Brother from another mother.
We looked at the 2020 Mercedes-Benz X350d in runout this week, but how about its four-cylinder stablemate, the X250d? Let's wind back the clock to when the Mercedes-Benz X-Class arrived and was compared directly to its development partner, the Nissan Navara.
When Mercedes-Benz chose to enter the dual-cab ute market with the new X-Class, it didn’t go it alone. Working partner Nissan lent a hand – and a variety of components from the Navara – to get the job done.
The ’Benz’s chassis comes from the Navara, so do the engine and transmission, but the exterior (despite some passing similarities) is unique. Most parts of the interior are too, apart from the odd switch here and there, with ’Benz-specific suspension and safety tech into the deal as well.
It would be insane not to delve deeper into the pair in a side-by-side comparison to find out just how different these co-developed cousins are.
Price and specs
Same car, right? Well, if you were forking out for one of the pair at the list price, you’d notice a difference. The top-spec Nissan Navara ST-X comes in at a reasonable $54,490 plus on-road costs in standard trim.
Head to your Mercedes dealer, and if you don’t bother to haggle you’ll fork out $57,800 before on-roads and options for the mid-spec X250d Progressive.
In both instances that buys you into a 4x4 dual-cab with a tub on the rear. The engine in both is the same, a Nissan-Renault-developed 2.3-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel developing 140kW and 450Nm.
Transmissions are the seven-speed torque converter auto from the Nissan catalogue, as is the selectable 4x4 system with low-range, and the somewhat controversial coil-sprung rear suspension set-up. Read more on that below in On The Road.
That’s where the face-level differences end, though. Mercedes-Benz has curated its own styling inside and out, although proportions dictate a fairly similar silhouette, and has gone its own way on specification, which brings us nicely to the circa $3K difference between these two.
The Navara ST-X includes standard features like dual-zone climate control, cloth trim, keyless entry with push-button start, LED headlights, auto headlights, a power-opening rear windscreen, cruise control and 18-inch alloy wheels.
Compare that to the X250d Progressive and features like climate control, the sliding rear windscreen, LED lighting and proximity key go missing, though you do get ‘semi-automatic’ air-conditioning, cruise control with speed limiter, and 17-inch alloys.
The X-Class also edges out the Navara in the safety stakes. Both include seven airbags, ABS brakes and stability control, but the ’Benz features autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, tyre pressure monitoring, and auto wipers that the Navara misses out on.
Conversely, the Navara’s 360-degree camera and park sensors come standard, but the optional Parking Package is required to add them to the Mercedes.
The options don’t end there (for either car), but check out the Interior section of this twin-test for more details.
On the technical side, despite sharing a basic chassis, the external dimensions vary by a few millimetres here and there, but most significantly the X-Class is 66mm wider than the Navara (1850mm) by means of housing 62mm wider front and 55mm wider rear tracks.
There’s also a pay-off for extra interior width as a result too. The wheelbase of both is set in stone at 3150mm – see the spec’ panels for a full rundown of dimensions.
While the coming X350d V6 diesel variant of the X-Class will run a Mercedes-Benz engine and automatic transmission, the rest of the X-Class range, including X220d and X250d variants, borrow engines and transmissions from Nissan’s catalogue.
Both the Navara and X-Class feature identical 2.3-litre twin-turbo diesel four-cylinder engines, right down to shared outputs: 140kW at 3750rpm and 450Nm from 1500 to 2500rpm.
Nissan’s seven-speed torque converter automatic and shift on the fly dual-range transfer case are also used by both models.
Despite the commonality between the two, the slightly larger X-Class tips the scales at 2137kg compared to the Navara’s 1979kg weighbridge ticket. That 158kg difference, roughly the equivalent of two passengers, is enough to create a different feel from the driver’s seat.
The ’Benz has a more docile feel, though the difference seems to come from more than just weight, with a seat-of-the pants impression that the throttle and automatic transmission might have been softened off slightly compared to Nissan’s original set-up.
The weight difference is also part of the reason Mercedes claims a 7.9L/100km official fuel consumption figure against 7.0L/100km for the Navara. Back-to-back both cars delivered 10.5L/100km on test, suggesting the difference may not be as pronounced in the real world.
|Model||Nissan Navara||Mercedes-Benz X-Class|
|Price as tested||$56,540||$69,190|
|Engine||2.3-litre twin-turbo diesel||2.3-litre twin-turbo diesel|
|Drive||Selectable 4x4||Selectable 4x4|
|Transmission||Seven-speed automatic||Seven-speed automatic|
|Front suspension||Double wishbone||Double wishbone|
|Rear suspension||Five-link coil spring||Five-link coil spring|
|Wheels||18-inch||17-inch (std), 18-inch (opt)|
255/65R17 (std), 255/60R18 (opt)
The biggest difference between this pair comes once seated inside the cabin.
The cabin of the Navara looks and feels like a Nissan, the X-Class does not. For ’Benz, trying to justify the existence of its first dual-cab fourby, it’s an important distinction and a significant change in helping separate the two.
When the current Navara went on sale, it arrived in the middle of a generational change for a number of utes, many of which took a step towards passenger car comfort and features over the kind of tough-as-nails utility synonymous with the segment.
Nissan played along with an interior design that could easily be mistaken for one of the Japanese company’s SUVs, creating a more inviting cabin in the process that still looks and feels contemporary today.
Mercedes-Benz, meanwhile, has its own interior styling themes and user interfaces. To ensure the X-Class adheres to the precedents set by cars like the Sprinter and Vito vans, not to mention MB’s passenger car range, it makes sense the X-Class should feature a Mercedes interior.
Step from one to the other and the difference is as clear as day. The X-Class interior has a unique dash, door cards, instrument cluster, steering wheel, and centre stack.
Yes, there are a few shared parts, though they’re scattered around the interior sparingly, like the 4x4 controls, steering column cover, and most of the out-of-the way parts that you don’t really see.
Regardless of which car you’re in, you’ll find interiors dominated by hard plastics – arguably not a major problem for vehicles designed to get dirty and put up with a bit of hard graft.
The Nissan uses its slightly more chunky design as a way of disguising some of the areas that might suffer from alignment issues, like the gaps around the pull-out cupholders in the dash.
Anyone who has spent time in other ’Benz products (the earliest adopters of the X250d are likely to be existing ’Benz owners) will notice the plastics used aren’t quite the same as you’d find in a Vito, and definitely not like those of the passenger car range.
Some elements are 100 per cent MB, though, like the steering wheel, indicator and cruise-control stalks, climate-control panel, and the infotainment system with COMAND operating software and its associated console-mounted scroll wheel and touchpad controller.
The controller itself is an interesting one. The idea of accessing navigation and radio menus without taking your eyes off the road is a valid one, but putting a bank of expensive switchgear in an area potentially prone to dust, dirt and maybe even liquid poses some longevity questions, particularly for a work ute.
The two also differ slightly in their infotainment offerings, with the 7.0-inch touchscreen of the Navara including AM/FM radio, CD player, satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and six speakers as the only system available.
’Benz also does a standard 7.0-inch system, with AM/FM/CD and sat-nav, but also adds DAB+ radio and has eight speakers instead of six. COMAND online navigation (as tested) is an extra.
Nissan includes a 360-degree camera as standard, versus the optional system on the X250d Progressive (Parking Package, $1750. The higher-spec Power model includes it as standard).
The Nissan’s leather seat trim, heated front seats, and power adjustment for the driver are optional ($1500), but so is the leather and Alcantara trim with powered front seats and dual-zone climate control in the Progressive (Comfort Package, $2490).
There’s also a Style Package for the ’Benz including LED headlights and part-LED tail-lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, privacy glass, side steps, an opening rear window, and roof rails ($3750). Conversely, all bar the LED tail-lights are part of the ST-X’s standard equipment.
Style seems to have been prioritised ahead of functionality in the Mercedes, with just one cupholder up front versus four in the Nissan, and no easily accessible place to stash your phone or wallet in the centre stack.
The column-mounted gear selector of other ’Benz products would have been a better solution here to free up console space in automatic models, but instead the X-Class uses a floor shifter and shuns storage.
As for seat comfort and cabin access, there’s little to separate the two.
Extra space as a result of the slightly wider body of the X-Class makes for a better passenger experience with all seats occupied, but without any extra length, rear seat passengers may still find leg room is compact for the class.
The Nissan’s steering column adjusts for tilt only, and that means the carryover item in the ’Benz has the same limitations. It’s impossible to fathom why so few utes offer reach adjustment, and harder still for ’Benz to claim premium status when a basic comfort parameter is missing.
Overall, though, the driving position of both works fairly well, however the comparative lack of width in the Navara makes both front and rear passengers feel a touch more hemmed in than they do in the X-Class.
Out back, the key difference for owners intending to use their utes as work trucks lies in tray dimensions. Crucially, the X-Class passes the Australian pallet test with 1215mm between the rear wheel arches, although with the accessory tub liner fitted (as shown), a pallet starts to squeeze the edges.
No matter what is or isn't fitted to the tub of the Navara, a 1165x1165mm Aussie pallet can't quite make it between the 1130mm spacing of the Nissan's rear wheel housings. The story is similar for most utes offered for sale in Australia, with only the X-Class and Volkswagen Amarok offering pallet-carrying capability.
|Apple CarPlay Android Auto||No||No|
|Leather seats||Opt||Opt (partial)|
On the road
With a shared mechanical package, you might expect fairly similar driving characteristics from this pair, but when driven back to back, a few differences surface.
The Navara stands out for a high level of noise and vibration, most noticeable at idle and present even under light load. The X-Class remedies that. There’s still some diesel rattle, but it’s been subdued for a quieter drive.
Recent changes to the Navara also see its suspension uprated to cope better with a load in the tub, and the two differ in their suspension tuning. Not only that, but although hardpoints on the chassis are the same, the Mercedes uses a wider rear axle and wider suspension arms to achieve wider front and rear tracks.
The latest round of rear suspension changes do indeed fix the Navara’s sagging rear when laden, but as a result, the once commendable ride quality has suffered, with similar levels of unladen bounce as Navara’s leaf-sprung competitors.
There’s also a slight terseness from the X-Class with an empty rear, but overall the ride is more supple and polished, particularly over the kinds of urban obstacles that family utes like these are more likely to encounter.
It’s a similar story on the open road, with a small amount of jiggle and wiggle from the rear end of the Navara, but a more absorbent and stable feel from the X250d.
The two draw closer in terms of steering. Along with the latest suspension revisions, the Navara gains a faster steering rack for less lock-to-lock shuffling. There’s a more positive low-speed feel as a result and increased alertness at higher speeds.
The Mercedes also provides decent steering feel and weighting. Perhaps more importantly, though, the X-Class doesn’t have a horn button on its lower centre spoke like the Nissan does, meaning no accidental horn-chirping during three-point turns.
Both utes use traditional hydraulic steering, which may be part of the reason why they deliver fairly good feedback (amongst the ute class), but it also means advanced lane-departure assist or self-parking functions aren’t possible in either version for the time being.
With chunky all-terrain tyres, neither is immune to road noise, but the X-Class is a touch more relaxed at highway speeds on rough-paved tarmac, though surprisingly there seems to be a greater impact from wind noise in the Mercedes.
|Model||Nissan Navara||Mercedes-Benz X-Class|
|Tray between arches||1130mm||1215mm|
Along with a difference in purchase price, the pair differ slightly on ownership costs.
Think you’ll be paying through the nose at your Mercedes-Benz dealer? Guess again, however the terms and conditions, and the way you pay for your servicing, can make a difference.
Over three years, Navara owners will pay $1832 to maintain their car through Nissan’s Service Certainty capped-price program. Over the same period, Mercedes-Benz will charge $1850 to look after your X-Class, however at the two-year mark both cars require a brake fluid change – Nissan charges an extra $32 for that, while Mercedes includes it in the price.
However, should you opt to pay as you go for X-Class maintenance, the total cost jumps to $2350 under ServiceCare Promise, Mercedes's fixed-price program. Mercedes also only details the first three years under its program, while Nissan outlines costs over six years.
Both cars feature the same 12-month/20,000km service intervals and both offer three-year warranties, although Nissan caps its coverage at 100,000km compared to 200,000km for Mercedes-Benz.
There are a lot of similarities between this pair. That’s inevitable given their common origins, but there are sure to be buyers for both.
While it may not be the most cut-price of the top-spec dual-cabs currently available, the Navara ST-X pitches decent value in its standard form. Add the leather seats and metallic paint of the car tested here and the pricing tape stops at $56,540.
Compare that to the X250d Progressive (including Comfort, Style, and Parking packs, COMAND online, black headliner) and you’ll need to find $69,190. In both cases that’s before adding accessories, a hard lid and alloy bullbar for the Navara, and a rear sports bar and tub liner for the X-Class.
That’s a massive pricing gulf, and while the Mercedes version has superior safety and infotainment tech, the basic specs of the two as tested line up closely, making it hard to see how all of the $12,000-plus premium for the X-Class can be justified.
There’s no doubt some buyers will be unable to resist the lure of a three-pointed star, and it goes without saying that staying away from the options list will help keep a lid on prices.
While Mercedes-Benz maintains the X-Class is a premium product, hard interior plastics and low levels of standard equipment cast a shadow over that claim. Autonomous braking is certainly a worthwhile addition, and the redesigned interior is sure to appeal to more discerning buyers.
Ultimately, at its core the ’Benz version simply isn’t ’Benz enough, with too many similarities to the Nissan it’s based on.
Moves to improve passenger space and, more crucially, load width deserve praise. Short standard equipment and high pricing does not. There's no doubt Mercedes-Benz is using brand cachet here in place of matching its competitive set feature-for-feature.
Final scores between the pair may be the same, but break it down and although the X-Class may ride slightly better and have a more advanced infotainment system, that can't compete with the Navara's far-superior value and stronger standard features list.
If the money were coming out of my own pocket, it would go to a Nissan dealer, not a Mercedes one. While there's appeal in the idea of a prestige ute, the X-Class simply doesn't fit that description yet.
NEXT STEP: Nissan offers a 'build and price' feature on its website, and you can also request a brochure. You can view current offers, find a dealer, or book a test drive. Mercedes-Benz also has a 'build and price' tool, and you can request a brochure too. You can book a test drive here, or find a dealer here. (All links open in a new window.)