- Premium pickup combines practicality and comfort
- Choice of two efficient 2.3-litre diesel engines with powerful V6 unit to follow
- Designed to drive with the comfort and feel of a regular car
- Wide range of options and trim levels
- Prices to be announced closer to launch
IF there were any doubts that the pickup market is evolving the new Mercedes-Benz X-Class should quickly dispel them.
The demand for mid-size pickups has been rising steadily over the past few years. Customers are increasingly seeking the comfort and driving experience of a typical passenger car with the practicality of a pickup.
Canny company car drivers have also cottoned on to the fact that a double-cab pickup truck carries a flat rate benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax rate rather than the emissions-based sliding scale applied to a regular car. It’s down to the fact that a pickup is classified as light commercial vehicle for tax purposes.
Without boring you with too much information – if you do want all the details you can always read our breakdown of double-cab pick up tax here – the rate of tax on a company car is based on the list price (P11D Value) and the emissions rate. The more expensive a car or the higher the CO2 level, the more BIK tax will be owed. In the case of a pickup the tax is based on a flat rate – £3,230 for the current tax year – regardless of how much the vehicle cost or how much CO2 it produces.
In other words a big, practical pickup with a 2.3-litre engine and emissions of almost 200g/km can have less of an impact on your tax rate than something like a Ford Focus.
Step forward the Mercedes-Benz X-Class.
When it is launched the X-Class will be available with a choice of two diesel engines. The 2.3-litre diesel can be specified as either a single turbo unit with 163bhp in the X220d, or a biturbo with 190bhp in the X250d. Both variants of the diesel can also be specified with either rear wheel drive or all-wheel drive. The X250d can also be fitted with a seven-speed automatic transmission rather than the standard six-speed manual.
There will also be a petrol engine offering 165bhp and in mid-2018 a range topping 258bhp V6 diesel will be added to the list.
A word of caution though. Unless we are reading it wrong the petrol engine will only be available in left-hand drive and rear wheel drive. This is apparently down to something Mercedes describe as “specific market requirements”. If this is indeed the case then it will simply reaffirm the choice of diesel for most drivers, especially if the petrol version doesn’t reach the UK at all.
In all honesty though, most drivers are likely to be drawn to the fact that this is a Mercedes. The X-Class may be a pickup but it’s the first premium brand to enter the market and in terms of prestige, luxury, and sheer cool we can’t see many alternatives right now. If you want to be seen in a pickup then this the X-Class is the one to drive.
It shares a distinctive look with the rest of the Mercedes range and from the front looks very much like the current GL range of SUV. It’s a robust design that reflects the typical traits of a pickup – functionality, strength, and off-road capability – coupled with the comfort and driving dynamic of a Mercedes.
The traditional downside of a pickup is the ride quality but if, as Mercedes claim, the X-Class does indeed drive like a regular car then it could be game changer in the pickup sector. The litmus test will be to see how many end up in the hands of successful property developers across the country.
The X-Class will come in three trim levels, the rugged and functional PURE, stylish and comfortable PROGRESSIVE, and high-end POWER. Depending on the trim level you can specify a number of finishes including aluminium, wood or matt black. There is also a wide range of leather or fabric upholstery, and sufficient options for you to custom build an X-Class to meet your needs. Rugged off-roader or city cruiser, the X-Class promises to be both.
Like all pickups there is a price to be paid in terms of fuel economy but the X-Class compares favourably with the rest of the market. Depending on engine choice you can expect to see returns of around 21mpg with the ECO start/stop function.
Drivers opting for the automatic transmission should gain a little on fuel consumption but opting for an all-wheel drive 4MATIC variant pushes it back down again. That being said, the difference won’t be significant enough to prevent drivers opting for the extra traction.
Taking into account the flat rate BIK tax any increase in fuel consumption over a regular car should be more than covered by the reduced tax burden for company car drivers.
The Mercedes-Benz X-Class is unlikely to be the last premium brand pickup to hit the market but it will always remain the first to do so. As long as Mercedes have got the right balance between rugged practicality and comfortable ride – and it looks like they might have – then the X-Class is sure to prove immensely popular.