Words Toby Hagon Photos Cristian Brunelli
Since it arrived in 2018 the Mercedes-Benz X-Class has had a tough job muscling in on the ute territory dominated by the likes of Ford, Holden, Nissan, Mazda and Toyota.
But it now has the firepower to up the power wars with the arrival of the X350d. Rather than the Nissan-sourced four-cylinder engine used in the X220d and X250d, the X350d gets a Mercedes-Benz-built 3.0-litre V6 bringing more pedigree and power.
What’s in the range and how much does it cost?
Opting for the V6 engine in the X-Class isn’t cheap, adding about $15K to an already pricey ute. It also brings a permanent four-wheel drive system and unique seven-speed automatic (the X250d gets the same part-time 4x4 system and transmission used in the Nissan Navara).
And, of the three grades available in the X250d – Pure, Progressive and Power – the X350d is only available in the upper two. That’s no bad thing, because the Pure gets black bumpers, vinyl floors and steel wheels. It’s a ute built to a price and not in keeping with the V6 offer.
But it does mean the price of entry is steep. Think $73,270+ORC, for which you get 18-inch alloy wheels, a 7.0-inch infotainment screen, smart key entry and start, digital radio tuning, satellite-navigation, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone ventilation and auto emergency braking (AEB).
The flagship Power costs $79,415 and adds more chrome outside, 19-inch alloy wheels, fake leather seats, electric adjustability to the front seats, mirrors that fold automatically when parked and a 360-degree reversing camera.
Still, even then you still have to pay another $1750 for real leather seats and another $590 for front seat heaters.
To help offset the sticker shock Mercedes-Benz is offering $5000 of accessories for free. The offer is available until the end of March 2019, although don’t be surprised to see similar incentives wheeled out after that.
What’s the interior and practicality like?
There’s an elegance to the X’s cabin courtesy of its metal touches and decent plastic finishes. The circular air vents boost that further.
But it doesn’t take long to establish the X350d hasn’t been too well thought out when it comes to storage. In short, there isn’t much of it; whether it’s a phone, map or wallet there simply aren’t many hidey holes for the sorts of things people carry with them on road trips.
Sure, there’s a glovebox, centre console and door pockets, but the only usable uncovered spaces are a pair of cupholders and a small area ahead of the gear selector. That’s a shame, because the driving position is good and seats comfy, although more side support would top them off.
Those in the rear are nobbled for legroom but there is decent headroom. Rear air vents ensure a fresh flow to the back, too.
What are the controls and infotainment like?
There’s a clear delineation between the infotainment functions and the ventilation, the latter positioned very low on the centre stack. While the collection of buttons and dials is logical, popping them higher on the dash would make more sense.
No issues with the 7.0-inch colour screen sitting pod-like on top of the dash, relatively close to the driver’s line of sight.
Controlling that screen means familiarising yourself with the Comand controller common on other Benzes. There are some quirks, but once you master the twirling, sliding and pushing it darts between the various functions succinctly.
If you prefer more direct control, there’s access to a handful of menu buttons just below the CD slot high on the dash. Plus, there are buttons on the steering wheel to get the basics sorted.
What’s the performance like?
It’s all about performance with the X350d. When it was first announced early in 2018 it was shaping up to be the most powerful ute on the market, but Volkswagen has since trounced that with a version of its Amarok that gets an updated V6.
Still, 190kW is nothing to sneeze at and it’s backed up by 550Nm. Big numbers and they ultimately deliver on thrust, the mid-rev torque particularly impressive in its ability to shift upwards of two tonnes enthusiastically.
However, it takes a fraction of a second for the turbo to start pumping when you first hit the accelerator for a stand still. That turbo lag means there’s a delay from pressing the throttle and having any sort of meaningful acceleration.
It’s more of an issue in stop-start traffic, encouraging you to press the accelerator pedal slightly early than you may have otherwise. Once underway there’s no qualms with how smartly it builds pace, the hearty mid-range urge of the engine making light work of hills and overtaking.
It helps the ratios for the seven-speed automatic are well spaced, especially for freeway and overtaking speeds. The permanent four-wheel drive system is also a win, all but eliminating the chance of wheelspin, even on gravel or wet bitumen.
Fuel use is claimed at 8.8 litres per 100km and if you enjoy all the performance on offer it’s easy to use more than that. But keeps things more relaxed – and when cruising on a country road, for example – and you can match or better the claim.
What’s it like on the road?
It’s no secret the X-Class shares much of its underpinnings with the Nissan Navara – it even comes out of the same Nissan factory in Spain – but the two also have significant differences that subtly change their on-road behaviour.
While it employs an independent front suspension system and live axle rear – both, unusually, riding on coil springs (most utes use leaf springs at the rear) – the track (or distance between left and right wheels) is wider, making for a larger footprint.
There’s good cornering grip, although the steering feels oddly weighted at some points in the wheel’s arc. Brakes pull up solidly, helped by disc brakes at the rear.
The biggest area the X350d stands out is with noise suppression. It does a great job of eliminating unwanted road noise, in particular, to make for an impressively hushed cabin.
What’s it like off the road?
The X350d’s off-road hardware is similar to the four-cylinder ones, right down to its 222mm of claimed ground clearance and 30-degree approach angle. The departure angle is, naturally, shallower, at 25 degrees, so it pays to keep an eye on the tail when crawling through steep dips.
However, there is one significant difference between four- and six-cylinders – and it comes down to the four-wheel drive system.
Rather than share hardware with the Navara, the X350d gets a Mercedes-Benz four-wheel drive system that drives all wheels all of the time. It’s handy when you’re regularly swapping between gravel and paved roads, with no need to engage the front wheels, a constant 40-60 split between front and rear wheels.
But selecting low range splits the drive 50-50 front to rear – and if you lock the rear diff there’s terrific traction when traversing tough terrain. It’s a very accomplished and capable off-roader.
The one weak point is the 19-inch tyres, the modestly low profile susceptible to damage. Ours was on optional 18s, a more sensible size if you’re planning to get out and adventure.
Does it have a spare?
There’s a full-sized spare tyre under the rear tray and the X-Class also comes with tyre pressure sensors to warn of a puncture.
Can you tow with it?
Like all dual-cab utes, towing is a big part of the X350d story. It’s rated to carry up to 3500kg and the engine certainly feels up to the job.
When preparing a trip, though, keep in mind the gross combination mass (the weight of the car, trailer, people and luggage) and make sure you don’t surpass the 6180kg limit. If you’re towing the maximum load that will limit your payload to 490kg – and that’s before accounting for the weight of the towball, which must be subtracted from the payload.
What about ownership?
The X-Class joins the Nissan Navara has the only utes with warranty coverage less than five years.
Instead, there’s three years of coverage up to 200,000km.
Servicing must be performed every 12 months or 20,000km, which is identical to the four-cylinder. However, service costs for the V6 are slightly higher than the four-cylinder, totalling $2555 over the first three years or 60,000km.
Mercedes-Benz offers a pay-up-front option which reduces the cost of those first three services to $1950.
What safety features does it have?
Mercedes-Benz was the first to offer auto emergency braking (AEB) on a ute and it’s still a rarity in the class (only the Ford Ranger has stepped up, with others set to follow soon).
It’s the start of a strong safety package that also includes seven airbags for coverage all around (including protection for the driver's knee) and mild active steering to help keep the car in a lane (like all such systems it's far from perfect, often missing lane markings).
There's also a 360-degree reversing camera to give a virtual overhead view of the car's surroundings.
All of which adds up to a five-star ANCAP rating courtesy of a strong performance in the barrier tests and for safety assist technology.
So, what do we think?
While not perfect, the V6 drivetrain is a worthy step up that injects more Mercedes-Benz DNA into the X-Class. It’s potent and punchy, albeit with some initial (shortlived) lethargy off the line.
Solid off-road credentials as well as class-leading safety and refinement help overcome the minimal cabin storage and other oversights.
However, there’s no hiding the hefty price tag, which lags the competitiveness of key dual-cab rivals.
Then again, this is a ute that stands out from the crowd – both in looks and badge.
Mercedes-Benz X350d Specifications
Price $79,415+ORC Warranty 3 years, 200,000km Service Intervals 12 months, 20,000km Safety 5-star ANCAP Engine 3.0-litre V6 turbo diesel Power 190kW at 3400rpm Torque 550Nm at 1400-3200rpm Transmission 7-speed auto Drive Four-wheel drive Dimensions 5340mm (L), 1920mm (W), 1839mm (H), 3150mm (WB) Ground Clearance 222mm Kerb Weight 2190kg Angles Approach angle: 30 degrees (approach), 25 degrees (departure), 22 degrees (rampover) Towing 3500kg Towball Download 350kg GVM 3250kg GCM 6180kg Spare Full-size Fuel Tank 80L Thirst 8.8L/100km