Professional Builder is invited to test drive a new pick up from Mercedes to discover whether you really do get more bang for your buck!

Unveiled during the week of a so-called “snow bomb”, at a location boasting the last resting place of three flying bombers known from the cold war… and on that “bombshell”, as a well-known tv presenter with a passion for this sort of thing might have quipped, Mercedes has launched its new X-Class one tonne pick up! And you have to say that the shockwaves were being felt long before its actual arrival, with an unprecedented 941 enthusiasts signing a pre-registration fee to secure one of the first X-Classes to roll off the production line.

As the first generally recognised premium brand to enter the sector, the collateral damage to other pick up manufacturers is most definitely at the top end of the price scale and, as such, the company is clearly putting itself out there to be shot at when it comes to appearance and performance. With VAG’s very impressive, but expensive, Amarok firmly in its sights, Mercedes has recruited a useful ally in the form of a Renault/Nissan alliance and its popular Navara model. However, despite the close collaboration and use of a robust ladder frame chassis, multilink suspension and 2.3 litre engine, Mercedes is keen to point out that various steps have been taken to improve handling and refinement over its rivals. In fact, the company calculates that around 90 per cent of the exterior and interior styling is unique to them.

Comparisons to Mercedes’ passenger cars are certainly easy to make on first impressions and it is being sold very much as a dual utility vehicle that can comfortably straddle the line between business and pleasure. The UK pick up market may be growing but this is clearly a vehicle with global expectations in markets as diverse as Russia, South America and Australia.

Three variants of the double cab-only option. 4MATIC all-wheel drive will be offered, The entry level Pure model, principally aimed at business users with upholstery seats instead of leather will still offer some nice touches, such as a 7in. infotainment display and cruise control with a six speed 160bhp 220d engine.

The Progressive and Power models add alloy wheels and more enhanced body coloured styling additions. The Power model has a single turbo charged 187 bhp powered engine and all of the sort of interior refinements you would expect, such as plush, electronically adjustable leather seats and microfibre upholstery.

Although the use of grey plastic hasn’t been eliminated altogether, this is still one of the most instantly pleasing interiors in the pick up market and attention to detail has also been given in the rear, with seats that will comfortably take 3 bulky adults. All vehicles come with a three year warranty.

Those looking for power outputs to match the V6 Amarok will have to wait until later this year for a three litre version which will be badged as the X 350d and will bring a hit of power which, like its on the road price, will almost certainly leave the vast majority of its competitors trailing in its wake.

Increased Load Carrying

Bigger is also better when it comes to the X-Class’s dimensions which will lay claim to being amongst the largest you can buy in the UK at 2,113mm high and a substantial 5,400mm in length. That equates to respective increases of 38mm and 40mm over the Navara with the length enhanced thanks to an extended rear overhang, although with that extra weight comes a slight decrease in expected mpg at around 37 mpg.

An almost square load area and a payload of 1,087kgs makes the X-Class a genuinely capable load carrying truck and the rail based cargo securing system is a neat addition in the load bay on the higher spec models. The X-Class will also tow a 3,500kg braked trailer and there’s a useful hatch in the rear window to push longer items through.

Again refinement and safety specifications are right up there with the best, comprising front and thorax airbags plus a driver’s knee air bag and window airbags along the side of the cabin, active brake assist, autonomous emergency braking, hill start assist and the slightly irritating lane keeping assist.

Given the extreme wintery conditions it was no small miracle that none of the above was employed by the convoy of X-Classes on the 100 mile plus test route zig zagging across North Wales and some of the finest scenery to be had in Britain.

Apart from a couple of hairy moments going off piste in the appropriately named Snowdonia National Park, and the disregard of a road closed sign when the 4MATIC drive control was hastily employed, the vehicle coped admirably with everything that came its way.

General handling is impressive, with weighted steering and lack of noticeable roll in corners inspiring confidence in the slushy conditions. For a vehicle of its size it is surprisingly easy to manoeuvre, although the extra width does concentrate the mind on some of the narrower sections of the test route, especially with larger lorries and trucks coming in the other direction.

Despite the potholes the ride was pretty smooth for a vehicle of its type and would almost certainly be improved further with a heavy load on board.

The quirky Portmeirion, a replica Italian village hugging the coastline, and built by an eccentric millionaire in the 1930s, provided a very welcome stopover after a long day’s driving. And unlike the famous prisoner of the cult TV series filmed here in the 1960s we were free men to leave the next day for an equally challenging icy drive back to RAF Cosford (also well worth a visit incidently).

And so to the question on everyone’s, by this time, somewhat chapped, lips. Well at an entry level of around £32,000 including VAT rising to almost £41,000 for the top speced Power model, the X-Class is unlikely to appeal to anyone in the market for a general workhorse.

The taxation relief structure takes the edge off a smidgeon for small businesses running it as a company/lifestyle vehicle and the three star badge is certainly helpful when it comes to residual value, but it’s clearly more aspiring developer than jobbing builder. What it does do, of course, is raise the bar in terms of standards for the once humble pick up and that invariably filters down the line to the benefit of all fans of this type of vehicle.

It may cost a bomb but it’s a pretty smart one at that!

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