What Are We Testing And Why?
The Navara has been Nissan’s mainstay 4x4 ute for more than 20 years and it’s now into its fourth generation which was launched in Australia in 2015. The model tested here is the latest update which has revised rear coil springs, among other changes, designed to better handle heavy loads while retaining good ride comfort when unladen.
The X-Class is Mercedes-Benz’s first foray into the popular world of 4x4 dual-cab utes and its essentially a made-over Navara. It shares the same basic underpinnings, the same engine and transmission, and the same part-time 4x4 transfer case… at least until the launch of the X 350 d TDV6 version that will be released later this year.
For this head-to-head, we’re looking at the current top-spec models from each manufacturer, which in the case of Nissan is the Navara ST-X and in the case of Mercedes-Benz the X 250 d Power. Both vehicles come standard with a six-speed manual gearbox but we’ve opted to test the more popular optional seven-speed auto variants.
Both vehicles are based on the same separate-chassis architecture and run independent front suspension set-ups double wishbones and coil springs, and live-axle rear-ends with coil springs. And they’re both powered by Nissan’s 2.3-litre four-cylinder common-rail twin-turbo-diesel engine that produces claimed peak outputs of 140kW at 3750rpm and 450Nm from 1500-2500rpm.
As mentioned, both vehicles run the same seven-speed auto (with the same ratios and same final drive) as well as the same two-speed part-time shift-on-the-fly transfer case, and both are equipped with a locking rear differential and electronic traction control.
As well as the obvious styling differences, to both the exterior and interior, Mercedes-Benz has made several other changes that distinguish the X-Class from the Navara.
It has reduced NVH levels thanks in part to additional sound-deadening material, it has a reinforced chassis with additional cross bracing, the spring and damper rates have been revised and result in a firmer ride, it has beefier stabiliser bars, it scores a wider track both front and rear, it has a wider body and it’s equipped with rear disc brakes instead of drums.
Due to its wider track the X 250 d’s turning circle is a full metre more than the Navara’s, and the extra sound-deadening contributes to a greater kerb mass of 2234kg compared to 1979kg for the Navara ST-X. Despite the additional kerb weight, the X-250 d’s payload is listed as 1016kg compared with the Navara’s 931kg due to a higher gross vehicle mass (GVM).
What equipment do they get?
The X 250 d Power comes standard with 18-inch twin spoke light alloy wheels, LED headlights and taillights, electrically adjustable and heated exterior mirrors, heat insulated windscreen glass, rain sensing wipers, man-made “leather” seat trim, COMAND Online multimedia system, navigation and touchpad, electrically adjustable front seats with lumbar support.
Aluminium door sill panels, stowage net in the passenger footwell, auto dimming rear-view mirror with compass, parking assistance and 360° view camera, eight-speaker digital audio system, climate control, rear vents, keyless start, adjustable load-securing rails and a tyre pressure monitor system.
An optional $2490 style package, as fitted to the X 250 d Power test vehicle, adds an electrically opening rear window, tinted rear windows, side running boards, roof rails and 19-inch six-twin-spoke light-alloy wheels. The test vehicle was also fitted with an optional $590 Winter package that includes heated front seats and heated washer nozzles, which brings the price as tested to $67,580.
Standard equipment on the Navara ST-X includes 18-inch alloy wheels, LED DRLs, electrically adjustable and heated exterior mirrors, 7-inch integrated colour touchscreen, satnav, six-speaker sound system, dual-zone climate control, rear vents, keyless entry and start.
Auto dimming rear-view mirror with compass, reversing camera, 360° view camera, rear parking sensors, two-channel Utili-Track adjustable load securing rails, tub liner, sidesteps, roof rails and electrically opening rear window.
Options on the Navara ST-X tested include a $1500 Option Pack A, consisting eight-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, leather accented seats and leather accented door trim, and a $1000 optional electric sunroof, bringing the price as tested to $56,990.
On the safety front, the X-Class is currently the only 4x4 ute on the market to be equipped with autonomous emergency braking (AEB), and it is also equipped with lane departure warning and a headrest for the centre rear seat, which, oddly, the Navara misses out on.
There’s a significant $10k price premium for those who choose an X 250 d Power over a Navara ST-X, especially when options are added, but some buyers will no doubt pay more for the prestige of a Mercedes-Benz badge on the tailgate. But can this really be justified?
What’s The Interior Like In The Navara and X-Class?
There are notable styling and material differences in the cabins of these two vehicles, but some of the basics are quite similar, such as the driving position and the look and feel of some components such as the centre console bin.
The Navara’s dash is hardly a styling masterpiece with lots of grey plastic, silver highlights and piano-black bits, but everything is logically positioned, clearly marked and easy to use. The colour touchscreen is intuitive and all of the basic controls for navigation, audio and phone connection are straightforward.
The HVAC controls are likewise easy to use, although it’s a bit of a reach down to the 4x4-mode selector and the switches for the rear diff lock, HDC and parking sensors.
The four-wheel drive controls in the X 250 d are similarly positioned, as are the HVAC controls, but that’s where most of the similarities end. The Benz’s centre console is home to the controls for the COMAND Online multimedia system, and while having controls separate from the screen takes some getting used to, it allows said screen to be situated higher on the dash. The location of the COMAND controls, however, means the cupholders are situated too far back on the centre console, making it awkward to place and retrieve drinks from them.
The X 250 d Power’s round vents are used as a bold styling statement and the rest of the dash has a clean finish with a combination of brushed-alloy stitched faux leather. The steering wheel is also much nicer in the X-Class, and the overall look is classier than the Navara, but it’s let down in areas by the presence of hard plastics and some poorly fitting trim.
The driver’s seat in the Navara better suited my frame than the X 250 d’s; the latter’s seat squab felt too short and quite narrow, although side bolstering and lumbar support were good. On the passenger’s side, only the X-Class offers electric seat adjustment. Both vehicles offer plenty of space for front-seat occupants and good fore/aft adjustment.
There’s reasonable width across the back seats of both vehicles and leg room is adequate. As mentioned, only the X-Class offers a centre headrest, so you really wouldn’t want to squeeze three people in the back seat of the Navara. Both vehicles offer child seat anchorage points in the outboard seats.
When it comes to securing a load in the tub, the X-Class comes out on top thanks to its slightly longer 1587mm tub length (compared to the Navara’s 1503mm) and 85kg payload advantage. Mercedes-Benz also claims a standard Australian pallet (1165x1165mm) will fit between the wheel arches, while Nissan only claims an 1130mm width in this area. Both vehicles have adjustable load-securing rails on the sides of their tubs and 12V power.
What Are The Navara and X-Class Like To Drive?
Despite their many similarities, the few differences between the Navara and the X-Class make them very different beasts to drive.
Firstly, the Navara is noticeably louder than the X-Class, proving that the NVH-reduction efforts put in by Mercedes-Benz have paid off. The Navara’s engine is more audible, as is road noise; you’d hardly describe the Navara as noisy… until you drive it back-to-back with the X-Class.
All of that sound deadening material in the X-Class, along with the additional chassis bracing and other changes, results in a hefty 255kg weight penalty, giving the Navara a distinct performance advantage on the road, where it feels more spritely around town, and more responsive on the open road.
The seven-speed auto works well in both vehicles, offering smooth, unfussy shifts, and overall gearing sees the tacho needle almost nudge 2000rpm in top gear at 100km/h. It’s hard to split the two for overall long-distance touring comfort as the X-Class is quieter but the Navara offers a more compliant ride.
With its firmer springs, revised damping rates, beefier sway bars and slightly lower-profile 255/55R19 Bridgestone Dueler H/P Sport tyres (the Navara wears 255/60R18 Toyo Open Country A25s), the X-Class feels much firmer on crook roads than the Navara but not to the point of being uncomfortable, and on smooth surfaces it works very well, exhibiting less body roll when cornering and less pitching under heavy braking. It also offers improved steering feel, due to a combination of different tyres and a revised steering ratio that results in fewer turns lock-to-lock.
What Are The Navara and X-Class Like Off Road?
It’s hard to split the Navara and the X-Class off the road, as both run essentially the same hardware. That is, they both have the same engine, gearbox and transfer case, they both have locking rear diffs and they both have electronic traction control systems that remain engaged on the front wheels even when the rear locker is engaged.
Ground clearance is the Achilles heel of these vehicles and despite claims of 222mm for the X-Class and 228mm for the Navara, both will scrape their bellies regularly off-road. The Navara has a slight advantage in approach angle (33.2° compared with 30°) and a bigger advantage in departure angle (28.2° compared with 25°), but both are fitted with vulnerable sidesteps that will likely take a pounding in difficult off-road terrain.
Both Nissan and Mercedes-Benz claim a 600mm wading depth for their utes, but the forward-facing air intake just above the driver’s side headlight looks vulnerable to water ingress.
What Safety Features Do The Navara and X-Class Get?
Both the Nissan Navara and the Mercedes-Benz X-Class have been awarded five-star ANCAP scores. The X-Class edges ahead of the Navara in the safety stakes thanks to the inclusion of autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning, front parking sensors and the inclusion of a centre rear head rest.
Standard safety kit on both vehicles includes electronic traction control, stability control hill start assist, hill descent control, reversing camera, 360° camera, rear parking sensors and seven airbags.
So, Which One Wins And Why?
Navara ST-X or X 250 d Power? Well, the latter is a more refined package with more safety features, but less in the way of standard equipment. And there’s a whopping $10k premium for that three-pointed badge.
For the value conscious buyer, the Nissan Navara ST-X will certainly represent better value for money than the Mercedes-Benz X 250 d Power, but if money is no object…
Dean Mellor via practicalmotoring.com.au
Nissan Navara ST-X (auto) Specifications
Pricing $54,490+ORC Warranty three-years, 100,000km Service 12 months/20,000km Safety Five star ANCAP Engine 2.3-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo-diesel Power 140kW at 3750rpm Torque 450Nm at 1500-2500rpm Transmission seven-speed automatic Drive part-time four-wheel drive Kerb weight 1979kg GVM 2910kg Payload 931kg GCM 5910kg Towing capacity 750/3500kg Dimensions 5255mm (L); 1850mm (W); 1855mm (H) Track 1570/1570mm Turning Circle 12.4m Ground Clearance 228mm Cargo bed 1503mm (L); 1560mm (w); 474mm (H) Spare Full size Fuel Tank 80L Thirst 7L/100km (combined)
Mercedes-Benz X 250 d Power (auto) Specifications
Pricing $64,500+ORC Warranty three-years, unlimited kilometres Service 12 months/20,000km Safety Five star ANCAP Engine 2.3-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo-diesel Power 140kW at 3750rpm Torque 450Nm at 1500-2500rpm Transmission seven-speed automatic Drive part-time four-wheel drive Kerb weight 2234kg GVM 3250kg Payload 1016kg GCM 6130kg Towing capacity 750/3500kg Dimensions 5340mm (L); 1920mm (W); 1819mm (H) Track 1632/1625mm Turning Circle 13.4m Ground Clearance 222mm Cargo bed 1587mm (L); 1560mm (w); 474mm (H) Spare Full size Fuel Tank 83L Thirst 7.9/100km (combined)