REVIEW | The 2019 Mercedes-Benz X350d lacks authenticity
The current-generation X-Class is unlikely to be remembered as the finest hour for Mercedes- Benz.
Sure, the benefits of a joint venture with Nissan and its pick-up underpinnings may have seemed a shrewd idea on paper. And it might have been a smidgen more successful 15 or 20 years ago, when the world was a little more disjointed, before the far-reaching, globe-connecting power of social media, where it takes little time for a sentiment to go viral.
All it took was one snarky quip and people were referring to the X-Class rather snidely as a Navara with mascara. The Japanese roots of this Mercedes-Benz are quite evident once you scratch below the veneer.
Yes, the front end is all imposing and beefy, with its three-pointed star, power swells in the hood and headlamps that recall those of models in the Mercedes-Benz passenger-car range. And yes, the interior fascia and most immediate touch points might have you thinking you are sitting in an entry-level C-Class on stilts.
Then you look at it side-on. The passenger compartment is all Navara. Plenty of the interior switchgear is all Navara. And what about the key? Same fob you would get if you bought a 2011 Juke. This is the kind of stuff that the long-standing Mercedes-Benz faithful would not expect. At the very least, it was endowed with a six-cylinder engine choice that does some good at enforcing the premium character that the brand extols in its marketing materials.
We were offered saddle time in the flagship X350d version. It employs the same 2,987cc, turbocharged-diesel V6 that can be found beneath the prows of many sedans and sport utility vehicle offerings from the brand. The figures are stout: 190kW and 550Nm, with an impressive sprint time of 7.9 seconds, all shifted via a 7G-TRONIC automatic gearbox.
Let me tell you, I had a hoot accelerating away from tolls with more exuberance than necessary on a recent trip to KwaZulu-Natal via the excellently maintained N3 freeway. This power source propels the Mercedes-Benz pick-up with admirable conviction. So, great mill in a car that otherwise leaves us feeling ambivalent. Is that enough reason to opt for the X350d? I am afraid not.
The issue is that the rest of the package does not feel as accomplished as a product costing R904,188 ought to. One is also reminded of the presence of another contender available with a V6 unit: the Volkswagen Amarok, with prices starting at R737,500 for that particular derivative. There were reports recently that cast doubt on the possibility of a second-generation X-Class.
This stems from the prospect of Mercedes-Benz ending its ties with the Renault-Nissan alliance. But Mercedes-Benz certainly has the wherewithal and technical expertise to go it alone. And an independent effort would undoubtedly yield a more authentic result. Perhaps the next instalment of the X-Class story will be more positive than this chapter.