Earlier this year Mercedes-Benz South Africa (MBSA) took the bold step of introducing a bakkie into its local portfolio. The X-Class was a highly anticipated introduction from the premium vehicle manufacturer.
This week, MBSA expanded the X-Class family by adding a range-leading X350d to the line-up. We spent a few hours driving around the Western Cape in the newcomer.
We are all, probably, already familiar with the X-Class X250d models. These all feature 2,3-litre inline four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. There are two power outputs: 120 and 140 kW. You can choose between automatic and manual gearbox options.
The X350d boasts a turbo-charged, 3,0-litre V6 diesel engine. Adding two cylinders means more power and torque. Headline figures are 190 kW of power peaking at 3 400 r/min and a prodigious 550 Nm of torque from 1 400 r/min – 3 200 r/min.
A seven-speed automatic transmission is responsible for transferring power to the wheels. Power is permanently delivered to all four wheels via Mercedes’ 4Matic drivetrain. All V6 models feature a low range transfer case, with off-road specific calibration for the stability programme.
From an aesthetic and features point of view, the X350d does not differ markedly from its lesser-powered siblings. Were it not for the badges, this model would not be easy to differentiate from the X250d.
Inside, much the same can be said. The trim levels are similar to the X250d. This model is also available in Progressive and Power specifications; the latter is a bit of a misnomer as it does not boast any additional power.
The Progressive variant includes 17-inch alloy wheels, air vents in electroplated silver chrome, leather-lined steering wheel and Mercedes Audio 20 eight-speaker hi-fi all as standard.
The Power version includes a faux bash plate in the front bumper, a chrome-plated rear bumper, 18-inch alloys, LED headlamps, electrically adjustable seats, and multifunction touchpad infotainment interface.
Mercedes-Benz laid out a brilliant array of driving experiences for us at the local launch event. We tackled bits of the urban grind, plenty of motorway cruising, farmland B-roads, mountain passes and even a spot of off-roading thrown in for good measure.
The off-roading section, which took place early in the day, cast the V6 X-Class in a great light. With plenty of low-down torque, a rear diff’ lock and the low-range set of gears, the X350d made light work of any obstacle we put in its way.
From, side slopes to axle-twisters to skywards-facing inclines the X-Class hardly broke a sweat. We wonder if any owners will ever do the same, but it’s good to know that this near million-buck bakkie can venture far off the beaten path.
Later in the day we traversed the winelands region. On the open road the X350d is refined and well isolated from exterior noise, including its own engine. On this particularly windy Cape day the only intrusion we experienced was a bit of wind whistle around the large side mirrors housings.
As expected, there is plenty of overtaking grunt from the force-fed diesel motor. We could dispatch with slower traffic easily and safely. While the V6 X-Class does have paddle shifters on the steering wheel to select gears, the transmission does a good job on its own and we seldom found need to second guess its gear choice.
On a rough piece of mountain pass my co-driver did note that there seemed to be high levels of steering kick-back over mid-corner bumps, though we were travelling a tad quick at the time.
While we’d like to report that it feels car-like in execution, the reality is that a body-on-frame vehicle cannot match a unibody in terms of comfort. The ever-present discord between chassis and body, as experienced in all bakkies, is present here, too.
Priced at R904 188 for the Progressive and R973 188 for the Power, these two are the most expensive new bakkies on sale in South Africa today. The more expensive version trounces the nearest competitor, VW’s Amarok V6 by nearly R170 000, not chump change.
With that in mind, we do not think the price will be a deterrent for those who must have a Mercedes-Benz bakkie. The bragging rights of that V6 badge and Three-Pointed star will be too much for many to resist and there will be X350ds on our road in number that will surprise many people.
Report: Sudhir ‘Banzai’ Matai