When it comes to pickups, one of the biggest talking points for 2017 has no doubt been Mercedes-Benz’s new X-Class. The premium pickup has polarized opinion since its unveiling earlier this year, and it will continue to do so when launched into a sea of Rangers, Amaroks and Hiluxs in South Africa around the middle of next year.

It’s been well documented that the X-Class rides on the same underpinnings as the new Nissan Navara, as well as the upcoming Renault Alaskan, but to term the X-Class as a rebadged Navara isn’t exactly accurate. This is not the first time Mercedes-Benz has worked together with Renault-Nissan. The Renault Twingo and the Smart car share their underpinnings, and let’s not forget the Renault diesel motor in the A-Class. And there was also the time that Mercedes provided Infiniti with a platform for its GLA-based Q30 concept.

X-class rides on the same ladder-frame chassis as the Navara, and Mercedes sought to strengthen this, as well as rework the suspension. This included fine-tuning the dampening for improved ride quality, because first and foremost, this is a Mercedes-Benz. Next it widened the tracks significantly, 62mm and 55mm for front and rear respectively, ensuring it not only has a stronger and more aggressive stance, but it more stable as well. The hydraulic steering was also fettled and quickened, to make it react to changes in direction quicker, and also appear more car-like in its drive.

The X-class – like the Navara – uses a multi-link rear axle and proper car-like coil springs – a more sophisticated set-up that we’re told was ‘a prerequisite’ for Mercedes getting involved in the project (presumably explaining why the Navara has it in the first place).

There are three trim levels: Pure for utilitarian use and Progressive for quality feel and comfort. The third is Power - the high-end variant for urban lifestyles. Initial models will be fitted with engageable 4MATIC all-wheel drive (with low-range) and optional differential lock. Permanent all-wheel drive will be available from 2018. There are three engine options powering the three variants. The X220d produces, 120kw and 403nm, and the Mercedes built V6 in the X350d produces a mammoth 190kw and 550nm.

The X250d shares the same 140kw 2.3-litre biturbo diesel as the Navara, but Merc went about retuning it to reduce the raucousness of the motor. The also binned the rear drum brakes of the Navara in favor of disc brakes on the X. Additional sound deadening was also fitted, adding to the weight of the vehicle, which is apparently a fair amount heavier than the Navara. It should be noted that X-Class has a towing capacity of up to 3500kg.

The exterior styling is very much Mercedes-Benz. The pickup is large and wouldn’t be mistaken for anything else except a Benz. The interior is also distinctive Mercedes, apart for the climate control switchgear and a few other buttons, and is loaded with MB tech like its COMAND system.

For South Africa, three derivatives will be available. The X220d, X250d and the V6 X350d which will join the lineup at a later stage. While pricing has yet to be unannounced, it is guestimated that the mid-model X250d - with its Navara sourced powertrain – will be priced very similar to the Amarok V6.

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