From the autobahn to the wilderness
by Andy Bryenton
When it was first suggested that Mercedes-Benz were set to produce a ute, the reaction of many auto enthusiasts was sheer disbelief. The German juggernaut of style and sophistication tackling an auto artform best summed up by the brutal, bellicose and big Ford F150? Ferrari may as well have declared they were building a submarine, or Rolls-Royce a motor scooter.
On closer inspection the choice for Mercedes to design and build their new X Class range comes from a place of sanity and pedigree. The G Wagon is, after all, a superb off-roader, used by military forces and Arabic royalty. Our own army slogs through mud and snow in Mercedes-badged heavy trucks. So why shouldn’t the lads from the silver star brand one-up their fellow countrymen at Volkswagen with the Amarok? Why shouldn’t Mercedes seek to topple the Ford Ranger, in the same way Ford slapped the Prancing Horse down at Le Mans with the GT40?
Well, now the X-Class has landed, in three levels of appointment and with a design echoing the Hilux or Ranger along the sides but very distinctly Mercedes in the front. This hearkening to the proportions of other flagship utes may simply be a byproduct of functionality — a high bonnet line, roomy cabin, large wellside tray and imposing wheel arches cut a similar silhouette, even when cut from rarefied steel. Between the Pure basic — workmanlike in a Bauhaus kind of way — Progressive and Power model definitions there will be no less than 13 variants of the X-Class, powered by two different tuning specifications of a 2.3-litre turbo diesel. That’s one turbo or two, naturally, for the Power model.
Expect all the comforts associated with one of the world’s top luxury automakers inside, with a stark and clean-lined cockpit promising plenty of space and a full suite of gadgets. The Power iteration gains 360 degree cameras and park assist, for example.
The two big surprises about the X-Class are the current absence of a monster model treated to the attentions of Mercedes tuners AMG, and the relatively modest price of owning a Mercedes utility. Suffice to say that it’s in the ballpark with other top utes, and a hot deal compared to many Mercedes sedans and coupes.
Mercedes-Benz may have come late to the party with their ute debut, but it’s a calculated, cool and sophisticated contender indeed, with a heritage to bank on. Far from being a fashion model, the X-Class is here to roll up its sleeves and get stuck in.
Even if those sleeves are 600 thread-count cotton.