THE SUV boom shows no signs of slowing and with it has come an interesting spin off.
Pick-ups, always looked on as workhorses, are sneaking in on the side with plush double cab versions providing alternative family transport.
The last year or so has seen a surge in new pickups with Volkswagen, Renault, Fiat and even Mercedes-Benz joining the usual suspects of Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi L200, Ford Ranger and Nissan Navara.
Here we are taking a look at the Merc X-class….except that it is not all that it seems. Given Merc’s strength in the commercial market it is a bit of a surprise that the German giant has joined forces with Nissan and taken the Navara as its starting point.
Jumping into bed with rival companies is nothing unusual – it keeps costs down for starters. The new Renault Alaskan is a rebodied Navara too, while the Fiat Fullback is pretty much a Mitsubishi L200.
This wedding with Nissan has allowed Mercedes to steal a march on arch rivals Audi and BMW who can offer nothing in the pickup line. And the choice is a good one as the Navara is arguably the best pick up on the market with outstanding load carrying and towing abilities along with a surprisingly good ride.
The key to comfort is car like multi link rear suspension as opposed to the old fashioned leaf system still commonly used. Mercedes has lifted it from Nissan and improved it so X-class is marginally better on the road than Navara.
So what is the plan? Quite simple really, Mercedes wants to broaden the SUV market with a luxury up market pick up. Take a look inside and you will find many familiar trappings, the binnacle dials, switches, air vents and seven inch floating infotainment centre with rotary controller and touch pad can be found in its cars.
Push the boat out with the Power model, one of the many range choices, and you can have cabin trimmed in plush stitched leather although true to Mercedes form it is on the extras list and can push the price into silly money.
Something to avoid is the optional brown look-a-like wood grain dashboard trim. It looks more like cheap vinyl and spoils what is otherwise a very smart cabin.
As well as the chassis Nissan provides the 2.3 litre diesel engine. Again this is no bad thing because it is one of the most powerful around. The X250 on test had the most powerful 190bhp twin turbo version and as well as strong performance has working statistics.
It carries a tonne and can tow 3,500kg which, Mercedes tells us, is the equivalent of a horsebox with three horses or an eight metre yacht. I can tell you that is almost three four-berth caravans!
A couple of elderly friends were knocked out by the pick up’s comfort on a 140 mile trip to Yorkshire although most of the drive was on smooth roads. On less agreeable road surfaces X-class bobbles about like any other pick up but the ride is more cushioned and copes better than its rivals.
The seven-speed automatic gearbox smoothes out potential jerky gear changes and 31-33mpg is a good return over nearly 600 miles of mixed driving.
Don’t be fooled into thinking X-class is on a par with an Audi Q7, BMW X5 or Land Rover Discovery. It’s not. X-class is primarily a workhorse and as those figures mentioned earlier show it is a good one.
Could it be used as family transport? Yes, but go into it with open eyes. The ‘Merc touch’ in the cabin gives an up market feel and there is ample room for four adults. A solid lockable tonnau cover is essential for carrying luggage, and thought would have to be given for carrying the shopping and other smaller items if they are not be strewn around the plastic floor surface.
Another scenario is an executive swapping the expensive SUV for an top of the range X-class and seriously reducing the company car tax bill.
I can’t see that happening too often and at the end of the day the Mercedes price tag, for all its luxury, is hard to justify against a Nissan Navara which is thousands cheaper and offers much of the same.
May be Mercedes needs to push the luxury boat even further and that may come soon with a 255bhp six-cylinder diesel model due this year.
X-class pick up
X250d 4matic Power
Pay load 1066kg
Towing capacity 3500kg
Economy 35.8mpg combined
Emissions 207g/km. Road tax £240