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Future models - Mercedes-Benz - X-Class

First look: Mercedes shows off X-Class ute

It takes two: There are two distinct looks for the Concept X-Class – Stylish Explorer and Powerful Adventurer (left).

Mercedes previews future X-Class pick-up with pair of concepts in Sweden

Mercedes-Benz logo26 Oct 2016

By TIM NICHOLSON

MERCEDES-BENZ has presented two production-oriented concept vehicles that preview its long-awaited all-new one-tonne pick-up range, which was developed with the Australian market firmly in mind and will arrive Down Under in 2018.

Dubbed the Concept X-Class – pointing to the production-moniker X-Class – Mercedes-Benz Vans claims its fourth model line alongside the V-Class, Sprinter and smaller Citan (not sold in Australia) will see it become “the first premium manufacturer to occupy the promising segment of mid-size pick-ups”.

Volkswagen was the first upmarket brand to enter the segment with its successful Amarok, but the X-Class will position Mercedes as the first fully fledged European prestige/luxury marque to take on the big guns in the segment.

As well as the Amarok, the X-Class will go head-to-head with the segment-leading Toyota HiLux, the high-selling Ford Ranger, Holden’s refreshed Colorado, the Mitsubishi Triton, Mazda BT-50 and Isuzu D-Max – to name a few.

It will also compete with the vehicle on which it is based, Nissan’s NP300 Navara, as well as a third model spun off from the platform, Renault’s Alaskan, which is also expected to launch in Australia in 2018.

As Mercedes said when it announced the pick-up program in March last year, Australia is one of the primary target markets for the vehicle, along with Argentina, Brazil, South Africa and Europe.

The company identified Australia as having the largest share of pick-up sales out of the key markets, with 14.1 per cent of vehicles sold slotting into the light-commercial utility segment. This was followed by Argentina with 11.6 per cent and Brazil on five per cent.

Four-wheel-drive pick-ups make up 12.4 per cent of all sales in Australia, the second-largest segment behind the sub-$40,000 small-car class that makes up 17.7 per cent.

Describing the X-Class as a “true Mercedes” from its design through to comfort, driving dynamics and safety, Mercedes says development costs will have reached close to €1 billion ($A1.4b) by the time the ute comes to market.

Of the two concepts shown in Sweden today, the ‘Stylish Explorer’ version is more in tune with the company’s SUV styling, with an “athletic” design giving it a dynamic appearance.

Mercedes says the front end represents an evolution of the SUV face of the brand, with dramatic headlights that extend into the wings and a huge ‘powerdome’ bonnet.

It also features the brand’s familiar SUV apron, flared wheelarches and a single-louvre grille with the Mercedes star in the middle, mirroring high-end coupes from the passenger-car line-up.

The wide front and rear tracks allow for 22-inch light-alloy wheels (with a chrome finish), while running boards are incorporated into the bodywork.

At the rear of both concepts is a continuous LED light strip on the tailgate, which Mercedes says points to the unique character of the production model, as well as chromed SUV trim at the lower edge.

Inside, the Stylish Explorer features high-end materials such as white Nappa leather, open-pore smoked oak, and brushed and polished aluminium trim.

Also notable is a free-standing high-res central display connected to the central controller and multifunction touchpad, which allows drivers to use gestures or enter letters to search and navigate the system.

The second variant presented in Stockholm, dubbed ‘Powerful Adventurer’, is the more rugged of the two, with 35x11.50 tyres, massive ground clearance (taking overall height to 1900mm), as well as the SUV twin-louvre grille, front and rear under-ride guard, wing claddings and matte carbon wheelarches.

The go-anywhere point is also reinforced by the electric winch prominent at the front end.

The Adventurer’s cabin is not as luxurious as the Stylish Explorer, but is still decked out in matte carbon elements, metallic brushed surfaces and glossy black Nappa leather.

While Australian pricing and specification for the production model are some way off, Mercedes says the X-Class will be positioned in the segment “at an attractive price”.

The X-Class will be built in a manufacturing co-operation with the Renault-Nissan Alliance, and for the Australian, European and South African markets it will be produced in Barcelona, Spain.

Production for those markets will kick off late next year, with a launch in Australia and New Zealand set for 2018.

Production for Latin America will be based in Cordoba, Argentina, and will start in 2018.

In presenting the X-Class today, Mercedes highlighted the shift in pick-up ownership globally to private buyers looking for a dual-purpose or solely recreational vehicle and compared it to the change in the off-roader market 20 years ago that saw the German car-maker produce what it says was the first premium SUV – the M-Class.

Customers will be able to customise the exterior and interior of their X-Class by choosing from the various yet-to-be-revealed variants and there will be a special range of accessories on offer, such as bed covers and styling elements.

Benz says the X-Class will offer a “welcome home” feeling that is typical of the brand by including interior components that customers will be familiar with – such as the infotainment system and ergonomic seats – from models as diverse as the V-Class vans to the C-Class mid-size passenger range.

The company claims the X-Class will “set new standards in the segment” for connectivity, with the optional on-board SIM card allowing access to various Mercedes ‘me’ connected services.

Drivers can also connect with the pick-up by smartphone, tablet or PC at any time and from anywhere to perform tasks such as sending navigation destinations to the vehicle or querying where it is parked and how much fuel is in the tank.

Standard services will include accident recovery, maintenance and breakdown management.

The full powertrain line-up is still under wraps, but Mercedes said the flagship variant will use a V6 diesel engine with the 4Matic permanent all-wheel-drive system that combines an electronic traction system, a transfer case with reduction gear and two differential locks.

Benz says that the traction system and the electrically operated on-demand differential locks send power to where the traction is best, while both the rear and inter-axle differentials can be locked in difficult off-road conditions.

As GoAuto has reported, the production X-Class will be offered with a range of six- and four-cylinder turbo-diesel and petrol Daimler engines, in dual-cab body style only.

The ladder-frame chassis allows a payload of more than 1100kg and a towing capacity of up to 3500kg, while the specially constructed suspension with wide axles, a five-link rear suspension with coil springs and a “precisely calibrated” spring and damper set-up will make for “high ride comfort – on the road and off the road”, according to Benz.

While not detailing the exact list of safety features offered in the X-Class, Mercedes says it will be offered with driver assistance systems based on cameras, radars and ultrasound sensors, with some assistance features to be included as standard.

The company says it has identified five different customer groups for the X-Class, depending on the market.

The groups identified as being key to the Australian market include “families with an active lifestyle and an affinity to premium products” and “successful adventurers, who live in an urban environment”, and “business owners … who want to use their pick-up for commercial and private purposes”.

The other two groups not identified as being relevant to Australia include “trend-conscious individualists with an affinity to premium products” and landowners.

Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans Volker Mornhinweg said the X-Class will appeal to buyers that may not have previously considered purchasing a pick-up.

“We will open up and change the segment of mid-size pick-ups – with the world’s first true premium pick-up for the modern urban lifestyle,” he said. “Our future X-Class will be a pick-up that knows no compromise. Ladder-type frame, high-torque six-cylinder engine, and permanent all-wheel drive are compulsory for us.

“As an added value we bring safety, comfort, agility, and expressive design – in other words, everything that distinguishes vehicles bearing the Mercedes star. We will thus appeal to new customers who have not considered owning a pick-up before.”

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