We drive the new Mercedes-Benz X-Class bakkie

<i>Image: Wheels24</i>
<i>Image: Wheels24</i>

Santiago - Mercedes-Benz unveiled its X-Class bakkie at its World Premier in Cape Town earlier in July. Now, the automaker has conducted its first set of test drives for its next-generation bakkie in Chile.

'A unique product' 

Mercedes-Benz has raised the bar in the utility market by creating a unique product – the world’s first premium bakkie. It says a lot about South Africa’s love of bakkies that the arrival of the new X-Class is so highly anticipated. Ever since the concept first made its debut, SA fans have been eager to get to grips with Mercedes’ next-generation pick-up.

GALLERY: 2017 Mercedes-Benz X-Class

It combines the comforts of a Mercedes-badged sedan with the practicality of the German automaker’s SUVs, resulting in a vehicle that’s as capable as a lifestyle model as it is taking on the outdoors. 

The X-Class is a game-changer and represents the future of bakkies in an ever- growing market. I'd be curious to see whether any rival will follow suit.

New #XClass #bakkie in action in Chile. @mercedesbenzsa @wheels24_sa #offroad #Xtraclass @mercedesbenz

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Not a Navara!

No, it’s not a ‘Navara with Mascara’… Mercedes is adamant that although the two bakkies share DNA they are vastly different. The X-class has a stiffened chassis, wider body, retuned suspension, infinitely better-equipped interior and vastly better cabin insulation. That being said the four-cylinder variants of the X-Class will use Nissan/Renault engines and transmissions, not to mention the X-Class is built at a Nissan factory alongside the Navara.

What do you think of the Mercedes bakkie? Would you take your X-Class off-road in SA?  Email us 

What’s it like to drive? 

In short, Mercedes-Benz gave its engineers a brief to build a supremly comfortable ride that belies the vehicle's size, and they’ve nailed it, it’s the most car-like bakkie you’ll drive yet. It’s superbly comfortable on the road delivering a ride that’s as smooth as the automaker’s sedans, though you’re acutely aware of its prodigious dimensions and weight especially when cornering. Gear shifts are slick, body roll is negligible and overall it's a great offering. 

In terms of performance, the four-cylinder X 250d (140kW/450Nm) is adequate given the sheer weight it has to haul. Mated to an auto box it’s a casual, albeit refined, performer and for most it will suffice. At low speeds in traffic, it's as quiet as a C-Class as the diesel brom is barely evident. Its light steering is a boon around city streets.

Taking on the sweeping, rugged mountain passes of Santiago, Chile makes you realise the full potential of the X-Class - it’s a luxury lifestyle vehicle that happens to have a load bay. Whether you're piling surfboards in the rear headed for the beach or hauling mountain bikes for an off-road adventure, the X-Class can meet any lifestyle need. Mercedes calls it a "pick-up for the 21st century" and that's exactly what it is, an ultra modern next-gen bakkie. 

What about performing workhorse duties? Given its projected price point and positioning, it’s unlikely you’ll find many of these premium pick-ups relegated to warehouses and farms in SA.

Inside, the cabin has all the trimmings and luxury you’d expect from Mercedes, with many elements borrowed from the automaker’s sedans and SUVs (eg floating air vents, pop-out touch screen). Overall it's a great environment to be in with ample space for all passengers. Then there's the tech. Mercedes-Benz has packed its pick-up with the full arsenal of its advanced safety systems and the X-Class benefits from the latest app technology - Mercedes Me. It's an app that allows drivers to acccess information about their bakkie (i.e servicing, status etc.) via a smartphone, you can even locate it remotely.

There are however elements that speak to its utility focus; harsh, plastic surfaces, utilitarian mats, a simple gearshift lever as well as a serious down grade to its key-fob (it belongs to the Navara!).

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The design however is outstanding; it’s possibly one the best-looking bakkies on the market. Sure, there are similarities with the Navara but the X-Class has by and large a unique design. The front-end has an aggresive stance with huge chromed-slats and massive LEDs. The rear however is pedestrian in comparision while in profile it has a great silhouette, easily recognisable as something special.

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Given its premium status and South African fondness for purchasing off-roaders for sole purpose of mounting curbs rather than mountains, I wonder whether the X-Class might be fated to remain within confines of local cities. Would you risk scratching your Mercedes bakkie?

*Disclaimer: Wheels24 editor Sergio Davids was hosted by Mercedes-Benz Vans for this trip
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