Some would call me lucky.
I have most recently spent nearly 24-hours on the road with my wife alongside me in the passenger seat of the Mercedes-Benz X Class 250d I had on test.
Not an unbroken 24-hours – that would have been foolish and irresponsible, to say nothing about it also being a dangerous driving practice. The time was spread comfortably over a couple of days and some 1 700 kilometres of very mixed road and weather conditions.
Being able to take a vehicle for an extended test session is always a bonus and particularly relevant with the X Class that has more than its fiar share of criticism and mockery since the company announced its intentions – most notably the Nissan connection.
This I dealt with extensively at the time of the local launch (https://wordpress.com/post/colinwindell.wordpress.com/1021), so we will dispense with any additional comment about it being a Navara with Mascara.
In fact, just the opposite. It is a Merc through and through with all the qualities of fit, finish, comfort and style expected from a Mercedes-Benz product and after 23 hours and 26 minutes behind the wheel covering a distance of 1 740 km at a trip average of 74 km/h, our overall average fuel consumption was 8,4 l/100 km.
In my book this was impressive considering the first few hours of the journey was done in driving rain, heavy mist and dodging trucks up the famous (or infamous) Van Reenen’s Pass on the N3 highway that carries massive amounts of traffic between Johannesburg and Durban.
Thereafter, the roads consisted of highway, byway and rural roads along with a healthy selection of dirt road and switching between two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive.
Mercedes-Benz claims a combined consumption of 7,9 l/100 km for this model but, that does not include off-road activity. On the instant consumption check on the freeway, it dropped to 6,4 l/100 km with the cruise control set to 120 km/h.
At the end of the journey and the longest single stretch of driving – some seven hours – I could have easily turned around and done it all over again, so comfortable was the driving position and the driveability of the big bakkie that is as close as we get at the moment to an American ‘truck’.
Although difficult to find fault with the vehicle, there are a couple of issues that need addressing up front.
The test unit was the Power 250d 4×4 and came with a couple of the options fitted in the form of roof rails, 18-inch wheels, 360 degree camera, running boards and metallic paint – for a price of R818 341.
Several other options were not included such as navigation, active brake assist, and auto dimming headlights and it is these I see as an issue in that at the money, there should be no options available and everything should be included.
The option add-on game is very much a European carmaker’s approach whereas most of the Eastern automakers do a ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get’ deal.
The X-Class Power is the high-end line. It is aimed at customers for whom styling, performance and comfort are paramount. As a lifestyle vehicle beyond the mainstream, it is suitable for urban environments as well as for sports and leisure activities off the beaten track. Its design and high level of equipment reflect an independent and individualistic lifestyle.
However, even with the 18-inch wheels the gap between the top of the tyre and the fender was big enough to fit a PRASA locomotive quite easily and the 19-inch would be the more attractive (although not necessarily more practical) choice.
Coil springs are used at both the front and rear. The front wheels are guided by double triangle wishbones.
At the back, a rear multi-link solid axle with good articulation capability is well suited to transporting heavy loads. This combination ensures the suspension is comfortable and the handling is safe given any permitted load condition.
With 1 632 millimetres at the front and 1 625 millimetres at the rear, the X-Class has a wider track than most competitors do. At 3 150 millimetres, the wheelbase is also longer than many other bakkies.
A ladder-type frame chassis with closed longitudinal profiles and cross-members provides the basis for transporting heavy loads and handling tough off-road terrain. The comfort suspension is designed in such a way that it achieves a high level of driving dynamics and ride comfort on the road, while also delivering maximum off-road capability.
Mercedes-Benz is the only manufacturer in the segment to opt for large disc brakes on both axles as standard. The front axle has internally vented brake discs with a diameter of 32 centimetres. The internally vented brake discs on the rear axle have a diameter of 30,8 centimetres.
Passive safety is provided thanks to standard equipment such as seven air bags and the i-Size attachment system for two child seats.
Descent control is provided on both the manual and automatic versions, maintaining vehicle speed to 8 km/h in 4H and 5 km/h in 4L and it works extremely well to allow the big vehicle gently to walk its way down and over obstacles.
At the launch, where I drove the 220 variant, I mentioned I found the steering a tad too ‘loose’ in slow speed off-road conditions with limited feedback to the driver. Although not as noticeable on the test car, my preference still would be for a firmer feel.
This does not happen out on the open road and the big bakkie tracks evenly and accurately and will happily swoop through the bends with nary a care in the world but, it does need more precise planning for the tighter corners or it will simply plough on, heading for the undergrowth.
With a GVM in the 3-ton range, braking a loaded version does also need some planning – mainly, keep a suitably large following distance because, as good as the brakes may be, that mass likes to keep on choogling.
Shopping always comes into the equation when travelling with Mrs W, so I let her take the wheel and she was entirely comfortable bombing the big bakkie into those designed for Dinky Toys parking bays at the mall while wearing one of those I’ll have one of these smiles.
Yes Ma’am. If I win the Powerball, I’ll buy you one.
The Mercedes-Benz X-Class comes standard with the manufacturer’s PremiumDrive full maintenance plan for 100 000 km/6 years, whichever occurs first. For a nominal cost, customers have the option of extending the maintenance plan up to a maximum of 180 000 km/8 years, whichever occurs first.