Mercedes-Benz came flying out of left field last October when it introduced the Concept X-Class, a two-pronged approach to a luxury pickup that either focused on lifestyle or actual ruggedness. Like it or not, pickup trucks are equal parts workhorse and lifestyle item now, which is why Mercedes-Benz realized it was time to give the midsize pickup segment some serious luxury.
The X-Class doesn't stray too far from the concept. The trademark design elements are all present and accounted for, from the three-pointed star in the grille to the headlights that look at home on any other large Mercedes-Benz vehicle. It appears all X-Class pickups will come in the four-door crew cab configuration, and the bed out back looks like any other.
One thing that's changed between the concept and the production version is the taillight arrangement -- it's no longer a solid strip of LEDs around the bed. That's a shame from a design standpoint, but it should make taillight repairs and replacements much easier and probably a bit less expensive.
As for the interior, you'll recognize a large chunk of its innards -- the steering wheel, the vents, the "floating" infotainment screen -- from other modern Mercedes-Benz vehicles. The automatic-transmission shifter looks a bit low-class and out of place, based on pictures we've seen from the launch event, though, with a more traditional stick-type shifter and some plastic cladding around it. Trucks do need some degree of ruggedness, so it's not like Mercedes is going to load up every X-Class with high-end leather seats and dashboards covered in gold filament.
So, clearly it's got the lifestyle angle down. But what of the honest-to-goodness truck stuff? According to Mercedes-Benz, the X-Class is capable of hauling up to 1.1 metric tons (2,425 pounds) in the bed, and it can tow up to 3.5 metric tons (7,716 pounds).
The X-Class will need some serious engines to get all that weight moving. The base X200 wields a 165-horsepower gas I4, and the X220d and X250d sport two different diesel I4s (163 hp and 190 hp, respectively), but if that isn't enough, there's a range-topping diesel V6 with 258 hp. Buyers have a choice of manual or automatic transmissions, as well as a choice between rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, the latter of which comes with a low range and an optional locking differential. There's also a middle-ground drivetrain option that acts like a rear-wheel-drive truck until it needs to engage the front axle for additional traction.
In keeping with proper truck tradition, there won't be any fancy Mercedes-Benz air suspension here. Instead, the X-Class will sport a set of static coil springs on all four corners.
It is still a Mercedes-Benz, though, and that definitely shows with its technological complement. The X-Class packs a variety of active and passive safety systems, including autonomous emergency braking, lane-keep assist and traffic sign recognition. It will also work with Mercedes-Benz's connected-car services, so owners will be able to locate or otherwise check up on their trucks remotely. This connectivity will also permit door-to-door navigation, with instructions for first-mile and last-mile navigation appearing along with whatever's loaded into the navigation system.
Mercedes-Benz will offer the X-Class in one of three distinct lines -- Pure, Progressive and Power. Pure is for the real truck people, placing a focus on ruggedness and utility, making it more of a work truck than a lifestyle item. Progressive splits the difference between Pure and Power, adding more luxurious appointments and giving it more of a work-and-play vibe. Power, on the other hand, is all about styling, comfort and performance, marketed towards those would would buy a pickup truck as a lifestyle enhancer and not as much for work.
Underneath all the flashy bits, it's not entirely a Daimler product. The frame comes from the Nissan Navara, a truck that's not currently sold in the US. The previous-generation Navara, however, is still in the US -- it's just called the Nissan Frontier. The X-Class will be manufactured in a joint operation between Daimler and the Renault-Nissan Alliance.
Its fate in the US is still uncertain. Back in February, Mercedes-Benz still wasn't sure if there was room for this truck in the US market. The full-size pickup segment is where all the money's at -- midsize pickups are still popular, but sell in far lower volumes. If it were to come here, Mercedes would need to build a new plant or retool an existing one in order to satisfy perceived US demand.
In Europe, Africa, South America and other markets, though, the X-Class is a go. It will be sold as part of the Mercedes-Benz Vans division, and it's expected to go on sale in Europe this November, starting around €37,000 ($42,758). Other markets will see the X-Class starting in 2018 or 2019.