X-Ception to the rule?

GAVIN MYERS drives the entry model into the new Mercedes-Benz X-Class range – the X 220 d 4×2 Progressive.

Around the time you read this, FOCUS will be joining Mercedes-Benz South Africa for the local launch of the V6-powered
X 350 d flagship of the X-Class range. This, it’s currently rumoured, could be South Africa’s first R1-million bakkie!

That said, it’s hard to imagine that, at R646 071, the X 220 d Progressive is only the “entry level” X-Class… Granted, that’s a long way off the R824 205 of the current top of the range model, the X 250 d Power 4×4 – and that new V6… Point is, once most bakkies reach the R600 000 echelon, they really are nearing the top of their respective ranges.

Which begs the question – is Mercedes-Benz on the right track with the X-Class?

Well, there’s not much to mark the X 220 d Progressive as the entry model. As with other Progressive models, it sports black front and body-colour rear bumper treatment, and it rides on the same 17-inch wheels.

Inside, the comfortable, supportive seats are definitely a highlight – they are possibly the best to be had in a double-cab bakkie, as is the driving position. The rear accommodation is a bit tight, though.

Not as impressive is the interior design and quality of materials used. Mercedes-Benz positions the X-Class as a premium bakkie, which means that the hard plastics and bland design of the dash, while sturdy and fit-for-bakkie purpose, are a bit of a let-down.

Practically speaking, more convenient storage spaces could’ve been dotted around, and, aesthetically speaking, I’d happily pay for one of the optional interior trim finishes over the standard, sombre black plastic dashboard inserts.

Nonetheless, what’s the X 220 d like on the road? It’s single-turbo, 2,3-litre, four-cylinder diesel engine produces 120 kW and 403 Nm; figures that are respectively 20 and 47 points down on the twin-turbo X 250 derivatives.

You don’t really notice it though, as the transmission of the smooth power delivery and low-down torque to the rear wheels, is eased by the smooth-shifting, six-speed manual gearbox (the only option with the 4×2 models).

Much has been made of the X-Class’s five-link rear suspension, and in this regard its comfort levels are good, but not class leading. The same can be said for the overall levels of ride refinement of the X 220 d. Handling wise – despite its bulk and 20-mm raised ground clearance – the X 220 d responds positively to driver inputs, offering a good amount of chassis control and feeling planted on the road.

Fuel consumption over our test week was better than expected; the X 220 d returning 9,7 l/100 km, with Mercedes-Benz claiming a combined figure of 7,5. (It’s Euro-5 rated, incidentally.)

There is one more elephant in the room that always needs to be discussed when it comes to German vehicles of any sort – the standard versus optional equipment lists… All Progressive-spec models feature as standard: heated and auto-dimming exterior mirrors; a tyre-pressure monitor; leather-covered handbrake lever, gear knob and steering wheel; electric seats; rain-sensing wipers; cruise control; hill-start assist; trailer stability assist; and a handy load-securing rail system in the load box.

Setting you back extra will be a reversing camera (R5 649), navigation (R8 474), or Parktronic with 360° camera (R14 950). There are also five options packages to choose from, and you can kit out your X-Class with 24 individual accessories (or nine accessory packs).

The X 220 d you see here was fitted with the R27 600 Style Package, which adds the anodised roof rails, running boards, rear privacy glass, electric rear window, LED headlamps and partial LED taillamps, and larger 18-inch wheels.

So, again, we must ask: is Mercedes-Benz on the right track with the X-Class? Well, first, if you don’t need 4×4 capability then the X 220 d is certainly the model to go for. It doesn’t compromise much over its more powerful siblings and, personally, I feel the manual is a better fit for the X-Class than the seven-speed auto (even if the positioning of the gear lever is clearly set for left-hand drive markets). And those who like to be seen on the road will certainly enjoy the attention the X-Class grabs.

It’s really not a bad bakkie. However, even with the standard PremiumDrive full-maintenance plan of six-years/100 000 km, it is hard to justify the premium when one looks at the competition in the R600 000 price bracket.

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Focus on Transport

FOCUS on Transport and Logistics is one of the oldest and most respected transport and logistics publications in southern Africa.
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