X-Class – forget the hype

One of the most hyped vehicle launches of the past couple of decades is now a reality for South Africans with the formal introduction of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class bakkie – and perfectly timed to happen days before the opening of the biggest agricultural show in the country, namely Nampo in Bothaville.

Known for hosting farmers with bulging wallets, the X-Class will take pride of place on the Mercedes stand and, while the company does not discuss or disclose specific model sales numbers, it is a safe bet May is going to be a good month with pre-orders and instant sales possibly around the 500 units mark.


From the first design sketches, the hype started along with lots of ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ about Mercedes-Benz building a bakkie. Shock. Horror. Stop the presses!

Really – This company builds cars, SUV, MPV, vans and trucks – all of which are premium class so the question really is not why they added a bakkie, but why it has taken so long.

The answer is they have not. In the South African market, the X-Class is not the first Mercedes-Benz bakkie and utility Mercs have been around since the 1950s.

In 1955 Binz, a coachbuilder located near Stuttgart produced 400 W120 180D bakkies for export exclusively to South Africa (in right hand drive format).

Gary Bowes, who works as a Dealer Technical Specialist for Mercedes-Benz in Pretoria still drives a locally manufactured version one and says: “The idea of producing a Type 180D Ponton pick-up originated with the six original post-World War II independent South African importers, namely, Cargo Motors (Johannesburg), NMI (Durban), Stanley Porter (Cape Town), Haaks Garage (Pretoria), Ronnie’s Motors (East London) and John Williams (Bloemfontein).


“They were all marketing Mercedes-Benz and various other makes in the late 1950s and were looking at how they could increase their sales which were severely limited by the strict allocation of passenger car import permits – in 1955 only 100 Mercedes-Benz cars could be imported.

“A pick-up or bakkie, as we call them in South Africa, was classified as a commercial vehicle which was subject to fewer import restrictions. With the co-operation of the Mercedes-Benz central office which then operated in Johannesburg, the six importers arranged with Daimler-Benz AG to import ‘half-cars – the built-up Type 180D but without the body section behind the ‘B’ pillars to which they then fitted a locally made load-box.

“The biggest problem was to find a local coach builder capable of making a ‘car-quality’ load-box that fitted the lines of the 180D.

“The work was eventually entrusted to body builders, Morewear Industries of Germiston, which after laborious efforts, achieved a very successful result. The distributors were insistent a high quality standard should be maintained, particularly as buyers were found to use these vehicles mostly as passenger cars.

“Several hundred were built between 1956 and 1958. Local assembly of Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicles started in East London in January 1958, which allowed more units to be imported and the necessity for continuing with the 180D pick-up therefore disappeared.

“As far as I am aware, there are two versions of this pick-up; The South African version, which is recognisable by the gap between the cab and the load-bin and where the spare wheel is situated behind the left seat inside the cab.


“The Binz version does not have the gap between cab and load-body and the spare wheel is stored in a compartment below the tailgate. I do not know how many of the Binz versions were imported to South Africa but I have seen a few running around, but I definitely prefer the body lines of our local version.”


The other issue in the hype equation is the collaboration between Mercedes-Benz and Nissan that has given rise to comments about the X-Type being a ‘Nissan with bling’ or a ‘Navara with mascara’.

Mercedes-Benz is happy to shrug these off, stating the help from Nissan in using the Navara underpinnings was instrumental in them being able to get the X-Class to market in a much shorter time than it would have taken if they had to develop it all themselves.

The company also stresses even though there is Navara in the X-Class “every single part and component has been touched by Mercedes-Benz engineers and specialist” making it, they claim, a 100% Mercedes-Benz product.

Either way get over it! Collaboration between automakers is nothing new, has been going on for a long time, and will continue to do so.

Nadia Trimmel, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans Southern Africa says: “There has never been a more perfect time for Mercedes-Benz Vans to enter the bakkie segment in South Africa. But in true Mercedes-Benz fashion, we are opening this segment to a new customer group who want a robust bakkie with refined sophistication and unparalleled driving comfort.”

Mercedes-Benz X-Klasse – Power Interieur

“This is the first bakkie to convincingly combine the versatility of a double-cab with the luxury of a passenger car. The X-Class is robust with exceptional load capacity and off-road capability, but yet it’s also aesthetically pleasing, dynamic to drive, comfortable and safe.”

As mentioned Mercedes does not do sales numbers, but she said much of the target market would be to place the X-Class as the second Merc in the garage!

The X-Class locally is launched with two design and equipment lines for different lifestyles and working environments. The X-Class Progressive is aimed at consumers seeking a rugged bakkie with extra styling and comfort functions, while also being a comfortable yet prestigious vehicle for private or dual use.

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.

At launch only two diesel variants are available with the V6 petrol due in the first quarter next year. The common-rail diesel drive system with a displacement of 2,3-litres is available with a choice of two power outputs.

In the X220d, the engine generates 120 kW and in the X250d 140 kW.

The media launch drive took us on the stunningly scenic Devil’s Peak Pass in the Outeniqua Mountains near George in the Western Cape. Closed to the public, the rarely used pass was in existence when Sir Thomas Bain started building the Montagu Pass (opened in 1848) and the much longer Prince Alfred’s Pass.

He used Devil’s Peak as the route for his supply wagons and, although he did not actually build it, made some modifications to make it easier to negotiate.

The pass is narrow, rough and traversed only at a snail’s pace – a good test of the capability of the vehicle and the X-Class has no problems with ground clearance, tractability and the like.


My only gripe was the engine was surprisingly noisy in the upper end of the rev range and the electronic steering ‘loosened’ up too much to allow proper communication between the driver and the actual angle of the front wheels.

As speed increased the steering ‘tightened’ and the problem went away. While it is unlikely the vast majority of X-Class bakkies will do more than a bit of kerb-crawling in posh shopping centres where this steering disconnect will never be noticed, it is possibly worth an engineering thought to somehow recalibrate it when low range is selected.

Admittedly, due to time constraints, I drove only this one variant and will have to wait for road test versions to see if this is a reality or aberration.

The X 220 d is available in rear-wheel drive, while the X 250d is offered in rear-wheel drive or with engageable all-wheel drive, with low-range. Power is transferred via a six-speed manual transmission.

Its special feature is the wide transmission spacing, with a short first gear for maximum torque and a long sixth gear to keep rev speeds down. This design makes allowance for typical situations such as hill starts with a horse or boat trailer in tow and long-distance comfort on motorways.

A seven-speed automatic transmission is available for the 140 kW, X 250 d and X 250 d 4MATIC models.

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 that 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. With Active Brake Assist and Lane Keeping Assist options, driver assistance systems increase safety and comfort.

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.


In fact, there is so much electronic kit in this bakkie in the form of driver assistance, it does rather take the challenge out of genuine off-roading.

The major off-road facts are: Wading depth 600 mm, Ground clearance 221 mm, approach angle 30,1 degrees, departure angle 25,9 degrees, maximum tilt 49 degrees, breakover angle 22 degrees and gradeability 100%.

The Mercedes-Benz X-Class offers line-specific packages. These include the Parking Package (Parktronic and a 360 degree camera); Comfort Package (driver and co-driver lumbar support, electrically adjustable seats for the driver and co-driver, Artico / Dinamica seat covers, Thermotronic automatic air-conditioner and a stowage net in co-driver foot-well) and the Style Package (LED high performance headlights, partial LED tail lamps, roof rails, a privacy glass, electrically opening rear window, 18-inch alloy wheels and running boards). In addition, the Winter Package offers driver and co-driver heated seats and heated washer fluid jets.

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.


Road Impressions – Mahindra Pik Up Double Cab S10 4×4

Idioms and expressions – in the English language certainly – can sometimes be unfair or even politically incorrect and the (oft) used ‘so ugly he/she/it is beautiful’ comes to mind when referring to the all-new Mahindra PikUp.

It is unfair because the designers have made significant changes to the styling, especially at the front, and even if it does look as if it were carved from a brick, the return on that is excellent front and rear headroom – often compromised on the more svelte looking opposition.

Although it retains much of the look of the original Scorpio bakkie, the most compelling changes are to the front of the Mahindra Pik Up, where the grille, headlights, bonnet and fog lamps have all undergone a substantial redesign.

The new grille design is smarter, utilising a glossy black finish with subtle chrome accents, as well as a more prominent Mahindra badge, while the lower air intake has been reshaped to provide a stronger visual integration with the grille.

Black mesh inserts are consistently applied to both the main grille and the lower air intake, creating a more consistent appearance.

The headlights on either side of the grille are also completely new, with a cleaner, more resolute appearance and a new curved LED daytime running light signature for the S10 Double Cab.

Bolder fog lamps are mounted in restyled apertures that are linked to the lower edge of the headlights. The redesigned front-end styling is accompanied by 16-inch alloy wheels.

These, however, need a redesign and the protruding wheel centres are ugly and cheapen the overall outside appearance.

Inside, the most obvious improvements are the upholstery and the large six-inch, full colour touch screen display on the S10 Double Cab models located in the centre console.

The Mahindra Pik Up’s cabin is also comprehensively equipped. As the flagship model of the range, the S10 Double Cab gets remote central locking, cruise control, navigation and a multifunction steering wheel.

Safety features such as anti-lock brakes, EBD, Dual air bags, crash protection crumple zones and collapsible steering column are standard features.

The management system provides vehicle related information, while the automatic temperature control maintains the cabin ambience.

On the driver’s side the easy to read instrument cluster provides the vital statistics of the drive and journey and the new steering wheel incorporates  cruise control, audio and telephone controls.

Other advances include the introduction of Micro-hybrid technology that enables the engine intelligently to switch into standby mode when not in use, saving on both fuel and the environment. Rain and light sensors automatically turn the lights on in adverse lighting conditions and the wipers on in the rain.

There are three headrests in the rear and three-point seat belts for all seats along with two ISOFIX anchors in rear seat. Static bending headlamp technology improves the comfort of driving during the night.

The Pik Up has an updated 2,2-litre four-cylinder mHawk turbo-diesel engine, which makes use of a variable geometry turbo-charger to produce 103 kW. The torque peak of 320 Nm is reached at just 1 600 r/min and sustained to 2 800 r/min,.

The turbo-diesel engine is linked to a six-speed manual gearbox driving the rear wheels and  features ‘on-the-fly’ switching from two-wheel drive to four-wheel drive. The entire range is fitted with an Eaton MLD (Mechanical Locking Differential) as standard.

Initial impressions on the launch drive were of a quiet engine, much improved ride and handling, less deviance in cross winds – in short, a capable vehicle that should have huge fleet appeal, especially in the small business sector.

This is emphasised by its 1 000 kg maximum payload and 2 500 kg braked towing capacity – supporting the pay off line of ‘Loves Work, Loves Weekends’.

It offers a load space measuring 1 489 x 1 520 x 550 mm and even with some intrusion from the rear wheel arches, the additional depth of the load bed compared to other double cabs on the market is some level of compensation.

Comparisons are inevitable, if possibly a little unfair as the PikUp has no garden party aspirations where the only ‘off-road’ experience likely are urban speed humps and the odd pothole.

The PikUp is designed to work and play and most weekend off-roaders will be a lot happier to press this into more demanding ‘donga-diving’ with the chance of a couple of dings and scrapes than they would their vastly more expensive kerb-crawlers.

Against vehicles such as the Hilux 2.4 GD6, Amarok 2.0 BiTDi, Triton 2.4Di and Ranger 2.2, it does give away a fair bit in terms of both power and torque – the Hilux offering 110/400, the Amarok 132/420 and the Ranger 118/385 for example. It is, however, a tad stronger than the Isuzu KB 2500 D-Teq, which has 100 kW and 320 Nm.

There is not a lot in it – on the highway the PikUp will easily chortle along at the speed limit with enough in reserve for most overtaking requirements without the need to drop a cog and it runs with an overall fuel consumption of 7,9 l/100 km. Carbon emission are 211 g/km.

In 4×4 country, it offers more than enough low rev grunt to weasel its way through pretty much any obstacle. Perhaps its biggest downfall in really tight situations is its 5 175 mm length but compensation for this is the good height of the driver’s seat and the forward vision over the shortish bonnet.

The 6,7 metre turning circle radius could, I believe, be improved and it needs a rear parking distance sensor – but definitely needs to lose the audible shriek every time reverse gear is engaged.

The pricing – well below that of its opposition – includes a 4 Year /120 000 km Warranty and roadside assistance, and a 5 Year / 90 000 km Service Plan. Services are at 20 000 km intervals or every 12 months, whichever comes first.

In the world of double cab off-roaders, the Mahindra PikUp is the unsophisticated sophisticate.

What the difference in Retail price is really worth:

  Mahindra Hilux Amarok Ranger
Retail Price R354 995 R570 700 R596 200 R586 900
Lease Repayments

(4 years/120 000km

R7 253 R11 660 R12 180 R11 990
Insurance – Monthly R1 509 R2 425 R2 534 R2 494


Road Impressions – Nissan Navara 2.3D Double Cab 4×4 Auto

Brand allegiance plays a crucial role in the cutthroat world of ‘bakkie’ sales in the South African market and goes a long way to explaining why automakers will go out of their way to provide very specific model derivatives and specifications to satisfy customer requirements.

In the last 10 or 15 years, the light commercial vehicle market competition has become intense – and the brand allegiance is often more from the manufacturer side than the consumer, with the former trying to keep customers and the latter becoming ever more choosy and demanding, knowing if manufacturer ‘A’ does not offer item ‘X’ then manufacturer ‘B’ will make it happen.

Tough economic conditions have forced the overall market to contract somewhat, but has not lessened the intensity at all levels – business workhorse vehicles, combo work and play or the pure leisure segment.

The new Nissan Navara, launched locally earlier this year, falls mainly in the leisure segment where vehicles of this type are widely taken in place of a company car and the leisure pursuits are more genteel and rarely involve full-on donga-diving.

The demand here is for all the safety specification and systems that would be found in a luxury car along with the identical convenience and comfort features – and the Navara provides all of this in bucket loads.

The design of the Navara centres on the V-motion grille where the chrome grille flows into the creased bonnet and is resolved on the tailgate, which features a stamped V-motif.

Hints of SUV-features are seen in the full LED-headlights with boomerang-style LED daytime running lights across the range.

Viewed in profile, the lowered roof line (by 20 mm) gives it a more sporty look helped by the diamond-cut wheel design and 18=inch rubber.

The load bay on double cab versions has been stretched by 67 mm to 1 503 mm and been made deeper (474 mm from 456 mm), resulting in a capacity of 1 061 litres.

Load carrying capacity has also been upgraded significantly. The new Navara can carry up to 1 002 kg, depending on specification level and can tow a braked trailer of up to 3 500 kg.

The Navara has a 229 mm ground clearance, but the new raised suspension set-up has allowed for a 3-degree improvement in the approach (33,0 degrees), ramp-over (25,2 degrees) and departure angles (27,9 degrees). The suspension and drivetrain set-up also means the Navara has a lateral tilt angle of up to 50 degrees.

The fully-boxed ladder-frame chassis has been reinforced with high-strength steel  and improvements in design and manufacturing result in a 176 kg weight reduction over the previous generation Navara.

The 2 298 cm3 engine in the Navara is a new one for the coming, being a twin-turbo diesel that combines common rail direct injection and both a smaller, high pressure turbo and a larger, low pressure turbo to deliver more linear power throughout the engine speed range.

The two turbos are connected with a series of bypass and impeller valves to optimise boost pressure at different engine speeds. The smaller, high-pressure turbo is utilised mainly at low engine speeds, although neither turbo is disengaged fully at any engine speed. At higher engine speeds, the exhaust gas flow is channelled to the large, low pressure turbo. This layout allows for more low-speed power and improved fuel consumption.

The new engine delivers 140 kW at 3 750 r/min and 450 Nm available between 1 500 r/min  and 2 500 r/min. Fuel consumption in a combined cycle has been officially rated at 6,5 l/100 km, which we found to be somewhat optimistic.

Covering nearly 500 km of city, urban and rural (excluding dirt) roads on the test route my overall average was 10,6 l/100 km and this brings it into line with the opposition vehicles on the market that all average between 10,0 l/100 km and 11,0 l/100 km.

In this category power and torque mean a lot and the Navara is bested only by the 3,2-litre Ford Ranger with 17 kW and 470 Nm.

My test vehicle was the 7-speed automatic variant and I was a tad at odds with the ratio choice – trying to maintain a steady 120 km/h (on the speedo) on an open, if undulating, road I found it tended to hunt a little too often on longer inclines.

Getting off road and into more challenging terrain, the auto box worked extremely well, allowing me to keep both hands on the steering wheel at all times – and, naturally, the Navara has both High Range and Low Range options available at the twirl of a dial on the dashboard.

It soaks up bumps and ruts being the first mainstream pick-up to offer a coil spring five link rear suspension (Land Rover did use a coil spring on its pick-up some time back).

The set-up combines traditional pick-up load carrying capabilities, with the benefits of improved road holding, car-like ride comfort even over rutted gravel roads and better tracking through high-speed corners.

In four-wheel drive mode, either High or Low, the Navara will engage its new Active Brake Limited Slip Differential system (ABLS). This electronic system actively manages power delivery and wheel braking between the front and rear axles and between the left and right of the vehicle, depending on traction and speed.

The ABLS system works in conjunction with the Vehicle Dynamic Control system (VDC) and anti-lock brakes and the High-spec models also add Hill-start Assist (HSA) and Hill Descent Control (HDC) as standard features, also connected to the ABLS-system.

Inside, the plasticky look of the previous version is gone and replaced with soft-touch materials  and Spinal Support front seats that feature a new spinal channel in high-density foam. These seats are designed to distribute body pressure on the seat surface and have been proven to reduce fatigue significantly over long journeys – and they do!

Leather seats with heating function and electrical adjustment on driver’s seat, are available as optional on the High-grade models.

The on-board Navigation system with 3D mapping and live traffic updates, includes radio – with up to 30 pre-set radio stations, video in DVD/VCD/CD/MP3 or MPEG4 format, USB connectivity and Bluetooth with audio streaming – all operated from the steering wheel.

Standard luxuries include automatic headlights,  air-conditioning, cruise control, three 12V sockets in the cabin, an automatic dimming rear view mirror and seven air bags (including an air bag to protect the driver’s knees).

High-grade models also add features such as dual zone climate control and keyless entry with a Start/Stop button.

On the new Navara, the Nissan Assured warranty includes a mechanical warranty for 6 years or 150 000 km and a comprehensive 3-year / 90 000 km service plan.

Land grab

Even in South Africa’s tough economic times the growth in the SUV market continues – as does the demand for tyres that equally meet requirements for top level on and off-road activity.

General Tire, a brand of Continental Tyre South Africa (CTSA), has launched its latest offerings in the form of  the all-terrain Grabber AT3 and the extreme-terrain Grabber X3.

The Grabber AT3 replaces the previous-generation Grabber AT, General Tire’s multiple award-winning tyre designed for all-terrain applications. Retaining the 50/50 on/off-road bias of its predecessor, the new AT3 was developed to meet the needs of sport utility vehicle (SUV), bakkie and off-road vehicle drivers who demand the combination of exceptional off-road abilities and confident on-road manners.

In the aggressive new Grabber X3, General Tire has a flagship mud-terrain tyre that delivers uncompromising off-road performance coupled with good on-road manners. Relying on its 80/20 off-road bias, the Grabber X3 employs bold styling, matched to exceptional performance and durability for conquering the most challenging 4×4 terrains.

“The launch of the all-new Grabber AT3 and X3 represents an exciting new chapter for General Tire in South Africa,” says Ryan Visagie, Product Communications Manager at CTSA.

“Offering the latest designs and technologies in their respective segments, both tyres further raise the benchmark in terms of capability and durability, building on General Tire’s proven performance, reliability and American heritage that spans more than 100 years.”

“As one of the leading contenders in the all-terrain replacement tyre category, the Grabber AT3 continues our proud legacy with superb all-round performance and dependability,” Visagie adds. “The Grabber X3, is an extreme-terrain tyre with several innovative features that ensure it excels in the harshest conditions such as mud, dirt and rocks.”

The impressive new AT3 and X3 join the existing Grabber GT, which is specifically designed for high-performance suvs. The GT delivers outstanding handling and braking performance on dry and wet roads, allied to high comfort and low noise levels.

The local General Tire line-up is further bolstered by the Altimax passenger car tyre range, comprising the Altimax Sport for precise handling and braking, along with the Altimax Comfort, which focuses on superb comfort, refinement and durability.

 The new AT3 features three innovative technologies developed to enhance all-round performance and durability: tracgen, duragen and comfort balance.

The standard Grabber AT3 tyre range is available in 13 sizes catering for 15 to 20-inch rim diameters. Later this year, the Grabber AT3 range will be bolstered with a further nine reinforced light truck (LT) offerings in 15-inch to 18-inch sizes, which are designed for heavy duty applications.

Compared to its highly-rated predecessor, the new Grabber AT3’s on and off-road performance has improved in several key areas, including noise levels and irregular wear. Traction in snow, muddy conditions and on wet grass has been improved, along with cut-and-chip resistance.

Designed to conquer the most demanding off-road terrains, the new Grabber X3 takes General Tire’s ‘Anywhere is Possible’ brand promise to new heights. Positioned as an extreme terrain offering, it is ideally suited to three of the most challenging off-road driving conditions, comprising mud, dirt and rock – hence the name, X3.

The Grabber X3 relies on an enhanced version of General Tire’s Duragen Technology, using a three-ply construction across the range. This guarantees exceptional durability and puncture resistance.

As with the Grabber AT3, the new Grabber X3 raises the bar in virtually every sphere of off-road performance, while on-road capability has been similarly improved.

The Grabber X3 is available in a total of five sizes encompassing 15-inch to 17-inch rim sizes.

X-Class launched in Cape Town

There is a character named Travis McGee in a series of novels by John D MacDonald who drives around in a bright blue Rolls Royce pickup.

Besides the greatness of both the character and the books, as a petrolhead the idea of a modifying a Roller into a ‘bakkie’ had huge appeal – even if way, way off the financial radar.

So, after all the hype and shadowy sketches, Mercedes-Benz have kinda stepped into that place with the official launch in Cape Town of the X-Class pickup. Essentially the world’s most luxurious pickup, the company is quick to point out it will also serve the more traditional role of being a workhorse.

There are three design and equipment variants to choose from as well as four or six-cylinder engines, rear-wheel drive and engageable or permanent all-wheel drive, a six-speed manual transmission and a seven-speed automatic transmission.

In addition there are six different seat covers, including two leather variants, three sets of cockpit trim parts and a diverse range of accessories developed by Mercedes-Benz. These allow the X-Class to be modified to suit personal tastes and requirements like no other pickup, both visually and in terms of functionality.

“The X-Class is the first genuine pickup with convincing passenger car characteristics. It’s robust, strong and with good off-road capability – just like a pickup should be.

“It’s also aesthetically pleasing, dynamic to drive, comfortable, safe, connected and individual – as you would expect from a Mercedes. As a result, the X-Class pushes the boundaries of the classic pickup and makes this vehicle segment attractive for private use, too. With three design and equipment lines and an extensive scope of further individualisation options, we offer the ideal vehicle for a range of different customer groups and their needs,” says Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans

The demand for mid-size pickups with typical passenger car characteristics and comfort features has been steadily on the rise for years. At the same time, the number of pickups for private use is increasing and they are no longer viewed purely as workhorses.

Mercedes-Benz says this tough performance pickup delivers a driveability and handling that matches many demands – both with regard to driving dynamics and ride comfort. This is attained thanks to a comfort suspension with the fine tuning expected of a Mercedes. It consists of a ladder-type frame, rear multi-link solid axle, front independent wheel suspension and coil springs on both axles.

Built on this platform, the distinctive design of the X-Class is available in three model variants to suit different lifestyles and work environments:

* 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 pickup 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 sports and leisure activities off the beaten track. Through its design and high level of equipment it reflects an independent and individualistic lifestyle.

The X-Class can haul a payload of up to 1,1 tons. That is enough to transport 17 full 50-litre barrels of beer in the cargo area. Able to tow up to 3,5 tons, it can also pull a trailer containing three horses or an eight-metre yacht.

Thanks to its long 3150-millimetre wheelbase, the short and cladded front overhang, the backward shifted passenger compartment and the very long rear overhang, the X-Class has an elongated vehicle body.

The design of the side windows with their dynamic kink along the beltline and taut lines contrasting with muscular, sculpted surfaces also allude to the longitudinal dynamics. Widely flared wheel arches, the commanding front and the purist design of the rear all accentuate the impression of width. Together they give the pickup a powerful on-road presence and make reference to the X-Class’s excellent lateral dynamics.

In terms of width, the load bed is designed in such a way that a Euro-pallet can be loaded straight between the wheel arches.

The X-Class is the only mid-size pickup to be equipped with lighting in the cargo area as standard. The third brake light contains LED lights, which illuminate the whole load bed. Operation is by a switch in the centre console. As soon as the ignition is switched on, those lights turn off automatically.

A 12-volt socket to power additional equipment such as compressors, for example, is also part of the standard equipment in the load bed.

Dimensions of the X-Class:

Vehicle – length 5 340 mm Vehicle width1 920 mm; Vehicle height 1 819 mm; Wheelbase 3 150 mm; Load bed length 587 mm; Load bed width 1 560 mm; Load bed height 474 mm

.The instrument panel has the concave trim element typical of a Mercedes. It stretches across the entire width of the instrument panel – a novel feature in this vehicle segment.

The instrument cluster consists of the large, analogue round dials from the C-Class and V-Class. In the X-Class PROGRESSIVE and POWER they are tubular. A 5,4-inch colour multimedia display is nestled between the round dials. Thanks to the push-buttons on the standard-fit three-spoke multifunction steering wheel, the settings on the colour display can be controlled without drivers having to take their hands off the steering wheel. The steering wheel with its 12 buttons in total is height-adjustable, thereby improving ergonomic posture and allowing a relaxed seating position.

In the X-Class PROGRESSIVE and POWER, the steering wheel, shift lever knob and handbrake lever are also covered in leather. In conjunction with the Audio 20 CD and COMAND Online multimedia systems, and in addition to the central control unit, the X-Class contains the multifunction touchpad familiar from the passenger car model series – the multifunction touchpad is another novelty in this segment. It is located in an ergonomic position on the centre console and, like a smartphone, it can be controlled using gestures or by entering letters and characters.

The high-torque common-rail diesel drive system with a displacement of 2,3 litres is available with a choice of two power outputs.

In the X 220d with single turbo-charger it generates 120 kW and in the biturbo X 250d no less than 140 kW.

Both diesel models are available with purely rear wheel drive or with engageable all-wheel drive.

Power is transferred via a six-speed manual transmission. A seven-speed automatic transmission is available on request for the 140 kW X 250d and X 250d 4MATIC models.

A high-torque V6 diesel engine will be released mid-2018, and will generate 190 kW and a maximum torque of 550 Nm. With that the X 350d occupies a leading position in the segment. The top X-Class model will come as standard with permanent 4MATIC all-wheel drive and the seven-speed automatic transmission 7G-TRONIC PLUS with steering-wheel shift paddles and ECO start/stop function.

Coil springs are used both at the front and the rear and the comfort suspension is designed in such a way it achieves a high level of driving dynamics and ride comfort on the road, while also delivering maximum off-road capability in conjunction with 4MATIC all-wheel drive.

The suspension consists of a double wishbone front axle and a rear multi-link solid axle that is ideal for transporting heavy loads and has good articulation capability. This combination ensures that the suspension is comfortable and the handling is safe given any permitted load condition.

The X-Class’s high level of occupant protection results from its especially solid car body with a high-strength passenger cell and a structure with a front and rear that can absorb energy through well-aimed deformation.

Furthermore, passive safety is provided thanks to standard equipment such as seven air bags and the i-Size attachment system for two child seats.

For active safety, three driver assistance systems are at the ready, simultaneously increasing safety and comfort: Active Brake Assist, Lane Keeping Assist and Traffic Sign Assist. Additionally, there are Trailer Stability Assist, tyre pressure monitoring system, emergency call system, cruise control and LED headlamps that deliver the brightest light output in the segment thanks to six LEDs respectively. If required, a 360-Degree Camera is available in addition to a reversing camera.

“The segment for mid-size pickups is ripe for a premium vehicle. With the X-Class we will open up this segment to new customer groups, just as we redefined the off-road segment with the M-Class more than 20 years ago. Our pickup convinces as a workhorse, yet also as a family and lifestyle vehicle. In short, the X-Class is the Mercedes among pickups,” says Dr Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars.

The South African versions will be launched during next year.


Tested – Mitsubishi Triton 2.4 Di-D 4×2 (auto)

As mad as South Africans are about bakkies, they are also often a partisan crowd and different places around the country tend to show a predominance of favour for a certain brand.

Where I live on the South Coast of KwaZulu Natal – often called the slow coast for good reason – the Ford Ranger is edging ahead based on visible numbers on the road. However, when one starts paying attention to the make there are still surprising numbers of Colt bakkies on active duty.

The Mitsubishi Colt – particularly the 2,8-litre diesel – was hugely popular and when the marque left the Mercedes-Benz stable and the original Triton came out – well, for folk locally, it just was not quite the same so they hung onto their Colts, tended to the rust and carried on until replacement was essential.

That moment came well before the new generation Triton was launched – hence the rise in popularity of other makes.

Will new Triton make inroads. In this sales microcosm it will be interesting to watch.

Should Triton make inroads. Damn straight!

The 2017 model, the fifth in the Colt/Triton lineage, is the most advanced pick-up ever to be developed by Mitsubishi  and launched in South Africa earlier this year, following successful introduction to Australia, Brazil, Europe and the Middle East.

Engineers improved 185 key areas of the Triton, compared to its predecessor, ranging from deepening and reinforcing the loading bay, revising the shape of the bonnet for aerodynamic efficiency and refining the driving position for improved in-vehicle visibility and comfort.

Other famous elements such as the distinct J-line between the cabin and the load bay have been reworked for benchmark interior space. This is immediately apparent to all passengers, particularly those seated in the back of the double-cab models.

While I like the looks and flowing lines, achieving those has compromised rear seat (adult) passengers on longer journeys where the reduced visibility from the small windows can become a tad claustrophobic.

The sculpted bonnet, bold grille and wrap-around headlights flow into a deep shoulder-line that connects to the new tail lights and a curved tailgate that now facilitates one-handed operation. The integrated brake light on the tailgate cannot be obscured like those on cab-mounted versions.

The design is further tweaked by the addition of chrome accents around the front driving lights, grille and flush-mounted door handles. Newly designed side steps and 17-inch alloy wheels complete the updates.

The combined engineering effort, which has radically improved the new Triton over its predecessor, is perhaps most evident inside the cabin, which was purposely shaped to mirror the same level of comfort and convenience as Mitsubishi’s range of SUV-models and iconic Pajero – the upcoming Pajero Sport actually being developed off  the Triton.

Getting in and out of the new Triton is not only much easier, but sitting behind the steering wheel feels more natural thanks to a commanding driver position offering improved visibility over the front of the vehicle.

The driver has the benefit of a new dashboard with easy-to-clean surfaces chosen for practicality. Range-specific features on the new model include an intuitive touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity and USB audio input as well as the keyless push-button Stop/Start system.

Standard are cruise control, dual-zone auto air-conditioning, a reverse camera, an electrically adjustable driver’s seat, tilt and telescopic steering wheel adjustment and leather upholstery.

The cabin itself has been stretched by 20 mm to 1 745 mm to further improve cabin space, while shoulder room ‒ both front and rear ‒ has been improved. Subtle changes include redesigned seats offering additional bolstering and higher density foam for more comfortable long distance driving.

The double-cab’s rear bench is angled by a class-leading 25 degrees. This not only adds additional leg and shoulder space, but mitigates the typical upright position that is synonymous with double-cab pick-ups. To round off the impressive cabin, Mitsubishi’s engineers have added thicker sound deadening material to the engine firewall and under the floor.

 The Mitsubishi Triton is fitted with an aluminium block four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine. The new engine offers the ideal combination of a fast spooling turbo-charger with an unconventionally low compression ratio of 15.5:1 which aids responsive torque delivery at low engine speeds.

The 2.4 MIVEC engine also features reinforced steel piston sleeves for durability and an integrated common rail direct injection system. This engine weighs 30 kg less than its predecessor.

Power delivery is rated at 133 kW at 3 500 r/min with torque peaking at 430 Nm at 2 500 r/min. Fuel consumption is rated at 7,6 l/100 km in a combined cycle. In the test cycle this was easily achieved and bettered with the vehicle unladen and carrying a full load I managed 8,7 l/100 km.

The new 2.4 MIVEC turbo-diesel delivers power to the rear through the choice of a shorter-shifting six-speed manual gearbox, or a five-speed automatic transmission as was the case with my test unit.

Triton owes its better road manners to revised stabiliser bars, stiffer front springs and significantly larger rubber body mountings on the ladder frame chassis.

The overall combination can be experienced by less body roll and pitching – unwanted tendencies usually associated with a heavy nose and empty load bin. Once again, the J-line allowed engineers to shorten the wheelbase which leads to crisper manoeuvrability.

Further handling gains can be attributed to the Hydraulic Power Steering system that is more direct at 3,8 turns lock-to-lock (as opposed to the 4,3 turns of its predecessor) and tightening the cornering radius to 5,9 metres.

That’s what Mitsubishi says – in reality the steering is still a bit too vague when the vehicle is unladen especially on gravel roads when travelling briskly. The combination of vague steering and front end wash if the turn in is a little too heavy can lead to some nervous moments.

Fortunately, it does come with Active Stability and Traction Control to mitigate and this works rather well without being too intrusive in normal driving situations. It comes standard with anti-lock braking and EBD as well as Hill Start Assist (HSA).

One of the reasons the Colt did so well in this market was its solid dependability. The new Triton gives off that same feeling.

All models have a 5-year/90 000 km service plan and 3-year/100 000 km manufacturer’s warranty.

2.4 Di-DC 4X2 5-speed A/T
Engine Type
DOHC MIVEC Common Rail
Fuel Type Diesel
Max. Output 133 kW @ 3 500 r/min
Max. Torque 43 Nm @ 2 500 r/min
Fuel Tank Capacity 75L
Towing Capacity (Braked) 1 500 kg
Towing Capacity (Unbraked) 750 kg

IT – not just geek stuff

Mention IT in capital letters and images of geeks, nerds and Big Bang Theory reruns instantly cloud the mind.

Mention IT in capital letters and images of geeks, nerds and Big Bang Theory reruns instantly cloud the mind. However, IT in this instance stands for Isuzu and Triton – both fairly new but long enough on the market to establish some sales traction.

Our two test vehicles are not actually going head-to-head since the Isuzu is all-wheel drive and the Triton a standard two-wheel drive. Common ground is both are double cabs and specced to appeal to the leisure market.

The leisure end of the South African LCV (bakkie) market is as intriguing as it is diverse with a large gap between the two top sellers and the other players – the two top players in the market, Toyota and Ford, both have enormous ranges with a bakkie to suit almost every level of desire.

Hilux still leads the sales race from the Ranger and then there is quite a gap to the next level where both the Isuzu and Triton compete (joined here by the likes of Fiat Fullback, Nissan Navara and Volkswagen Amarok).

Isuzu, perhaps, is out of step with the main players in terms of model renewal so, while the Triton is all-new, the KB recently had a refresh.

Key changes included a new front fascia design including changes to bonnet, radiator grille and fog lamps, new headlamps with projector and integrated LED day time running lights on LX models, new tailgate styling on extended and double cab models, rear view camera integrated to tailgate handle on LX double cab models, new 18-inch alloy wheels for LX models and a new 16-inch styled wheel for the rest of the range.

Our test vehicle carried the 3,0-litre DTEQ turbo-charged diesel engine with 130 kW and 380 Nm on offer. Combined cycle fuel consumption is 7,9 l/100 km for 4×4 double cab.

A key feature of LX models is a touch screen infotainment system with satellite navigation, internet, Wi-Fi, and smartphone integration. The screen – a 1 080 high-definition TFT unit with a 6,5-inch dimension – also acts as the display when browsing, or using the DVD player.

The Rear Park Assist reverse camera is now integrated into the rear tailgate handle on all LX double cab models.

Passive entry and start system (PESS) is a keyless entry with Start/Stop ignition button is standard on all LX double cab models. Leather is available as standard on the 4×4 auto and manual double cabs and as an option on 4×2 Double Cab derivatives.

For Mitsubishi, the new vehicle is the fifth iteration of the Colt/Triton legacy and arrived in South Africa some while after launching in markets such as Australia, Brazil, Europe and the Middle East.

“From the onset, the brief to designers and engineers was to maintain the essence of the Triton, but also to improve on aspects of ride, handling and comfort to create a truly SUV-like experience from behind the wheel,” says Nic Campbell, general manager at Mitsubishi Motors South Africa.

Engineers improved 185 key areas of the Triton, compared to its predecessor, ranging from deepening and reinforcing the loading bay, revising the shape of the bonnet for aerodynamic efficiency and refining the driving position for improved in-vehicle visibility and comfort.

Other elements such as the distinct J-line between the cabin and the load bay have been reworked for benchmark interior space. This is immediately apparent to all passengers, particularly those seated in the back of the double-cab models.

The design features chrome accents around the front driving lights, grille and flush-mounted door handles, newly designed side steps and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Range-specific features on the new model include an intuitive touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity and USB audio input as well as the keyless push-button Stop/Start system.

The driver is made to feel at home thanks to cruise control, dual-zone auto air-conditioning, a reverse camera, an electrically adjustable driver’s seat, tilt and telescopic steering wheel adjustment and leather upholstery, to name but a few of the standard creature comforts.

The cabin itself has been stretched by 20 mm to 1,745 mm to improve cabin space, while shoulder room – both front and rear – has been improved.

The Triton is fitted with an aluminium block four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine with reinforced steel piston sleeves for durability and an integrated common rail direct injection system.

Power delivery is rated at 133 kW at 3 500 r/min with torque peaking at 430 Nm at 2 500 r/min. Fuel consumption is rated at 7,6 l/100 km in a combined cycle.

On the double-cab versions, Mitsubishi engineers have added the ASTC (Active Stability and Traction Control) system, which modulates both braking and engine power to maintain the chosen driving line in slippery conditions. The range comes standard with anti-lock braking and EBD as well as Hill Start Assist (HSA).

With just 3 kW and 0,3 l/100 km difference between the two vehicles, there is little to separate them there – and equally little in terms of modern luxury fittings or vehicle safety and driver aids.

Although demand for luxury SUV bakkies remains strong in South Africa, the reality is most spend their time negotiating the urban horrors of potholes and deteriorating road surfaces – so the full 4×4 options rarely find themselves doing bush duty (except, of course, for those bought by enthusiasts).

Thus, the main comparison between the Isuzu and the Triton comes in operation as daily commuter vehicles with off-road limited to unpaved surfaces rather than donga-diving.

On the dirt, the Isuzu just shades the Triton – the slightly heavier Isuzu (3 100 kg) feeling a tad more balanced on dirt roads whereas the Triton was just a little too eager to press home its slight power and torque advantage, resulting in it becoming tail happy.

Doing the daily commute, perhaps the additional torque of the Triton gave it advantage by allowing a higher gear to be held for that much longer.

On clearer roads where the two vehicles could stretch their legs, nothing in it at all and both were long haul comfortable with about equal results in terms of wind and road noise – and both of those came in at agreeably low.

In the tighter sections the Triton had a slightly better turn in to corners, but road holding was on a par – perhaps more impressive from the Isuzu as one would have expected the extra mass here would compromise it under hard cornering.

At the end of the day the choice for any buyer has to be whether they want the full facility of 4×4 or just a an upmarket, comfortable and spacious bakkie that can workhorse or trail bike hauler.