The tradie ute space is set to look a little whiter around the collar, with the Mercedes-Benz X-Class making its global debut in production form in South Africa this morning ahead of its early-2018 local launch.
Based on the ladder-framed undercarriage of the Nissan Navara, the X-Class is powered by three engines – a Nissan-sourced 2.3 litre turbo diesel four-cylinder in 120kW/403Nm and 140kW/450Nm trim, and a range-topping turbo diesel V6 from Benz’s own engine catalogue. As the range-topping engine, the V6’s outputs of 190kW and 550Nm will put it well ahead of the Volkswagen Amarok V6, which makes the same peak torque but significantly less power.
Some markets will receive a four-cylinder petrol option, but that engine is not on the cards for an Aussie intro.
The four-pot diesels will be available from launch, which is slated for the beginning of 2018 in Australia, however the V6 isn’t set for release until mid-2018. Australia-bound X-Classes will be built alongside the Navara at Nissan’s assembly plant in Barcelona, Spain.
Like most utes, rear-wheel drive variants will be offered alongside 4WD models in the X-Class range, with six-speed manual and seven-speed automatic transmissions sitting between the engine and differential. For the four-cylinder versions of the X-Class, the drivetrain will be a Navara-style selectable RWD or 4WD system. The V6 will take a permanent 4WD driveline.
Just like the Navara, the X-Class will ride on coil springs at front and rear, with a live-axle rear end and independent A-arms at front. Ventilated disc brakes slow each wheel, rather than the more conventional disc front, drum rear setup used by many utes.
But while there are significant similarities underneath, the X-Class will look almost completely different to the Navara thanks to unique sheetmetal styling all around and a prominent three-pointed star set into the grille. The only external hints of the X-Class’ Japanese heritage are its identical 3150mm wheelbase, Nissan-sourced door handles and the shape of the side glass and door apertures.
Local specifications have yet to be confirmed, but Benz’s claimed maximum payload figure of 1.1 tonnes and towing capacity of 3.5 tonnes puts the X-Class on roughly equal terms with the Navara as a load lugger. Loading can also be enhanced via a rear-bumper delete option, which allows the tailgate to open a full 180 degrees for easier forklift loading.
The X-Class’ load bed can take a standard European pallet and a 12-volt power socket is integrated into the sides. LED lamps mounted on the rear of the cabin can also illuminate the bed at night.
Three variants will be available – the fleet n’ farm-friendly Pure, with cloth upholstery and unpainted bumpers; the more up-spec Progressive with partial leather trim and body-colour plastics; and the high-specification Power grade, which can be differentiated by its chrome-effect lower bumper trim.
Benz claims the X-Class will be a “new benchmark in comfort” when it goes on sale, thanks to interior furnishings that have been thoroughly reworked to help separate it from its Nissan cousin.
A Comand touchpad and rotary controller sit atop the centre console and should be familiar to anyone who’s driven a Mercedes C-Class, E-Class or S-Class, and is the primary interface for the 8.4-inch infotainment display that protrudes from the top of the X-Class’ dash.
The dash itself is wholly different to the Navara’s item, and styled similarly to the Mercedes-Benz A-class. A quartet of round air vents sit beneath the tablet-style infotainment screen, satin-silver highlights encircle the gauge pods, door handles and shifter console, and the steering wheel mimics that of the C-Class. The shifter itself is the biggest visual link between the X-Class and the Navara. Almost everything else is bespoke to the Benz.
Other luxuries include power-adjustable front seats on high-grade models, leather-upholstered dashboards, leather upholstery from the mid-grade model and up, voice controls and a top-down camera view.
Expect local specifications and pricing to be announced closer to the X-Class’ local launch in the first quarter of 2018.