Mercedes-Benz has revealed its long awaited X-Class ute that will take on everything from the work site and the outback to the boardroom and Australia's ritziest waterfront abodes.
While it looks similar to the concepts revealed in 2016, various details of those cars – including the radical tail lights –have been toned down.
The X-Class is the first ute from a luxury brand and a machine Mercedes-Benz hopes will raise the bar for safety and luxury in a class where price and ruggedness have been primary focuses for competitors as varied as the stalwart Toyota Hilux and Volkswagen Amarok, a relative newcomer to a market segment that's doubled in 15 years and now accounts for one in every six new vehicle sales.
Top dollar performance
Claimed to carry up to 17 kegs of beer while towing an eight-metre yacht the X-Class will be available in three grades and with a choice of four-cylinder and V6 diesel engines.
Pricing will be revealed closer to the car's early 2018 on-sale date, but best guesses have the more utilitarian entry models selling from about $55,000 and the leather-laced top-end variants topping $80,000.
X marks the spot Down Under
The X-Class has been built for the world but Australia is one of five core markets set to snaffle the lion's share of sales for a car that could boost the German brand's local sales by upwards of 10 per cent.
Mercedes-Benz will offer the X-Class in three trim levels – Pure, Progressive and Power – to cater for everyone from well-heeled tradies and grey nomad adventurers to traditional luxury car buyers.
Indeed, it's the fragmenting luxury segment that Merc sees as a core target for the X-Class.
A lifestyle vehicle
"The new X-Class finds the perfect balance between the stylish design expected of a Mercedes-Benz and the uncompromising robustness and functionality demanded of the category," says Diane Tarr, the managing director of Mercedes-Benz Vans for Australia and New Zealand.
"We can effectively provide a solution for trade and fleet customers, and we will find out just how far this category can evolve for private customers who need the vehicle to support their lifestyle."
Mercedes-Benz also believes the X-Class will appeal to SUV drivers looking for more load-carrying versatility.
Not your average ute
While Tarr acknowledges the premium price on the Merc rules it out of a large chunk of the ute segment – the tradie-focused bottom end – the brand expects to take the fight to the increasingly popular top-end 4x4 dual-cabs.
"Our intention is to be a key player in that segment and naturally with the target audience that we see as a focus for this product we hope to get a fair share," she says. "We are bringing a premium ute into that space and with that we're hoping to expand the market and attract other potential customers that may never have talked about a ute … and hopefully grow it even further."
The company believes the ute market is in a transition similar to what the SUV segment went through 20 years ago.
And Benz claims "the X-Class is the first ute that offers not just excellent off-road but also superb on-road performance".
Despite the three-pointed star grille, the X-Class is arguably more Nissan than Mercedes-Benz.
It uses many of the underpinnings of the Nissan Navara and even comes out of a Nissan factory in Spain.
Its 2.3-litre four-cylinder engines are also identical to those in the Navara, available in single-turbo 120kW or twin-turbo 140kW tunes.
But the V6 that is the hero of the range is pure Mercedes-Benz, giving the four-door a performance edge over competitors as broad as the Toyota Hilux and Nissan Navara. Producing 190kW and 550Nm it has more power than any rivals, although identical torque to the Amarok.
Best of both
Those V6 models, called X350d, will also get a Dynamic Select system that adjusts throttle sensitivity, the auto transmission calibration and the engine's stop-start functionality.
Engineers have also added more cross members to the Nissan ladder frame chassis for additional strength. And the much-criticised Navara coil spring rear suspension has been extensively changed for the X-Class.
The X-Class even has a wider track (the distance between the left and right wheels) than the Navara, a further effort to improve stability and handling and make the X-Class drive more like an SUV than a truck.
Down and dirty
While luxury is a key sales pitch, Mercedes-Benz is at pains to point out the X-Class can match it with the toughest, hottest-selling utes on the market: think Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux and Volkswagen Amarok.
Claimed towing capacity matches class leaders at up to 3.5 tonnes and, depending on the model, it can carry up to 1.1 tonnes in its tray, "enough to transport 17 full 50-litre barrels of beer", according to the PR blurb. Just enough for a weekend away with the boys, then…
With a nod to the finer things, Benz also says the X-Class can drag a triple horse float or "an eight-metre yacht", the ultimate reinforcement than the X has a broad remit.
Mercedes has also ensured the touchy-feely bits are pure Benz.
The cabin is dominated by circular air vents reminiscent of those used in everything from the S-Class to the GLC.
There's the familiar Comand central controller and an 8.4-inch multimedia screen on top of the dash.
And, of course, it looks pure Merc from the outside, right down to the bold grille and muscular bumpers.