Ford Ranger 2020 review: Wildtrak
The Ford Ranger Wildtrak has achieved icon status. It’s the ute people refer to as the one they...
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Some of my favourite television shows or movies are flawed. When I talk to people about those films and about those flaws, there's a pattern - they don't know what they are and are therefore a bit confused. I don't know why that appeals to me, it just does.
Cars can be like that. There are some cars that aren't sure what they are. One of the exemplars of this is the Toyota C-HR - a small SUV aimed at young get-up-and-go types but bought almost exclusively by baby boomers, attracted to the badge. Young folks want more performance, lower cost and Apple CarPlay.
Hindsight suggests that the less-than-stellar sales performance of the much-heralded Mercedes ute, the X-Class, might be down to confusion. Mercedes thought it would be one thing and it turns out the market thinks it's another.
|mercedes-benz x-class 2020: x350d Power|
The X-Class range starts at the $45,450 X220D manual dual-cab and reaches all the way to the $87,500 X350d Edition 1. One step back from that is the $79,415 X350d Power dual-cab with all-wheel drive. That nets you 19-inch alloy wheels, an eight-speaker stereo, climate control, around view camera, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, electric front seats, sat nav, auto LED headlights, fake-leather interior, heated and folding rear vision mirrors, power windows and a full-size alloy spare.
An 8.0-inch screen hosts Mercedes COMAND system, complete with rotary dial and the weird scratchpad. COMAND is not as good as its German rivals and for some reason doesn't have Apple CarPlay and/or Android Auto, which is a mammoth oversight for a car of this type and cost.
Our car also had the lockable roll cover for $3295, the $1551 styling bar, a tow bar ($836) and, presumably, tow-bar wiring ($462).
Despite being a Japanese ute in drag, the X-Class isn't immediately rumbled as resembling a Nissan, which certainly should count in its favour. Everyone who asked about it had little idea it wasn't a Daimler from the ground up, until you pointed out various details. Up here in the higher reaches, it's a really quality-looking thing, with beautiful paint and enough differentiation to make it look like a Merc. The headlights do seem a tad small next to the rest of the Mercedes range, but the whopping great three-pointed star in the grille leaves no one in doubt.
It's fairly tasteful in silver, too, and with a few carefully chosen options it looks pretty tough.
Once you're inside you see where it starts to get confused about itself. The hard, scratchy plastic dash pokes out from behind a huge slab of metallic trim. The centre console is clearly a brother from another mother, as is the overall dash layout. The cabin lacks the thoughtfulness and quality of a Mercedes design - you can't just slap on those signature air vents and expect to get away with it. Every piece that comes from Mercedes appears glued on, and it's jarring.
This might have been less of an issue if the car was significantly cheaper and not likely to be purchased by people who are familiar with the brand.
I really can't imagine how anyone signed off on the most annoying features of the X. Front-seat passengers get a solitary, shallow cupholder (the second one is unusable), and big door bins that could hold a bottle if you didn't mind it getting smashed from sliding around (they're unlined), and nowhere to put your phone. Like, nowhere, except maybe the glove box. Even the centre console bin is shallow and not much good for anything, apart from as an armrest.
The front seats are reasonably comfortable but the rears are way too high (in the name of a better view) and rammed hard against the rear bulkhead. The rear doors are also pretty narrow, so entry and egress can be a bit of a challenge if you're large or toddler small. Once you're in the seats, legroom is limited and headroom marginal. At least you get air-conditioning vents, but you don't get an armrest in the rear. On a nearly $80,000 ute. Even the dark-ages Colorado has one of those.
Anyway, that's enough said about the interior flaws.
The tray is a big boy, but it's worth knowing that the roller cover does rob a bit of space, as it does on any ute. The optional tray liner looks good and with Mercedes-Benz stamped in it, reminds you again what you've got. All told, it's 1581mm long, 1560mm wide (1215mm between the wheelarches) and you can load up nearly a tonne of people and things into the X350. You can also tow a massive 3500kg braked and still be able to carry a payload of 490kg. Gross vehicle mass is 3250kg (tare is 2190kg).
The X350d has something very Mercedes about it - the engine and transmission package. With 3.5-litres of turbo-diesel V6, you get 190kW at 3400rpm and a thumping 550Nm between 1400 and 3200rpm. These kind of figures at least put it up there with the brawnier VW Amarok.
The X350d did pretty well in the week I had it - the official figure of 8.8L/100km was never going to happen but with a long motorway run to the Blue Mountains and the rest bashing about town, the 10.5L/100km I did achieve without trying was not bad at all. The 80-litre tank should give you a decent range of 750km, or thereabouts.
One of the weirder things to make it into the X-Class is the world's second most irritating column stalk, which is asked to pack in indicators, headlights and wipers. Thankfully, the world's most irritating column stalk, the Mercedes automatic shifter, wasn't inflicted on the X-Class. But the obvious problem is the key, which clearly isn't a Mercedes unit - even the star is ill-fitting and will probably fall off after a while. This is not a premium experience.
Thankfully, the big turbo-diesel wipes away a lot of the complaints about this car not being Mercedes enough. Brawny and super quiet (twin balance shafts will do that), the X is a very easy car to live with. While not especially lively, it's easygoing in the city and very refined.
On the open road it cruises almost silently and the ride is way above what you might expect from an unloaded tradie-mobile. It doesn't feel as high as some utes, which makes it feel a bit more car-like, and will no doubt appeal to some who might have to swap in and out of a traditional SUV and into the X, for whatever reason.
It is by far the most civilised ute I've ever driven and was worlds away from the Colorado I drove last week, to the point where I could almost - almost - see a justification for the unbelievably hefty price tag.
Credit for the refined ride and handling goes to the coil-spring rear end, much maligned in some quarters. While that style of suspension is not the ultimate in load-lugging, it's way more comfortable for passengers and, given the likely buyer profile, probably more agreeable than a cart-sprung rear-end.
I would cheerfully drive long distances in the X and it feels like it could go anywhere.
3 years / 200,000 km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
The Mercedes-Benz finally starts to puts its nose ahead of its competitors on the safety front.
The X350d has seven airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward collision warning, low speed forward AEB, pedestrian detection, lane-keep assist and around-view cameras, trailer-sway control and hill-descent control.
It also has three top-tether and two ISOFIX points.
Its five-star ANCAP safety rating was awarded in 2017.
A basic capped-price service scheme will hit you for $1950 (pre-paid) or $2,555 if you pay when you front up for each of the three services covered. The servicing isn't super-cheap, as you can see, but at least you know what you're up for.
The X was an opportunistic shot at a market segment new to Benz. With even apprentices able to afford to buy a well-specced Hilux, it's become harder to separate the foreman from the kids. I, like Mercedes, thought this would be the boss's car. Mercedes saw the gap and went for it, thinking it could grab sales from top end utes from VW, Toyota and Ford, while maybe saving a few folks from buying a RAM or an F150.
The problem is, the target market knows its utes. And in a rough-and-tumble workplace, the perception is that if you've spent up big on this Merc, you've actually just paid too much for a Nissan Navara. Still, like those flawed movies I enjoy, the X-Class is a fine thing - and I don't blame Mercedes for trying. It just costs too much, and yet isn't Mercedes enough to justify that price.
|Price and features||6|
|Engine & trans||8|