There's more to it than you might think...
If you take a look at the 2018 Mercedes-Benz X-Class in the context of the German company’s model lines, it is a bit out of whack.
Why? Because the X-Class sits under the Mercedes-Benz Vans product umbrella, despite the fact the company is claiming that most people shopping at the high end of the ute segment are actually considering these types of vehicles as an extension of the SUV model line.
Further to that, if it were to be considered part of the Benz SUV range, it would have to follow the GL prefix – like the GLA, GLC, GLE and GLS. But I guess GLX doesn’t quite have the same premium-ness to it, because that’s been used as a mid-spec model nomenclature by Japanese brands for a while now.
There’s a further quizzical element in its fitment in the Vans portfolio. The other models sold by Benz in that segment carry full, proper names – Citan for the small van, Vito and Valente for the mid-sized van and people-mover, Marco Polo for the campervan and Sprinter for the biggest load-lugger they have.
But according to Volker Mornhinweg, the head of Mercedes-Benz Vans, there is one other vehicle that splits the difference in the model ranks – the V-Class luxury people-mover, which is based on the Vito but aimed outside of the commercial range.
I mean, theoretically they could have had a low-spec model called something different, and the high-end version called the X-Class. But Mornhinweg insisted there was plenty of chat before they got to the final decision.
“We had a broad and open discussion within ourselves. It has something to do with the overall positioning of the product,” Mornhinweg said.
“We have the competency to do both – commercial and private cars – like the Vito and V-Class. From a positioning perspective, we thought it might be more reasonable just to make it different in comparison to our competitors, where we position the car more on the lifestyle angle.
“For sure we are really more than keen to get a lot of customers out of the dual-use segment – and with the success of the V-Class, we thought it might be a good opportunity to lift it [to an] even more premium, more lifestyle [level], to take the name with -Class on the end,” he said.
It’s no mistake that the company chose X as the prefix to the -Class suffix, either.
“When we thought about which kind of letter it should take, we said ‘oh yeah, what the hell, X is available’,” he said. “And we thought the X is also perfect fit to take the rough and tough commercial aspect, and take the more premium lifestyle thing from the other side, to make this kind of a cross, or an intersection.
“We were convinced X-Class would be a strong name. It’s a strong name I think,” he said.
Equally strong are the model derivatives that sit under the new ute line. There are no confusing numerical trim levels, like 316 or 516. Instead, the entry-level Pure, mid-range Progressive and top-spec Power are the variants on offer.