ROAD TEST: Mercedes-Benz X Class speaks for itself

ROAD TEST: Mercedes-Benz X Class speaks for itself


Lighter Amarok pips Merc in sprint tests to remain fastest double cab in SA.

You would think that having South Africa’s most powerful and the most expensive diesel double-cab bakkie, in the Mercedes-Benz X-Class 350d 4MATIC in Power trim, on test, would make for an easy story to write.


I wish this was the case, but when you are paying R973 188 as a suggested retail for this top-of-the-range offering, before you add a single item from the long options list, then putting this bakkie into perspective versus the competition becomes rather important, and a whole lot more difficult to write.

I said it just last week, the only market segment that is showing decent growth is the compact SUV segment, and this is followed closely by the demand for lifestyle-orientated double-cab bakkies.

And if you think about it, owning a car like a spec bakkie these days makes perfect sense.

South Africa’s roads are not in great shape, the elevated ride gives many a perception of safety, you can tow almost anything, and you have space for the family and a full one-ton of their luggage.

So, here it goes. Is this the best bakkie in South Africa? And how bad do you want that three-pointed star emblem on your front grill? I will touch on the elephant that is always in the room when it comes to the X-Class. Yes, this Mercedes-Benz bakkie is pinned very much on the Nissan Navara.


And in the lower spec 250d, I really didn’t like the Nissan engine-gearbox combination fitted in this model. But for the 350d here, there is a whole lot more premium stuff happening in this department, with the engine and gearbox being pure Mercedes-Benz offerings.

The Mercedes-Benz 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel engine produces 190kW of power and 550Nm of torque spread from 1400 rpm to 3200 rpm.

The previous power king, the 3.0-litre V6 Amarok, makes 25kW less, but produces the same torque. The engine feels strong, but this didn’t translate into a sense of the 350d actually being fast.

This feeling is amplified by the throttle being rather dull when gently prodded at lower speeds or off the line.

When I ran the 350d at Gerotek to see just how fast it was, the numbers coming back from my Racelogic VBOX were telling me that the Mercedes-Benz was, in fact, slightly behind the Amarok from the word go, and in every roll-on acceleration segment too.

Mercedes-Benz X-Class

But before you say there must have been something wrong with the 350d, I need to remind you that the Mercedes-Benz is a full 250kg heavier than the VW, and for me, lugging this substantial amount of extra weight around is the reason for the numbers I got.

The off-the-line numbers came in like this: 0-100km/h in 9.43 seconds (Amarok: 8.76 seconds); the quarter mile in 16.98 seconds (Amarok: 16.32 seconds); the half mile at 166.37km/h (Amarok: 167.49km/h), the 1km at 173.16 km/h (Amarok: 175.08km/h); and then in the roll-on from 60km/h to 140km/h, the 350d took 12.60 seconds (Amarok: 12.31 seconds).

So, the bottom line is, VW’s Amarok 3.0 TDI remains the fastest double-cab in South Africa. Something else worth considering, the 350d is fairly economical when driven in the real world and used 11.5-litres per 100km, versus the claim of 9.0-litres per 100km, while I had it for the week.

A final side note, and perhaps a bit less relevant, is that the 350d hits its electronic speed limiter at 204km/h and the Amarok was stopped at 194km/h. And we all know that just about every double-cab owner is keen to “race” his bakkie against anything, and this information might be of value.

The standard 7G-TRONIC PLUS automatic transmission, with steering wheel shift paddles, does a better job than the Nissan offering, and makes for easy driving on the open road.

Generally speaking, there is a decent amount of room inside the 350d, but my children didn’t enjoy the slightly cramped and raised rear seats.

And then, although it makes for a very neat and functional interior, I didn’t like the lack of storage space around the console area for the likes of your phone and wallet.

The only other complaint I had was that there is no reach adjustment for the steering wheel, and even when seated in the lowest position, I couldn’t adjust the steering up far enough.


Obviously being a proper lowrange bakkie, going off-road, anywhere, would be all too easy, as I found out when I drove the 350d at its international launch last year.

Thanks to the DYNAMIC SELECT system, you get the choice of five driving modes: Comfort, Eco, Sport, Manual and Off-Road. You also have the 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive system doing its bit.

And here, you get a further three all-wheel-drive modes to choose from: 4MAT for increased vehicle dynamics; 4H for improved traction off-road; and 4L for tough off-road terrain to comprehensively take care of any bundu bashing needs.

Carrying a Mercedes-Benz badge also means that you get a full house of comfort and safety features that are hard to match in the bakkie segment.

And if the standard offering is not enough, you can opt for a brace of optional safety systems like Active Brake Assist and Lane Keeping Assist.

Other standard features are a chrome-plated under-ride guard in the front bumper; a chrome-plated rear bumper; 18- inch six-spoke light-alloy wheels; LED High Performance headlamps; electrically adjustable seats; and an Audio 20 infotainment system with a multifunctional touchpad.

Is it the best bakkie on the road today? No. Is it the worst?

Not by a long shot. But this is a massively competitive segment, you have so much choice in terms of models and pricing, and everybody who plays here is desperately after your money.

Choose wisely!


  • It does command a presence on the road.


  • You do feel the weight of the 350d when driving it.
  • Not loved by the passengers in the rear.


This is no run-of-the-mill bakkie, but you would really have to want that badge in order for you to just hand over R1 million for the MercedesBenz X-Class 350d 4MATIC.

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