It’s official. The farm pickup has gone posh. Posh badge, posh spec and eye-wateringly posh money.
Yup, we’re talking serious cash here. When the flagship V6 version of the Mercedes X-Class double-cab arrives this summer — deliveries of lower cost, four-pot variants start in January — you’ll be looking at an on-the-road price, admittedly including VAT, of £50k+.
See also: Pickup test: 6 farm trucks compared
That clearly takes some justification, especially when many observers say this Merc is no more than a tweaked Nissan Navara, the pickup on which the X is based.
Do these observers have a point? Well, sort of. The X-Class is built for Mercedes by Nissan in the Japanese firm’s Barcelona factory – the four-cylinder engines, driveline and chassis are shared – and the X-Class’s exterior look is undeniably Navara-esque.
Yet the German firm responds by stating that in reality, the only identical items are the door handles, the underside of the wing mirrors, the aerial and the roof rails (where fitted), and that all other panels and components have been modified to a greater or lesser extent by Mercedes’s own engineers.
This brings us to the key question: Is the X-Class sufficiently different from the Navara to warrant its hefty price premium — of about £10k? To find out, we took a Mercedes X250 d 4Matic in top Power spec for a two-day hike through the twists and turns of North Wales.
As already mentioned, side-on the X-Class’s curves and corners seem very similar to those of the Navara, although on closer investigation there are subtle differences. Move around to the front end, however, and those differences are more dramatic.
The grille, badge and lighting pack are most definitely Mercedes — think M Class — and, given a tape measure, you’ll discover the X’s track is actually 70mm wider, its body 50mm wider, with the end result being an extra 25mm of shoulder-to-shoulder room in the cab.
A peek underneath reveals the same ladder-frame chassis configuration as the Navara — double wishbone and coils at the front, multi-link and coils at the rear — although the mounting points and settings have once again been reconfigured by the Mercedes design team.
Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s once seated that the driver will really start to spot and feel the German input. Cleverly, all points of physical contact are very much Mercedes; by that we mean the electrically adjusted and side-supported front seats, the steering wheel and gearshift, along with the rotary controller/touchpad for the high-definition central display.
The standard of trim and materials, as you’d expect, is a notch or three up on that in the Navara, although there is still an air of practical quality about the cabin.
There are niggles, though. As with the Navara, there’s no reach and only limited rake adjustment for the steering wheel, while the rear bench – though more shaped than the Nissan’s – can hardly be described as comfortable.
We reckon the X-Class actually loses out to the Navara on the number of cubby holes to stash essential toot.
While the Nissan gets a dash-top stowage tray and useful bits ‘n’ bobs area in front of the gear selector, the X-Class prefers flush sweeping surfaces with nowhere obvious to park a pen, cartridges, vet products etc; style over substance comes to mind.
Engine and transmission
Remapped by Mercedes engineers for the X-Class, the Navara’s 190hp Renault motor in our X250 is a willing performer and, when paired with Nissan’s seven-speed auto, makes for a relaxed cruiser — 70mph arrives at just 2,000rpm.
The auto gearbox hangs on to its ratios for a little too long, seemingly reluctant to change up and down at the points you’d expect, but overall, we had no complaints. Though we didn’t have the opportunity to try it, we can’t see the 3.5t tow rating presenting a problem.
For those seeking even more power, the 258hp V6 Mercedes diesel and 7G Tronic auto box package lifted out of the E-Class goes on sale this summer.
If you can afford it, this will be the sought-after power unit and should give this pickup the ‘X’ factor that its premium price demands. Mercedes acknowledges that 40-50% of potential X-Class buyers will head down the V6 route.
Ride and handling
Again, we didn’t have the opportunity to take the X-Class off road, but have no reason to believe its in-field performance would be any different to the Navara’s. Two-wheel drive along with high and low four-wheel-drive are selectable on a dial, while there’s also hill descent and the option of a lockable rear diff, too.
There are differences when travelling at speed on the road, however. Particularly noticeable is how effective Mercedes has been at reducing noise levels — the X is quieter than any other double-cab we’ve driven — and on smoother tarmac, the German firm’s mods to the Navara suspension setup appear impressively effective.
However, the less forgiving rural lanes let the onboard troops know that despite all of the Merc’s new tech and spec, you’re still in a pickup.
Farmers Weekly verdict
So, who’s going to part with the thick end of £50k for a pickup? Mercedes thinks the buyers for the top-end X-Class models will predominantly be well-heeled “life-stylers” — jet ski owners, windsurfers, boat owners — but we’re not so sure.
There’s almost certain to be a few farmers in the queue and those that do join will be in for a treat, as the X-Class offers the most SUV-like pickup drive on the market.
It’s quiet, rides and handles better than its rivals, and is loaded with spec. One parting thought, though. This sort of money will also get you into a late, high-end, low-mileage Discovery 4. Where would you rather be? Um…
Mercedes X250 d 4Matic Power
Engine: 2.3-litre, four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: Seven-speed auto, selectable 2WD/4WD
Top speed: 109mph
Kerb weight: 2,234kg
Towing capacity: 3,500kg
Price (as tested): £39,455
Price (as tested, incl VAT): £47,346
Servicing: Every two years or 18,000 miles
Warranty: Three years, unlimited mileage
*Manufacturer stats combined cycle
X-Class double-cab range
X 220 d, 163hp engine, six-speed manual, from £27,310 (ex VAT)
X 250 d, 190hp engine, seven-speed auto, from £29,310 (ex VAT)
X220 d, 163hp engine, six-speed manual, from £28, 510 (ex VAT)
X250 d, 190hp engine, seven-speed auto, from £30,510 (ex VAT)
X250 d, 190hp engine, seven-speed auto, from £34,100 (ex VAT)
Note: X350 d with 258hp V6 diesel available mid-2018