Driving an off-roader was once considered a badge of individual taste. The trend was initiated in the 1970s and 1980s with models like the Range Rover, and from the 1990s, the wave of “Sport Utility Vehicles” spilled from the US into Europe. More recently, “crossover” models were added to the growing portfolio of modern vehicles. And today, crossover SUVs are beginning to replace regular passenger cars.
Which means that if you want to stand out from the crowd, you may want to refrain from buying an SUV, or a crossover. But this doesn’t mean that you should revert to a classic sedan. For another possibility, how about a pickup truck?
In the past, those who opted for a pickup instead of an SUV did so for solid reasons, as they needed to bring along a certain capacity for suffering. The huge cargo area, whether for leisure or work, and off-road capability set them apart. But rough manners came with the package.
Next to utiliarian trucks like the Isuzu D-Max and the Mitsubishi L200, the Toyota Hilux and the Nissan Navara, only two models meet higher standards: The aging Volkswagen Amarok, now with a standard V6 TDI, and the still-fresh X-Class from Mercedes-Benz. But the Benz, so far, was powered by four-cylinder truck engines from the Nissan parts bin.
Now Mercedes-Benz has added a V6 engine: The new X 350d is topping off the X-Class range with a 258-horsepower, 3.0-liter turbodiesel that delivers 550 Nm of maximum torque. This powerplant hurls the 2.3-ton truck to 100 kph in a mere 7.5 seconds; top speed is a lofty 205 kph. Fuel consumption is commendable: In the official cycle, it burns just 9 liters per 100 kilometers. And this figure can easily be undercut with a somewhat restrained driving style.
The power is transmitted to all four wheels in the X 350d via a seven-speed automatic transmission. It’s taken straight from the Mercedes-Benz car lineup, and it shines with discreet gear changes. Moreover, the six-cylinder doesn’t just push strongly, it is also extremely well insulated. There is no question: At the wheel of this pickup truck, you feel like you are piloting a luxury SUV.
And this set the X 350d apart very clearly from its sister models with the Nissan-sourced four. The 190-horsepower X 250d doesn’t just lack the V6’s refined manners, it is also much slower: The sprint to 100 kph takes a leisurely 11.8 seconds, and it tops out at just 175 kph.
The cockpit, with instruments and a central screen from the Mercedes car range, and the tastefully decorated dashboard remain unchanged, and only if you look closely you will recognize some switches from the Nissan parts bin. The X-Class, after all, is based on the Nissan Navara, although the cabin has been significantly widened and the structure has been strengthened. The driver and front passenger enjoy generous space, but the ride comfort on the steep, high-mounted rear seats leaves a bit to be desired. And while we are criticising, a bit more storage in the front would be great.
Of course, there is no lack of storage behind the cabin: The huge cargo area is 156 cm wide and 159 cm long. It can be fitted with a hardtop or a fixed or flexible cover for extra charge. By the way, with a total length of 534 cm and a width of 192 cm, the X-Class still fits into the city; its size is about equal to a luxury sedan.
And just like a luxury sedan, there isn’t one on every corner. Quite unlike the above-mentioned, ubiquitous crossovers and SUVs. In Germany, prices start around EUR 47,000.