The most keenly anticipated V6 bakkie this year will make its public debut at the Geneva auto show in Switzerland, next week. But Mercedes-Benz is so excited it has decided to leak images of the X-Class X350d ahead of time.
X-Class is a massive risk for Mercedes-Benz, which already has to contend with news of its single biggest shareholder now being Geely. Diversification is one way to manage risk and as such Mercedes is attempting to conquer new market segments it has never previously competed within. Bakkies, being one of those.
The joint-venture bakkie project, with Renault/Nissan alliance platform sharing, is part of a Mercedes-Benz strategy to conquer market share from rivals Toyota and Ford, both of which tally a tidy take of profits from selling easy to produce ladder frame vehicles the world over.
There has been much musing about the X-Class and its obvious similarities to Nissan’s Navara, but one of its distinguishing features has been a stronger frame, supposedly to cradle the heavier V6 engine option. And that is also a crucial X-Class differentiator: the notion of a double-cab bakkie with excellent high-speed cruising performance.
With a 3-litre V6 turbodiesel good for 190kW and 550Nm, X350d promises to be the only ‘real’ Mercedes powered bakkie in X-Class’s portfolio. It is slightly more potent than an Amarok V6 on overboost and certainly quick too: 0-100kph in 7.9 seconds and a 205kph top speed. For most its appeal will be providing a great margin of safety when overtaking, those 550Nm and Mercedes-Benz’s 7-speed transmission capable of enacting very swift bursts of acceleration when you need to pass slower heavy hauling traffic.
The range of cabin trim levels and optional equipment available on X350d is generous, but there are very odd details to be observed in its cabin. Whereas nearly all other 350-series Mercedes-Benz vehicles have a column mounted shifter, which frees up a lot of functional space in the centre-console area, X350d has a conventional tunnel shifter with an open gate. It does look very out of place in a contemporary Mercedes cabin.
That said, X350d will be available with a 17-inch wheel option which should ride superbly shod with voluminous rubber.
Read our international drive of the other X-Class powertrains: