First Drive: Mercedes-Benz X-Class utes
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Upmarket Mercedes-Benz X-Class Utes here in April
Mercedes-Benz set out to find the best combination of car-like performance and comfort with the practicality of a ute, and it may have found it in the new X-Class utes.
The range of high-end utes, to be launched in New Zealand in April, will initially be offered with two four cylinder diesel engines, to be followed later in the year by a new V6 diesel engine.
There will be three model options - the Pure basic variant for traditional robust use, Progressive for a higher level of comfort and quality, and the top-of-the range Power models aimed at urban lifestyles.
We were among the first in the world to drive the X-Class Power ute in Chile late last week, and after hundreds of kilometres on motorways, rough pot-holed secondary roads and rough gravel trails, it proved robust, exceptionally quiet for a ute, and comfortable.
Mercedes-Benz will announce prices for the utes by the end of the year, and they will compete head-on with top-end mainstream Ford Ranger and Toyota Hilux models.
The German marque says utes are no longer viewed purely as workhorses, but are increasingly popular for those who lead an active lifestyle.
The company has shied away from offering a single-cab version and is instead concentrating on the booming double-cab ute market, particularly n the southern hemisphere which it describes as ‘the natural habitat’ of the ute.
The models are aimed at buyers in Australasia, South America and South Africa, although they are already on sale in several European markets.
The product marketing and management head of the X-Class, Christian Pohl, said the initial production run had gone well and the models had been well received in Europe.
“The X-Class sits naturally in our SUV portfolio of models - you can blaze a trail through the outback or drive it through urban areas looking for a restaurant,” he told journalists at the world-wide launch in Santiago.
Mercedes-Benz started the ute project with the Nissan Navara ladder frame, but says its own engineers and designers have worked to develop all of the X-Class ‘touch and feel, and drivability.’
The X-Class has a wider track than the Navara, and Mercedes says this plus the spring and damping system is tuned to provide the comfort typical of other Mercedes-Benz models.
It says the precise suspension tuning and structural reinforcements on the frame and bodyshell means the X-Class offers passengers a noise and vibration level on a par with the V-Class MPV.
The 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system with low-range gearing and differential lock on the rear axle meant the utes could tackle any terrain. From the middle of next year a permanent all-wheel-drive model will be available.
Initially there will be a diesel X220 d base model available, producing 120kW of power, along with an X 250 d engine that produces 140kW.
The new V6 engine will produce 190kW when it becomes available mid-way through next year.
Mercedes says the X-Class can haul a payload of up to 1.1 tonnes, for enough to transport 17 full 50-litre barrels of beer in the cargo area.
The company says it is able to tow up to 3.5 tonnes, and can pull a trailer containing three horses, or an eight-metre yacht.
Inside the cabin the X-Class has the large round dials from the C-Class and V-Class Mercedes models, with the command online multimedia system with an 8.4 inch screen.
The models come with a multi-function touchpad from the sedan models, and a 12-button multi-function steering wheel.