Mercedes-Benz X350d

Special delivery: the Star dual-cab we originally ordered

RYAN LEWIS

BELIEF was justifiably high when Merc announced a dual-cab ute foray, but the X250dís carryover Nissan drivetrain meant it wasnít quite as Benz-like as anticipated. Some found it hard to believe, despite its advances, that X-Class was more than a Navara with a three-pointed star on it.

Model Mercedes-Benz X350d

Engine 2987cc V6, dohc, 24v, turbo-diesel

Max power 190kW @ 3400rpm

Max torque 550Nm @ 1400-3200rpm

Transmission 7-speed automatic

Weight 2285kg

0-100km/h 7.5sec (claimed)

Economy 9.0L/100km (EU)

Price $75,000 (estimated)

On sale December

PLUS & MINUS

Refinement and comfort; gutsy performance; safety equipment

Brake pedal feel; last-gen infotainment interface is a shame

The X350d is the one with the potential to get the message through. It scores a Mercedes engine and gearbox, and other fundamental changes that support its performance hike. Itís radically different under the skin, not only to the Spanish-built Navara with which it shares a production line, but to the X250d as well.

The engine is a burly 3.0-litre turbo-diesel V6 producing 190kW and 550Nm Ė 50kW and 100Nm more than the 2.3-litre X250d. Itís mated to a seven-speed auto thatís controllable via paddle shifters, and feeds a permanent all-wheeldrive system with a fixed 40:60 rear-biased torque split. Official fuel economy is 9.0L/100km.

With a claimed 7.5sec 0-100km/h the X350d sits alongside the Volkswagen Amarok V6 as one of the segmentís quickest, and it gets there without the harshness associated with most oilers. Itís an effortlessly fluid powertrain.

A heavy focus on creating a carlike driving experience included a more comprehensive approach to improving on already impressive levels of noise suppression and cabin refinement. The light steering is unchanged from the X250d and a Sport mode sharpens throttle response and alters gear shift points for greater urgency. There are also Eco and Comfort modes and a manual setting.

Weíll reserve judgment on the X350dís revised suspension until the local launch late this year because Australian versions will get a raised suspension set-up and 222mm of ground clearance. Initial impressions of the overseas spec with an unladen tray suggest that, while firm, Mercedes has struck a ride and handling balance thatís more cooperative for fast road driving than other bouncy dual-cabs. The X350dís composure on gravel is equally impressive.

The rear axle is variant-specific, with the option of an electronically activated locking differential. The transfer case is also new, borrowed from G-Class, and allows the selection of the low-range gearset while on the move.

Hit the trails and the X350d will handle as much as most people will ever throw it at. The off-roadspecific mode tackles 45-degree inclines and will wade through water up to 600mm deep.

An upgraded braking package brings ventilated discs to all four corners plus a stronger booster and larger diameter master cylinder. Stopping confidence could be improved by reducing pedal stroke and removing the spongy feel.

Wide tracks translate upwards to a cabin thatís 50mm broader as well as 30mm taller than Navaraís. Space is generous, though thereís minimal tradie focus with a lack of storage or workhorse features. But the cabin is a calm, comfortable place, even after hours of driving. Standard equipment is at the pointy end of the class, including a comprehensive active safety suite.

Two variants will be available locally Ė Progressive and Power. Pricing and spec will be announced closer to the launch in December, though expect starting money in the mid-$70K range, where it will meet the Ford Ranger Raptor.

Anybody who felt that the X250d failed to deliver the complete Benz experience will be pleased by the X350d. This feels like the vehicle Mercedes had in mind when it promised a dual-cab ute. Itís a little more polished, more capable on and off the road, and aligns with whatís expected when thereís a three-pointed star on the snout.

RYAN LEWIS