Mercedes grabs the top premium pickup title, at a price, says Dan Gilkes.
The premium pickup market is in rude health, despite a fall in car and van sales, with orders climbing as fast as power outputs and list prices. Mercedes-Benz is the most recent entrant to the sector, with the X-Class that we first drove at the end of 2017.
Initially the big Merc was only available with four-cylinder power, using the single and twin turbo 2.3-litre diesel engines from the truck’s donor manufacturer Nissan. These offer the same 160bhp and 190bhp outputs that you can find in the firm’s own Navara, mated to six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic boxes with selectable four-wheel drive.
But there was always more to come, with Mercedes set to go after Volkswagen’s premium pickup crown, with a home-grown V6 engine and driveline. That model has now arrived, its 3.0-litre Mercedes V6 boasting a faintly ridiculous 258bhp, with an axle-twisting 550Nm of torque.
While the auto four-cylinder models drive through a Renault-Nissan seven-speed transmission, the V6 gets Merc’s own 7G-Tronic Plus box as standard. This in turn powers a permanent four-wheel drive 4Matic driveline.
The results, for those worried about such things, are a promised 31.4mpg and 236g/km of CO2. With prices starting from £38,350 for the V6 X-Class however, fuel figures are unlikely to be a deciding factor.
The range-topping Merc is only available in the highest Power trim level, though the press office had still seen fit to add a further £6,500 of options to our test truck. The result was, unsurprisingly, a pleasure to drive.
As we found with the four-cylinder models, the X-Class is not simply a Navara with a different badge. It boasts completely new body panels, a wider track and a very different driving experience. The V6 simply takes that experience to a new level.
Indeed, the big Merc feels more like a luxury SUV, that just happens to have a pickup bed at the back. That’s not to say that it can’t work if you need to, the truck will still haul over 1-tonne and tow a 3.5-tonne trailer, it just drives unlike any other pickup on the market.
The engine is of course a dominant part of the experience, delivering crushing acceleration when called upon. Once you get over the novelty of a two-tonne truck that will outsprint a GTI though, it becomes an incredibly relaxing pickup to drive, cruising effortlessly.
The transmission also deserves a mention in dispatches. It comes with steering wheel mounted paddles for manual gear selection, but you will rarely use them. It is just so smooth, yet always seems to be in the right gear when you need to accelerate.
As an executive level truck, with off-road and towing abilities and potential tax advantages, it powers to the top of the premium pickup class.
Well worth the wait, the V6 X-Class delivers a driving experience that is more than a match for the competition.