The UK’s pick-up truck market has been travelling upmarket for years and is dominated by double-cab lifestyle models delivered in escalating levels of trim.
This trend is so pervasive that the humble single-cab workhorse truck has now become something of an anachronism and a body style that some truck manufacturers no longer even offer – among them Volkswagen, with its Amarok, Nissan, with its Navara, Fiat Professional, with its Fullback, or Ssangyong, with its Musso.
Another place where you definitely won’t find a single-cab derivative is in a Mercedes-Benz showroom where the brand’s debut pick-up, the X-Class, has recently taken up residence.
The X-Class represents, arguably, the pinnacle in pick-up luxury – Mercedes certainly thinks so, and it is a claim that only the Volkswagen Amarok could realistically dispute.
Starting from £27,310 (all prices exclude VAT) for the X220 d4Matic six-speed manual Pure and rising to £34,100 for the flagship X250 seven-speed auto Power driven here, the X-Class is not cheap. By comparison VW’s Amarok line-up goes from £26,255 to £31,995. Market leader Ford’s top-of-the-range Ranger Wildtrak auto, meanwhile tops out at £28,441.
But with pick-up trucks the cost benefit comes in the tax breaks. So long as the payload exceeds 1.0t, which, naturally, they all do, then business customers can claim back the VAT and also enjoy a far lower, and fixed, rate of benefit-in-kind tax. At £3,230 this works out at £646 a year for the 20% tax band or £1,292 for the 40% band.
For this reason Merc reckons most of its customers will be existing pick-up operators transferring from other brands where they already take advantage of the tax regime rather than customers coming out of SUVs.
While the X-Class is based on Nissan’s thoroughly competent Navara and shares its 2.3-litre engine (with outputs of either 163hp or the 190hp tested here) – and multi-link suspension with solid rear axle as well as retaining rear-wheel drive in conjunction with selectable four-wheel drive - Mercedes has raised the bar in terms of comfort and refinement. The upper body is Mercedes’ own and is 50mm wider than that of the Navara while the track has been extended by 70mm.
Interior quality is excellent with comfortable suede-finish seats and classy surface materials, although there is some tough, robust-looking hard plastic on the lower portion of the dashboard that should withstand scuffs from outdoor boots.
One gripe is that there is very little storage space for items such as a wallet or mobile phone.
A generous helping of standard safety kit includes autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, traffic sign recognition, hill-start assist and a reversing camera.
Mercedes has augmented the Power specification with a raft of features including painted bumpers with a chrome under guard, chrome rear bumper with an integrated step, LED headlights with a cleaning system, keyless ignition, eight-way adjustable driver and front passenger seats, leather upholstery and dash, and 18in alloys.
As part of the £1,345 Style Package, we got 19in alloys, privacy glass, electric rear windows, running boards, which help getting in and out, and roof rails.
A feature inherited from the Navara that we would recommend is the excellent 360° camera that comes as with the £570 Parking Package. It succeeds in making tight inner-city maneouvres a stress-free experience.
Engine noise is impressively suppressed even at motorway speeds and the X-Class also handles reassuringly well on winding roads when pushed hard. The 190hp engine provides decent enough power and works smoothly with the seven-speed auto transmission, but both fall a little short in comparison with the 224hp V6 Amarok with eight-speed automatic transmission.
This may change when Mercedes launches its own V6 350 258hp X-Class in mid-2018. Like the Amarok, this too will come with permanent all-wheel drive.
Even with the 190hp engine, the X-Class will not win any prizes as an eco-warrior. It’s official 35.8mpg and 207g/km CO2 compare with the 224hp Amarok’s 36.2mpg and CO2 of 204g/km.
The X350 3.0-litre V6 will offer returns of 31.3mpg with 237g/km CO2.
Mercedes-Benz X250 d 4Matic Power
Price (ex VAT) £34,100
Price range (ex VAT) £27,310-£34,100
Insurance Group 38E (est)
Service intervals 18,000mls
Load length 1,587mm
Load width (min/max) 1,130/1,560mm
Load bay height 431mm
Gross payload 1,066kg
Engine size/power 2,298cc/190hp
Combined fuel economy 35.8mpg
The X-Class does not set out to be a frugal workhorse but raises the bar for pick-up luxury and will win plenty of friends at the top end of the lifestyle sector.