six years / 100 000 km Premium Drive plan.

— Supplied.

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