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‘Premium’ X-Class can beat Amarok: Mercedes-Benz

X factor: Mercedes-Benz is unfazed by Volkswagen’s gentle jibes about its incoming X-Class ute.

Mercedes-Benz unruffled over Volkswagen jibes as high-end dual cabs face off

Mercedes-Benz logo7 Aug 2017

By TIM ROBSON in NEW ZEALAND

MERCEDES-BENZ has confirmed that the massive pre-launch interest from Australian customers in the forthcoming X-Class ute continues to build, less than a month after its international reveal in South Africa.

The Spanish-built dual-cab pick-up – which is based on the Nissan Navara – is due to land in Australia early in 2018, with four-cylinder versions the first to arrive ahead of a more powerful Benz-sourced V6.

While specific sales targets are yet to emerge, Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific (MBAP) senior manager of public relations, product and corporate communications, David McCarthy, told GoAuto that the hype around the X-Class has surprised even industry veterans.

“The level of interest that my (Mercedes-Benz Vans Australia and New Zealand) colleagues are dealing with is extraordinary,” he said at the Mercedes-AMG snow drive event in Queenstown, New Zealand last week.

“I’m trying to think of another vehicle elsewhere in the industry that’s generated this amount of activity. You have to think back to (Holden) VE Commodore (in 2007). I’m constantly surprised by it.”

Mr McCarthy acknowledged that the company’s strategy of launching the X-Class with Nissan-derived four-cylinder engines will blunt initial sales.

“I think one of the big issues is that the four-cylinder launches first, and the V6 is probably going to be a little bit after,” he said. “Having said that, we’ve got a lot of interest in the tradie model.”

The base Pure dual-cab will launch with a single-turbo version of Nissan’s 2.3-litre four-cylinder diesel engine and a basic spec list that includes steel rims.

Mr McCarthy refuted suggestions that interest in base model cars meant that a single-cab version is in the works.

“Not at this stage, no,” he said. “Dual-cab is where the majority of the market is, in particularly for people that are using it as a dual-purpose vehicle.”

Pricing is also yet to be set, and Mr McCarthy pointed to the current market as an indication of where the high watermark for a dual-cab ute could rest.

“People are currently paying $70-$75,000, so if you set the ceiling at $60,000, suddenly it’s not there any more,” he said. “In a lot of cases it’s a dual-purpose vehicle so whilst for some that might be purely a work vehicle, for others it serves as a family car, too.

“Is there a ceiling? Let’s find out.”

Mr McCarthy remained circumspect when asked to respond to a comment from Volkswagen Australia Commercial Vehicles director Carlos Santos at a recent Amarok V6 launch, but suggested the X-Class outpointed its rival in a couple of key areas.

Mr Santos said that VW did not need to “look to Japan for a donor vehicle”, while suggesting the Wolfsburg brand would be the only one with a V6-powered ute “for some time to come”.

“Look, Volkswagen have done very well with the Amarok,” said Mr McCarthy.

“They’ve shown that there’s just as much interest in a high-powered engine in the segment – even with their overboost function, we’re still over that (figure), though.”

The X-Class will offer a V6 diesel offering 190kW and 550Nm, while the Amarok offers 165kW and the same 550Nm torque figure.

An overboost function in the Amarok is available from 70 per cent throttle in third or fourth gear, which adds 15kW for a total of 180kW and an extra 30Nm for a total of 580Nm.

“I think X-Class offers a few things over Amarok, most obviously rear airbags,” Mr McCarthy continued. “I think the chassis development and the work that our people put into it would have been more than up for the task both off-road and on-road, as well.”

Mr McCarthy suggested that the space for high-spec utes such as the Amarok – and other rivals including the Toyota HiLux SR5 and Ford Ranger WildTrak – is big enough for new players.

“We want a slice of that pie as well,” he said. “They (VW) are not going to sit on their hands, but we’re not going to get into a price war. We don’t need to.

We are already a premium brand.”

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