It’s easy to dismiss luxury pickups as relics from the 2000s, when both Cadillac and Lincoln made their versions which made very little sense, but were both wildly successful in various rap music videos. Other than that, they were pretty much ignored by the general public, and it’s easy to see why: If you really need an utility vehicle, the last thing you want to do is make one with a plush interior and fragile tech toys. Utility and luxury cannot really mix, but Mercedes apparently thinks they could.
Enter the Mercedes-Benz X-Class, the latest offering by the folks in Stuttgart, ready to tackle all your luxury load-lugging desires. Mercedes is keen to say that the pickup will “close one of the last gaps in our portfolio”, unashamedly filling every market niche there is, a practice they have started doing since the early 2000s. Remember the ghastly R-Class? Or would you rather forget one?
Never mind your personal preferences, Mercedes is serious about this new pickup as if it was the legendary S-Class, meaning that it will provide all the creature comforts of its more mainstream cars while being very practical.
No technical details were provided because it is still a concept, but Mercedes is quite sure that it will reach serial production sometime in 2017, when it will be offered worldwide. Curiously, it won’t me made in Germany but in Spain, sharing its production facility with the more pedestrian Nissan Navara. No surprises there, as Nissan is a part of Renault, with whom Merc has struck a platform sharing deal. Yes, that diesel engine in your precious Mercedes A-Class is the same found in the Renault Megane, but Mercedes is very shy about that fact.
Spain won’t be the only homeland of the car, as it will also be produced in Cordoba, Argentina, starting in 2018. Again, the owners of the plant are the French.
But does Mercedes really need a car like this? Truth be told, yes. The days of over-engineering are long gone in Stuttgart, but even after several scandalously bad cars, Merc still has a certain reputation. The first M-Class was more like a after school project for kids (remember those horrible panel gaps?) while the fittings in the latest offerings (I’m looking at you GLA) are below any standard.
Mercedes makes trucks, buses and vans, but they are sold under a separate brand – they also bear the famous three pointed star on the nose, but Mercedes was careful not to mix them with passenger cars. This is the first Mercedes branded utility car that thinks it is a passenger car and Mercedes isn’t afraid to sell it just like that. And it might just work.
UPDATE: We’ve added a complete media gallery of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class and the full press release.
INFO: The opinions and statements made by the author are his own and My Car Portal or the company behind it doesn’t necessarily agree with them.
Take a look at the full press release below.
With the Concept X-CLASS, Mercedes-Benz Vans gives a concrete outlook on its new pickup, the X-Class, in Stockholm. The first premium pickup will combine the best of two worlds. This is demonstrated impressively by Mercedes-Benz with two design variants of the concept car. The Concept X-CLASS powerful adventurer illustrates that the future X-Class will possess all the strengths of a classic pickup – tough, functional, strong, and with off-road capability. The Concept X-CLASS stylish explorer goes a step further and shows what will distinguish the pickup bearing the Mercedes star. The X-Class will be a true Mercedes from the hallmark brand design and comfort to the driving dynamics and safety. This will make Mercedes-Benz the first premium manufacturer to account for the changing customer requirements in the global segment of mid-size pickups, and it will make the tough one-ton pickup with seating for up to five persons the first to be attractive as an urban lifestyle and family vehicle.
With the pickup, Mercedes-Benz Vans will expand its product range with a fourth model series. At the same time, the brand bearing the three-pointed star will become the first premium manufacturer to occupy the promising segment of mid-size pickups. Daimler AG will make investments in the high nine figures (euro) in the new model series by the time of the market launch. It will be launched in late 2017 under the name Mercedes-Benz X-Class. The key markets will be Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Australia with New Zealand, and Europe.
Dr Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars: “With the Mercedes-Benz pickup, we will close one of the last gaps in our portfolio. Our target: we want to offer customers vehicles matching their specific needs. The X-Class will set new standards in a growing segment.”
“We will open up and change the segment of mid-size pickups – with the world’s first true premium pickup for the modern urban lifestyle”, says Volker Mornhinweg, Head of Mercedes-Benz Vans. “Our future X-Class will be a pickup that knows no compromise. Ladder-type frame, high-torque six-cylinder engine, and permanent all-wheel drive are compulsory for us. As an added value we bring safety, comfort, agility, and expressive design – in other words, everything that distinguishes vehicles bearing the Mercedes star. We will thus appeal to new customers who have not considered owning a pickup before.”
Changing segment: Mercedes-Benz first premium manufacturer of a pickup
Worldwide the market for mid-size pickups is undergoing a radical change. Gone are the days when they were bought as mere “workhorses”. Instead, they are becoming increasingly popular as versatile vehicles for a simultaneous private and commercial use and as vehicles for a strictly private use. The percentage of privately used pickups has been growing steadily for years. Accordingly, the double cab has emerged as the dominating body style, because it offers room for up to five persons. More and more private and commercial customers ask for vehicles with the characteristics and comfort features of a passenger car. A similar development took place in the segment of off-road vehicles some 20 years ago. Back then, Mercedes-Benz was the first premium manufacturer to launch a sport utility vehicle (SUV), the M-Class, and completely redefined the off-road segment – with lasting success.
“The Concept X-CLASS design variants interpret the hallmark brand design idiom of our SUVs in a most expressive form, and embody the dichotomy of our design philosophy: they are hot and cool”, says Gorden Wagener, Head of Design at Daimler AG. “With its progressive design the powerful adventurer expresses cool modernity and thirst for adventure, while the stylish explorer on the other hand uses pure emotion to provide a tangible experience of modern beauty.”
Concept X-CLASS stylish explorer: progressive design with SUV looks
The Concept X-CLASS stylish explorer, painted in a cool elegant white metallic, impressively demonstrates how the Mercedes-Benz pickup will make a decidedly stylish statement in its segment and in the urban environment. The contrast of emotionally appealing and yet purist surface treatment (“hot”) and technically precise, innovative and clever details (“cool”) reinterprets the design philosophy of Mercedes-Benz. The athletic design lends the concept car a markedly expressive and dynamic appearance. The distinctive front represents an evolution of the hallmark SUV face of the brand – with a more massive powerdome on the bonnet and headlamps extending far into the wings. The classic SUV front apron and the strongly flared wheel arches put even more emphasis on the sense of width, and give the vehicle an even more solid stance on the road. At the same time, the front cites the single-louvre grille with centrally positioned Mercedes star, the face of the elegant Mercedes-Benz coupés.
The flared front and rear wings make room for a wide track and large tyre/wheel combinations for tough off-road use. 22-inch light-alloy wheels with a contrasting anthracite chrome finish give the Concept X-CLASS stylish explorer a towering and superior stance. The running boards are integrated into the bodywork and emphasise the athletically sculpted body. Depending on the angle of the incoming light, the paintwork developed specifically for this concept car lends the urban pickup a look that gives the athletic profile even more emotional appeal.
The extremely short front overhang, the very long rear overhang and two long lines stretching along the side amplify the focus placed on driving dynamics. The rear of both concept cars sports the hallmark chromed SUV trim at the lower edge, and, as a distinctive feature, a continuous LED light strip in a slim chrome surround on the tailgate. It points to the unique character of the future pickup.
Stylish interior with a high level of operating and display comfort
The interior of the Concept X-CLASS stylish explorer is an equally emotional and stylish statement – characterised by an intriguing contrast of warm and cool colours, as well as by high-quality materials. The world of colours and materials translates the Mercedes-Benz design philosophy of sensual purity. The sensual touch and feel of the brown, very natural nubuck leather on the seats provides a cosy feel. This warm colour, which is also found on the dashboard, is combined with cool white nappa leather. The trim made of open-pore smoked oak contrasts with the brushed and polished aluminium trim elements. The world of modern luxury is realised in a highly stylish fashion.
The modern flair is further boosted by round air vents, the free-standing high-resolution central display as well as the central controller and multifunctional touchpad. Similar to a smartphone, all telematics functions can be controlled with the touchpad by using gestures or by entering letters and characters. Mercedes-Benz thus introduces the most modern control and display concept in the segment of mid-size pickups. At the same time, the characteristics and functionalities typical in the pickup segment have been retained, such as the handbrake in the centre console.
Concept X-CLASS powerful adventurer: the redefinition of toughness
Complementing the Concept X-CLASS stylish explorer, the second concept car focuses on the classic traits of a pickup. The Concept X-CLASS powerful adventurer with a lemonax metallic paint finish stages toughness, durability, and off-road capability. As a result, it impressively underscores the fact that the future Mercedes-Benz pickup will combine comfort and style with the basic virtues of this vehicle category.
The Concept X-CLASS powerful adventurer towers above it all with a height of 1.90 metres. Large tyres of size 35×11.50, the huge ground clearance, and the athletic design instil respect even at first glance. The brand’s hallmark SUV radiator grille with two louvres, front and rear underride guard, wing claddings, and matte carbon wheel arches additionally underscore the superior off-road aesthetics. An electric winch at the front and a metal hook at the rear are further indications of the toughness and power of the future pickup.
With its progressive design the concept car exudes independence and thirst for adventure in their purest forms. This feel continues in the interior. Matte carbon elements in the exterior and interior, metallic brushed surfaces, and a bold colour scheme lend the vehicle a sense of power. The lemonax metallic exterior paint finish is perfectly tailored to the interior colour highlights. The colour and material concept underscores the outdoor look with glossy black nappa leather and the use of carbon-style black embossed leather surfaces. To ensure the seats provide lateral support in all handling situations and in any terrain, the seat side bolsters are trimmed with black leather that offers extremely good grip and has a pleasantly soft touch and feel.
The X-Class: powerful engine, high ride comfort, and exemplary safety
As is the norm for Mercedes-Benz, customers of the X-Class will be able to choose from different equipment scopes to customise the exterior and interior. In addition, the premium brand will develop a special range of accessories for the pickup, for example bed covers and various styling elements. Thanks to the tried and proven modular strategy, a host of interior components that customers know and appreciate from the C-Class and V-Class will be found in the X-Class – from the perfectly finished high-quality materials and the infotainment system to the ergonomic seating comfort. As a result, the pickup will offer the “welcome home” feeling typical of the brand, and define a new level of comfort and value appeal in the segment of mid-size pickups.
The X-Class will also set new standards in the segment with regard to connected life. Thanks to the communication module with on-board SIM card, it will be possible to use the extensive Mercedes me connect services. Drivers can connect with their pickup by smartphone, tablet or PC at any time and from anywhere. For example, to send navigation destinations to the vehicle or query where the pickup is parked and how much fuel is in the tank. In addition to these optional remote online services, standard services such as accident recovery, maintenance management and breakdown management will also be available.
Variety will likewise distinguish the engine range. The top-of-the-line model will be powered by a V6 diesel in combination with 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive. The high-torque engine will provide high driving dynamics on the road and off the road. The all-wheel-drive system will combine an electronic traction system, a transfer case with reduction gear, and two differential locks. The traction system and the electrically operated on-demand differential locks channel the power to where traction is best. Under extreme off-road conditions, the rear differential and the inter-axle differential can be locked. This will make it possible to safely master difficult obstacles and inclines.
The powerful drive system and the tough ladder-type frame will make a payload of more than 1.1 ton and a towing capacity of up to 3.5 tons possible. Enough power for transporting some four cubic metres of firewood on the pickup bed and a sail boat hooked up to the trailer coupling, for example. 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 pickup 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.
Like all Mercedes vehicles, the pickup will be distinguished by exemplary safety. Modern driver assistance systems based on cameras, radar and ultrasound sensors will support and relieve the driver in many situations, and in so doing equally enhance safety and comfort. A host of assistance systems will already come as standard.
The Mercedes among pickups: focus on five customer groups
The X-Class will combine the strengths of a pickup with the value appeal, comfort, driving fun, and safety that distinguish the vehicles bearing the Mercedes star. As a result, the Mercedes-Benz pickup will bridge the gap between commercial and private and between urban and rural use. It will consequently appeal not only to pickup owners wishing for more car-like characteristics, performance, safety, and comfort, but also and above all to people who drive a passenger car, SUV or van. Extensive market research studies conducted by Mercedes-Benz with potential customers in the target markets bear this out.
Mid-size pickups currently have the largest share of the total vehicle market in Australia with 14.1 percent. Argentina comes close behind with 11.6 percent. This means that in these countries, one out of every eight registered vehicles is a pickup in the one-ton category. In Brazil, mid-size pickups have a share of almost five percent of the total vehicle market. That figure is 0.5 percent in Germany, 1.3 percent in Great Britain, 1.4 percent in Turkey, and 0.8 percent in Russia.
Based on its market research studies, Mercedes-Benz has identified five customer groups for the X-Class, which are of different relevance in the individual countries.
One important target group is constituted by families with an active lifestyle and an affinity to premium products. They use the pickup mostly for commuting to work, for shopping, taking the kids to school or sports activities, for weekend trips, and vacation. The key markets are Brazil, Argentina, Australia, and South Africa.
Another target group for the X-Class are successful adventurers, who live in an urban environment and participate in outdoor sports such as skiing or riding jet skis, or have their own boat. They need a comfortable premium vehicle for everyday use that at the same time offers sufficient cargo space and towing capacity for their recreational equipment. The top markets are Australia, South Africa, Brazil, Great Britain, and Germany.
In addition, the Mercedes-Benz pickup will have the potential to inspire trend-conscious individualists with an affinity to premium products. They lead an independent lifestyle and want a vehicle outside the mainstream that underscores their personality and status with a unique design. Independent individualists use the pickup as an “everyday vehicle” in the city, for evening and weekend activities, and for sporting events. The key markets for this target group are Germany, Great Britain, South Africa, and Brazil.
The fourth customer group comprises business owners such as building contractors, architects, and service providers who want to use their pickup for commercial and private purposes: that is as a comfortable company car for customer meetings, which is equally perfect for transporting customers and employees as well as tools and building materials, as an “everyday vehicle”, and as a vehicle for weekend activities. Significant markets for business owners are Germany, Great Britain, Australia, and Argentina.
Landowners, such as cattle ranchers in Argentina, soy bean farmers in Brazil or vintners in South Africa, also use their pickup for commercial and private purposes. They need a vehicle that on the one hand takes them through unpaved terrain and has sufficient cargo and towing capacity. On the other hand, it must be suitable for driving to customer and supplier meetings as well as for use as an “everyday vehicle” for the family.
Production cooperation with Renault-Nissan
The market launch of the Mercedes-Benz X-Class in Europe will begin in late 2017. The new model series will be positioned in the segment at an attractive price. The pickup will be manufactured in a production cooperation with the Renault-Nissan Alliance. Production for the European, Australian and South African markets will start at the Nissan plant in Barcelona, Spain, in 2017. The X-Class for the Latin American market will roll off the assembly lines at the Renault plant in Cordoba, Argentina, starting in 2018.
With the X-Class, Daimler AG and the Renault-Nissan Alliance expand their strategic cooperation which began six years ago. This affords Mercedes-Benz fast and cost-efficient entrance to the fast-growing segment of mid-size pickups. In addition, both companies benefit from optimal utilisation of the production capacity. Nissan is the second-largest manufacturer of mid-size pickups 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.