Merc, helped by Nissan, aiming to be star of ‘luxury’ bakkie market

Image; Mercedes / Newspress
NEW BEAST WITH MERCEDES BADGING:  This is the Mercedes X-Class expected shortly in South Africa – though no prices are yet available.  Image; Mercedes / Newspress

A NEW BEAST has just arrived ahead of its general sale in South Africa, one looking to take on the tough South African bakkie market currently dominated by Toyota with its now near half-century-old Hilux, not to mention the Ford Ranger and Isuzu KB (which has already adopted the ‘X’ nomenclature now about to be used by Mercedes).

And the Nissan Navara, (below) with which the Mercedes X-Class will share production lines. Can you spot the similarities?

2017 NISSAN NAVARA: Nissan will be responsible for producing the (dare we say rather similar) X-Class. Image: Nissan SA
2017 NISSAN NAVARA: Nissan will be responsible for producing the (dare we say rather similar) X-Class. Image: Nissan SA

The Germany-based but international automaker has said its double-cab X models will be ‘luxury’, but then how luxurious does one want a working/recreational bakkie to be? And will our large community of outdoor enthusiasts be keen to fork out big, big, bucks for something a less-expensive machine can do equally well?

And perhaps just as comfortably. I’m going to ignore the Sandton / Constantia poseurs though, sure, it’s where the big bucks are.

There will be three ranges within the X-Class catalogue, described here by Mercedes:

Image; Mercedes / Newspress
 HIGH-SPEC BAKKIE: The cabin expected in the Mercedes C-Class due m South Africa early in 2018. Image; Mercedes / Newspress
  • The X-Class Pure basic variant is ideal for rugged, functional use. It fulfils all the demands placed on a workhorse. At the same time its comfort and design make it perfect for visiting customers or suppliers and for private activities
  • The X-Class Progressive is aimed at people seeking a rugged pick-up with extra styling and comfort functions – as a calling card for their own business, while also being a comfortable yet prestigious vehicle for private use.
  • The X-Class Power is the high-end design and equipment line. It is aimed at customers for whom styling, performance and comfort are paramount. The X-Class Power is a lifestyle vehicle beyond the mainstream – suitable for urban environments as well as for sport and leisure activities off the beaten track. Through its design and high level of equipment it reflects an independent and individualistic lifestyle.

The bakkies will come from a production co-operation with the Renault-Nissan Alliance – something in place now for seven years – with production for Europe, Australia and South Africa to come from a Nissan plant in Barcelona, Spain. The X-Class for Latin American will be assembled in Cordoba, Argentina, from 2019.

READ MORE about Mercedes/Nissan alliances

Mercedes-Benz, some years ago now, had a similar but now discontinued association with Mitsubishi, which produced the then regarded as upmarket Pajero pick-ups. Mitsubishi is now part of the Renault-Nissan alliance, so it seems things have come full circle.

Image; Mercedes / Newspress
DON’T GET THE BRANDS MIXED UP, NOW! This is the Mercedes X-Class pick-up, a working one-tonner or a luxury off-roader. Or something in between.  Image; Mercedes / Newspress

Mitsubishi has also had associations with Volvo, Chrysler, and  Peugeot-Citroen.  Hmm, all very convoluted…

“Nissan is the second-largest manufacturer globally of mid-size, one-ton, pick-ups,” Mercedes says, “and can look back on more than 80 years of experience in producing and marketing such vehicles.”

The most recent to reach South Africa was the Navara, launched in March 2017 to general acclaim. (Read Carman’s Corner’s report). It looks rather similar to its Mercedes cousin – or perhaps that should be the other way around? You decide…

2017 ISUZU X-RIDER: Image: Isuzu SA / Quickpic
2017 ISUZU X-RIDER: Image: Isuzu SA / Quickpic
NISSAN NAVARA: Cousin to the new Mercedes X-Class, ahead of its March 2017 launch in South Africa. Image: Nissan
NISSAN NAVARA: Cousin to the new Mercedes X-Class, ahead of its March 2017 launch in South Africa. Image: Nissan

WATCH THE video of the international launch


The X-Class will have – globally, at least – a choice of three trims for the cockpit, six types of seat cover. including two leather variants with contrasting topstitching, and two colours for the roof lining.

It will have a diverse range of Mercedes-Benz accessories, among them a styling bar, side bars, load-bed canopy, various covers, and a number of cargo and off-road solutions – each developed and designed by Mercedes.

The engines will be four- and six-cylinder: a common-rail diesel X 220d (120kW) and X 250d (140 kW) as well as a petrol engine (122kW) for some markets. A top-of-the-range V6 diesel (190kW) will be released mid-2018 and, Mercedes says, “take a leading position in the segment”.

Image; Mercedes / Newspress
HEAD FOR THE BEACH, THE BUSH OR THE FACTORY: There will be three versions of the 2018 Mercedes-Benz X-Class. Image; Mercedes / Newspress

Ride comfort is promised with a suspension system “tuned for the comfort typical of a Mercedes”, and internally vented disc brakes  front and rear.”The X-Class,” the automaker says, “is the first pick-up to offer not only excellent off-road but also superb on-road performance.”

The all-wheel drive is “for any surface” and includes low range and the option of a rear differential lock. The choice of permanent all-wheel drive will be offered from the middle of 2018.

Driving assistants will include emergency braking pressure, lane-keeping and traffic sign recognition.

READ MORE Mercedes-Benz features on Carman’s Corner

South African deliveries will start in early 2018. The only price available at present is that of the German starting price, supplied here as a direct currency conversion (July 2017) to which South African duties and taxes might apply. It is intended only as a guide: 37 294 Euros (inc VAT) or about R560 000.

“The X-Class,””Mercedes says, “is aimed at very different customer groups: landowners and farmers in Argentina, business owners and building contractors in Australia, families with an affinity for premium products in Brazil, trend-conscious individualists in South Africa and Great Britain as well as sporty adventurers in New Zealand and Germany.”

Prices of the Navara running mate in March 2017 were:

Nissan Navara 2.3 DDTT 4×4 SE Double Cab – R514 900
Nissan Navara 2.3 DDTT 4×4 LE Double Cab – R565 900
Nissan Navara 2.3 DDT 4×4 LE Double Cab a/t –R597 900

Heatable black leather seats optional on LE grade models for R13 000. A 4×2 double-cab range is expected towards the end of 2017 with prices likely to range from R450 000 to R520 000.
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