X 250 d proved to be the perfect vehicle for the English spring

X 250 d proved to be the perfect vehicle for the English spring

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If we overlook the Lincoln Mark LT and Cadillac Escalade EXT, discontinued ten and five years ago respectively, Mercedes-Benz is the first luxury brand with a global reach to launch a pick-up. Will the new X-Class succeed in the parts of the world - and North America isn't one of them - where Mercedes-Benz Vans has begun to sell it?

Even in boring white and mostly covered in snow during the time we spent together, the X 250 d 4MATIC attracted lots of gazes, likely due to that not so subtle large three-pointed star in the grille. It would have looked even better, and been still more popular had it had a snow plough attachment, like the gritting trucks in my part of the world.

After weeks spent variously with a Subaru XV, Isuzu D-Max and Volvo XC60 from late February until a few days ago, I have accidentally become something of a self-appointed expert on how different 4x4 systems cope with a snowed-in Somerset. The Mercedes vied for joint best with the Isuzu. The Volvo's set-to-scorch seat heaters must, however, receive an honourable mention. Yes, the Swedes' supplier seems to know how to quickly pump up the temperature to what I hope never to find out must surely be the same as in Hades' presidential suite.

In the X-Class, normal drive is via the back axle, which incidentally has disc brakes at its extremes when many pick-ups of a similar size make do with drums. Coil springs and a multi-link arrangement for the rear suspension mean you won't find leaf springs either, another touch which marks it out as more sophisticated than rivals. That list is now a long, and growing one.

The Ford Ranger is the segment's best seller in Britain and it's really only Groupe PSA and HMG of the big players in the European region which lack a pick-up. Even that is set to change, with Peugeot, Hyundai and Kia all planning such models. VW Amarok, Mitsubishi L200/Fiat Fullback, Renault Alaskan, Nissan Navara, Toyota Hilux, SsangYong Musso - the list of choices for buyers keeps getting bigger.

JLR will probably be the first luxury vehicle maker to take on the X-Class should rumours of a Defender pick-up prove to be true. The company is said to have plans for a standard model as well as an XL, something which Mercedes-Benz is also looking at. Prototypes of a longer X-Class have recently been snapped and the images published on the web.

The already lengthy Benz can be ordered with various engines. A Mercedes-Benz diesel V6 will join the existing range of four-cylinder units from mid-year, this variant having been a world premiere at the recent Geneva show.

The petrol engine is not available in all countries but in many markets the range will by June consist of the following:

  • X 200 (122kW/165hp & 239Nm petrol)
  • X 220 d (120kW/163hp & 403Nm turbo diesel)
  • X 250 d (140kW/190hp & 450Nm bi-turbo diesel)
  • X 350 d (190kW/258hp and 550Nm V6 bi-turbo diesel)

The engine in the as-tested X 250 d is made by the Renault-Nissan Alliance as the X-Class and Renault Alaskan were both developed off the same basic platform as the Nissan NP300/Navara. Mercedes-Benz Vans is at pains to point out that its pick-up has been thoroughly re-engineered compared to the Nissan original. You can tell it shares door skins but the front and rear ends look nothing like the Nissan.

The same applies to the interior, which looks like a genuine Mercedes, albeit one that's been designed to be tough first and luxurious second. Hard-wearing plastics are complemented by much in the way of leather and timber-effect trim. The dashboard has been reworked and while it's not going to give the S-Class anything to worry about, this is a classier cabin than the inside of any other pick-up.

The 5,340mm long X-Class comes only as a double cab and is targeted both at personal-use and commercial customers. The primary markets are Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina and Brazil. M-B Vans has ruled out a single cab body.

Production for the Australasian, European and South African markets commenced at Nissan Europe's Barcelona factory during the fourth quarter of last year. This was only a few months after the public saw the Mercedes pick-up in production spec for the first time at the Frankfurt IAA in September.

This will also be some build in Argentina's Córdoba province. That will take place at Renault's Santa Isobel plant in late 2018 and these trucks will also be exported to Brazil as well as sold locally from 2019. The Alaskan might be still to come for the British market but it did in fact beat the X-Class into production. Build at Nissan Mexico's Cuernavaca factory in Mexico commenced in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Both Córdoba and Barcelona will eventually manufacture all three trucks. Barcelona will make about 120,000 vehicles annually for the three partners, while Santa Isobel will produce nearly 70,000 vehicles a year.

Who is going to buy the X-Class? There are certainly a lot of people who regularly tow a boat, a caravan or a horsebox and who like the idea of a having a Mercedes-Benz. It depends on the engine but the X can haul up to 1.1 tonnes in its load bay and can tow up to 3.5 tonnes. It can also pull a trailer containing three horses or an eight-metre yacht, according to Mercedes.

Depending on what happens with NAFTA, this model might eventually be sold in the US and Canada, should build be added at Nissan Mexicana's Cuernavaca factory. Mercedes-Benz has not ruled the X-Class out for the USA but says it will monitor sales in other markets.

There are no serious concerns with this model, just a couple of areas where improvements would be handy. The ride can be on the hard side with an empty load tray, and the steering is a little on the light side, plus the turning circle is large. Daimler is said to be working on changing the hydraulic steering system to an electro-hydraulic one. This should appear at the time of a facelift, along with a steering column that has reach adjustment.

Some might find the X-Class to be too pricey - I think it's fairly good value for money and what else is there to compare it to anyway? The X 250 d that was mine to drive for a week costs GBP34,100 but that excludes VAT and a GBP600 national delivery charge. Options fitted included a GBP915 Parking Package (360-degree camera), GBP225 for the slab of artificial wood across the dashboard and GBP495 for the diff lock, the praises of which I was singing as it helped get me mobile when deep snow might otherwise have prevented that.

Overall, the X-Class looks the part and begs the question - how soon until Audi, Porsche, BMW and maybe even Volvo, Lexus and Infiniti join this segment? Mercedes-Benz will be hoping it takes one or more of these brands some years yet to present a challenger for what will be domination of a new segment.