The world’s oldest car manufacturer jumps into the ute business.
Story Bruce McMahon
The Mercedes-Benz utility provides a good reason for Australians to consider a four-door ute for town and country service. Although it is one of the dearer offerings in a competitive market, and while some of the Mercedes X-Class underpinnings are based on the current Nissan Navara, this Spanish-built Mercedes-Benz should find favour with a range of customers from farmers to tradies. It carries the style and substance that deserve consideration if chasing an upmarket four-wheel-drive ute.
Unlike Volkswagen, Mercedes took an expedient path into this burgeoning market, taking a Nissan ute and reworking it to create a fresh interpretation of a dual cab. Where the rival VW Amarok was an all-new design – and is still regarded as the most car-like of the current crop of utes – the Benz uses a re-engineered and widened Navara chassis with different tweaks for the coil-spring suspension. The X 250d model, aimed at the middle-class ute buyer, also runs with Nissan’s twin-turbocharged diesel engine and seven-speed automatic transmission.
Aside from that four-cylinder’s 140kW and 450Nm of torque feeling familiar under throttle, the Mercedes-Benz X-Class is different to the Navara. While there appears some similarities in the body profile, especially around the window line of the rear doors, there is little mistaking the Benz’s bold front end with big three-pointed star for the grille. The rear, too, is different again – with cargo tray able to handle a full-sized pallet between the wheel arches – and the overall effect subtle and handsome.
The X 250d’s cabin is a premium affair, lifted in the main from Mercedes-Benz passenger cars. That means one left-hand stalk for indicators and wipers, a central console control for the dash-mounted screen, with a host of functions from Bluetooth for telephone calls, and audio and navigation system, plus 360-degree camera views when parking. Fit and finish is very good for a ute, yet there are quibbles about tight rear-seat accommodation. Electrically operated front seats on some X-Class models feature prominent side bolsters, which narrow the back rest, and those seats could sit lower for full-sized Australians. The steering column only has tilt adjustment, so some drivers will find speedometer markings up to 140km/h obscured by the steering wheel rim and will need to rely on a digital speed readout sitting between the speedometer and tachometer.
Road speeds need to be watched here. The strength of the Mercedes-Benz X 250d is the refinement and comfort of the ride on bitumen and dirt, where the combination of wider track, smarter steering responses, tweaked suspension, plus excellent noise, vibration and harshness control can see this ute creeping well beyond Australian speed limits.
There remains some skip from the Mercedes’ back end on nasty lumps of torn-up back-country roads, and taller tyres here (up to 19 inches or 482 millimetres) have less profile for shock absorption, but a plush cabin and sophisticated suspension tune mean occupants are more isolated from rough roads than in most of today’s utes.
Brakes are disc all round, which adds to driver confidence, and there is the usual array of electronic safety gear, from tyre pressure monitoring to lane-keeping assistance and stability control. The Benz steering is responsive and well-weighted at highway speed, but a 13.4-metre turning circle – and a 5.3m x 1.9m vehicle – can mean some shuffling back and forward in a car park or out among the mulga.
The X 250 model runs with rear-wheel drive, dashboard switch for 4WD high and low and a 3.5-tonne tow rating. A range-topping X-Class, with 190kW V6, features permanent 4WD and seven-speed transmission with paddle shifters.
The downside of all this refinement and equipment is a ute heavier than its Navara counterpart by some 300 kilograms, according to manufacturers’ figures. That extra baggage, plus an engine that takes a little breath before swinging into action, means the X-Class can be that smidgen less urgent from a standing start or when overtaking. It gets into its stride soon enough, just not as smartly as rivals such as Ford’s Ranger. Expect average fuel consumption around 10 litres per 100 kilometres for a mixed bag of city and country driving.
There are three trim levels for the X 250d and the Power version, with seven-speed automatic transmission, runs with a $64,500 retail price – a premium price, albeit not the cheapest of this new range. Still an X 250d with all the gear is a tempting proposition. It carries itself well, feels like a Mercedes-Benz and that three-pointed star retains a charisma and credibility that can be hard to quantify.
Two-wheel-drive Mercedes-Benz X-Class
utes start at $45,450 with the 4WD X 250d
from $51,450. The range-topping X 350d
starts at $73,270. For more information go
This story excerpt is from Issue #122
Outback Magazine: December/January 2019