Ford Ranger XLS 3.2L 4x4 auto 2018 off-road review
Ford's top-selling Ranger is stuck in a back-and-forth tussle with the Toyota HiLux for the number one sales spot . But in mid-spec XLS guise, is this dual-cab ute really all it's cracked up to be?
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If you think of the four-cylinder X-Class variants as Mercedes-Benz dipping a cautious toe into the world's swirling dual-cab waters, then this X350d version must be the German brand stripping down to its jocks and diving in head first.
It is, after all, the most Mercedes of the lot. While the smaller-capacity X-Class models share their most important bits with their Nissan Navara cousin, this one has Stuttgart's finger prints all over it. The engine - a very good diesel V6 - is Mercedes' own, for example. So is the seven-speed automatic transmission and the four-wheel drive set-up.
Less happily, so is the price; the X350D will likely be the most expensive dual-cab ute in Australia when it arrives towards the end the year.
Let's find out.
|Mercedes-Benz X350d 2019: X-Class X-Class|
Mercedes is still holding its X350d pricing close to its chest, but we can make an educated guess or two. We're tipping the V6-powered X-Class, which will lob in Progressive and Power trim levels, and that they will land at about $10k over their four-cylinder equivalent when they touch down toward the end of the year.
With the current X-Class pricing sitting at around $58k for the Progressive auto, and $64k for the Power auto, that should put the V6-powered X-Class at between about $70k and $80k, give or take a couple of grand.
For that, though, you'll step into a pretty well-equipped ute. Progressive cars will get 18-inch alloys (up from 17-inch wheels on the four-cylinder models), a leather steering wheel, dual-zone climate control and keyless entry and push-button start.
Step up to the Power trim, and you'll add shining 19-inch alloys, LED headlights, faux-leather seats and some better-looking cabin furniture.
Media duties across both trims are handled by a nav-equipped 7.0- or 8.4-inch screen that pairs with an eight-speaker stereo (but there is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto on offer).
Even its less-powerful siblings cut a fine figure on the road, and the V6-powered X-Class is no less handsome in the metal.
One thing that is utterly certain, though; you're unlikely to forget this thing is a Mercedes in a hurry. From the giant star that adorns the grill to the the centre star on each of the alloys, there's no shortage of hints that this is a 'premium' pick-up and definitely - definitely - not related to anything Japanese.
In fact, one colleague counted 12 visual reminders outside the X-Class and in its cabin. The only place the Mercedes makeover doesn't really work is the key, which is quite clearly a Nissan fob with a star stamped on it.
Up front, the chainlink-style grille slats look terrific, as does the sharply creased bonnet. And though it's probably an acquired tase, I quite like the jumbo plastic mouldings that house the fog lights - I think it lends the X-Class a kind of off-road-ready ruggedness.
At the rear; the wide tray (in fact the entire body and track is wider than its Nissan donor car), along with the cool vertical tail-lights and chrome bumper (body-coloured in the Progressive) combine to give the X-Class a unique and rather striking look.
Inside, there's plenty of Mercedes family resemblance, from the air vents to the control dial for the 'Command' multimedia system, but for mine, some of the touchpoints feel a long way off premium. and especially in the back seat, which feels positively barren, even in the Power trim level.
The X350d is available in pick-up guise only, and stretches 5340mm long, 1920mm wide and 1819mm high, and it sits on a 3150mm wheelbase.
Crucially, the heavier V6 engine has increased the kerb weight to 2285kg, thus lowering the total payload to 965kg - or slightly less than a tonne. That said, its braked towing capacity is a handy 3500kg across both trim levels. The tray itself is 1587mm long and 1560mm wide.
The accessories list for the X-Class is long and varied, of course. Remember, Mercedes is trying to convince European van drivers to try a ute instead, so appropriate tray covers and storage solutions are critical for snow-covered winters. For what it's worth, it looks damn sharp with the hard cover fitted to the tray.
Inside the cabin, the priority is clearly on front seat riders. They'll share two centre-housed cupholders, as well as bottle storage in each of the front doors. There's the usual smattering of power and USB connections, the multimedia is straightforward and easy to use, and the cabin is thoughtfully laid out with the key controls for the driver all easy to reach.
Step into the back seat, and things are a little less pleasant. For one, you're floating in a sea of hard plastics, but perhaps more importantly, there are no cupholders, no USB connections, no temperature controls - aside from air vents and a single, lonely power outlet, this does not feel like the back seat of a circa-$80k vehicle.
That said, at 176cm, I found the leg and headroom behind my own driving position comfortable, and there's an ISOFIX attachment point in each of the rear window seats, too.
For you four-wheel drivers, the standard X350d will give you a 600mm fording depth, and around 202mm of ground clearance as standard. We didn't take the X-Class off-road at launch, but it will soon find its way into the hands of our Adventure team, which will properly put it through its paces.
Those are seriously big numbers for the diesel dual-cab segment. In fact, as it stands right now, it will be the most powerful offering in its segment - though the updated VW Amarok, due in September, will slightly better those outputs.
All that grunt means the X-Class will clip 0-100km/h in a claimed 7.5 seconds, and will push on to 205km/h. The power is shuffled trough a seven-speed automatic and sent to all four wheels courtesy of Mercedes' '4Matic' permanent all-wheel drive system which splits torque 40/60 between the front and rear axles, though 4WD low and high settings are available, too.
An X-Class specific version of Merc's 'Dynamic Select' allows you to choose between Comfort, Eco, Sport, Manual and Off-Road drive settings, with the throttle and gearing response shifting accordingly.
Merc reckons the V6-powered X-Class will drink 9.0-litres per hundred kilometres on the combined cycle (though warns that that's a provisional number), with C02 emissions pegged at 237g/km. It arrives with a 73-litre tank.
If the greatest compliment you can pay a dual-cab ute is that it doesn't feel like you're driving a dual-cab ute (at least, not all the time), then consider it paid.
The real selling point here is Mercedes' V6 engine, which is smooth and plentiful in its power delivery, without ever feeling loud or harsh in the cabin. The brand's engineers tell us they invested plenty of time working on in-house sound-deadening and insulation solutions, and it shows here - the X350d is properly quiet and refined on the open road.
Now, you can't shake all the ute-ness of the drive experience, though; if you should approach a twisting back road, prepare for your arms to ache with the exertion of wrestling the steering wheel lock-to-lock (which requires plenty of turns), and the suspension is firm enough to feel jittery on broken roads. But as a package, the way the engine talks to the seven-speed gearbox is a real winner.
All the regular numbers check out as well, it can carry enough stuff, tow enough stuff, and it can do all those workhorse things if you really want it to. Though let's be honest, at around $80k, you won't be seeing too many in the hands of apprentices.
Mercedes reckons it is targeting land owners and company bosses with the X350D, and as a lifestyle offering asked to occasionally handle the rough stuff, it makes perfect sense. It's supremely comfortable and quiet on the freeway, and the (still workhorse in places) cabin has enough Merc tech and niceties sprinkled throughout to keep you occupied.
Now it must be said, this was been a limited sample on international roads, and we'll wait until we get one to Australia and into the hands of the Adventure team before we make any definitive verdict. But as far as taste tests go, this one was impressive.
Above and beyond for Mercedes here, with the X350d fitted with passenger car safety equipment often forgotten in the world of utes.
For a start, AEB is standard on both trim levels, while Progressive cars get a reversing camera and Power cars get a 360-degree parking camera. Active lane-keep assist is standard, too, along with a tyre-pressure monitor. They join the usual traction and braking aids, as well as seven airbags - all of which was enough to claim the maximum five-star Euro NCAP crash rating.
The X-Class arrives with a three-year/200,000km warranty, and will require a trip to the service centre every 12 months or 20,000km.
While specific service costs are yet to be announced, a capped-price-servicing plan, known as the 'ServiceCare Promise', exists for the four-cylinder variants, which serves as a rough guide. It will limit maintenance costs to $1850 for the first three years, provided you pay up front.
Opt to pay as you go, and you can expect to add $500 to those prices.
Mercedes has well and truly arrived in the dual-cab game with the X350d. It's comfortable, quiet and effortlessly powerful, without turning its back on the hard, load-hauling stuff, either.
The best of the X-Class range will likely be a lot of money when it arrives in Australia, but we're tipping we'll be seeing plenty on the road.
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