Mercedes' X350d more than worthy of its star
The Mercedes-Benz of bakkies has divided opinion like few other over the years. Yes, it is a Nissan at heart and it is very expensive (but you can score mega discounts if you ask) and many say that Benz miscued big time in how it misread the market.
Of course that applies to the four-bangers that arrived first, but this one changes the game quite a bit.
Merc’s almost million-buck X350d tosses all those controversial 4-cylinder’s Japanese innards and substitutes ifor not just a real 190kW 550Nm Mercedes-Benz turbodiesel V6 (SA’s most powerful bakkie right now, by the way), but it also gets a genuine Benz 7G-tronic Plus 7-speed automatic gearbox turning a full-Mercedes-Benz 4Matic permanent four-wheel drive through a transfer box nicked straight out of the legendary G-Class.
All of which conspires to deliver a machine as capable of hanging off a rocky Cape tor as it is dashing across Franschhoek Pass as it is cruising through the Karoo in epic comfort and style. Never mind that all of that above mentioned kit is tried and tested Mercedes state-of-the-art.
So X350d is very much the Mercedes-Benz of bakkies and it will also go a hell of a long way to curb all that nonsense of it just being a rebadged Nissan as it unashamedly aims straight at executive-level business-owners, families with an affinity with premium products and trend-conscious individuals, as well as sporty and enthusiastic adventurers.
The 3-litre common-rail direct injection turbodiesel V6 delivers its 550Nm across a broad 1400 to 3200rpm band to ensure serene and effortless progress whatever the driving situation and its paddle shifter 7G Tronic Plus 'box boasts steering seamless gear-changing across that broad set of ratios. Dynamic Select adds choice of five engine and transmission response driving modes from relaxed and comfortable Comfort through Eco to Manual and Off Road to dynamic Sport modes with Eco start/stop function available in all driving modes except Off Road.
X350d of course packs 4Matic permanent all-wheel drive with low-range reduction gear and a differential lock at the rear for optimal performance and traction on a wide range of driving surfaces in three dynamic, all-wheel-drive and hard off-road modes. Add 222mm ground clearance, 45-degree gradient ability, 600mm water fording and the ability to deal with inclines of to 50 degrees.
A comprehensive range of safety equipment seldom seen in this segment includes a robust passenger cell able to absorb energy by specific deformation, seven airbags and i-Size child seats attachments, optional Active Brake Assist and Traffic Sign Assist and Active Lane Keeping Assist. This Power edition also sets the double cab standard with everything from 18-inch alloys, LED headlamps, power seats, multifunction steering wheel and touchpad infotainment, to chromed front bumper under rider and rear bumper, chrome vents and eight-speaker Audio 20 infotainment.
You can also chose extra spec off an extensive menu of genuine aftermarket accessories to enhance your X350d’s design, functionality or off-road capability, from sports and styling bars, a hard bay cover and stowage box, canopies, a load bed liner, load-securing rails in the bed and an under-guard protector.
X350d is impressive on the road — I’d say even GLE-like in how it feels, rides and runs. Handling is solid and most impressive for a bakkie, it rides like a GLE and performs very well over all driving parameters. That’s also where we can start comparing X350d to its closest rival Amarok V6 and don’t believe all you see in those silly video drag races.
If anything the two of them scored a dead heat in our tests piloted by the same pro driver on the same piece of road in very similar conditions.
The Merc has a few hundredths of a second advantage to 60km/h, but the VW comes back by that much to 100 before the Merc is back ahead at 160 and it's six of one and half a dozen of the other to the quarter mile. The Mercedes is more flexible though and it's basically a tie on fuel and emissions and all that.
The interesting bit is the R150K between the two premium versions of these top-line V6 turbodiesel bakkies. That said it is unlikely you will get much of a discount on the Amarok, but you probably will on the Merc if you push the dealer a bit — enough to make the remaining premium worthy of consideration because the status of that star on the bonnet will likely then justify the difference to the likely buyer of either of these bakkies.
So were this a genuine comparison, it would be nigh impossible to call a winner — both of them are fully justified and it depends on you which you will choose. For me however, that star on the nose will may get my vote, but then my wife may be able to swing it if she really wanted.
So either way, there is very little wrong with the Mercedes-Benz X 350 d — not only does it totally exorcise those Nissan clone accusations, but it also dances toe-to-toe its only real market rival… — Michele Lupini
Images - Dylan McKay
ROAD TESTED: Mercedes-Benz X350d 4Matic Power
Engine: 190kW 550Nm 3-litre turbodiesel V6
Drive: 7-speed automatic 4x4
0-60km/h: 3.39 sec
0-100km/h: 7.89 sec
0-160km/h: 19.57 sec
400m: 15.5 sec @ 144km/h
120-160km/h: 8.71 sec
Fuel: 9.0 l/100km
CO2: 235 g/km
Warranty/Service: 2y Unl/5y 100Kkm
LIST PRICE: R973K