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Mercedes-Benz X-Class Progressive dual-cab pick-up auto 2018 off-road review

There was much anticipation over Merceds-Benz's foray into the realm of traditional workhorses prior to its X-Class launch earlier this year, and many people expected a lot from the premium brand's dual-cab ute.

Benz certainly deserves praise for bringing the first ute offering AEB to the Aussie market, and let's hope the others swiftly follow suit, but has it delivered on the hype in other areas? Is the X-Class a fitting example of the three-pointed star brand, or is it just another manufacturer's missed opportunity at ute greatness? 

When we pitted a top-spec X-Class Power X250d against a Toyota HiLux Rugged X and Ford Ranger Wildtrak, the X-Class was a clear third place in that company, but this time we took a mid-spec Progressive out of the city and into the bush to see how it performed.

Price and features - Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?

The 250d Progressive is available as either a manual ($53,950*) or auto ($56,850) in a cab-chassis body style, or a manual ($54,900) or auto ($57,800) pick-up. (*All prices do not include GST or on-road costs.) Our tester was the auto pick-up and had more than $14,000 worth of extras, taking its price-tag to $71,230.

  • The 250d Progressive is available as either a manual or auto in a cab-chassis body style, or a manual or auto pick-up. The 250d Progressive is available as either a manual or auto in a cab-chassis body style, or a manual or auto pick-up.
  • The optional 'Style pack' includes LED headlights and tail-lights. The optional 'Style pack' includes LED headlights and tail-lights.
  • 18-inch twin-spoke alloys were also optioned as part of the 'Style Pack'. 18-inch twin-spoke alloys were also optioned as part of the 'Style Pack'.
  • Our Progressive also had the $1551 sports bar. Our Progressive also had the $1551 sports bar.

As standard the Progressive has body-colour bumpers, leather-wrapped steering wheel, shifter and handbrake, black-grained instrument panel, silver air-vent trims, aluminium door sill panels, multi-media system with 7.0-inch media screen, Garmin sat nav, DAB digital radio and eight speakers, fabric upholstery, carpeted floors, auto-dimming rearview mirror and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Ours, as mentioned, has been substantially optioned up so it had 18-inch twin-spoke alloys (part of the $3750 'Style pack' option, which also includes LED headlights and tail-lights, power rear window, side steps and roof rails); power front seats, dual-zone climate control and microfibre upholstery (part of the $2490 'Comfort pack'); and 360-degree-view camera and park assist system (included in the $1750 'Parking pack', which is standard in the top-spec Pure variant).

Our Progressive also had the 'Comand Online' multimedia system with upgraded sat nav and wireless hotspot ($2990), black roof-liner ($400), sports bar ($1551), and a hard plastic weather-resistant bed-liner in the tray ($899).

Engine and transmission - What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

The 250d Progressive has a 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine, producing 140kW at 3750rpm and 450Nm from 1500-2500rpm, matched to a seven-speed automatic transmission.

The 250d Progressive has a 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. The 250d Progressive has a 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine.

Design - Is there anything interesting about its design?

The X-Class looks good; it's big, bold and rather eye-catching, especially in the 'Danakil Red' non-metallic paint (no extra cost) our test example was wearing.

For all the sustained pub chat about how the X-Class is based, for better or worse, on the Nissan Navara, this dual-cab looks decidedly different to its platform-mate. The X-Class is on a Navara ladder-frame chassis but that's mostly where the similarities end; this Merc ute wears its blocky three-pointed star proudly up front on a considerable grille, its body is wider all-around and it also has a wider wheel-track than most rivals.

The X-Class Progressive is big, bold and rather eye-catching. The X-Class Progressive is big, bold and rather eye-catching.

This mid-spec ute tends towards basic on the inside, not that anything is really missing or particularly below-par – especially in this optioned-up version of the Progressive – but it's just that nothing is really representative of what should be a premium Benz offering.

Practicality - How practical is the space inside?

In terms of its ease of use for day-to-day life, the X-Class loses out a bit. Sure, the front seats are nicely upholstered and comfortable, and the leather-topped steering wheel and shifter add some panache to the proceedings but you never feel like you're in a Mercedes-Benz.

Yep, it has a few storage spaces, bottle holders in the doors, cupholders (two small ones between the front seats), USB ports (two in the small console bin between the front seats), 12-volt power sockets (one up front, one in the small console bin between the front seats, one for rear passengers and one in the tray), and slim seatback map pockets, but it just feels like that bigger interior space, freed up by a wider-body design, has not been maximised.

  • The front seats are nicely upholstered and comfortable, but you never feel like you’re in a Mercedes-Benz. The front seats are nicely upholstered and comfortable, but you never feel like you’re in a Mercedes-Benz.
  • The rear seat is comfy enough, but those beyond 180cm and 100kg will be squeezed. The rear seat is comfy enough, but those beyond 180cm and 100kg will be squeezed.

The rear seat is comfy enough, but those beyond 180cm and 100kg will be squeezed, and it has rear air vents, dual ISOFIX points and three top-tether anchor points, but it lacks simple but noticeable touches like a drop-down centre armrest with cupholders that so many of its rivals have.

The sliding rear window (part of the $3750 Style pack) is a nice addition.

All in all, the interior's design definitely lacks Benz flair and the build quality leaves something to be desired as well.

What's it like as a daily driver?

The X-Class is 5340mm long (with a 3150mm wheelbase), 1839mm high, 1916mm wide and has a listed kerb weight of 2137kg (with the auto transmission).

From the moment you turn the key – no push-start button in this thing – the X-Class is definitely very quiet and smooth – those inside barely register any outside noise once you're on the road – and NVH levels have to be right up there with the segment's best, Amarok and Ranger.

The X-Class is definitely very quiet and smooth. The X-Class is definitely very quiet and smooth.

Its steering can be rather vague with quite noticeable understeer and plenty of play in the wheel. The X-Class does, however, sit nicely on the road, thanks in large part to its 1632mm-wide front and rear wheel-track, and it trucks along nicely too, with that four-cylinder twin-turbo-diesel engine ticking over well, pushing this dual-cab ute up the road without stress.

On the drivetrain downside, the seven-speed auto feels wishy-washy at times.

The X-Class generally rides and handles well with double wishbone front suspension and five-link progressive-rate coil-springs at the rear smoothing out most of the lumps on choppy country bitumen and later on potholed gravel tracks.

The road-biased Continental Premium Contact 6 tyres on our 18-inch alloy wheels, while not well suited to off-road work, were fine for on-road requirements at all speeds.

What's it like for touring?

The X-Class outclasses most of its rivals in terms of how well it handles fast gravel-track driving, yielding a much more stable, comfortable ride, by way of its wider wheel-track and softer suspension. It's only matched or bettered by the likes of Ford Ranger, Ranger Raptor or VW Amarok with regards to its capacity to produce a nice even ride over light corrugations with some deeper chopped-up sections.

Stronger bracing and cross-members, as well as a thicker stabiliser bar at the rear end, add to this ute's overall sure-footedness and its brakes, ventilated discs all round, pulled us up swiftly and with composure when we simulated 'look out for that roo!' emergency braking.

But, when it comes time for slow and challenging four-wheel driving, the X-Class falls short because it never feels at home in the bush.

The X-Class has the Navara's dual-range part-time 4WD system which works fine, don't get us wrong, and the tech chirps away, but this Merc is never as comfortable doing what you ask of it off-road, as a Ranger or HiLux would be.

Its dial-operated 4WD system offers 2WD (two-wheel drive), 4H (four-wheel drive high range) and 4L (four-wheel drive low range) modes. Hill descent control works at 5km/h in 4L, and 8km/h when you're in 4H.
 
The X-Class also has a rear diff-lock, handy for low-traction scenarios, and that 360-degree view system, handy for situations in which vision is hampered by your immediate surroundings.

In many other respects, the X-Class is merely okay.

  • The tray measures a segment-leading 1581mm long, and 1560mm wide and is 475mm deep. The tray measures a segment-leading 1581mm long, and 1560mm wide and is 475mm deep.
  • The X250d auto has a listed payload of 1016kg. The X250d auto has a listed payload of 1016kg.

It has 222mm ground clearance (not the best), 600mm wading depth, and its low approach (28.0 degrees) and departure (15.8) angles generally work against it. When you're faced with deep ruts that have tall and rough centre sections which will likely tear at your X-Class's plastic underbody protection and then have a crack at its exposed components, then the idea of tackling those ruts in your $70,000 Merc is not very appealing.

Also, its turning circle is listed as 12.8m, but it feels like more than that in the real world, especially on narrow, twisting bush tracks.

The X-Class simply doesn't feel as tight, as well controlled, as dialled-in, as other more-bush-friendly utes.

With regards to carrying gear, the X-Class does somewhat better. The tray measures a segment-leading 1581mm long, and 1560mm wide (there's space enough between the wheelarches for an Australian), and is 475mm deep.

The X250d auto has a listed payload of 1016kg, a towing maximum of 3500kg (braked; 750kg unbraked), and a towball weight of 350kg.

Fuel consumption - How much fuel does it consume?

Claimed fuel consumption is 7.9L/100km (combined). On the 130km section we took note of fuel usage – a mix of bitumen and gravel roads – we recorded 8.5L/100km.

Safety - What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The X-Class sets the bar high for dual-cab ute safety. It has a maximum five star ANCAP rating for tests conducted in 2017. Most notably it has auto emergency braking (AEB) – standard across all models in the range – and something no other ute, at time of writing, has.

It has a maximum five star ANCAP rating for tests conducted in 2017. It has a maximum five star ANCAP rating for tests conducted in 2017.

The X-Class also has lane-keeping assist and lane-departure warning, as well as seven airbags, including dual front, driver's knee, front side and full-length curtain airbags.

Ownership - What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

It has a three year/200,000km warranty. Total servicing cost to the buyer is $2350 over three years/60,000km, with maintenance scheduled for every 12 months/20,000km. 

That cost drops to $1850 for three years/60,000km if the 'ServiceCare Promise' plan is pre-purchased.

The X-Class is a comfortable daily driver and an okay off-roader without ever quite reaching the levels of refinement you'd expect from a Mercedes-Benz. It looks good without being truly classy and only ever hints at what might have been if the company had actually set out to build a great ute rather than just a ute. The X-Class is a disappointment because it never quite feels like you'd assume a Mercedes-Benz should.

Is the X-Class just a jazzed-up Navara? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.

$46,970 - $54,560

Based on third party pricing data

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

3.5/5

Adventure score

3.4/5

adventureguide rank

  • Light

    Dry weather gravel roads and formed trails with no obstacles, very shallow water crossings.

  • Medium

    Hard-packed sand, slight to medium hills with minor obstacles in all weather.

  • Heavy

    Larger obstacles, steeper climbs and deeper water crossings; plus tracks marked as '4WD only'

Price Guide

$46,970 - $54,560

Based on third party pricing data