Is Stuttgart’s decision to build a pick-up a shrewd one? We found by adding the X-Class to our long-term fleet for three months

Our Verdict

Mercedes-Benz X-Class road test review hero front

A luxury pick-up seems far-fetched but has Mercedes tapped into a lucrative niche?

Steve Cropley Autocar
19 October 2018

Why we ran it: To find out why UK drivers are turning to pick-ups in increasing numbers, and to determine whether the X-Class is as refined to live with as Merc’s cars

Month 1 - Month 2 - Month 3 - Prices & Specs

Life with a Mercedes-Benz X-Class: Month 3

Three months and 9000 miles later, we now know if a big, plush pick-up can slot in as an everyday work and family tool - 5th September 2018

The mileage tells the story. No self-examination is necessary to decide whether running a Mercedes-Benz X250d pick-up as my private car for the past three months has been a success. You only have to see how the odometer reading has climbed from 884 to 9850 in just three months.

I’m as surprised as anyone to discover that, while living in an environment where other cars are always available, I’ve used the Big X for most of my summer motoring.

Why this should be the case is a matter for deeper thought. There was always a risk that after its novelty value faded, the Merc pick-up might become a bit of a monument, left in a corner in favour of sportier and more convenient machinery. After all, our main plan was to investigate the phenomenon of UK drivers using low-tax one-tonners as family cars: what if I’d found the pick-up’s limitations too great for someone not actually benefiting from tax savings?

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

However, this has not been the case. In fact, I’d say two of the X-Class’s most important points of attraction have been convenience and driving appeal.

Convenience? First, the X has a big, spacious driving position, elevated for decent all-round visibility and populated with robust and well-designed controls. Most of them were created with typical competence by Nissan for the X’s closely related loadcarrier, the Navara, but are uniquely trimmed for a kind of durable luxury (brushed ally on the dashboard and Alcantara for the seat inserts) that says ‘top-end A-Class’ more than ‘Nissan’. Our Power model, the most expensive of three on offer, had Merc’s Comand infotainment system, still unusual in that once you put a day or so into learning its ways, it feels logical and quick.

Nit-pickers love spotting the X-Class’s obvious similarities to the Nissan, with which the X-Class shares plenty above and beneath the skin, but most people never actually spot the relationship, diverted by the white pearlescent paint, the diamond-cut 19in alloy wheels, the gleaming chrome rollover bar behind the cabin and the massive two-bar grille featuring a Merc ‘gunsight’ as big as a dinner plate. Far more usual during our tenure have been the genial thumbs-ups signs we’ve had from passing bikers and the envious glances from tradesmen you meet in the traffic.

I mentioned driver appeal. The X-Class delivers in an unusual way. Its forte is stability – it steers brilliantly in a straight line – and it has a good primary ride, courtesy of the long wheelbase. The secondary ride isn’t too special, though. As with all other body-on-frame pick-ups, it sometimes suffers from exaggerated body tremors over UK-brand bitumen bumps. But it’s unique in coping with these quietly. Tremors there may be, but the X-Class’s extra sound deadening keeps them quiet.

The steering has lots of turns lock to lock and isn’t very direct near the straight-ahead so you learn to take a big, decisive, well-timed handful to initiate any manoeuvre. Get it turning and this 5.4m truck steers fairly precisely. You’ll have no problem threading through small gaps.

In fact, small gaps become a part of life: to get the best of X-Class life, you must simply proceed with no fear, confident that it’ll be okay. You’ll find a big enough parking place, it’ll fit up a driveway or down a narrow street, and there will be a place to turn at the end of that dead-end. Worked for us.

During our three months with of the X-Class, Mercedes launched a 3.0-litre V6 diesel version, whose 36% power hike over our 188bhp 2.3-litre Renault-Nissan diesel four sent some people into paroxysms but left me less moved because its torque output is only 22% higher (406lb ft against 332lb ft), which doesn’t seem a lot for nearly £8000 extra.

Sure, you get extra fancy driving modes and your V6 is claimed to do 0-62mph in 7.5sec against 10.9sec for our 250d, but you don’t drive the X-Class like that: better to stroke it along smoothly, enjoying the view and the long legs, and returning the 35.5mpg (and more than 500 miles of driving range) that this treatment offered.

Incidents? I collected a huge glass star in the centre of the windscreen when the X was hit by a huge metal nut thrown up by the car ahead. But it hasn’t spread so far. And after I did some fording of a stony creek crossing, the steering wheel came to be offset a couple of degrees (although the car itself still tracked straight). But that was it.

The Big X carried families and loads of junk, plied cities and cruised motorways and proved it could do anything, while always seeming ready for more. Not sure I’d seek to run a pick-up quite this big if I didn’t have to, not least because people pinch stuff from uncovered trays, and anything of real value has to ride with you in the cabin.

True, the size thing is a state of mind, and you do get used to it, but whenever I transferred to something smaller, driving seemed simple again.

Still, in my experience, ownership of a four-door pick-up is viable, with a few caveats. Glad I tried it.

Second Opinion

Having heard many positive comments about the X-Class, I stepped into it with high expectations. The interior wasn’t as luxurious as I’d hoped but it was, nonetheless, a pleasant place to be on a lengthy drive to Silverstone. All in all, the X-Class was a genuinely enjoyable vehicle to drive.

Rachel Burgess

Back to the top

Love it:

PRESENCE X-Class looks great, in both senses. People give it room on motorways and respect it in urban traffic.

CRUISING Extra sound deadening makes the X-Class positively quiet over bumps and even at motorways speeds.

INTERIOR Our top-spec X-Class Power is quite luxurious and has full-house Merc infotainment and Alcantara seats.

POWERTRAIN Plenty of torque; plenty of ratios. Four-pot 250d is not exactly quick but is ready for anything.

Loathe it:

SECONDARY RIDE Body-on-frame construction is tough but body tremors will surprise hatchback drivers.

Final mileage: 9850

Back to the top

Big X takes on our pick-up proving ground - 1st August 2018

You may have seen on our YouTube channel last summer that we rockcrawled, jumped and waded around a quarry to see how the Land Rover Discovery ranked among 4x4s. This year, the X-Class is taking on the pick-up establishment. Leaving the 12V-powered cool box running all day meant the only jump for the X-Class was to get it started.

Mileage: 9203

Back to the top

Impressive economy figures continue to surprise - 26th July 2018

I’ve been piling on the miles but Big X’s fuel consumption just edges higher. I usually see 36-point-something on the trip computer; it equates to about 35mpg. I can’t get used to how much people admire this machine. Keep the wheels and glass clean and it draws knots of admirers at the kerbside. I thought that only happened with supercars.

Mileage: 7602

Back to the top

Life with a Mercedes-Benz X-Class: Month 2

Our big Merc is proof positive that size is just a state of mind - 11th July 2018

Running the X-Class through a hot summer has been fun and very useful. Instead of cowering out of the rain, several of us have been able to make proper use of the one-tonne pick-up aspect of this vast but versatile Mercedes-Benz to enrich our lives.

Mr Editor Tisshaw has used it to move house. I have used it to shift the junk of 20 years, the kind of stuff that usually never goes away. The solitary downside is that the blokes at our local tip have got to know the pick-up a bit too well, and have had to be reassured I’m not running a rubbish clearance business, which would mean I’d have had to pay extra to unload my gear.

To one of them (there’s always a comedian) the X-Class has come to be called ‘Moby’, as in Moby-Dick, Herman Melville’s fictitious white whale. He tells me this handle isn’t intended as a slight, but works because it’s big, it’s white and it’s noticeable in any vehicular crowd.

We’re all now plugged thoroughly into the special mindset of the fourdoor pick-up owner. The key trick is to be aware of the 5340mm length, but never to see it or admit to it as any kind of hindrance. When you park in normal-size space, you learn to employ every inch of its extremities. In intimidatingly height-limited multi-storey car parks, you press right on: the biggest SUVs are taller. Suburban width limiters ditto. The limitations are only a state of mind. Behave as if they don’t apply to you and you’ll be fine.

Meanwhile, the advantages of all that carrying capacity and the selectable four-wheel-drive system keep coming to the fore. With half a tonne of stuff over the rear axle, the ride noticeably improves. The flatness of the Merc’s gait is maintained, but the body shudders go away. It takes me back to my dad’s era when motoring sages would say of certain cars that “it goes better with a bag of cement in the back”.

Despite the big differences between the X250d and a saloon car, it still surprises me how often this is my default choice for journeys that don’t require a load bay. I like the elevated driving and the Alcantara seats. I like the big, benign diesel that works best at 2500rpm and delivers 34-36mpg (and an easy 450-mile touring range) whatever you do. I like the fact that it’ll so easily ply the bumpy fields you get parked in for rural pursuits at this time of the year.

Over even the worst roads, you learn to relax: the Big X may not iron ruts as flat as an S-Class would, but it’ll beat them into submission, and surprisingly quietly. I especially like the way the X-Class is admired by every builder you meet and also seems to appeal to the press-on biker on open roads, who will gives it the thumbs-up as he or she passes.

Okay, there are limits to its sophistication and storing valuable gear out of sight is a problem, but running the X250d remains practical fun, with a little bit of adventure chucked in.

Love it:

THE SHAPE We like the premium pick-up concept, despite its similarity to the Nissan Navara. The metallic white paint helps a lot too.

Loathe it:

UNLADEN RIDE You do get used to it but, without a medium load in the tray, the body shudders over bumps can grate.

Mileage: 6408

Back to the top

Life with a Mercedes-Benz X-Class: Month 1

What speed limit is the right speed limit? - 4th July 2018

Discussion here about whether the Big X is subject to the UK’s lower speed limits for light commercial vehicles or not. In theory, if your one-tonne load-carrier weighs more than 2040kg empty and dry (the four-pot X-Class is 2234kg at the kerb, and therefore ‘wet’), you’re subject to the lower limits. Problem doesn’t seem to bother the police.

Mileage: 5080

Back to the top

We put the posh pick-up’s ute force to the test with a heavy-duty house clearance - 17th June 2018

I love the dump. Who doesn’t? It’s a wondrous place of organised destruction, Bracknell’s Household Waste Recycling Centre (to give it its full name), and has been seeing a lot of our Mercedes-Benz X-Class recently, because I’ve been clearing out a house.

We’re talking a full-on house clearance: carpets ripped up, walls taken down, loft emptied, doors taken off hinges, and all lobbed (you don’t place things in a pick-up, you lob them) into the back of the X-Class.

Compared with similar tasks previously carried out in big estates and SUVs with the seats folded down, it’s been quite liberating, not only because you can get more in, but also because you don’t have to clean up or worry about damaging any upholstery while you’re doing it.

This has not just been aimless destruction, mind, rather an interesting opportunity to see what such a vast load does to the way the X-Class drives. It’s got a switchable four-wheel-drive system with standard rear-wheel drive and a knob that turns to choose either high or low-range four-wheel drive.

I’d forgotten about that knob when first attempting to get the X-Class up my driveway. It’s on a slight slope and the gravel is deeper at the bottom than the top, so when I first tried to reverse up, I got stuck: the truck hit the gravel and just spun the wheels, something I put down to there being no weight at all over the rear axle. A little push got me up there okay, before it dawned on me that a turn of the knob to select four-wheel drive would have served me better.

I now reverse up my drive in four wheel-drive mode, but the truck still goes nowhere for half a second or so. At that point, the four-wheel drive system seems to finally clock that it’s gravel underneath the rear wheels and gives them a sudden sledgehammer of torque to slip the vehicle over the first stones with a hefty shove. After that, progress up the rest of the driveway is much more normal and calm. It’s not ideal, but easy enough to live with once you master it and don’t let your instincts give in to the unnatural initial feeling.

To drive, the X-Class isn’t quite as crude as I was expecting. The engine is very vocal at start-up and step-off – it sounds more bus than van if you give it some revs – but it quietens right down when at speed. Speed is a relative thing, though. This is a car that’s more comfortable at 60mph than 70mph on a motorway. There’s little point pushing any harder.

It is also a very different beast to drive with a full load in the back. You really feel the extra weight and mentally enter ‘egg shells’ driving mode to steer the load safely. The big, wide wing mirrors more than make up for your load obscuring your vision out of the rear-view mirror.

The sheer size of the truck takes some getting used to, so the excellent rear-view camera has been a boon when reverse parking. It shows both the view from the tow bar and a topdown 360-degree view of where your steering inputs will take you, more often than not indicating that you’re going to need to go forward again before going backwards once more.

With so much coming out of the house, a lot has had to go in too, which has meant a fair few visits from local tradesmen. Each, to a man, has not only known what a Mercedes X-Class is, but has wanted to sit in it and comment on what a fine motor it is.

Remember, the X-Class is a new model, but is in essence a Nissan Navara with a Mercedes interior. That badge seems to carry some serious cachet. One builder said he’d probably go and order one that very afternoon. He had been seriously considering it and seeing it in the wild was the clincher.

I expect I’ll see him at the dump soon.

Mark Tisshaw

Love it:

CLASSY INTERIOR Perfectly mixes Merc desirability with workhorse durability

Loathe it:

TRACKING Very easy to knock out of alignment off-road. Dealer visit needed

Mileage: 3964

Back to the top

Keep one eye on your load - 6th June 2018

Unless you have a roll-top cover, says a shrewd pick-up driver I know, be careful what you carry in the tray. At a red traffic light in outer London recently, two young blokes, ostensibly crossing the road through the traffic, paused to look into my (empty) load space. I get the feeling that if a toolbox had been in the back, it wouldn’t be mine any more.

Mileage: 3005

Back to the top

Welcoming the X-Class to the fleet - 23rd May 2018

It’s supposed to be about money. The reason you see the population of four-door, extended-cab, one-tonne pick-ups on our roads swelling so fast is widely claimed to be because they’re as cheap to run, from a benefit-in-kind (BIK) point of view, as company vehicles.

However, the underlying reason seems to be that they look pretty cool, at least to some of us, and I’m among the supporters.

That, and a curiosity to find out about this new vehicle breed, currently being ever more enthusiastically touted by Ford, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Volkswagen, Ssangyong and now Mercedes, is behind our decision to adopt one.

The X-Class comes about as a result of a cooperation with Nissan (there’s a lot of Navara under it) but it’s also very much its own vehicle, what with multi-link rear suspension, an all-Merc interior, a lot of styling changes, a higher price than the Nissan and an extra-chunky three-pointed star grille that leaves no one in doubt as to which showroom this came from.

Let’s talk money. The situation is that while ordinary vehicles attract rising rates of BIK taxation according to purchase price and CO2 output, light commercial vehicles (which must be rated above one tonne of carrying capacity) attract a lower charge which is fixed.

If you’re a 40% tax payer, the annual difference in tax between, say, a similarly priced Land Rover Discovery Sport and our £39,780 X-Class could be more than £1600, so it definitely matters.

The X-Class is a comparatively new arrival, and fits into a ‘premium’ slot roughly £5000 above the lesser marques. You still get a lot of truck for your money: from a £34k base, we added options that took ours to just short of £40k.

Our additional kit includes an all-round camera, Mercedes-Benz’s comprehensive Comand nav and audio package (which still includes a CD player for us Luddites) plus stuff like side-steps, roof bars, chrome underbits front and rear and a chrome roll-over bar so huge it looks as if you could connect the whole machine to a sky hook.

Ours is the Power model. There are cheaper Pure and Progressive trim levels with smaller wheels, painted bumpers and less equipment, but as soon as we started enquiring, it became clear that UK buyers like the niceties such as our car’s 18in alloys, standard Merc 7-speed automatic transmission, various chrome body bits, folding mirrors, rain sensing wipers and top-spec climate control.

We decided to collect the pick-up from a dealership, choosing a new Merc place, Rygor Commercials in Gloucester, which was as classy as any new car dealership. We met two of the management team, Dominic Ilbury and Richard Morrissey, who unveiled our gleaming white machine (a nice touch). Dominic talked me through the controls and switches, very logically Mercedes.

Bearing in mind I’d never driven one of these big pick-ups before, the initial driving experience was surprisingly easy and reassuring. It felt like one of the taller SUVs, with a comfortable and well-equipped interior to match.

 

 

The X-Class will fit the average covered or underground car park and it’s not excessively wide, either. Even the wheelbase is only 233mm (less than a foot) longer than a Land Rover Discovery. The main thing you’ve got to cope with is the 5340mm overall length, yet even that isn’t turning out to be the bugbear I thought it might be.

The Big X is only a few inches longer than the current crop of long-wheelbase luxury saloons (Jaguar’s XJ is typical at 5255mm). Even the turning circle’s just about okay.

The X-Class has a Nissan-Renault-sourced 2.3-litre four-cylinder engine that I reckoned might be a bit agricultural, but it’s a twin-turbo unit with 187bhp on tap, and at anything more than idle it’s torquey, commendably quiet and doesn’t vibrate more than any four-pot car.

In fact, one thing I’ve quickly come to depend on from the X-Class is smooth, quiet progress. The silky automatic ’box works perfectly with this engine, cruising like a saloon on motorways. It’ll even bolt quite well out of roundabouts if you insist, though acceleration times are modest.

The steering and handling take some getting used to. This is a body-on-frame machine, so there are body tremors over bumps you don’t expect at first. It’s light over the rear end, too, so even with the independent rear working well, there’s still an occasional tendency to wheel hop.

On the other hand, with such a long wheelbase, the X-Class does stay very flat. It rides bumps very quietly. The steering is light and there’s very little lost motion at the straight-ahead, but you can’t help thinking the capability of the rest of the chassis (it grips quite well and resists leaning) would benefit from faster steering around the centre.

Driving my first 1000 miles in the X-Class has been an entirely pleasant experience, and easier than I expected, what with the decent driving characteristics, a 530-mile touring range, fuel consumption running around 36-38mpg and a quiet mechanical package.

The one thing I’m not yet used to is the feeling of going places in a vehicle that seems needlessly vast. But to judge by the number of my four-cab fellows on the road, I’ll soon get over it.

Second Opinion

It feels a bit vast for the parking spaces in the London street I live in. I don’t think I could own one for that reason alone. But it’s easier to drive than you think, and more pleasant, because it’s quiet. And I suspect we’ll use that inviting-looking load bay as a photographer’s shooting platform before too long…

Stan Papior

Back to the top

Mercedes-Benz X-Class X250D 4MATIC prices and specification

Prices: List price new £34,100 List price now £34,100 Price as tested £39,780 Dealer value now £35,000 Private value now £33,500 Trade value now £32,000 (part exchange)

Options:Metallic paint £510, headliner £215, Comand infotainment £2225, Style package £1345, Parking package (including 360-degree camera) £915, Winter package (including heated seats) £340, towbar connections £130

Fuel consumption and range: Claimed economy 38mpg Fuel tank 61 litres Test average 35.5mpg Test best 39.5mpg Test worst 27.7mpg Real-world range 572 miles

Tech highlights: 0-62mph 10.9sec Top speed 109mph Engine 4 cyls, 2299cc, diesel Max power 188bhp at 3750rpmMax torque 332lb ft at 1500-2500rpm Transmission 7-spd automatic Load space 1 tonne, open trayWheels 7Jx19in, alloy Tyres 255/55 R19 Kerb weight 2170kg

Service and running costs: Contract hire rate £479.86 CO2 196g/km Service costs none Other costs none Fuel costs £1419 Running costs inc fuel £1419 Cost per mile 16 pence Depreciation £7780 Cost per mile inc dep’n £1.03 Faults offset steering

Back to the top

Back to the top

Join the debate

Comments
24

14 June 2018

If you live on a farm, one of these would be perfect. For the rest of us... have a word with yourself.

15 June 2018
They're the best.

14 June 2018
Looking at the cutaway picture of the rear end of this vehicle .... why do journo's insist on regurgitating the press release? A live axle with coil springs and some additional locating links is still a live axle.

15 June 2018

I came here to post the same thing. Better than leaf springs only, but still a live axle with all the unspung weight that entails, (but also zero camber change under load).

15 June 2018
concinnity wrote:

I came here to post the same thing. Better than leaf springs only, but still a live axle with all the unspung weight that entails, (but also zero camber change under load).

Yeah and Steve Cropley makes out the rear suspension ois Meredes only when its EXACTLY the same as the Nissan. Lets face this is a Navarra with some styling tweeks and Merc 6 cylinder diesels.

XXXX just went POP.

14 June 2018

Is it worth the extra money, or is it just a Navara with a 3 pointed star on the grille?

 

 

14 June 2018

Interesting how ' the wheelbase is only 233mm (less than a foot) longer than a Land Rover Discovery' and  'The Big X is only a few inches longer than the current crop of long-wheelbase luxury saloons' yet the same journalists will make a huge deal the extra space provided by one model being 40mm longer than another in the same class etc.

One thing I can never understand with pickups is the claim of practicality. Anything in the bed is open to the elements and theives, unless you stick a box on the back, at which point you may as well as have bought a van.

14 June 2018

So Mercedes Benz decided to produce a pick-up,really??????????? what they've really done is add a few fancy touches and a three pointed star on a Nissan Navara and call it the X-Class. To add insult to injury it's not even built by Mercedes  but at the Nissan factory along side the equally badge engineered Renualt Alaskan, this is no more a premium product than the Renualt Kangoo based Mercedes Citan, this is nothing special just a cynical marketing trick by Mercedes and I wouldn't be surprised if it goes the same way as the Lincoln Blackwood which was a Ford F-150 with a luxury interior, a Lincoln grille and a fancy cargo area, this lasted just over a year  before getting canned, I reckon the X-Class will go the same way

15 June 2018
ianp55 wrote:

So Mercedes Benz decided to produce a pick-up,really??????????? what they've really done is add a few fancy touches and a three pointed star on a Nissan Navara and call it the X-Class. To add insult to injury it's not even built by Mercedes  but at the Nissan factory along side the equally badge engineered Renualt Alaskan, this is no more a premium product than the Renualt Kangoo based Mercedes Citan, this is nothing special just a cynical marketing trick by Mercedes and I wouldn't be surprised if it goes the same way as the Lincoln Blackwood which was a Ford F-150 with a luxury interior, a Lincoln grille and a fancy cargo area, this lasted just over a year  before getting canned, I reckon the X-Class will go the same way

Repeated for emphasis!

15 June 2018

Provided you can deal with the size, Pickups are fantastically versatile vehicles.

That said, I think there is still a bit of catching up to do, and a place for a more premium product than the X-Class which is still basically a Navara. I imagine its just becuase of cost, but air suspension really should be an option on some of these higher end trucks. I know on american trucks like the Dodge Ram its pretty standard and transforms the ride and gets rid of that pickup truck shudder and bounce.

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week