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Driven: Mercedes-Benz X 350 d. Image by Mercedes UK.

Driven: Mercedes-Benz X 350 d
V6 power propels the Mercedes X-Class to the top of the big pick-up charts. But there are two catches...

 



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Mercedes-Benz X 350 d Power

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: ride, handling and refinement all ahead of any other truck on sale right now, stonking performance from 3.0-litre V6

Not so good: you pay a lot of money for an X 350 d and yet the interior finishing is still too Nissan-y, V6 model can't hold a one-tonne payload

Key Facts

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz X 350 d Power
Price: X-Class range from £32,772 (incl. VAT); X 350 d Power from £46,020
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 diesel
Transmission: seven-speed 7G-Tronic automatic, 4Matic all-wheel drive
Body style: four-door pick-up truck
CO2 emissions: 237g/km (LCV VED, flat rate of £250 annually)
Combined economy: 31.4mpg
Top speed: 127mph
0-62mph: 7.5 seconds
Power: 258hp at 3,400rpm
Torque: 550Nm from 1,400-3,200rpm
Boot space: N/A; maximum load-bed payload 965kg

Our view:

Mercedes' plan for pick-up truck domination: step one, take a pretty decent one-tonner to begin with (the Nissan Navara) and ask very nicely if it can be borrowed for some 'work'; step two, launch said rebodied Navara under the X-Class banner, bringing with it an air of prestige that only the three-pointed star can confer on a vehicle; step three, take the already-advanced-for-this-class underpinnings of the Navara and improve upon the suspension, the steering and the sound-deadening; step four, tart up the interior with some key Mercedes displays and switchgear; step five, price it up as the top of its tree, stand back and watch the quids roll in.

Of course, this is a rather cynical and naïve way of thinking Mercedes went about its business, but (roughly) it's kind of what happened. And so, when we drove an X-Class for the first time at the tail end of 2017, we understandably loved it. Nevertheless, it felt like there was more to come, because - despite Mercedes using its '220 d' and '250 d' nomenclature, as well as 7G-Tronic - the engines and gearboxes in the X-Class were pure Nissan Navara units.

However, on that X-Class event, we were offered a passenger ride in the forthcoming X 350 d. And, even from one of the interior seats that doesn't matter so much, it felt epic. Then Mel went on the international launch of the V6-powered Merc truck and gave it a glowing review. Time to have one for a bit longer, then, to see if the X 350 d deserves the crown in the one-tonne pick-up class.

Let's start with the two main negatives. First up, the fancy rear suspension and Mercedes' own tuning of it for the sporty X 350 d means that something has happened to the truck's ability to lug loads. Namely, it can't quite hold more than one metric tonne (1,000kg) in its load bed as the V6 - yes, yes, it's odd that this is the case, when the less torquey and less powerful four-cylinder Nissan-sourced engines in the 'entry' X-Class models can. This doesn't affect the flat-rate Light Commercial Vehicle VED, which is good, but it does affect the X 350 d gaining the best rates of benefit-in-kind tax if it's bought as a company car, which is less good.

And, secondly, the interior still feels too Nissan-y. It's a case of horizontal demarcation, here, because - from just beneath the air vents upwards - everything looks and feels first-class, with the lovely Mercedes steering wheel, the clear and tidy instrument cluster, the contrast-stitched leather uppers and the typically excellent Benz switchgear. Get down to the climate controls, though, and the big clunky gearlever, and the X 350 d's premium façade starts to slip. We understand the need for 'hose-down' finishes on surfaces that might get kicked and scuffed by muddy boots, tools and the like; we said as much at the X-Class' launch. But is any tradesman really going to buy the V6 model for work purposes? Wouldn't it just be better to accept the X 350 d as a super-cool alternative to an SUV and give it a Mercedes climate control panel?

Other than these gripes, though, we're wholly positive about the X 350 d. Ecstatic, in fact. Much of what you already know about the X-Class applies to the V6 range-topper, so - apart from the badge on its tailgate - there's nothing to easily give away that this is the 'daddy' of trucks. Until it surges past you on the motorway, or powers away from the lights in a lovely, baritone six-pot growl, or leaves you for dead down a twisting back road. Honestly, this thing is magnificent.

The X 350 d drives like no other truck we can think of, and that's because Mercedes has gone to its own parts bin for all the key mechanicals. So the potent 3.0-litre V6 engine, delivering 258hp and 550Nm, has previously seen service in some of the brand's most luxurious passenger cars. The automatic transmission is genuinely a Mercedes 7G-Tronic, rather than the Nissan gearbox masquerading under Stuttgart's brand names. Even the four-wheel drive system is 'proper' Mercedes 4Matic, with a 40:60 per cent rear bias (it's 50:50-split on the four-pot X models). The German company has had another go at the spring and damper settings all round, tweaked the steering even further and bunged as much noise-suppressing material into every hidden crevice on the X-Class as it can.

The resulting machine is simply devastatingly good and a clear step above the previous yardstick, the Volkswagen Amarok. The steering is way in advance of anything you'll find on the competition, Ford Ranger included. The body control and turn-in belies the sheer size and bulk of the X 350 d, while that meaty V6 motor really does make the most of 4Matic traction. Quick? And then some. So the X-Class is surprisingly adept in the handling/performance stakes, and yet it's also the most refined truck you can currently buy. It's fantastically comfortable when cruising, its controls are well-judged enough to allow low-speed manoeuvring to be stress-free and smooth (rather than jerky and somewhat panic-inducing, given the physical scale of these one-tonners), and it looks fabulous on the outside. The ergonomics of the interior are also spot-on, too.

Is it perfect? No, of course it's not. You might very occasionally discern some ladder-frame shimmy to the X 350 d's comportment. Wind and tyre noise, while class-leading, are appropriate for said class - any modern SUV with a near-50-grand price tag is going to be on another level again for acoustic refinement. It's also hideously juicy for a diesel, as we saw an overall return of 28.2mpg during our week with it - and a best of a mere 30.7mpg, on a long, clear(ish) run down the motorways to Gatwick Airport. In the Merc's defence, when it arrived for testing it had a mere 250 miles on the odometer, so the almost-new turbodiesel engine was extremely 'tight'. And neither the noise of it forcing itself through the air nor its rabid thirst prevented us from adding another 585 miles to the total distance it had covered. Indeed, were it not for the arrival of the utterly ridiculous, all-new Mercedes-AMG G 63 just a week after the X 350 d had departed, we'd be calling the one-tonne truck our favourite 4x4, of any shape, that Mercedes produces.

We love one-tonne pick-up trucks, almost inordinately so. We really love one-tonne pick-ups with more than four cylinders. And we don't love any one-tonne pick-up more than the X 350 d, even the mighty Volkswagen Amarok. The Mercedes may well be the priciest machine of its type, but that's for good reason: it's also the best. Strip out the sub-par lower dashboard finishing and the 965kg maximum payload, and we'd be giving this thing full marks; that's how brilliant it is. Come on, Mercedes, be brave, be mad - let's have a Mercedes-AMG X 43. Or, if you've totally lost your marbles, an X 63 S. Imagine the glory of that... Anyway, it would seem that Mercedes' five-point plan for one-tonne pick-up domination has worked a treat, because this X 350 d is the clearly greatest truck you can currently get.

Alternatives:

Ford Ranger Wildtrak: one of the few pick-ups that has a more-than-four-cylinder engine, the top Ranger is appealing but too gruff in key areas.

Nissan Navara: well, we had to, didn't we? You could argue that the four-cylinder X-Class models don't offer enough over their Nissan source material to justify the extra cost. No such accusation could be levelled at the X 350 d, though.

Volkswagen Amarok: went 'all-V6' with its facelift for the 2017MY and it's the closest challenger to the X 350 d, especially in its top 258hp guise.


Matt Robinson - 20 Nov 2018









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2018 Mercedes X 350 d Power. Image by Mercedes UK.2018 Mercedes X 350 d Power. Image by Mercedes UK.2018 Mercedes X 350 d Power. Image by Mercedes UK.2018 Mercedes X 350 d Power. Image by Mercedes UK.2018 Mercedes X 350 d Power. Image by Mercedes UK.

2018 Mercedes X 350 d Power. Image by Mercedes UK.2018 Mercedes X 350 d Power. Image by Mercedes UK.2018 Mercedes X 350 d Power. Image by Mercedes UK.2018 Mercedes X 350 d Power. Image by Mercedes UK.2018 Mercedes X 350 d Power. Image by Mercedes UK.








 

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