True to its billing as the world’s most successful premium automotive brand, the true value and merit in any Mercedes is never found lower down on the listing.
Since its launch, X-Class has been burdened by the anticipation of X350d.
As VW discovered with Amarok, South Africans will take a liking to any V6 powered double-cab; price being a secondary issue. With no V6 turbodiesel rival from the dominant double-cab manufacturers, Toyota and Ranger, VW’s harvesting a tidy trade in 3-litre Amaroks.
This is all expected to change early next year when Mercedes introduces its X350d, a vehicle with the aim of no so much rivalling the VW, as much as it wishes to redefine the local bakkie market.
Considering all the pre-launch hype of X-Class there’s little point in unpacking the shared platform details with Nissan.
These are well known by now. Suffice to say, there is a fair convergence of componentry, but Mercedes has always said that its engineering investment with X-Class was massive and aimed at the V6 bakkie, which required additional platform strengthening.
Of all the X-Class derivatives it’s the X350d which is defined Mercedes-Benz’s double-cab project.
Whilst four-cylinder X-Class bakkies feature Nissan engines and gearboxes, X350d has a proudly Stuttgart drivetrain. The 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel is a configuration familiar to Mercedes SUV owners and in the X350d application, it is good for 190kW and 550Nm.
Although the VW Amarok matches it on torque, X350d is the most powerful bakkie with a South African market delivery horizon.
At very nearly 2300kg, it’s not particularly light, but the additional mass has been the necessary evil, sourcing from Mercedes-Benz’s obsession to deliver a double-cab which has noise and vibration suppression levels close to that of a conventional luxury passenger car.
We sampled X350d on some very narrow Slovenian roads, which included Alpine gravel trails, and the first impression is how immensely refined it is. Sitting at idle there is no quieter a bakkie, with the diesel drone being imperceptible to cabin occupants.
Under power, there’s an initial sense of disappointment, that 2285kg kerb weight number blunting throttle response. Once you’ve overcome the inertia, throttle response is mightily impressive and overtaking performance is immediately more urgent than an X250 four-cylinder X-Class.
Image: Sean Parker/Wheels24
If you require the ability to pass reams of slower traffic on any of South Africa’s national highways, this is certainly a bakkie very well suited to the purpose.
Ride quality is excellent too, a credit to Mercedes-Benz engineers reworking the Navara’s coil-sprung ladder-frame platform and although there are three wheel options, choosing the correct one is a crucial part of extracting the best from any X350d.
The magic number is Mercedes-Benz’s middle option, an 18-inch rim rolling 255/60 profile tyres, which are fantastically purposed at providing a pleasing aesthetic to X350d’s appearance and endowing it with fantastic all-terrain ride quality.
Although the suspicion is that X350d will rarely venture off-road in the South African market, despite ample terrain to do so, it’s credibly capable.
A low-range transfer case and true locking rear differential are the critical off-roading components, whilst throttle and gearbox shift point algorithm ensure the smoothest possible passage over challenging terrain. With 222mm of ground clearance and 600mm of water fording ability, X350d is easy as capable as most owners would ever be sufficiently ambitious to test.
The suspension, steering, engine and drivetrain are excellently harmonised and true to Mercedes-Benz engineering standards. Judged on these characteristics, X350d is the ‘true’ Mercedes double-cab bakkie we all imagined it would be. Where things have gone slightly awry, is inside.
There are far too many Nissan bits and ergonomic foibles. VW’s Amarok offers both heights and reaches adjustable steering whilst the X350d does not, providing only up-and-down adjustability to configure an ideal driving position. Some of the lower centre-stack controls are inconveniently positioned and it remains unsightly to see a tall floor shifter in any contemporary Mercedes-Benz, a strange feature when virtually all Stuttgart’s other models have column shifters.
Due in South Africa early next year, X350d will be the apex of local double-cab ownership. Prices are unconfirmed, but if the current X-Class retail is any indication, X350d will become the most expensive bakkie on sale. Justifying that price will perhaps be a little easier with a German V6 engine up front, as opposed to the current duplicity facing X250d and its inheritance of Nissan powertrains.