Mercedes Benz pulls the cover off on what probably was the most anticipated ‘bakkie’ in automotive history – the X-Class. All was revealed to South Africa.
The international launch of the new Mercedes-Benz X-Class took place right here in Cape Town, South Africa. It’s the first time a premium manufacturer has produced a bakkie. Of course, it had to be explosive.
Even its name exudes some mystery. Anyone else thinks X-Men?
The X-Class pickup should come as no surprise as the Mercedes Benz commercial vehicle market is quite large. The German automaker is trying to close the gap between passenger cars and commercial vehicles. The X-Class marks a milestone for the brand as it focusses on expanding its portfolio and growth strategy.
Mercedes Benz has identified this segment as a very interesting one, where in recent times there has been a shift in trends. The trend in the mid-size pickup (bakkie) segment is the move towards more private use with a modern-lifestyle orientation. Mercedes Benz have realized this and clearly decided that these are the customers they want to address with a vehicle.
Last year when the concept was revealed, Anja Kratzenstein, the Head of marketing strategy at Mercedes Benz Vans commented saying, “We want to address the customers who want a rough and tough pickup but at the same time want a vehicle with a premium character. Whether it be a farmer in Argentina or a family in Brazil.”
Is the X-Class a Nissan mutant?
Nissan is the second-largest manufacturer, in the world, of the mid-size bakkie with a payload of one ton. Especially relevant is that Nissan has over 80 years of experience in producing and marketing bakkies.
So what does the X-Class have to do with Nissan?
The X-Class is manufactured in a production co-operation with the Renault-Nissan Alliance. The Daimler AG and the Renault-Nissan Alliance began seven years ago. It benefits Mercedes Benz with a fast and cost-efficient entrance to the high-growth segment of mid-size pickups. Production for South Africa, European, and Australian markets will be taking place at the Nissan plant in Barcelona, Spain.
In the range is a four engine lineup, three will be available in South Africa. Four-cylinder diesel engines make its way through the entry-level X 220 d which produces 120 kW and 403 Nm of torque. Then there’s the the mid-spec X 250 d which pushes out 140 kW and 450 Nm of torque.
Rear-wheel drive is standard, but a push-button four-wheel drive system is available. The optional system includes low-range gearing and a differential lock on the rear axle.
Most noteworthy, at the top-end is the diesel V6 six-cylinder X 350 d pushing out 190 kW and 550 Nm of torque. This model comes standard with 4MATIC all-wheel drive.
All-wheel drive models come with Downhill Speed Regulation (DSR) on board as standard.
The range will arrive in three distinct trims. The PURE trim is the essential workhorse variant. The mid-spec PROGRESSIVE model improves on technology and styling. POWER is the top-level trim. The POWER model is positioned as a ‘lifestyle’ vehicle and best suited at those unlikely to ever get their tyres stuck in mud. The POWER model has a chrome bumper, fancier air vents, electrically adjustable seats, and an optional Style Package.
The X-Class will be available with a ton of accessories for further individualization. These range from a choice of styling bar, side bar, soft tonneau cover, hard tonneau cover and roll cover. In addition, there’s also a canopy which makes the pickup look like an SUV.
According to Mercedes Benz Vans, the X-Class can haul a payload of up to 1.1 tonnes. “That is enough to transport 17 full 50-litre barrels of beer in the cargo area. Able to tow up to 3.5 tonnes, it can also pull a trailer containing three horses or an eight-metre yacht.”
In the cabin
Mercedes were aiming for a “welcome home” feeling in the interior. There are touchscreen infotainment systems with the latest navigation, intelligent connectivity and entertainment services.
The top-end POWER model is finished in white and has all the bells and whistles you can think of. Some of these include leather upholstery and a bigger display for the infotainment system.
South Africa is one of the key markets and the X-Class will face stiff competition here. The pickups will begin arriving early next year. Pricing will be announced at the local launch. However, I’m expecting it to be in the R900,000 region.