ROAD TEST: Mercedes X-Class V6 has brawn from Berlin
Strap on the lederhosen and give those thighs a belting. Ja, Mercedes has delivered the real ute deal.
Last year the Navara-based X-Class arrived with a massaged version of Nissan's four-cylinder turbo diesel. Now a Mercedes turbocharged V6 diesel donk has been dropped into the same shell.
Stepping up to the bent six comes at a premium. The bare basics X220d starts from $50,400, yet the get-in price for this V6 is $73,270 for the Progressive derivative - and the range-topping Power model we tested is an extra $6145.
But there is one pivotal investment benefit. This is the closest you'll come to a "suvute”, a ute that blends passenger car convenience and SUV-like handling.
Interior appeal of the X-Class is basic but still a step above most competitors. There are four jet turbine-looking vents postioned under the colour 5.4-inch screen - which is controlled by the familiar Benz rotary dial on the console - a concave dash and a chunky steering wheel with gear shifting paddles.
There are some reminders of its Navara heritage. For starters there's the key. It's just a Nissan/Infiniti fob with a Mercedes star - not the weighty key that traditionally comes with a Mercedes. Then there's the steering column, which has a plastic housing hiding the area where the key is traditionally inserted.
That aside, the Power gets all the best standard kit such as electric adjustable front seats, full bluetooth connectivity, dusk-sensing headlights, fake leather upholstery, aluminium dash and door trims, black roof lining, dual-zone aircon, keyless entry and start, and 19-inch alloys with 255/55 Bridgestone Dueler HT tyres.
Yet our ute had some extras that escalated the price towards $95,000 once on the road, including a bedliner ($899), silver styling bar ($1551) and the tow kit ($2063). Then there was the styling pack, for an extra $2090, which incorporated tinted rear glass, electric rear window, side steps, roof rails and multi-spoke alloys.
Metallic exterior paint was an extra $950 and the real leather seats added a further $1750. That's some serious extra coin for a dual cab ute.
Maintenance costs are reasonable, and there is a servicing pack for $2555 and covers annual maintenance over three years or 60,000km. Intervals are annual or 20,000km.
Awarded five stars during 2017 before the criteria became more stringent, the X-Class comes with solid technology including autonomous braking if a frontal impact is detected by radars below 105km/h, tyre pressure monitoring, active lane-keeping assist to stop the driver wandering, 360-degree surround view camera and trailer stability assist.
Navara foundations are still present, but press the button and if the performance was any more German the smell of sausage would waft through the aircon vents.
Meaty and brimming with muscle, it feels quick under acceleration and up there with the benchmark-setting Amarok V6. According to official figures the Mercedes load-lugger can haul from standstill to 100km/h in less than eight seconds, courtesy of its Berlin-built donk - the VW achieves the same velocity in 7.3 seconds.
Compared to the four-cylinder, it's chalk and butterkase. Everything feels tighter and more polished, with permanent all-wheel drive and multi-link coil rear suspension working collectively to offer a ride that would rival many SUVs for comfort levels. It's not plush, certainly not a competitor for its own or other prestige high-riding companions, but better than some off-road centric SUVs.
Where the X-Class has the edge is towing and loading capacity. It has a towing capability of 3500kg and a payload of 1010kg.
The turning circle remains similar to most other utes at 13.4m, but the X350d feels more accomplished in all facets. Parking is the primary challenge, but the all-round camera view is a boon.
Around town the X350d performs admirably, with drive force between the front and rear axle at a torque distribution of 40-60 per cent. It can be changed into four high and low ranges, with power delivery evenly split.
In 4MAT you can even choose from various driving modes like you do in a car, with sport, economy, comfort and manual on offer. The off-road function is available only in four high or low.
There are some constant reminders of its Nissan underpinnings. Some things don't operate like we've seen from Mercedes in the past. The windscreen wiper washer button usually gives one wipe when pressed quickly (the longer press provides water spray), but it does nothing in the X-Class.
The cruise control stalk also leaps in 10km/h increments with a long press on previous passenger cars, but not here. Storage options are also limited in the console with no space around the shifter for phones or keys, and while there are two cup holders only one is useful, plus the central bin is small.
Chrome "V6” badges on the front guards showcase the muscular abilities within, and I really needed to get away from the lights first to showcase the three-pointed star on the tailgate.
I've always wanted a Mercedes but it didn't suit the work-life balance. Now it's a tax deduction, which makes the asking price easier to swallow.
FORD RANGER RAPTOR FROM $75,390
The most capable off-roader you can buy straight from the showroom and is powered by a 157kW/500Nm 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo, 10-speed auto/dual-range 4WD. Slow but it can jump sand dunes and it looks insanely tough. The cabin is sporting stylish. Five-year warranty.
VW AMAROK TDI580 FROM $72,790
Leading the power rankings with a 190kW/580Nm 3.0-litre V6 (200kW on overboost). Eight-speed auto, high range only all-wheel drive. No rear airbags. Another option is the TDi550 V6 with 165kW/550Nm, which starts at $52,590.
Brawn now matches the badge. Those who can offset the cost through accounting incentives will justify the investment, but others may find it doesn't stack up against the key rivals.
AT A GLANCE
MERCEDES-BENZ X350d POWER
PRICE $79,415 (setting a high standard)
WARRANTY/SERVICING 3 years; $2555 for 3 years/ 60,000km (OK)
ENGINE 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel, 190kW/550Nm, 7sp auto (fast)
SAFETY 5 stars, 7 airbags, AEB, lane keeping, trailer sway control, 360-degree camera (good)
THIRST 8.8L/100km (not bad)
SPARE Full-size (perfect)
PAYLOAD 1010kg, towing 3500kg, 6180kg GCM (strong)