It took some time, but slowly, anecdotally, the Mercedes-Benz X-Class has started to appear across Australian cities – often branded with the logos of upmarket landscapers or premium building firms attached.
That seems like the right fit for a Mercedes-Benz ute. While some may scoff that a tradie in a Benz is getting paid too much, there’s plenty of scope for businesses aiming a little higher to show their elite aspirations with something like the 2019 Mercedes-Benz X250d Progressive.
Amongst the X-Class range there are now Pure base models, Progressive mid-speccers and Power range-toppers. The Pure comes with 220d or 250d engines, the Progressive and Pure as 250d or 350d V6 models.
The version shown here runs the 140kW/450Nm 2.3-litre twin-turbo 250d four-cylinder diesel engine. The 220d uses a single-turbo version for 120kW/403Nm, the V6 is a 190kW/550Nm 3.0-litre – for the sake of comparison.
All 250d models are equipped with four-wheel drive, and as part of Mercedes’s technology-sharing agreement with Nissan, the key engineering details like chassis, engine, transmission and transfer case are the same as those in the Nissan Navara, with some suspension, interior, body and electrical sub-system revisions crafted by Benz.
Pricing for this version, equipped with a seven-speed torque converter automatic and a tub on the rear, starts from $57,800. A six-speed manual is $2900 less again, and if you want to add your own tray, cab-chassis versions are $950 less again.
For that, the X250d Progressive comes equipped with some specifications that deviate from the usual dual-cab fare. Coil spring suspension is used at all four corners, whereas most utes favour leaf springs at the rear, while the braking package includes rear disc brakes in place of the more common drums.
While those items differ, they aren’t exclusive to the X-Class. Somewhat more typical is the inclusion of hydraulic power steering rather than passenger-car-preferred electric power-steering systems.
Among the included standard features, the Progressive includes a 7.0-inch infotainment system controlled via a rotary dial in the centre console, digital radio, eight-speaker audio, satellite navigation, reverse camera, cruise control, auto lights and wipers, cloth trim, ‘semi automatic’ single-zone air-con, leather steering wheel and gear knob, rear step bumper, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The car on test was provided with three optional equipment packages: the $2490 Comfort Pack, $3750 Style pack, and $1750 Parking pack.
The Comfort pack adds dual-zone climate control, swaps the cloth trim for imitation leather and suede, brings power adjustment to the driver’s seat, and provides a small-item storage net in the passenger foot well. Style consists of LED lighting upgrades for the head and tail-lights, side steps, privacy tint, a power-opening rear windscreen portal, side steps, roof rails and 18-inch wheels. Parking brings park sensors and a 360-degree camera system to the party to go with the standard reverse camera.
The ability to customise or mix and match features as you see fit is something of a unique point for the X-Class, whereas most brands would simply make you step up to the next model. Before adding any options, though, the X250d Progressive sits right amongst high (but not necessarily highest) spec models like the HiLux SR5 from $57,240 or Ranger XLT from $58,840 in a very tough segment.
If you can make the numbers work in your favour, or if the X-Class is simply a must-have thanks to the way it looks, or the badge up front, the news on the road is mostly good.
Humble though the Nissan-derived mechanicals may be, they’re not out of their depth in the midst of a segment that’s not particularly renowned for performance. Some of the work MB has put into separating the two sees the less than ideal refinement of the Navara much improved.
No, it isn’t whisper quiet and completely vibration free, but as far as commercial vehicles go, the X250d does feel more passenger-car-like. You can happily hit the highway in this one without suffering the strain of excess wind and road noise. Around town, the rise and fall of revs is never too noticeable.
Ride quality tends to be a little rickety without any weight in the rear, but it doesn’t take a great deal of weight in the back to get things to settle. In most cases, the ride is a little more occupant-friendly than all bar the very comfortable Ranger and certainly more approachable than the stiff-jointed HiLux.
With a load in the rear, using our 650kg benchmark ballast, the X-Class sagged much further than many of its rivals. Despite that, it still drove well and was able to maintain rear-axle control without wallowing or running into bump-stops over dips.
Engine performance and transmission tuning feel a little ‘softer’ than that of the similar Navara, perhaps because of the extra weight or possibly Mercedes has tuned in a more Merc-esque edge. It’s not as brawny as torque-heavy engines like the 3.2-litre Ford or Holden’s Colorado, but does feel a little more willing to rev as compensation.
A 7.9 litre per 100km official fuel consumption figure looks lean for a vehicle of this size and weight, and after a week of mixed urban and rural driving consumption, it was closer to 10.3L/100km. Anything in the 10s is a good showing for a big, heavy ute.
On the inside, the X250d Progressive is more Benz-like. The dash design aligns the dual-cab ute with Benz vans like the Vito and Sprinter, and doesn’t forget its role as a work vehicle first and foremost.
There are hard plastics in most places, which make for robust and hard-wearing contact points able to withstand punishment. The front seats provide more bolstering than you’d usually find in the segment, but are broad enough for big-bloke frames.
The steering wheel comes straight from Benz’s passenger car range, and is a little odd because it just seems a bit too lovely and almost dainty in a big tough ute. It feels nice and premium, but lacks reach adjustment, which could impact some drivers at the extreme ends of the tall-short matrix.
Elsewhere in the interior, the X250d doesn’t do a great job of maximising storage. Its unique console design gives over space to the infotainment controller and robs storage potential, so there’s only one cupholder and no dedicated receptacle for your wallet, phone, or the like.
The back seat provides plenty of width but lacks leg room, which means you can sort of fit three adults across the second row, but they’re unlikely to want to put in big distances back there. The rear of the console houses air vents, too, to keep things a little fresher on hot days.
Further back, a 1045kg payload and 3500kg towing capacity are on the money for the segment. The X-Class also carries slightly more tray width than many utes (1215mm between the arches), so it’s possible to carry a standard Australian pallet flat in the back.
Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles offers capped-price servicing for the X-Class, with four-cylinder models priced at $585, $930 and $835 for each of the first three services at 12-month or 20,000km intervals if you pay as you go ($2350 in total) or as a pre-paid package for $1850, saving you $500. Longer-term packages and more comprehensive service plans are also available if required.
Warranty coverage spans three years or 200,000km (whichever comes first), which puts it at the lower end amongst mostly five-year terms of competitors.
Mercedes-Benz was, at least, one of the first ute makers to give safety tech a deserving run. Traditional off-road and rural buyers might scoff at the idea, sure, but given how many of these kinds of vehicles end up carrying families through town and country, every little bit helps.
There’s also lane-keep assist, tyre pressure monitoring, hill descent control, stability control with trailer sway assist, and seven airbags. Based on its 2017 ANCAP crash test date, the four-cylinder X-Class carries a five-star safety rating, while the V6 is technically unrated.
It would be hard to label the X-Class as a bad ute. It’s a thoroughly decent one in isolation.
A decent amount of car-like features make the X250d Progressive more likeable and approachable than overtly butch or bare-bones pick-ups. It doesn't innovate or move the game on significantly, though, which seems rather un-Mercedes-like of it.
Then there’s the price. At list price, the X-Class is forced to battle above its weight, offering less equipment than most rivals and seemingly leaning on its badge to attract buyers. Benz dealers seem to be aware already – shop around, offers may vary, but it’s easy to find new cars with over $10K sliced off the price and demonstrator stock with even bigger discounts.
Of course, the first Mercedes-Benz dual-cab ute is by no means a one-size-fits-all solution for Aussie buyers, and was never intended as such. It has compromises, but if you can cut the right deal, it does start to make more sense.