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.
CLASSY INTERIOR Perfectly mixes Merc desirability with workhorse durability
TRACKING Very easy to knock out of alignment off-road. Dealer visit needed
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Life with a Mercedes-Benz X-Class: Month 1
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.
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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.
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…
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Mercedes-Benz X-Class X250D 4MATIC specification
Specs: Price New £34,100 Price as tested: £39,780 Options: metallic paint £510, headliner £215, Comand infotainment £2225, Style package £1345, parking package with 360deg camera £915, winter package (inc heated seats) £340, towbar connections £130
Test Data: Engine 4cyl, 2,298cc, twin-turbocharged diesel Power 187bhp at 3750rpm Torque 295lb ft at 1500-2500rpm Top speed 109mph 0-62mph 11.8sec Claimed fuel economy 35.8mpg Test fuel economy 36.5mpg CO2 207g/km Faults None Expenses None
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