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Toyota HiLux


Mercedes-Benz X-Class

Summary

Toyota HiLux

There’s plenty to be said for the new-generation Toyota HiLux, and while a lot of customers will be shopping for the top-of-the-range variants, there’s plenty of value to be found in the work-focused Workmate models.

And that’s what we’re looking at here - a Workmate dual cab, which, while it may look like a 4WD, is actually a high-riding rear-wheel drive dual cab. Or, to be precise, the Workmate 4x2 Double Cab pick-up Hi-Rider.

We spent a bit of time with this updated version of the HiLux ute, and even chucked a bit of load in the back thanks to our mates in the mountains. More on that - and everything else you need to know about the Workmate range - below.

Safety rating
Engine Type2.4L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency8L/100km
Seating5 seats

Mercedes-Benz X-Class

Forget everything you thought you knew about Mercedes-Benz, because the 2018 Mercedes X-Class is the most important thing to happen to the German brand in decades.

I’d go as far as to say that this is up there with the original ML SUV for the Three-Pointed Star – because the X-Class will change the way people think about the company. And, quite literally, the way they see it.

Obviously there’s a history with Mercedes-Benz vans, one that has been successful in Europe, and Australia to a degree. 

And while the X-Class will fall under the vans banner by way of the company hierarchy, local sales and distribution will happen in the commercial vehicle dealerships and passenger-car showrooms, too.

And with buyers flocking to dual-cab utes, wouldn’t one of these just look the part parked next to a C- or E-Class in your driveway?

Safety rating
Engine Type2.3L turbo
Fuel TypeDiesel
Fuel Efficiency7.6L/100km
Seating5 seats

Verdict

Toyota HiLux7/10

It isn’t as polished as some of its rivals, and doesn’t have as much tech or flair to its offering either. But as a workhorse offering with a solid ownership promise and unquestionable resale value, the Toyota HiLux Workmate - no matter the derivative you choose - remains a compelling option for those who use their ute for work more than play.

Thanks to our mates at Lower Mountains Landscape Supplies for the sandbag load in the Workmate 4x2 Hi-Rider pick-up.

Thanks to our mates at IWP Training for putting 1000kg in the tray of the Workmate 4x2 cab-chassis low-rider.


Mercedes-Benz X-Class7.4/10

Does the Mercedes-Benz X-Class ute move the game on? No, it doesn’t. But what it does do is offer yet another quality vehicle in the highly competitive dual cab ute segment, one that could be very compelling to existing Benz owners looking to get rid of a different brand of ute on their driveway.

And as when the ML came out, the X-Class does some things that should make the competitors sit up and take notice - particularly on the safety front. It mightn’t see the same sales success as an SUV, but there is no doubting it will help change perceptions about the brand. I can't wait to drive it against some competitors in the real world to see how it shapes up.

Still, if it were my money, I'd be holding out for the V6, and I'd probably be having it in the top-spec Power guise.

Is the Mercedes-Benz X-Class the sort of ute that you'd consider? Let us know in the comments section below.

Design

Toyota HiLux

The most interesting thing about some versions of the Workmate in terms of design is that they haven’t been changed at all.

For the exterior, the Workmate single-cab variants and the low-riding 4x2 dual-cab pick-up don’t see the visual changes of the 4x2 Hi-Rider and 4x4 extra- and dual-cab variants, which score a slightly more aggressive front fascia.

Toyota Australia says it was more important to address the higher grade models with the new look, and that keeping the same front end on the “narrow body” models would help keep costs lower.

That’s all well and good, but it does seem a little weird to do a “major overhaul” of the ute and keep it looking the same. I guess owners of early examples will be happy, as their utes won’t look as outdated?

But the important thing is that HiLux Workmate buyers have so many body styles available to them, and that’s arguably going to matter more than what the ute looks like for a Workmate customer. 

We’ll run through some of the important elements here, like dimensions and payloads. First up, let’s size up the versions of the HiLux Workmate (note - your dimensions may vary, depending on the tray body fitted).

 

Single cab

Extra cab

Dual cab

Length

5325mm

5325mm

5325-5330mm

Wheelbase

3085mm

Width

1800mm

1855mm

1800mm-1855mm

Height

1690-1795mm

1810mm

1700-1815mm

If you’re buying a pick-up over a cab-chassis, you’ll know that comes with limitations. The flat bed of a tray back cab-chassis model is always going to offer more practicality - and if you buy a 4x2 or 4x4 single cab, or the 4x4 extra cab, you’re getting a tray back. But we’ve covered off the load space dimensions for the dual cab ute/pick-up below - the figures are the same for the 4x2 and 4x4 models.

 

Dual cab ute

Cargo floor length

1569mm

Width

1645mm

Width between wheel arches

1109mm

Depth

470mm

As mentioned, the tub models will always suffer compromises that table-top models won’t, and that includes the inability to fit an Aussie pallet (1165mm x 1165mm) between the wheel arches.

Space is one thing, but payload capacity for the different body styles is another matter altogether. Don’t forget, payload will be affected by the tray body fitted if you’re choosing a cab-chassis. 

 

Single cab-chassis

Extra cab-chassis

Dual cab-chassis

Dual cab ute

Payload capacity

1210-1260kg (2WD)

1275kg (4WD)

1150kg (4WD)

1125kg (4WD)

1025-1160kg (2WD)

980kg-995kg (4WD)

Gross vehicle mass (GVM)

2700-3100kg, depending on model, engine, drivetrain

Gross combination mass (GCM)

4x2 low rider: 5200-5250kg

4x2 Hi-Rider: 5650kg

4x4: 5850kg

Towing capacity

All models: 750kg unbraked

4x2 petrol: 2500kg braked
4x2 diesel: 2800kg braked

4x4 diesel: 3500kg braked

Not everyone goes off-road. Both our test vehicles in Workmate spec were 4x2 rear-wheel drive (RWD) models, but that doesn’t mean you won’t consider things like ground clearance - especially if you’re weighing up between a low-riding version and Hi-Rider 2WD.

Here are the dimensions and figures for 4x2 and 4x4 models.

Ground clearance mm

4x2 petrol: 174mm

All other variants: 216mm

Approach angle

4x2 petrol: 23 degrees

All other variants: 29 degrees

Break over/ramp over angle

Not listed by Toyota

Departure angle

4x2 dual cab petrol: 20 degrees

4x4 single cab diesel: 25 degrees

4x4 dual cab diesel, extra cab-chassis, dual cab-chassis: 26 degrees

4x2 Hi-Rider, Workmate 4x4 manual dual cab ute: 27 degrees

Wading depth

700mm


Mercedes-Benz X-Class8/10

It doesn’t look much like a Nissan Navara, does it? Well, if you read our Facebook comments you might disagree with me, but Benz has hidden the skeleton of its first ute very well under a wider body, despite sharing the same ladder-frame chassis donated by the Japanese company’s ute under a collaboration between Mercedes-Benz and Renault-Nissan.

But, as a company rep said at the launch, “this is no badge-engineered model like the Renault Alaskan” - because it is wider at the front, at the rear, and in the middle. Yep, the entire body has been broadened, not just the guards.

It really does have a more substantial look to it than many of the other utes in the segment; the wide tray and wider track than most combine for a fair bit of road presence, and that’s before you even see the big, proud Benz badge at the front.

When the Concept X-Class models came out, everyone was hoping that’s what we’d see in terms of design. But even though the production model is undeniably more sedate than the show-cars were, it looks good in the metal. 

The rear-end’s long, the slim tail-lights are very attractive, and I even like the look of the entry-level Pure model, with its black plastic front bar and halogen headlights… but the high-end Power spec I was primarily driving at the launch - with its LED headlights and chrome exterior highlights - is probably the one I’d want. Shame there’s no AMG body kit, or even a hardtop for the tray as standard on the high spec. 

The actual body of the ute is 50mm wider, which should mean more space on offer in the interior, and while it mightn’t sound like much, I’ll tell you more about that in the next section. 

Practicality

Toyota HiLux

The practicality you get depends on the body style you choose. That’s an obvious statement, sure, but you might be wondering how many seats are in the HiLux Workmate? Single cab models have two seats, extra cab models have four seats, and dual cab variants have five seats.

And the practicality of the respective body styles is unchanged up front, whether you choose the two-, four- or five-seater. Everything forward of the B-pillar is the same. 

That means that all HiLux Workmate models get the same dash treatment, including a newly redesigned cluster for the driver with a new digital display that incorporates a digital speedometer, which is a huge helper if your licence has seen better days.

Then there’s the new 8.0-inch touchscreen media system, with buttons and volume/tuning knobs that have been designed to work with heavy gloves, according to Toyota. The old screen - with touch-sensitive controls and no knobs - was lambasted by tradies, so it’s great to see Toyota has listened.

Plus the new screen includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so you can plug your USB cable in and mirror your phone onto the media screen. It really is a big step forward, and because no Workmate model comes with sat nav GPS, even as an option, this is the way to go if you’re frequently 'lost on the way to the job.' But there is only one USB port - many rivals offer two.

The materials and design are otherwise unchanged, meaning hard-wearing vinyl floors and hard plastic finishes everywhere, but excellent practicality - two cup holders between the seats, two pop-out ones in the sides of the dashboard, bottle holders in the doors (single and dual cab), and a dual glove box with other loose item storage caddies, too.

If you get an extra cab you could consider it a two seater with additional secure storage, and many of the newer utes coming out have actually deleted the seats due to apparent safety concerns. But the Toyota still has two extra seats in the back. 

The dual cab Workmate models don’t get the 60/40 split-fold rear seat base, but you can still fold up the entire seat base to allow additional storage - you don’t want to wreck the fabric on the rear seats with dirty tools, or grimy hardware. 

If you do happen to have people in the back, the space isn’t as good as some other double cab models out there. Knee room is tight, headroom could be better, and there are those fixed grab handles that eat into the space. You might need to keep your hardhat on, too, as they’re certainly heatbuttable.

The dual cab’s back seat has twin map pockets and bottle holders in the doors, but no fold down armrest, no cup holders and no air vents. 


Mercedes-Benz X-Class7/10

It’s simple - the cabin of the X-Class is better if you spend more money. The high-spec models get a nicer cabin trim, and the entry-grade version is, frankly, quite cheap feeling. 

The Pure version has a plastic steering wheel, rubber floors, and a plastic gear selector, and while the cloth seats were fine, the centre console in the test vehicle I briefly drove had no  lid - just two exposed USB ports. It looks unfinished.

Of course there are a lot of hard plastics, but it’s a work ute first and foremost. But in the Progressive and Power models, you get a leather-lined steering wheel and gear selector and carpet on the floors. These models feel more premium, instantly.

Even better is the Power model, which sees the addition of (fake) leather and microfibre seat trim, plus keyless entry (even if it does have a Nissan key fob rather than a Benz one) and dual-zone climate control (again, from the Nissan parts bin). The bigger media screen adds to the ambience, too - it’s an 8.4-inch infotainment unit, which Benz claims is the biggest in the class… obviously they don’t consider the LDV T60 a class competitor, as that affordable Chinese ute has a 10.0-inch screen with Apple CarPlay (which isn’t available on any X-Class).

If you want, you can get a black roof-liner rather than the ‘cappuccino’ beige finish fitted standard (that’ll cost you $400), plus you can change the look of the dashboard by specifying aluminium ($170) or wood trim ($420), and there’s also the choice of full leather seat trim in black or brown ($1750).

I’ve gotta say, the brown leather seats with the beige headliner and the wood trimming looks very good.

Now to the space: the front seat offers good room and comfort for occupants, and there are bottle holders in the doors, plus a small covered console bin between the seats (in the Progressive and Power models). The cupholders between the front seats are small and shallow - not really suitable for the Large Soy Caramel Latte Takeaway crowd, and there’s bugger-all loose item storage in front of the shifter, either. There is a sunglass holder in the higher-spec models, however.

In the rear there’s not much going on - door pockets that’ll hold a bottle each, but no cupholders to speak of. Map pockets feature, but there’s no centre armrest. All models get a 12-volt outlet in the back, plus two up front (and a fourth in the tub if you choose a pick-up).

Back-seat space is okay, but not terrific. Those who stand around six-foot (183cm) like myself will find it cramped in the rear, with limited headroom, knee room and toe room. It’s not a knees-hard-up-against-the-seat-in-front position, but it’s not far off.

The seat base is quite high, so I found myself stooping a little to see out the window - but kids will be very well catered to. There are dual ISOFIX baby seat attachment points, and three top-tether loops for child-seat fitment, too.

And yes, the extra width that Benz has built into the body does make a very small difference if you want to squeeze three people across the back. But it still doesn’t feel as spacious as an Amarok for width.

At the time of writing, Mercedes-Benz has stated that it is only going to sell the dual-cab version of the X-Class, but a single cab is available in other markets, and could be sold here at a later date. There is no extra-cab/space-cab model.

As for the tray, the internal measurements are 1581mm long (the lengthiest in the class), 1560mm wide (with a 1215mm gap between the wheel arches - wide enough for an Australian pallet). The tray depth is 475mm.

Mercedes-Benz claims every X-Class has a payload of more than one tonne/1000kg, and here’s how they stack up (without options boxes ticked): the X220d manual model is rated at 1067kg; the X250d manual is rated at 1037kg; and the X250d auto is rated at 1016kg.

Price and features

Toyota HiLux

You will find the Workmate badge on the most bodystyles of any HiLux in the line-up. You can get it in single cab-chassis, extra cab-chassis, extra cab ute, and dual cab-chassis and dual cab ute body styles.

And then there’s the choice of petrol or diesel, manual or automatic, and whether you want it in low-riding or high-riding (Hi-Rider, as Toyota calls it) 2WD/4x2/rear-wheel drive versions, or in a more hardcore 4WD (or 4x4). 

The model mix for Workmate versions is as complex as it sounds, so here’s a neat table to make it a bit simpler! Just note, the price list you see below represents the cost of the ute before on-roads costs - that’s known as the MSRP or the RRP, and it’s not a drive-away price.

DrivetrainBody typeEngine and Transmission List pricing (Before on-road costs)
4x2Single cab-chassis- low rider2.7L petrol, five-speed manual$23,590
2.7L petrol, six-speed auto$25,590
Single cab shassis Hi-Rider2.4L turbo diesel, six-speed manual$28,830
Dual cab ute low-rider2.7L petrol, five-speed manual$33,070
2.7L petrol, six-speed auto$35,070
Dual cab ute Hi-Rider2.4L turbo diesel six-speed manual$40,160
2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto$42,160
4x4Single cab-chassis2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto$39,520
Extra cab-chassis2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto$45,220
Dual cab-chassis 2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto$47,290
Dual cab ute2.4L turbo diesel six-speed manual$46,790
2.4L turbo diesel six-speed auto$48,790

You get the same general level of specification on all the Workmate models, with standard equipment incorporating standard steel wheels - black 16-inch diameter for 4x2 models, while 4x4 single cab versions get silver 17-inch rims, and there are black 17-inch wheels with all-terrain tyres on 4x4 extra cab and dual cab variants. 

All Workmate models have standard auto halogen headlights, vinyl flooring and all-weather floor mats, cloth seat trim, a 4.2-inch digital display with digital speedo readout, and a new 8.0-inch touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring. 

And while you get the choice of petrol or diesel, the latter models - across all trim lines - score a new variable-flow control power-steering pump. More on that in the driving section.

There are other accessories available from the Toyota parts catalogue as you’d expect, including: bull bar, tow bar, nudge bar, ladder rack, side steps, bonnet protector, tub liner, canopy, and more. 

You might be curious about safety technology - and it's great to see Toyota doesn’t pick and choose between the variants as to which model gets what. There’s a decent array of safety technology fitted for the most part, and we’ll cover that off in the safety section below.

What about colours? Workmate models can be had in white (no cost), while the premium paint choices are silver, grey, black or blue (all $600).


Mercedes-Benz X-Class7/10

You wouldn’t be looking at a Mercedes-Benz if you wanted a bargain offering in any other segment, so why would expect to see such a thing in the ute market? 

So, how much does it cost? Here’s a guide of specifications and a price list for each of the different models across the price range - and be prepared, because like most pick-up models, the X-Class range has a lot of variants on offer. 

The range is opened by the Pure variant, which is pretty sparsely equipped, but aimed at workers on farms and tradies (and don't they love a Benz badge).

It is visually defined by black-grained bumpers and 17-inch steel wheels, but it still gets power-adjustable side mirrors. You get halogen headlights and tail-lights in this spec.

On the inside there’s piano black vent surrounds, black 'Tunja' fabric trim, plastic floor covering, air-conditioning, cruise control, a plastic steering wheel and gear selector, tyre pressure monitoring, and a 7.0-inch Audio 20 CD multimedia system with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB connectivity and four speakers. It has a reversing camera for the pick-up only - the cab-chassis doesn’t have one.

You can get the Pure model with the choice of two drivetrains at launch, the X220d and the X250d - more on those below. 

The entry point to the range is the Pure cab-chassis rear-wheel drive manual, at $45,450 (all prices plus on-road costs). You can have it as a RWD manual pick-up at $46,400, or as a manual with 4Matic four-wheel drive for $50,400.

The X250d Pure 4Matic starts off at $51,450 for the manual cab-chassis and you’ll need to add $2900 for the auto ($54,350). The X250d Pure 4Matic pick-up manual is $52,400, with the auto costing $55,300.

There are a bunch of different optional packs available depending on the trim level - read the Mercedes-Benz X-Class 2018 pricing and specs story for more info.

The next model up is the Progressive, which is visually determined by its body-coloured bumpers with black trim at the front and 17-inch alloy wheels.

It also gets heated side mirrors, a heat-insulated windscreen, rain-sensing wipers, carpet on the floor, a black-grained instrument panel, silver air vent trims, black 'Posadas' fabric upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, gear shifter and handbrake lever, aluminium sill protectors, an eight-speaker sound system with DAB digital radio, a 7.0-inch media screen with Garmin satellite navigation, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

The Progressive model is only sold with the X250d drivetrain, but can be had as a cab-chassis in manual ($53,950) or auto ($56,850) guise. If you prefer the pick-up body style, you’ll be spending $54,900 for the manual or $57,800 for the auto. 

The flagship model in the range is the Power, which scores chrome-accented bumpers and 18-inch alloy wheels to set it apart from the pack, plus LED headlights and tail-lights.

Other Power goodies include... er...  power-folding side mirrors, 'Artico' (fake leather)-trimmed instrument panel with contrast stitching, Artico and 'Dinamica' (microsuede) seat trim, an 8.4-inch 'Comand Online' multimedia system, power front seats with lumbar support, a 360-degree camera system, semi-automated park assist, dual-zone climate control and keyless entry/start.

The Power model can only be had as a pick-up, and the manual will set you back $61,600, while the auto is listed at $64,500.

So it isn’t absolutely loaded with the luxuries you’d find in some of the brand’s passenger cars, but there is some really good news in the safety equipment section below. 

Before we get to that, let’s talk accessories for these models, because it’s worth considering that no model comes as standard with a bed liner/cargo liner to protect the tray (you can option one for $899), nor does any model have a soft tonneau cover ($1040) or a hard lid cover ($3020). A roller cover, which the Ford  Ranger Wildtrak gets standard, will set you back $3295. 

Mercedes also offers not one, but three different types of canopy - the Sports Canopy with roof rails ($5609) or without ($5071), or a less streamlined Touring Canopy with opening windows ($4945). Prices include GST, factory colour-coded painting and fitment.

As for choices of colours, there’s more than black and white. Just expect to pay extra if you want something from the rainbow.

Engine & trans

Toyota HiLux

While there has been a lot of noise around the HiLux finally getting a big power bump - that up-spec 2.8-litre engine isn’t available in the Workmate models.

Instead, Workmate variants get a choice of a petrol motor or a smaller capacity diesel unit.

The engine in the range-opening Workmate 4x2 models is the 2.7-litre petrol four-cylinder, known as the 2TR-FE. It has outputs of 122kW of power (at 5200rpm) and 245Nm of torque (at 4000rpm), and is available with a five-speed manual gearbox or six-speed automatic transmission.

The diesel option in the Workmate 4x2 and 4x4 models is a 2.4-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine known as 2GD-FTV. Power is rated at 110kW (at 3400rpm) and torque is 400Nm (from 1600-2000rpm).

There is the choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox in 4x2 and 4x4 applications in the Workmate range.

So, no 2.8L, no hybrid, no electric… no nonsense, I guess?


Mercedes-Benz X-Class7/10

Let’s talk about specs - engine specs, to be precise. 

At launch the X-Class comes with a pair of engines you can get in the Navara – both of them have a 2.3-litre four-cylinder diesel engine as the basis.

The entry-level X220d model is offered in Pure spec only, and it uses a single turbocharger to produce 120kW of power and 403Nm of torque. You can get it with a six-speed manual gearbox only, but in rear or 4Matic four-wheel drive.

The next model up the horsepower scale is the X250d, which uses a twin-turbo version of the 2.3-litre engine and has 140kW and 450Nm. It is available in 4Matic four-wheel drive with the choice of a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic.

There’ll be a 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel known as the X350d, which will land here with 190kW/550Nm - this time with 4Matic permanent all-wheel drive, but with a low-range transfer case to separate it from the Volkswagen Amarok (which has permanent AWD but no low-range). It gets here towards the end of 2018, and we’re sure it’ll have a lot of appeal with cashed-up buyers… because it’s going to be expensive. But it’ll have things like paddleshifters and a drive-mode-selection system to help justify the cost.

And while we know the X350d will be the fastest in terms of 0-100km/h acceleration (no exact performance figures are available yet for it), the X250d 4WD claims 11.8 seconds from 0-100km/h. The X220d 4WD claims 12.9sec, and the X220d RWD is a little faster, at 12.5sec.

There is no petrol X Class model available.

While there was no chance to test the towing capability of the X-Class at the launch, Benz claims towing capacity of 3.5 tonnes for a braked trailer for the 4x4 model. The 4x2 is weight rated at 3.2 tonnes, while both have an un-braked trailer limit of 750kg.

Fuel consumption

Toyota HiLux

Fuel consumption varies depending on the powertrain you choose. 

The fuel economy king isn’t the petrol, which has claimed fuel consumption of: 11.1L/100km (4x2 cab-chassis manual); 10.9L/100km (4x2 cab-chassis auto); 10.7L/100km (4x2 dual cab manual); and 10.4L/100km (4x2 dual cab auto).

On test in the 4x2 manual single cab-chassis, with a load, and without, we averaged 11.4L/100km. And it was only a short loaded drive test.

The diesel versions of the Workmate offer better promise of lower fuel consumption, with fuel use in the 4x2 diesel Workmate models pegged at 7.8L/100km for the single cab-chassis manual, while the 4x2 dual cab pick-up claims 6.9L/100km and 7.5L/100km for the manual and auto respectively.  

The 4x4 Workmate models claim: 7.4L/100km (single cab-chassis manual); 8.0L/100km (extra cab-chassis and dual cab-chassis auto); 7.1L/100km (dual cab pick-up manual) and 7.8L/100km (dual cab pick-up auto). 

When we tested the diesel auto 4x2 Hi-Rider dual cab, we saw a return of 8.4L/100km across loaded (600kg of sand bags) and unloaded testing.


Mercedes-Benz X-Class8/10

The X220d has claimed fuel use rated at 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres, and as far as we can tell, that’s for both the rear and four-wheel drive models. It’s one of the more efficient vehicles in the class.

The X250d has claimed fuel consumption of 7.9L/100km whether you choose manual or auto, which - again - is good for the class.

We don’t know the exact figure for the X350d V6 model, but expect it to be around the 9.0L/100km mark. 

Driving

Toyota HiLux

I first sampled the 4x2 Workmate Hi-Rider 2.4-litre diesel auto, and it came across as a really solid proposition for those who don’t need the bells and whistles or a 4x4 system.

In fact, I bet that this sort of ute would be as well suited to the majority of buyers who spend up big on an SR5 dual cab 4x4 but never actually go off-road.

Indeed, that’s the great thing about the HiLux Workmate range - if you know you don’t need 4x4, there are plenty of 4x2 options available.

And the Hi-Rider diesel model has the advantage that it is rated to tow the maximum 3500kg capacity, but the disadvantage for hard-working tradies - especially those shorter in stature - is that it’s a step up into the cab (no side steps), and a running jump into the tub - unless you option the new rear Tub Step accessory, which is mounted to the rear corner of the chassis and allows easier tub access.

And while this isn’t strictly a driving impression, the strangest thing about the HiLux is that you’re getting some really advanced features for a work ready ute.

It’s becoming the norm, but it does seem weird when you sit inside and see your digital speedometer, with the knowledge that there’s autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and a lane departure system - yet you’re gripping a polyurethane steering wheel, sitting on cloth seats and your feet are placed on rubber floors - there’s not even height adjustment for the driver’s seat, and the sound system only has four speakers.

Anyway, the diesel dual cab is pretty impressive. There’s nothing wrong with the 2.4-litre’s engine tune, and in some instances it actually feels almost as peppy as the 2.8L I sampled in the SR5+.

But it does have some noticeable engine noise, and just like the other powertrain there is some noticeable shuffling between gears - the six-speed auto seems to aim to keep things in the best torque band, which is no bad thing, but you can hear it doing so. It gets along pretty well, and I had no trouble keeping pace with traffic.

The transmission doesn’t seem to exhibit the same grade logic downhill downshifting as the SR5 does. And there's some turbo lag noticeable with 600kg of weight on board (from our mates at Lower Mountains Landscape Supplies). 

With that weight on board the brakes have a slightly soft feel to them, but they are progressive and easy to predict whether loaded or not. 

The steering is light but still has a bit of feel to it at lower pace, while at speeds above 80km/h there is a level of vagueness, which is  exacerbated when there's weight over the rear axle. 

The suspension is reasonable without a load on board. Not as good as Ranger or Amarok, but better than the last HiLux. And while you can still feel small inconsistencies and it gets the jitters at low speeds, the ride becomes spongier with weight on board. In fact it's very comfortable at higher speed with that much mass in the back.

Next up we drove the petrol cab-chassis, and it offered up a few surprises.

First, let’s consider the loaded up driving impressions - thanks to a load of 1000kg in the tray courtesy of our mates at IWP Training. 

The engine pulls harder than expected, and while it has a torque deficit compared to the diesels, there’s a decent drivability and rev-happiness that the petrol offers.

The smooth and short gearshift is a nice surprise, too (we also had a D-Max SX on site, and it had a longer, notchier throw). The gearing is pretty well suited to this type of hard work driving. 

It's surprising how urgent the engine response is. It's super easy to drive with that much weight on board, but I did keep going for a sixth gear that doesn’t exist in the manual Workmate petrol. 

It sounds like it’s working harder than it is - the engine is quite audible, and at times it can sound more asthmatic than its actual response.

In fact, if you were gonna be running around with this much weight in the back of your work ute you could be doing a lot worse than a 4x2 petrol Workmate cab chassis. It offers enough poke, and also has good quality  – both in terms of ride and comfort and control and general drivability. It is well and truly made for this job.

The lower centre of gravity assists in making the HiLux feel more planted and deal with the weight better than a high riding two-wheel drive, with less pitching fore and aft and nice feel on the road. 

The steering - which hasn’t seen the addition of that new variable control system, as it’s only fitted to diesel models - is quite good, and even the breaking performance is commendable with that much mass in the tray. 

But without weight in the back it’s still punishingly firm in terms of the suspension. The rear-end bucks and jumps over bumps, never feeling as though it’s as surefooted as it could be.

The D-Max we had with us showed up the HiLux hugely in that respect. If you don’t hit any bumpy sections, it’s smooth to drive in. But as soon as you hit a sharp edge or any sort of inconsistency in the surface below it can be quite violent in its response.


Mercedes-Benz X-Class7/10

The X-Class certainly forges its own character in terms of the way it drives, with a fairly impressive experience offered up at the wheel.

Is it as good as I was expecting? Not quite. 

But is it better than most of the other utes in the segment? Certainly, it has probably two-thirds of the dual-cab pack shaded.

Where does it fall short? Steering is the first point. There’s a certain slowness when you start to turn the wheel as you’re entering a corner that doesn’t quite live up to what we know from other Benz products - even the Sprinter and Vito vans - and the turning circle is huge, at 13.4m (that's what happens when you widen the track!). 

The company has quickened the steering rack compared to the Navara, but it needs to be quicker again to live up to the handling that it’s capable of.

I say that because it holds a great line through twisty stuff: you mightn’t plan to exploit that in day-to-day driving, but it’s nice to know that if the right stretch of road comes up, you won’t be left floundering with a wobbly, truck-like ute experience. 

No, the X-Class - with its double wishbone front suspension and five-link coil spring rear suspension setup, offers road manners better than some of the ute-based SUVs out there.

However, on the 19-inch wheels that come as part of the 'Style Package' ($2490 - includes a power rear window, tinted back glass, side steps and roof rails), the ride was more unsettled than expected. Over country back roads it was somewhat jittery, picking up bumps the eye couldn’t see. 

So, if you’re expecting an S-Class ride, you might need to reconsider your parameters a little bit. But on first impression it certainly seems less choppy than some of the more affordable utes it fights against… and remember, it is a ute.

The four-cylinder engine in our test car was of the twin-turbo X250d variety, and combined with the seven-speed automatic transmission it did a commendable job. This drivetrain is the pick in the Navara range, and it is in the X-Class line-up … for now. With the X350d coming late in 2018, I’d be tempted to hold out.

I’m not saying the X250d is bad - not by any stretch of the imagination. It’s a great drivetrain: smooth and refined at low speeds, with enough grunt to get things moving a little faster if that’s what’s called for. The seven-speed auto has been worked a little by Benz, too, and it offers a crisper shift feel without as much flaring between ratios. 

While our video doesn’t show it, we did manage to get a little bit of time in the X-Class off-road, with a stint crossing a bunch of paddocks of Tasmanian farmland.

It wasn’t rock-hopping stuff, but we did get to test out the approach angle (30 degrees) up a steep slippery incline, plus the departure angle (25 degrees) seemed adequate, especially given the tray of the X-Class is the longest in the class.

Another number to throw at you is the ground clearance in millimetres  - 221 of them, in fact - which isn’t the best in class, and we touched down once or twice off-road.

But the biggest factor limiting the progress of the X-Class during this very short muddy tour of Tassie was the tyres - our test vehicle was riding on 19-inch alloys with Bridgestone Dueler 255/55 highway rubber, and we found the limit of the tyres well before the limits of the chassis itself.

It employs the same switch-on-the-fly 4WD system as the Navara with a 4x2 (2H) mode being the default setting you’ll run around in day to day, a 4x4 (4H) high-range setting for gravel roads and rougher high-speed tracks, and a 4L low-range setting for slower crawling.

If you’re in 4H, the hill-descent control will work at 8km/h, while 4L will lower that speed to 5km/h. It’s a relatively refined system, but it needs grip to work best - at one stage we descended a slope and the system didn’t reign the ute in as quickly as we would have liked due to a lack of traction.

If the going gets really tough - as it did for us at one point, as we attempted to squirrel our way up a hill at too slow a pace - the rear diff lock, which is standard on all 4WD models, definitely comes in handy. I also learnt at that stage that the hill-descent system also works in reverse, at the same speeds mentioned above, and the surround-view camera (also known as a 360 degree camera) was invaluable in that instance. 

What was a bit annoying was the fact the front and rear parking sensors (standard on Power, optional on all other variants) couldn’t be properly disabled. You turn them off, and they only stay disabled for about 10 seconds. 

Of course, if off-roading doesn't matter to you, then perhaps consider the Pure model, which is available with the base engine tune and manual transmission in rear-wheel drive. There is no RWD auto available.

There was no towing at launch, but there was a chance to see what it was like with a load on board. In the back of a Pure X250d auto was 650 kilograms of pre-mix concrete bags… a pallet’s worth, in fact, because the X-Class can fit a standard Aussie pallet between its arches, unlike pretty much all the other utes in the segment (except the Amarok).

It drove quite well with the weight in the tray, dealing better with the fidgety bumps that upset the back-end when empty. And while there was some droop to the rear coil spring suspension, it wasn’t bouncy or wobbly, with the extra thick stabiliser bar Benz has used in the back adding a level of surety to the way it changed direction when working with weight.

Safety

Toyota HiLux

Toyota was at the front of the pack for safety tech in utes - for a couple of months. But it’s still impressive that the entire HiLux line-up has the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating as per 2019 criteria. And there’s a good reason for that.

All HiLux models come with standard fit auto emergency braking (AEB) that works at speeds from 50km/h-180km/h, as well as pedestrian and cyclist detection operational from 10km/h-80km/h. 

The HiLux gets a lane departure warning system with lane keeping assist that works by braking the wheels it needs to, in order to pull you into line - but it still runs hydraulic steering, so it can’t do full-scale lane keeping assistance.

Also standard is speed sign recognition and warning, and adaptive cruise control on manual and auto models. You can even just hit ‘set’ on the cruise control to raise or lower your speed to whatever the speed sign says.

While the spec is pretty good, there’s no blind spot monitoring or rear cross traffic alert, and - in a very disappointing continuation of the theme - Toyota still doesn’t offer a reversing camera on cab-chassis models. You get a rear-view camera standard on all pick-up models, though.

There are dual front, front side, driver’s knee and full-length curtain, for a total of seven airbags no matter the body style.

The dual cab versions have two ISOFIX outboard attachments and two loop-style top-tethers for baby seats.


Mercedes-Benz X-Class8/10

The X-Class has received the highest accolade in terms of a crash-test rating - it scored the maximum five-star rating when it was tested in 2017, and as Benz was at pains to remind us, that makes it the only ute under the current, stricter criteria to have managed such a score. 

What has it got, then? Well, every X-Class has seven airbags, including dual front, driver’s knee, front side and full-length curtain airbags - something the other German-badged ute in the segment can’t claim. 

Plus the X-Class has something that no other ute brand can brag about - auto emergency braking (AEB) is standard across all models in the range. The next best offer in the ute segment in that regard is the Ford Ranger, which has a tech pack only fitted standard on the flagship Wildtrak (optional on FX4 and XLT models) with forward-collision warning but no auto braking. 

The Benz system also includes lane-keeping assist, a system that buzzes the steering wheel to warn you if you’re colouring outside the lines.

The Ford does, however, have adaptive cruise control included as part of the tech pack, where the Mercedes doesn’t have that on any model, even as an option. But cruise control its standard on all variants.

One thing to consider if you want a cab-chassis model is that there is no standard-fit reversing camera, and Benz doesn’t offer one as an accessory, either. Plus, only the Power has standard parking sensors all around, so you’ll need to option them on the Pure or Progressive grades if you want them.

Where is the X-Class built? Barcelona, Spain, where the Navara is also built for European markets. 

Ownership

Toyota HiLux

Toyota has one of the strongest reputations in the Australian new car market when it comes to ownership and reliability. 

However, with the HiLux, there have been a few issues over its head, specifically around the diesel particulate filter (DPF). You can read more about it at our Toyota HiLux problems page, as well as any other Toyota HiLux complaints, concerns, reliability issues or recalls.

Suffice it to say, the brand says it has your back no matter what. And it has a strong ownership promise on paper, too.

All models have a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which can carry on to seven years/unlimited km if you maintain logbook servicing - it doesn’t even need to have been at a Toyota dealer, either. So long as you maintain it on schedule, the brand will back it for that extended period. 

The bad news is that you need to service the HiLux more regularly than most of its competitors. The brand says it has no plans to increase service intervals to meet the current standard of 12 months/15,000km.

Instead, HiLux owners have to take their ute in to get serviced twice a year, with maintenance intervals set every six months or 10,000km, whichever happens soonest. 

Diesel services are $250 a pop. That means you’ve got an annual $500 bill for maintenance for diesel models, which is higher than many rivals (Triton: $299/year). Petrol versions cost $220 per visit, so $440 a year.

Further, Toyota doesn’t include no-cost roadside assistance, either. You’ll have to sign up for it, at about $100 a year.

Strong on warranty cover, yes, but you may have to pay over the odds in order to sustain it.


Mercedes-Benz X-Class7/10

The new X-Class ute will launch with a three-year service deal known as 'ServiceCare Promise. Maintenance' is due every 12 months or 20,000km - whichever occurs soonest - and buyers will also get included roadside assist and a three-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty.

As for the cost? Benz says ServiceCare Promise will see the first visit to the workshop set at $585, while the second will be $930, and the third $835. That total - $2350 over three years/60,000km - may seem steep, but Benz reckons it’s “only $162 per service more than the Navara”.

But it’s still expensive when you consider it against competitor utes. If you don’t do big kilometres, then it’ll be more affordable to own an Amarok, Ranger, HiLux, Triton or Colorado, to name a few.

However, if you pre-purchase the ServiceCare Promise plan, you get a $500 discount - making it $1850 for three years/60,000km of servicing.