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A more potent V6 engine and greater driver focus add some welcome character to the posh Mercedes pick-up
Tom Morgan, deputy digital editor
29 June 2018

What is it?

This is the range-topping version of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class, and the latest evidence that demand for luxury pick-up trucks in the UK is rapidly gaining ground on the appetite for SUVs.

The thought of a high-riding twin cab with the comfort and interior quality of a passenger car goes far beyond commercial customers and tradesmen, and the X-Class goes further than its rivals to deliver on the latter. It’s part of the reason we’re running one on our long-term test fleet.

Up until now, though, the X-Class was only available with a choice of slightly agricultural four-cylinder diesel engines. It could hardly be called a surprise that, according to Mercedes, more than half of X-Class buyers have waited for the X350d and its 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel.

Naturally that means you get more power: the X350d produces 255bhp and 406lb ft, which is enough to propel the near 2.3-tonne truck from 0-62mph in 7.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 127mph.

However, it’s the addition of more driver-focused elements that should make it a more engaging drive than the more commercial-friendly versions found further down the price list.

There are wheel-mounted paddle shifters for the seven-speed automatic gearbox. The permanent four-wheel-drive system has a 40:60 rear bias to add some dynamism to the ladder frame chassis. There’s even a choice of drive modes - a first for the range and a rarity in the wider segment. One is dedicated for off-road driving, working with the low-range gearbox and optional locking differential to increase the 350d’s all-terrain potential.

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What's it like?

A lot more potent than the four-cylinder X-Class, as you’d expect. Power comes in much sooner and with an abundance of torque that makes for effortless progress, even in the default Comfort mode.

The ride when the pick-up is unladen was never going to be as refined as an SUV, but the suspension does a reasonable job of coping with potholes and road bumps.

Eco mode is best reserved for city driving, as it noticeably blunts throttle response. That in turn encourages a heavier foot at traffic lights, so it takes restraint if you want to see any fuel economy gains beyond the engine stop/start that comes as standard.

Switching to Sport does little to tighten up the slow steering rack, which means you have to work hard on twisty roads, but dramatically sharpens up the throttle responses and opens more of the rev range for upshifts. We still wouldn’t call the engine note sonorous in this mode, but it is at least meatier than the four-cylinder.

Manual changes using the paddle shifters aren’t exactly rapid, but the gearbox lets you hold onto gears at both ends of the rev range for a surprisingly long time before forcing a new cog.

The X350d also proved competent off-road on a route made up of gravel, mud and fairly steep gradients. A satisfyingly manual dial switches from permanent all-wheel drive to high-range 4WD, and switching into low range gears can be done on the move by shifting in and out of neutral, with no need to stop first.

Would a true 4x4 have it beat on a tougher course? Possibly, but field work, cross-country trails and bad weather are unlikely to slow it down.

Engine aside, this latest X-Class is just as pleasant a place to be in as our long-term X250d, with premium materials giving the cabin an upmarket feel. There’s little here to give away the fact the X-Class shares a platform with the Nissan Navara.

The 7in infotainment system might now be a generation behind the one in the new C-Class, or even the A-Class hatchback, but it’s straightforward enough and leaves physical buttons to handle the climate controls. It’s a job they are much better suited to than a touchscreen.

Noise dampening helps with sound and vibrations inside the cabin, making cruising fairly comfortable - and not just 'comfortable for a pickup'. The engine is much happier at motorway speeds, too, avoiding a repeat of the four-cylinder’s droning. If interior refinement is a priority, though, there’s no question a similarly priced SUV will have the edge.

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Should I buy one?

That comparison is impossible to ignore, really. The X350d might be as close to luxurious as pick-ups get, at least for us in the UK, but it doesn’t go far enough to convince prospective SUV owners.

The high price of entry, at least for those not claiming the VAT back, makes it hard to justify when the mainstream alternatives ride and handle better, even if they can't match the Mercedes for load space.

For anyone convinced that a twin cab is right for them, though, or those that can appreciate the tax incentives a vehicle like this brings, the 350d is comfortably the highlight of the X-Class line-up.

And with the Ford Ranger Raptor not for sale in the UK, only Volkswagen’s Amarok can match the X-Class for cylinder count. It can’t beat the Mercedes on power, though, and its interior just falls short.

The X-Class isn’t for everyone, but we think it’s a great choice for those chasing the pick-up lifestyle.

Mercedes-Benz X-Class 350d 4Matic Power

Where Ljubljana, Slovenia Price £46,000 (est) On sale July Engine V6, 2987cc, diesel Power 255bhp at 3400rpm Torque 406lb ft at 1400-3200rpm Gearbox 7spd automatic Kerb weight 2285kg Top speed 127mph 0-62mph 7.5sec Fuel economy 31.4mpg CO2 237g/km Rivals Ford Ranger, Nissan Navara, VW Amarok

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Comments
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marcusthehat 2 July 2018

Well since the Skoda DSG shat

Well since the Skoda DSG shat itself, we have been spending more time enjoying the pure simple pleasure of the 1999 Steyr Daimler Puch 290 Van, with its coil springs, magnificent Recaro seats and automatic gearbox.

And due to the near vertical windscreen and no other glass bar the limited & absolutly vertical glazing to the 2 front and 2 rear barn doors , it is surprising cool in this deadly heat, even without A/C.

So who needs a "X" class?

Marcus, the Hat.

marcusthehat 2 July 2018

Well since the Skoda DSG shat

Well since the Skoda DSG shat itself, we have been spending more time enjoying the pure simple pleasure of the 1999 Steyr Daimler Puch 290 Van, with its coil springs, magnificent Recaro seats and automatic gearbox.

And due to the near vertical windscreen and no other glass bar the limited & absolutly vertical glazing to the 2 front and 2 rear barn doors , it is surprising cool in this deadly heat, even without A/C.

So who needs a "X" class?

Marcus, the Hat.

catnip 1 July 2018

I don't really get these

I don't really get these 'luxury' pick-ups. Surely if you need this type of vehicle, wouldn't you be better getting something capable and durable, like a Navara or L200, and saving a shed load of cash?

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