When it comes to automotive success stories, it is fair to say that X didn’t really mark the spot for Mercedes-Benz.
The brand’s much hyped and highly anticipated pick-up ended production in May this year, less than three years after being launched.
It’s a pity really, as the V6-powered 2020 Mercedes-Benz X350d isn’t a bad car, and now with some pretty sharp runout pricing on the table, it isn’t a bad deal either. So with this officially being your last chance to buy one, could it be time that X marked the spot for you?
And yes, that will also be the last time I make that joke.
With the power of hindsight, it’s easy to look back at the X-Class program and pinpoint where things didn’t quite work out.
The idea behind the X-Class was sensible. Take a shortcut to market by joining forces with an experienced player, add a solid dose of Mercedes-Benz premiumness and off-roading know-how from the people who invented the Unimog, throw in a decent engine and, presto, a 4x4 pick-up that is as much at home on the highlands as it is on the High Street.
Except it didn’t quite work out like that.
When the X-Class first landed locally in April 2018, the comparisons to the development partner Nissan Navara couldn’t help be made. Despite nearly every part on the X-Class being tweaked by the German engineers, the most crucial component, the four-cylinder turbo-diesel engines, were a near direct carryover.
It didn’t matter that the X looked and felt like a Benz, it didn’t drive like one.
Things changed when the cylinder count increased, though…
|2020 Mercedes-Benz X350d|
|Engine configuration||V6 turbo diesel|
|Power||190kW @ 3400rpm|
|Torque||550Nm @ 1400–3200rpm|
|Drive type||Four-wheel drive (dual range)|
|0–60mph (0–97km/h) claim||7.5sec|
|Fuel consumption (combined-cycle claim)||8.8L/100km|
|Fuel consumption (combined cycle on test)||10.4L/100km|
|Fuel tank size||80|
|Sales category||PU/CC 4x4 (Pick-up / Cab-chassis 4x4)|
|Key competitors||Ford Ranger / Volkswagen Amarok / Nissan Navara / Mercedes-Benz Unimog|
The X350d is packing a 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 with 190kW and 550Nm available. It’s the same engine as found in the Sprinter van and the previous-generation GLE 350d, offering enough oomph to sit the X near the top of the 4x4 double-cab output tree, with only the Volkswagen Amarok 580 pipping it in the torque stakes.
Like the VW, the Mercedes uses a permanent four-wheel-drive system with variable torque split. Unlike the Amarok V6, there is a low-range transfer case, however, and drive is sent through a seven-speed automatic transmission.
It’s a ripper combination, with the big pick-up able to crush the 0–100km/h sprint in just 7.5 seconds.
Pricing starts from $73,720 (before options and on-road costs) for the X350d Progressive, and from $79,415 for the top-spec X350d Power like our car. For context, we already cost more than that range-topping Amarok 580 Ultimate ($72,790) and even the swole Ford Ranger Raptor ($77,190) and V8 Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series ($75,600), and we haven’t started the options list…
Speaking of which, you can tick the Cavansite Blue paint box ($950 and one of nine choices), electric trailer brake controller ($765), tow wiring ($462) and the actual tow bar ($836), sports bar ($1551), leather interior ($1750) and tub liner ($899) to match our test car.
There’s also the $2190 Style Pack that adds the powered rear sliding window, rear privacy glass, side steps, roof rails and the snazzy 19-inch alloys.
That’s an additional $9403 for a total of $88,818 plus on-road costs. If that doesn’t feel spendy yet, then perhaps more contextually you can tick the same boxes on the X250d Power ($64,500), which runs the same twin-turbo 2.3-litre four-cylinder as the D23 Navara, and still spend $74,203. That’s about $15K more than the Nissan, for what in crucial areas is the same car.
This is why, with runout pricing and stock clearance deals on the table, being able to save 25–30 per cent off the list price of an X-Class starts to make the Mercedes a more sensible proposition. It’s not what you’d call a budget offering, but being able to drive away in a V6 ’Benz ute for a price that starts with a '6' has the X350d looking much more attractive.
|2020 Mercedes-Benz X350d|
|Tub dimensions (L/W/H)||1581mm x 1560mm x 475mm – 1215mm between arches|
|Wheels/tyres||19-inch – 255/55R19 Bridgestone|
So does this now make it a perfect lifestyle getaway Mercedes-Benz?
Yeah… About that.
On the outside, everything looks the part. From the familiar grille to the LED head and tail-lamps, the X carries the three-pointed star pretty well.
It’s still a utey-ute if you need it, with just under 1600mm both in and across the tub, and 1215mm between the arches. The handy adjustable-position tie-down points are lifted from the Navara, and there’s a one-tonne payload should you need it.
When you climb into the cabin, though, the interior presents a tale of two cities.
Above the line, you’re treated to a stylish but still utilitarian implementation of the outgoing Mercedes-Benz design language. There are nice vents, cool panels, and the centrally mounted 8.4-inch infotainment screen on the dash. It’s a familiar Mercedes-Benz steering wheel in front of a familiar Mercedes-Benz instrument cluster.
But below the line is very little Mercedes. In fact, there’s very little of anything. There’s even just one single cupholder.
Sure, there’s dual-zone climate control and heated seats, but there's also a decent quantity of direct-lift Nissan components. Not a big deal and they work well enough, but it's somewhat of a contrast to that ‘upper-dash’ environment.
None of it is bad, just a little less ’Benzy than you’d expect. Little things, like the differential lock and hill descent control buttons not having any illumination to let you know they are active or not. There’s a light on the cluster, and yes, it's substantially more important that the functions are there, but it’s just a minor bit of polish that would have done a lot to lift the overall usability and appeal of a Mercedes-Benz branded product.
Case in point, there is a button for a light in the tub, but no actual light in the tub. Maybe, I don’t know, take the button out?
Yes, the COMAND infotainment control interface is on the console, and it still looks good, but the software is old now, and there’s no touch interface or support for device projection. You do get a 360-degree camera and DAB radio, and it is comfortable, well built and ergonomic to use. You just need to remember it is more related to the Sprinter than S-Class side of the family.
In terms of passenger accommodation, too, the X still isn’t going to score an A.
Rear curtain airbags are fitted (there are seven airbags in total) and the X-Class has a five-star ANCAP safety rating, but the rear seat is pretty cramped, and there is no central armrest or cupholders. For those counting, that’s a grand total of one cupholder in the whole car. One.
On the upside, the powered slidey rear window is a carryover from the Navara, so it’s not all bad news.
Get past this, though, and the on-road manners are much more Mercedes-Benz.
The X350d features a Mercedes-tuned version of the multi-link coil suspension set-up from the Navara, as well as four-wheel disc brakes. This puts the unladen handling characteristics much closer to SUV territory than you would expect.
Importantly, it rides well when empty. In fact, it’s a very easy and comfortable tourer, able to chew big distances with the lazy ease that only a V6 can deliver.
You will feel it move around a bit on corrugations, and the gearbox can feel a little sharp as the car shifts down gears when coming to a stop, but it is a ute and these are only minor gripes.
Mercedes claims a combined fuel consumption cycle of 8.8L/100km, but we saw no less than 10.5L/100km on a drive that mixed country touring with some light-duty off-road work. The consumption increases accordingly with your exploration of the V6 output, too.
Peak power of 190kW is available from 3400rpm, whereas peak torque is available between 1400 and 3200rpm, affording the X-Class a very flexible powerband and making things like overtaking a breeze.
Relax back to cruising speeds, and the V6 feels continually effortless as it lazily ticks along.
|2020 Mercedes-Benz X350d|
|Colour||Cavansite Blue Metallic|
|Options as tested||$9403|
|ANCAP safety rating||5-star|
|Warranty||5 years / unlimited km|
But it's not perfect, as even on the road there are a few areas where the X-Class falls short of the MB-level expectations.
Cruise control is not adaptive, itself not a big deal, but the system as a whole isn’t particularly smooth or simple to operate. It’s the same Mercedes stalk that we’re used to, and the same in-dash feedback of the chosen speed, but I found it wouldn’t simply adjust up and down, and would sometimes cap out at a specific speed.
Plus, there’s no overspeed braking, which in a state whose authorities love a camera on a downhill stretch of a tunnel means you’re better off just ignoring cruise and driving for yourself.
One further frustration is that the lane-keep assistant neither keeps nor assists, and is simply lane-departure warning with a more aspirational feedback alert in the dash.
Again, these take a bit of shine off the product, but don't stop it from being a great big-mile tourer.
Venture off the beaten track and you can engage a high-range four-wheel-drive mode to alter the torque split to 30:70 front to rear, or dial up the full 50:50 drive distribution by selecting the low-range setting. Further, there is a hill descent control function as well as a rear differential lock should things get even more extreme.
We kept the X mainly in high-range for some light-duty work, and it felt quite comfortable negotiating a steep rutted climb and some undulating moguls. You can tell it isn’t quite as naturally gifted as the Toyota HiLux when it comes to ease of use off-road, but as a town ute visiting the country, it can hold its own.
The X350d is currently being offered with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty (for private buyers, 250,000km for business buyers), and there are various service packages available.
These can creep up in price. For example, a basic pre-paid three-year package is $2945 and five years $4476. We’d always recommend negotiating the service packages into your purchase deal.
When it’s all said and done, though, it is a pity the 2020 Mercedes-Benz X-Class never really found its place. The idea was promising, and the execution of the V6 is pretty solid for what is essentially a first-generation car.
But when you consider the amount of money, time and effort that would have been required to continually develop and enhance the car, to have it keep up and arguably exceed the quality and capability of the competition, for what would amount to small sales numbers in niche markets, it just doesn’t make sense.
Put simply, it may wear a Mercedes badge, but it doesn’t deliver the full Mercedes experience. And therein lies the key, especially if you’re mentally comparing this with a GLE.
Don’t get me wrong, though, the X-Class V6 is a good car, as well as a good ute. It’s just now available for what is tantamount to a good price.
So, if you fancy owning a rare and relatively unique Mercedes-Benz that can tow, carry and basically go anywhere you want, now’s your chance!