Power play: driving Mercedes-Benz's X-Class V6 ute
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Ever since the prototype Mercedes-Benz X-Class was shown in Sweden in October 2016 and the global reveal of the preproduction models in South Africa the following year, fans have been waiting for one particular version of this premium ute.
When Mercedes announced in 2016 that it was producing a dual cab ute, in association with Nissan, many people questioned the decision. But the Vans division of the German brand knew it was on to something, with an expected increased global demand of about 43 per cent expected in the coming years.
That association with Nissan saw the brand’s Navara double cab ute used as a base for Mercedes.
But the brand didn't just slap a three-pointed star on the grille of a Navara, instead it took the Nissan ute and made it its own.
It's 5350mm long, 1819mm high with the rear tray big enough to take a wood pallet lengthwise.
The X-Class has a wading depth of 600mm and 221mm ground clearance.
At 1920mm, it's 70mm wider than the Navara, and that's an important design factor for Mercedes.
The increased 70mm means improved driving performance, more room in the interior and that extra-wide tray.
The initial X-Class utes had the Nissan Navara engines and came in three models: Pure, Progressive and Power and variants of the X200, X200d, X250d and the X350d.
Those utes were launched in New Zealand in April last year, but 2019 sees the variant many have been awaiting — the grunty V6 — which comes as Progressive and Power specs.
The X-Class 350d gets the Mercedes 3-litre V6 diesel engine producing 190kW of power and 550Nm of torque. It also gains the Mercedes 7G-tronic plus transmission and the brand’s own suspension system.
With permanent all-wheel drive (with 60:40 distribution) the 350d plays into a lifestyle vehicle option for buyers. With a towing capacity of 3500kg you can expect to see it at many horse events as not only does the huge grille with the three-pointed star gain kudos, it also handles a float.
The Progressive is $81,205, the Power is priced from $88,325 and they join rival Volkswagen Commercial’s Amarok Aventura in the V6 arena. The Amarok was named AA Driven New Zealand ute of 2018 with the Aventura priced from $89,990.
Mercedes relied heavily on its passenger, SUV and van range when it came to interior and exterior design of the ute — and that shows in this V6 model.
The X-Class was designed at the same time as the E-Class sedan and coupe and it shows, with side elements taken from those two luxury products. It also takes design cues from the GLE ute, and shares the V6 engine.
I tested the 350d V6 Power model with 18in alloys and an interior that resembles a Mercedes SUV or sedan thanks to the turbine-style air vents and a large curved dash that emphasises the width of the five-seater ute.
My Power had an aluminium effect with longitudinal grain giving it a premium look and definitely a Mercedes feel, though it has an 8.4in infotainment screen sitting on the dash rather than inset like the new A-Class.
The standard equipment, technology and safety features also impressed with keyless entry, 360-degree camera, seven airbags, lane keep assist, and emergency braking that I can testify works extremely well after the motorway traffic suddenly came to a halt.
Last weekend I took the V6 Power on a road trip, heading to the Coromandel for the Leadfoot Festival in Hahei. The carparks were brimming with utes but the Mercedes stood out to others, thanks to the bulging bonnet and large grille.
But it stood out for me thanks to that V6 engine and superb road handling at speed. The 7G-tronic transmission worked smoothly, and I appreciated the Mercedes driving modes that gave me options of eco, comfort, sport, manual and off-road.
The engine is potent, especially in Sport mode, yet quiet in the cabin. The gearbox is smooth, and for such a heavy vehicle (2285kg), it handles corners at speed with ease. And, with many slowly driven rental cars on the popular Coromandel route, I just needed to flick into sport mode to easily overtake.
It also has low-range 4Matic for unsealed roads and off-roading. I implemented it on the long drive route back to Auckland along the Coromandel 309 road. The V6 could have handled the uphill ruts but I wanted to test the low range system, and it eased the path.
There is a downside to the X-Class models — no Apple CarPlay — and that lets it down. But a Mercedes Vans spokesman said the “intention is to have Apple CarPlay in the next iteration. Timing is not confirmed yet”.
Power: 3-litre V6 diesel (190kW/550Nm)
Pros: Great torque
Cons: No Apple CarPlay
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