Excitement continues to build for a Mercedes-Benz pickup truck that was first introduced as a concept study in Sweden last October, confirmed for production before 2020 earlier this year, and now scheduled to launch late this year, though it’s still the Concept X-Class study that’s being shown at the Geneva International Motor Show.
Mercedes says the new pickup will combine the best of both worlds — the tough, functional, strong and off-road capability of a pickup, with the design, comfort, driving dynamics and safety qualities of a Mercedes-Benz.
So, what do we know about the upcoming pickup? It’s going to be a mid-sized crew-cab, so it will be vying for market share with established nameplates from Ford, Nissan and Toyota and Nissan.
We have been told it will use a ladder-type frame (which will give it a 1-tonne payload and 3.2-tonne tow rating), employ a high-torque 6-cylinder engine, and use 4Matic permanent all-wheel drive (with locking differentials for demanding surfaces). The 5-link rear axle uses coil springs to absorb whatever surface pops up.
Mercedes is investing in the “high nine figures,” and the truck will be going to Europe, Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. North America? Undecided.
“With the Mercedes-Benz pickup, we will close one of the last gaps in our portfolio,” explains Dr Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars. “Our target: we want to offer customers vehicles matching their specific needs. The X-Class will set new standards in a growing segment.”
Mercedes thinks the evolution of the mid-size pickup market works in its favour, because those trucks are more than just workhorses. However, that may be true for North America but in the markets where X-Class is aimed, the mid-size pickup IS the workhorse, because that’s all they have. They don’t have the Chev Silverados, Ford F-Series and Ram 1500s to fulfill the workhorse roles.
But Mercedes has identified five target groups for X-Class marketing — families that will use it for commuting purposes and family oriented duties such as after-school or weekend activities; adventurers who live in an urban setting and use the vehicle for extreme sport recreational pursuits; trendy individuals who want a premium vehicle outside the mainstream; business professionals such as contractors and architects; and rural landowners such as ranchers, farmers and vintners.
Mercedes is promoting the new pickup alongside its SUV and Van stables, and it certainly bears some of the design cues from current M-B faces — large grille and wide air intakes — but it also features a bigger powerdome on the hood to convey more power, and more strongly flared wheel arches (to house 22-ich wheels, which may not make it to production) to emphasize width and muscularity.
The interior is a contrast of warm and cool colours, natural and manufactured materials, stylish and functional displays. The upholstery and trim pieces will be nubuck or nappa leathers, and open pore smoked oak pieces on the instrument panel. The touchscreen will provide controls over typical function using mobile device gestures or digital inputs. The X-Class will also be able to be connected to smartphones, tablets and computers, so users can send route directions from a desktop computer or check on fuel levels, locate where it’s parked or even check on maintenance intervals.
The pickup is built in cooperation with the Renault Nissan Alliance, which will market it as the Nissan Navara or NP300, or Renault Alaskan (name dependent on where it’s sold). The North American Nissan Frontier is built on a different platform.