Driven - December 2018

Mercedes-Benz X-Class V6 Driven Review

Should you buy the Mercedes-Benz X-Class V6?

A little over 6 months ago, we found ourselves in George sampling Mercedes-Benz’s first ever double cab, the then hugely anticipated X-Class. In the four-cylinder guise, it featured an engine borrowed from the Nissan Navara, one which many found to be underwhelming. Perhaps we got overly hyped? Maybe we expected too much? Whatever the reason was, our first interaction the X-Class didn’t live up to what we all expected, purely because of the badge the car wears. Mercedes, however, stated that more was to come and that time has now arrived. The recent launch of a new variant of the X-Class in South Africa has given the folks at Merc a second chance to impress us. This time, we’re dealing with a Mercedes engine, a with a 3.0 V6 to be exact, one that could be this vehicle’s saving grace. Has the X-Class finally marked the spot?

Mercedes-Benz X-Class V6 Front

The Engine

190kW and 550Nm are very tasty numbers from the Mercedes V6, especially for a Double cab bakkie. With power figures like these, the X-Class is poised to impress much more than its 4-cylinder counterparts, which does. It’s also a thoroughbred V6, made by Mercedes-Benz themselves, unlike the 2.3-litre engine found in the lower spec variants.

Mercedes-Benz X-Class V6 Rear

Off-road

The torque produced by the V6 proved handy as we spent the morning traversing fairly serious off-road routes. Steep climbs, banks and technical sections proved too easy for the X-Class. I was slightly taken aback at how the X-Class dispatched of the challenges like it was a simple Monday morning school run. So far, so good.

Although I can’t imagine many X-Class owners attempting some of the gradients we did on their average weekend away, it’s good to know that should the occasion allow, mountains can be climbed. For me, the big test came later in the afternoon, on the open road, where the lifestyle double cab will spend many km’s tearing up the tarmac.

Mercedes-Benz X-Class V6 Badge

On The Road

It’s become somewhat of a habit of mine to always activate the sportiest mode a vehicle has to offer from the onset. This habit didn’t change with the X-Class. With Dynamic Select as standard in this model, the driver has the option of Eco, Comfort, Sport, Manual and Off-road settings to choose from.

How fast is it? Well, 7.9 seconds is the 0-100km/h time, just in case you were wondering. For a bakkie, that’s fast. So to answer the question, yes, the X-Class V6 shifts. Driver can activate Sport mode, this means the appropriate gear to “give it the beans” is always selected and throttle response seems to be a little more sensitive than usual.

When driving spiritedly, you may be a little surprised at how fast the dial on the left climbs and how the open road ahead is taken in its grasp. It’s very “unbakkie like”. What’s even more impressive is the vehicle’s stability at high speeds. Never at any stage did the X-Class make me feel unconfident, it’s really as poised as an SUV. A huge percentage of this is due to the bits you can’t see. At the rear, X-Class uses a 5-link rear suspension setup, unlike the conventional leaf spring system used on many other road-going bakkies.

The Nissan was the first bakkie we saw this system on and it proved itself then, as it did now. It’s more stable, more comfortable and is much more aligned to that of a passenger vehicle or SUV. Does it really drive like an SUV? Yes, it does. Road comfort is top notch, and with that V6 up-front, cruising and overtaking becomes as easy as an Englishman starting a bar fight.

Handling

As Franschhoek pass was approaching, Sport mode was aptly selected once again and it was time to find out if the launch would end with an upside down X-class, at the bottom of a ravine with myself inside – probably still filming. I was driving alone for this launch, which proved beneficial because it was time to put the X-Class and its 40/60 4Matic power split through its paces. An excercise not advisable when driving with squirmish passengers.

Sharp hairpins, tight bends, long sweepers and plenty of esses is what the pass gives you. In reality, Franschhoek pass is no place to “test” a double cab. However, the team at Merc instilled so much confidence into the X-Class, that a pommy just had to give it a go.

My findings? Well, the fact that you’re reading this article means it didn’t go too badly. But in all seriousness,  it really impressed me. I was hard fought to try and get some body-roll out the chassis, even on the tightest bends, to the point where understeer would set-in and the front end would push. Under heavy braking, the vehicle remained stable and it was nice to see that the rear-end didn’t go “light” especially on turn in. This is a great thing as most bakkies get nervous under extreme direction changes. Instead, the Merc aced the pass. With the V6 up front, you simply accelerate out the bend and the car agrees to disappear.

Interior

As good as the X-Class is on the road, I do have gripes. I still feel the interior quality doesn’t represent a Mercedes-Benz vehicle. There’s simply too much plastic and not enough luxury. An example of this is the air vents or even the drive selector which looks like it belongs in a Mahindra. Tough? Maybe. Luxurious? Not at all. It does get better thankfully. Sitting centimetres from the gear lever is the familiar Mercedes-Benz Command controls, which operate the Command system. This is now more in line with modern Mercedes’s and it does add a little bit more of a premium feel to the cabin.

The positive side to the plain interior is that it can probably take more abuse. For instance, if you’re a rich kid who wants to go wild with daddy’s money, the interior of the X-Class will easily take some kicks and knocks, as you pile in your four best mates and go looking for trouble in “Mozam” or any other coastal destination that can be abbreviated to sound cool.

Should you buy the Mercedes-Benz X-Class V6?

Starting at R904,188 it’s certainly not a cheap double cab, especially when compared with the Amarok V6, albeit with 30Kw less power, for R810,000. From a drivability and refinement perspective, the Amarok is the closest competitor to the X-Class V6. Whilst Mercedes say the X-Class doesn’t have a competitor, I do feel the Amarok runs pretty close and next year, we may even see the 190Kw version on our shores. So there are other options to choose from.

The X-Class V6 is, without doubt, a lifestyle orientated bakkie, you ain’t gonna be throwing bricks in the back of this kind of Double cab, are you? Hence why I expected a more luxurious interior trim. It’s pricey, but it also wears the Mercedes-Benz badge which counts for something I guess and it does surprise you when it comes to road comfort and holding. It’s really good there. The reality is, however, when you’re spending this much though, you expect a certain premium feel, one which the X Class still somewhat lacks.

I feel the biggest buy-in for the X-Class will come from current Mercedes-Benz customers. Those who already own a passenger vehicle, perhaps a sedan, and would like a more lifestyle orientated product. It’s a great way to stay in the brand from that perspective.

All things considered, purely based on the engine and chassis, the X-Class V6 is one of the best double cabs you can buy. However, you will pay a Mercedes-Benz premium for it. At the end of the day, the buyer will need to weigh up to positives and the negatives and if it makes sense to them, it makes sense to them. Just don’t get mad when the Navara jokes start.

Mercedes-Benz X-Class V6 Pricing in South Africa

X-Class Progressive – R904,188

X-Class Power – R973,188

 

Spec your X-Class V6 here:  www.x-class.co.za.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Also published on Medium.