By: Denis Droppa
Stockholm - Mercedes-Benz unveiled the concept of its much-awaited bakkie on Tuesday night and gave it a name: the X-Class.
First premium one-tonner
The German brand's no stranger to vans and trucks - and it has briefly dabbled in pickups during its history - but this will be its first contender to go up against the likes of Toyota Hilux, Ford Ranger and VW Amarok in the leisure double cab market. Not that they will be direct rivals; Mercedes takes things up a luxury notch and will offer the one-ton segment's first true premium bakkie. The prices, not yet announced, will no doubt reflect this.
Starting in six months' time the German double cab will be built in Argentina and Spain before heading to South African showrooms in the first quarter of 2018. It will also be sold in Europe, Australia, and Latin America.
That the X-Class is built on the same platform as the new Nissan Navara and Renault Alaskan is well known, and it's one of several global product-sharing ventures between Daimler and Renault-Nissan. But the secret of how much Daimler DNA there is in this premium pickup was revealed when the covers came off the concept model at this week's world unveiling in Sweden.
This is not simply a Navara or Alaskan with a different grille and dashboard. The X-Class aims to be the belle of the bakkie ball with its distinctive style and upmarket execution, and it's essentially a luxury SUV with a load box. The plush cabin is indistinguishable from Merc's luxury cars, and technology in the production versions will include modern connectivity and driver assistance aids (Mercedes won't reveal what they are yet but it's fairly safe to expect semi-autonomous features such as adaptive cruise control and self steering).
Two styling executions
The X-Class took to the Stockholm launch stage in two concept styling executions, a 'stylish explorer' and a fat-tyred 'powerful adventurer' that looks ready to take on Antarctica. Both are very distinctively Benz-styled up front with a bold triple pointed star and LED headlamps. At the rear there's some real design freestyling happening, and it will be interesting to see whether that unusual single-piece light framing the stylish explorer's tailgate makes it into production.
Under the funky clothes and classy cabin is a double cab with the durability to take on the segment toughies, including a ladder frame chassis and solid axle rear suspension (albeit a five link system with coils, not leaf springs, to ensure Benz-like ride and handling). It will also have a 1.1 ton payload and be able to tow nearly 3.5 tons.
V6 turbodiesel power
Engines will comprise a three-litre V6 turbodiesel from Merc's existing range, along with four-cylinder petrols and diesels from Nisssan-Renault.
Customers will be able to choose either 4x2 or 4x4 versions, with the latter getting 4Matic permanent all wheel drive, low range and two diff locks to offer full blown offroad adventuring ability.
The name? The X simply stands for the crossing of a work and leisure vehicle. But there will be double cab versions only; Benz doesn't intend competing in the single-cab workhorse market.
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