NEWS ANALYSIS: Mercedes focuses on the high end with X-Class launch

Date: Friday, February 09, 2018   |   Author: James Dallas

Despite a modest first-year sales target the three-pointed star brand aims to stamp its authority on the burgeoning pick-up sector.

Mercedes-Benz has set a sales target of 2,500 for its debut pick-up the X-Class for its first full year on the market.

The brand admits this is a conservative estimate, however, as it had already taken almost 1,000 reservations online prior to the model arriving in showrooms in January 2018.

Mercedes is promoting the X-Class as the first “premium” pick-up truck on the market, a claim that some of its rivals may dispute – particularly VW with its well-upholstered Amarok.

The X-Class is available in three trim levels – Pure, Progressive and Power – but dealer product trainer Dave Price stresses the entry-level Pure is far from being a basic model.

Of the pre-orders he says: “Everyone wanted high-end [models].” Nevertheless, Mercedes expects the majority of X-Class buyers to be existing pick-up operators (rather than affluent customers moving out of luxury SUVs) due to the fact that VAT is reclaimable on pick-ups, which are classed as light commercial vehicles – a tax loophole that inflates the market.

But with more private buyers attracted to the market, double-cab lifestyle derivatives dominate sales and Mercedes, like VW with the Amarok, only offers the X-Class in double-cab guise, while sidestepping the traditional single-cab workhorse sector, which has now become marginalised for even those brands that do still offer this bodystyle, such as Mitsubishi, Ford and Toyota.

The X-Class will cost from £27,310 (all prices exclude VAT) for the entry-level X220 d4Matic six-speed manual Pure. The six-speed manual X220d 4Matic in the mid-specification Progressive trim will cost £28,510 while the seven-speed automatic will be available from £30,510 for the X250 Progressive, with the flagship auto X250 Power priced from £34,100. This makes the Mercedes truck more expensive than the VW Amarok line-up, which is priced from £26,255 to £31,995. Ford’s flagship double-cab Ranger pick-up, the 3.2 Wildtrak auto, has a price tag of £28,441.

All X-Class variants come with 4Matic selectable all-wheel drive and low-range drive selection mode, with double wishbone front suspension and multi-link rear suspension.

The 2.3-litre diesel engine that powers the range is offered with two outputs: 163hp in the X220 or 190hp in the X250. Mercedes has inherited this drivetrain from the X-Class’s donor vehicle, the Nissan Navara, but will add its own 258hp 3.0-litre V6 350 engine in mid-2018.

X-Class product specialist Jon Sumner claims that in the brand’s pre-sale research, 40% of potential customers expressed a preference for the 350, but suggests impatience to get behind the wheel could have led some to snap up the first derivatives available.

The manufacturer is marketing the X-Class through its commercial vehicle, rather than its passenger car, dealerships. The network consists of 64 sales and 113 aftersales sites. Mercedes claims, on average, service workshops open for up to 100 hours a week, with more than 90% operating at least two shifts a day. It says a third of workshops remain open around the clock.



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