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.