The Mercedes-Benz X-Class has been revealed in concept form – ahead of its late-2017 debut as the world’s first luxury ute.
With a combination of three-pointed-star attributes and one-tonne-carrying capability it’s not surprising Australia has been named as one of four key continents for the model, along with Europe, South America and South Africa.
Mercedes-Benz is investing about a billion Euros ($1.4b) on a model that might have been viewed as an April fool’s joke not so many years ago but is now a smart move into a serious, fast-growing market.
The German car maker has unveiled two varied concepts to showcase how the ute that was initially set to be badged GLT will appeal to five different customer groups.
They include active families, commercial users, and landowners.
A yellow ‘Powerful adventurer’ with black body-cladding is designed to appeal to the traditional ute buyer, with tougher looks and all-terrain capability highlighted by massive 35-inch off-road tyres, higher ground clearance, and winches front and rear.
The ‘Stylish explorer’ finished deliberately in the classic Mercedes silver hue points to a more road-focused ute. It rides on 22-inch wheels wrapped in low-profile rubber and the muscular bodywork is more harmoniously shaped – including integrated running boards.
The production Mercedes-Benz X-Class is not expected to look radically different when it reaches Australia in early 2018, even if the varied LED tailgate light designs are purely conceptual.
Interiors of both concepts are also a good indication of what will be seen in showrooms. Seating up to five people in upholsteries that will include leather, the iPad-style infotainment screen and Comand controller on the centre console will help make the X-Class cabin more familiar to drivers of an S-Class than V-Class.
The X-Class ladder-frame chassis is a modified version of the underpinnings found beneath a Nissan Navara (and upcoming Renault Alaskan). The Mercedes adopts the company’s 4Matic all-wheel-drive system, and features a dual-range transfer case.
A high-torque six-cylinder Mercedes diesel will also power higher-end models, with a Renault 2.3-litre twin-turbo diesel also going into the mix.
Mercedes is quoting a payload capacity of 1.1 tonnes and a braked towing capacity of 3500kg, which will make the X-Class more than competitive in a busy segment.
Volker Mornhinweg, the boss of Mercedes-Benz Vans, the division under which the X-Class will sit, said Mercedes characteristics would broaden the appeal of a ute.
"We will open up and change the segment of mid-size pickups", said Mornhinweg.
“Our future X-Class will be a pickup that knows no compromise. We will thus appeal to new customers who have not considered owning a pickup before."
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