Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - X-Class - 220d Pure Dual Cab Ute 2WD
Plenty of signature Mercedes-Benz touches, class-leading level of active safety, impressive unladen ride, looks tough, slick manual gearbox, strong low- and mid-range diesel torque
Room for improvement
Pricey for a workhorse, Mercedes-Benz overhaul doesn’t go far enough, some fit and finish issues, limited steering column adjustment, feels big to drive
How does Mercedes-Benz’s X220d Pure workhorse stack up as a weekend warrior?
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9 Jul 2018
A QUICK look at Australian new-vehicle sales in the last year shows that buyers are abandoning passengers cars in favour of SUVs and light-commercial vehicles – namely utes – at an alarming rate. Mercedes-Benz, who has a history of not being afraid of filling a niche, saw an opportunity here and capitalised. Enter the X-Class.
As one of the most anticipated model releases of 2018, the X-Class has a lot to prove. This task is made a lot harder by the fact that the ute shares its underpinnings with the renowned Nissan Navara. A thorough overhaul of its Japanese cousin should be enough to further set the German on the right course, then.
Critically, dual-cab utes, such as the X-Class, are increasingly looked towards as lifestyle vehicles that successfully combine work with pleasure – a jack of all trades if you will (pun intended). So, how does the X-Class stack up as a weekend warrior in its X220d Pure workhorse form? We put it to test to find out.
Price and equipment
The X220d Pure is priced from $46,400 before on-road costs in rear-wheel-drive (RWD) pick-up form. Given its workhorse status, this variant’s cost is eye-watering. Further up the line-up, the X-Class’ value proposition makes more sense, but as a range-opener, it is hard to justify.
Nonetheless, standard equipment is high, including 17-inch steel wheels wrapped in 255/65 tyres, dusk-sensing halogen headlights, daytime running lights, front foglights, LED tub lighting, a matte-black front bumper and grille, a matte-black rear bumper with an integrated step, matte-black doorhandles, power-adjustable side mirrors and a full-size spare wheel.
Inside, a 7.0-inch Comand infotainment system, Bluetooth connectivity, a four-speaker sound system, a 5.4-inch digital instrument cluster, Tunja black fabric upholstery, grained-black dashboard trim, manual air-conditioning, plastic flooring, two USB ports, four 12-volt power outlets and outboard Isofix child-seat anchorage points feature.
Our test car is optioned with a $150 DIN access slot in lieu of the standard central storage bin and armrest, while its $1300 Plus Package bundles in front and rear parking sensors, and an adjustable load-securing rail system. It was also finished in no-cost Chisana White paintwork, which helps to round out its tough, budget look. As such, the price as tested is $47,850 – again, big money for this type of vehicle.
Mid-size utes are typically known for their rough-and-ready nature, especially in their workhorse forms where hard-wearing plastics are expected. Not exactly in the wheelhouse of a premium brand like Mercedes-Benz, then. Naturally, this presents a challenge where the marque has to deliver on the expectations of its badge while satisfying the needs, not desires, of light-commercial buyers.
This unenviable task results in an X-Class that goes further than the Navara, but arguably not far enough. Signature Mercedes-Benz touches are present, such as the (laggy) floating infotainment system, (annoying) touchpad/rotary controller, (lovely) steering wheel, (solid) stalks and (tacky) circular air vents; but the X220d Pure feels budget elsewhere despite its premium price. Matters aren’t helped when several fit and finish issues plague the cabin’s trim.
As such, it presents as an oxymoron of sorts. In flagship Power form, soft-touch plastics adorn the dashboard while artificial leather trims the doors to good effect, but the Pure – in keeping with its workhorse designation – goes without.
Measuring in at 5340mm long, 1916mm wide and 1839mm tall with a 3150mm wheelbase, the X-Class offers a decent amount of rear legroom and headroom, helping to ensure five adult occupants can travel in relative comfort on shorter journeys. However, the X-Class inexplicably lacks reach adjustment for its steering column, while height adjustment is limited for taller drivers.
The pick-up’s tub is 1581mm long, 1560mm wide and 475mm tall, while the width between the wheelarches is 1215mm. Four tie-down loops are on offer, while LED lighting ensures visibility is good at night. The tailgate is dead weight, though, so be prepared for the inevitable slam.
While we didn’t have a chance to properly put this aspect to test – we only loaded the tub with six trestle tables and 15 plastic chairs – Mercedes-Benz’s claim that the X-Class can fit an Australian-sized pallet between its rear wheelarches is promising. For reference, the 2046kg X220d Pure RWD pick-up has a maximum payload of 1086kg, while its braked towing capacity is 3200kg.
Engine and transmission
The X220d is motivated by a 2.3-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine that produces 120kW of power at 3750rpm and 403Nm of torque between 1500 and 2500rpm. Our example sends drive to the rear wheels via a six-speed manual gearbox.
As these outputs suggest, it does its best in the low- to mid-range where torque is plentiful, but the powertrain can run out of steam as it quickly approaches its low 4400rpm redline. Thus, it pays to upshift soon after peak torque is reached, especially when towing or carrying a heavy load. Noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels are impressively held in check, too.
Sprinting from standstill to 100km/h in a claimed 12.5 seconds while on the way to its top speed of 172km/h, the X220d Pure RWD pick-up feels surprisingly quick, despite Mercedes-Benz’s slower claims.
Driving pleasure is further enhanced by the X220d’s slick manual gearbox, which is punctuated by its smooth clutch operation. It feels effortless in practice and rewards the driver for … well, driving. Granted its shift gate can feel a little clunky at times – especially when shifting into reverse – this six-speeder is fun to use, although its unusual off-centre ‘bent’ shifter can take some getting used to.
Claimed fuel consumption on the combined cycle test is 7.6 litres per 100 kilometres, while carbon dioxide emissions have been tested at 201 grams per kilometre. During our week with X220d Pure RWD pick-up, we averaged a commendable 8.7L/100km over predominantly city-based routes and some shorter highway stints.
Ride and handling
The X-Class’ coil-sprung suspension consists of an independent double-wishbone front axle and a solid multi-link rear axle, while it also has a hydraulically assisted rack-and-pinion steering system.
Unladen ride comfort can be best described as comfortable when you consider that most other mid-size utes are renowned for having seriously unsettled rear ends over bumps and potholes. While the X-Class does display some of these behaviours, they are by no means as exaggerated. This further enhances its position as an effective lifestyle vehicle.
This experience translates even more positively across to less-compromised surfaces. Despite, Australia’s low-quality roads, the X-Class manages uneven and unsealed roads with relative aplomb. There are some disturbances to ride quality on some stretches, but it is otherwise well-resolved.
The power steering is neither light nor heavy in feel, but it is a little slower in operation, with plenty of lock required to get things moving in the right direction.
Braking is handled by ventilated discs with two-piston callipers up front and single-pot stoppers at the rear. By forgoing the rear drum brakes preferred by some of its rivals, the X-Class edges closer to class leadership with impressive stopping power, although time will tell how it fairs in situations where maximum gross combined mass is approached.
Safety and servicing
The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the X-Class range a five-star safety rating in February 2018. It scored well in the adult (90 per cent) and child (87 per cent) occupant protection categories. Similarly, the pedestrian protection (80 per cent) and safety assist (72 per cent) tests returned strong results.
Advanced driver-assist systems in the X220d Pure extend to forward collision warning, low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning (LDW), cruise control, a speed limiter, hill-start assist, trailer sway control, tyre pressure monitoring and a reversing camera.
Critically, Mercedes-Benz is the first brand in Australia to offer its mid-size ute with AEB and LDW as standard range-wide. This move is welcomed wholeheartedly, and at this price point, frankly, it should be expected. Hopefully other marques follow suit sooner rather than later.
As mentioned, our test car is also optioned with the Plus Package, which adds front and rear parking sensors, as well as an adjustable load-securing rail system.
Other safety equipment includes seven airbags (dual front, side and curtain plus driver knee), anti-lock braking, brake assist, electronic brake-force distribution, and the usual stability and traction control systems.
As with all X-Class variants, the X220d Pure RWD pick-up comes with a three-year/200,000km factory warranty, which includes roadside assistance for the full term.
Service intervals are every 12 months of 20,000km, whichever comes first. Three years of capped-price servicing is optionally available through Mercedes-Benz’s dealer network.
The X-Class is a great first effort from Mercedes-Benz, and so it should be. However, as mentioned, as an entry-level X220d Pure proposition, it is hard to justify. Mid-range and flagship variants make more sense from a financial perspective and also bring in additional premium touches expected of a model wearing the three-pointed badge.
Most of the X220d Pure’s positive attributes – impressive unladen ride, strong diesel performance, tough looks and class-leading level of active safety – are also true of other X-Class variants, while some of its negative points – no central storage bin or armrest – are addressed.
We suspect buyers – well, fleets – in the market for a workhorse wouldn’t give the X-Class much thought in X220d Pure form in the first place, and we can’t blame them. However, it’s a shame they’ll miss out on such a strong model.
Toyota HiLux Workmate RWD dual-cab pick-up 2.4-litre (from $33,990 before on-road costs)
As its name implies, this manual HiLux is fleet-friendly with a price to match. However, its bouncy unladen ride couldn’t be further away from the quality of the Mercedes-Benz’s.
Ford Ranger XL Hi-Rider RWD dual-cab pick-up 2.2-litre (from $37,190 before on-road costs)
This manual Ranger rivals the X220d Pure in ride comfort and exceeds it in driving dynamics. A longer five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty has also recently increased its appeal.
Volkswagen Amarok TDI420 RWD dual-cab pick-up 2.0-litre (from $39,990 before on-road costs)
The first German to disrupt the ute segment, this automatic Amarok reset the benchmark for refinement, but it will have its hands full with the equipment-rich X220d Power.
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