Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - X-Class - X350d
Design, cabin presentation, stirring performance, steering ease, powered rear window, auto AWD system, handling, grip, safety, economy
Room for improvement
No steering reach adjustment, refinement not on a par with VW, ride too firm, flaky GPS, Nissan switchgear, lifeless steering, uncomfy rear seat
The posh and powerful Mercedes X350d V6 diesel doesn’t quite hit the Amarok heights
4 Feb 2019
MERCEDES-BENZ has put a huge effort in differentiating the X-Class from its Nissan Navara cousin, and nowhere is this more obvious than in the X350d.
Powered by an inhouse 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel, 7G-tronic Benz auto and 4Matic all-wheel drive system, the X350d has all the right ingredients for a cracker pick-up.
However, Spanish-built Mercedes ute is let down in a couple of key areas that spoils and overall enjoyable recipe.
Perhaps a bit of expectation management is in order here.
After driving and enjoying Mercedes-Benz’s X-Class in X250d Progressive guise during 2018, we had high hopes for the V6 turbo-diesel-powered X350d Progressive, even if – at $73,270 before on-road costs – it carries a premium of around $15K over the four-pot turbo version.
Chunky, good looking and well-proportioned, first impressions approaching the premium one-tonne pick-up are certainly right up there. Even static, it oozes an impervious charm.
We drove the cheaper of the two V6s, the Progressive, and its cabin is fundamentally attractive with plenty of space, a pleasing driving position (despite the absence of a reach-adjustable steering column, plenty of storage and good all-round vision.
Plus, Mercedes instruments, a large central tablet, A-Class-esque rounded vents, Benz-sourced three-spoke steering wheel and sober trim all do speak with a unique, Teutonic accent that brand loyalists should respond to.
However, look a little closer and there’s a heck of a lot of Navara bits inside, from the heater/air-con controls and sliding back window (good) to the flat and unsupportive seating and cheapo aftermarket-style sat-nav system that would continually crash in our example (bad).
At least they promise durability and reliability! And the bits that are German, mainly the circa-last-decade multimedia system, is hopelessly fiddly and outdated.
Have Mercedes’ engineers and designers sat in a Ford Ranger lately?
Frustratingly for Daimler, we had also just driven the Raptor, and the latter’s dynamic capabilities seemed from a different, higher plane to the X350d’s.
Take the steering. Light and progressive though the Benz is, providing a fairly benign and safe handing proposition, it lacks the feel and feedback of the Ford’s.
Also, the Mercedes’ ride is too stiff and firm to ever feel comfy and settled, while the Ranger’s suppleness and control seem otherworldly by comparison.
We actually prefer the X250d’s cornering and ride qualities, perhaps because it is a bit lighter in the front end and softer overall on posteriors. A major disappointment for a coil-sprung ute, but at least the German-branded vehicle eclipses its Nissan counterpart.
Where the X350d really starts playing catch-up is in its performance, since there’s a hefty wad of torque for effortless mid-range acceleration and surprisingly fast higher-speed responses. The sweet-shifting auto certainly helps here.
Yet there are more caveats to contend with, such as the oddly laggy off-the-line response for a V6, as well as the totally unexpected gruffness of the powertrain.
Yes, the X350d might obliterate the 2.0-litre twin-turbo-diesel Raptor in every race, but it isn’t especially pleasant or quiet in the way that the Ford manages to be. And, let’s make this clear, the Volkswagen Amarok’s V6 is famous for its smooth and lush power delivery.
It appears there’s still some work to be done on the refinement front, Mercedes.
After a week in the X350d Progression, it started to become clear that the hoped-for cushy, dauntless oomph that so distinguishes the other German V6 pick-up simply isn’t nearly as present in the more-powerful X-Class, and it forced us to conclude that maybe specifying a higher-grade four-cylinder version might be the better option.
While undoubtedly a muscular, capable and imminently liveable urban premium truck with off-road agility to spare, the X350d doesn’t feel quite the Mercedes experience as the higher-spec X250d promises.
Sadly, we weren’t expecting that.
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