By: Charles Molefe
When Mercedes-Benz revealed images of their off-road vehicle, I, as many others were quite shocked that this is true, this had a number of us fact-checking the headlines.
I would have never thought that a manufacturer of iconic cars such as the Gullwing, CLK 63 AMG Black series and the SLS would ever delve into the pickup truck segment also known as the bakkie in South Africa.
Well, 2017 proved to be the year Mercedes-Benz decided to unveil the X Class, this bakkie was being dubbed as the first premium product in this segment. It’s something we haven’t really seen, to be honest, the likes of the Toyota Hilux have been on our shores for eons and they have always managed to dominate the sales charts, well, up until Ford’s Ranger came to the fore, the Ranger is arguably the most sought after bakkie in this segment irrespective of the guise.
I was recently handed the keys to the flagship X350d from Mercedes-Benz, at first, I must say I had some doubts about this vehicle, was it going to show me some character? Would it change my perceptions of the oversized Sandton pavement dwellers and could it actually compete with the Hilux and Ranger? Well, a few of those questions were answered within my first glance, perfected with its Axinit Bronze paintwork and 18 inch 6-twin spoke alloys the aesthetics bar was set. It stood out in all its glory, even though my taxi ride was a CLA 45 AMG, the X class oozes copious amounts of, I want this car and I want it now.
Post the vehicle hand over inspection, I hopped into the power adjustable driver’s seat and got comfortable, and I mean, really comfortable, the interior is simple yet sophisticated, you are presented with a very intuitive infotainment screen that enables you access to the vehicles’ fuel consumption, audio settings, 360º camera system and a plethora of other features.
As always, my first task was to pair my mobile device, this was somewhat an easy task, not complicated at all, just a bit of scrolling on the central display unit, pair the device and you’re set.
I am always critical of how great the audio system is, this is by far the benchmark, irrespective of how far you have pushed up the volume knob, the eight-speaker system delivers a concert like experience, what had me even more impressed was the range the Bluetooth connectivity had, I can strongly argue that I pushed it more than the industry standard.
There is one aspect that can alarm many owners, everyone and I mean everyone, stares, points, holds their head in awe of the X350d’s presence, if you want to feel special, this is the car for you.
The big Mercedes badge enables many to know that you mean business, you will never feel out of place irrespective of your destination, even in the higher echelons of society.
This vehicle is why I would turn down the opportunity to own a sports car, the X Class is a go anywhere vehicle that won’t disappoint regardless of the terrain and this is why it makes so much sense to have a product that can cater to all.
Performance, handling and comfort.
So, here I was in the flagship Mercedes-Benz bakkie, a 3.0 litre V6 producing 190 kW and 550 Nm on tap, what more could I want? One is always anxious when they have so much power and torque under their right foot, you are often tempted to constantly plant the accelerator but the law of the land gets in the way and reigns you in. The X350d does not disappoint in the acceleration department, 0-100 km/h is claimed at a hot hatch challenging 7.9 seconds and will run all the way to an electronically limited top speed of 205 km/h.
What impressed me most was the in-gear acceleration, overtaking was never a challenge and breezing past slow-moving traffic was a joy. Another aspect that I was extremely chuffed about was how comfortable the X350d is, during my test period I decided to head to Gamphahele in Limpopo, this trip enabled me to have a holistic experience of this vehicle, albeit that owners will use it a lot more on traffic-laden roads.
Over the years I have been in a number of cars, by far, the X class has set a new bar for me, the way it wafts over uneven surfaces including rough gravel road is impressive, I am very certain that some other bakkies will struggle to compete in the comfort department, it is by no means a Rolls, but, no other bakkie I have driven has managed to keep me refreshed during extended journeys. For those who tend to be spirited drivers you are certainly going to have a bit of fun in this bakkie, the X350d is equipped with 5 driving modes, eco, comfort, sport, manual and off-road. Sport mode is highly entertaining, the throttle response is improved and you can hold the gear to your heart’s content you really do get a sense of being in something special.
If you open the automated window that grants you access to the canopy, you will hear what many will find pleasurable, induction noise. I couldn’t get enough of the rushing sound of air as it filled the cabin with acoustic bliss.
My time spent with the X350d is by far the most eye-opening I have ever had behind the wheel, it’s not often a manufacturer cowers to market demands, but when they do heed the call, some just pull it off. I often wonder why they weren’t an industry first or at least try to introduce themselves to the market a whole lot earlier.
A question often asked was how does it compare to a Navara? Simple, I would recommend that you offer the inquisitive individual a ride and then proceed to return the favor and ask them their initial question.
In many cases a badge makes a big difference, the X350d is a good indication and step in the right direction for this segment, a number of people would love to own a vehicle that is capable, practical and can haul a huge load, with ease. The X Class certainly does well in all those categories, you now have the option of ticking all those boxes and have the added comfort that rivals executive saloons. Who wouldn’t want such a combination? I know I certainly do.
Whether you are Koos who is attending the annual farmer’s convention or Sipho who wants to impress his friends after a round of golf or even Sarah who is visiting the salon, you can’t go wrong with the X. I guess the burning question many will ask is, is it worth the extra R 155,000.00 compared to its closest rival? I won’t struggle to answer that question. Somethings are unexplainable and unfortunately, you can’t put a price on emotion.
- Climate control.
- Cruise control.
- Rain sensor.
- LED headlamps.
- Downhill speed regulation.
- ABS brakes.
- Trailer stability assist.
- Mercedes-Benz X350d Progressive: R914 711
- Mercedes-Benz X350d Power: R983 711