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Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz brand has unveiled two concept versions of its first bakkie. Called the X Class, the model is scheduled to go on sale towards the end of next year aimed at the leisure market rather than the commercial sector. For that reason it will be available in four-door configuration only, and will be sold in Australia, Europe, Latin America and South Africa.
The vehicle – which has been developed through an association between Mercedes-Benz and the Renault-Nissan Alliance – shares its underpinnings with Nissan’s NP300 Hardbody and Navara, as well as with Renault’s newly announced Alaskan. Initially it will be built at a Nissan factory in Spain and, from 2018, at a Renault plant in Argentina.
Mercedes-Benz spokesman Volker Mornhinweg said the model would be offered in various configurations – including entry-level 4×2 variants – but would steer clear of the workhorse market.
“We have focused on developing car-like attributes for the model, which is where we perceive the pick-up market to have shifted. Our research shows that there has been a move towards vehicles such as these being used as modern lifestyle products. For that reason we won’t be offering a single-cab version,” he said.
At the presentation in Sweden, wraps were taken off two variants, the Powerful Adventurer – described as tough, functional and strong – and the Stylish Explorer “which goes a bit further and shows what will distinguish the pick-up bearing the Mercedes star,” according to Mornhinweg.
While each of the concept vehicles featured a Mercedes-Benz sourced, six-cylinder turbo-diesel engine and permanent four-wheel drive, spokesmen for the brand indicated that a choice of Renault-Nissan derived four-cylinder engines – one diesel and one petrol-fuelled – would join the production line-up. At this stage, they said, hybrid versions of the bakkie were not under consideration.
Mornhinweg said the X Class would offer similar levels of comfort, safety, driving dynamics and design that customers expected from Mercedes-Benz cars. The main target market for the bakkie would be “families with an active lifestyle and an affinity to premium products, as well as outdoor enthusiasts who need a comfortable premium vehicle for everyday use that also offers a lot of cargo space and towing capacity.”
According to Mercedes-Benz’s reckoning, the bakkie market currently numbers about two million units annually, but the company believes that number is set to grow by nearly 40% by 2025.
“With the Mercedes-Benz pick-up, we will close one of the last gaps in our product portfolio. Our target: we want to offer customers vehicles that match their specific needs. The X-Class will set new standards in a growing segment,” the company’s CEO, Dieter Zetsche, said in a statement.
So, what can we expect from the bakkie? Built on a ladder-type frame, it will take a pay load of more than 1,1 tons and offer towing capacity of up to 3,5 tons. “Enough power for transporting some four cubic metres of firewood on the pick-up bed and a sail boat hooked up to the trailer coupling, for example,” Mercedes explained in a statement.
“At the same time, the specially constructed suspension with wide axles, a five-link rear axle with coil springs, and a precisely calibrated spring/damper set-up will ensure a high ride comfort – on the road and off the road.
“The pick-up bearing the three-pointed star will impress with precise steering, a comfortable ride, and agile cornering. It will absorb bumps in a superior fashion, making it a perfect fit for the urban environment.”
Safety features include modern driver assistance systems based on cameras, radar and ultrasound sensors. “With the X-Class, Daimler and the Renault-Nissan Alliance have expanded their strategic cooperation which began six years ago.
“This has afforded Mercedes-Benz fast and cost-efficient entrance to the fast-growing segment of mid-size pick-ups. In addition, both companies benefit from optimal utilisation of the production capacity.
“Nissan is the second-largest manufacturer of mid-size pick-ups with a payload of one ton in the world, and can look back on more than 80 years of experience in producing and marketing these types of vehicles,” the statement concludes.