Mercedes-Benz has come a long way in building its reputation as a premium brand, renowned for its luxury cars; but in an ever-changing world where the consumer’s needs evolve, it’s important to keep up with what’s trending. As things stand, the bakkie is what the people want right now. Luckily, Mercedes-Benz has been paying close attention to the ground and in so doing, we’ve seen the introduction of the X Class to their portfolio—their first ever pickup truck.

 

The X Class steps into the battle ground against some serious competition

 

The X Class steps into the battleground against some serious competition; its biggest opponent being the Godfather of South African bakkies, the Toyota Hilux. We had the privilege of getting these two into a room to see who emerges the stronger opponent—the  Mercedes-Benz X Class up against the Toyota Hilux face-lift.

Mercedes-Benz sent us their X250d 4MATIC to go up against its Japanese rival, the Hilux 2.8GD-6 4×4 manual—an even match for the purpose of this exercise! Both these vehicles come well equipped for the dunes and the rocks as 4x4s with all the necessary equipment. Since we’re not experts in off-roading, we decided to call them even in that department and focus more on the lives that these two cars are more likely to live on a day-to-day basis; one that is unhindered by natural obstacles and where the only obstacle they may need to overcome is a curb or speed bump on a freshly tarred road. Sadly, this is the story of the average bakkie’s life nowadays.

 

 

Since they’re not thought leaders in this segment, Mercedes-Benz had no time to waste on trial and era, so they jumped straight in and did themselves a great favour by borrowing a tried and tested platform and engine from the Nissan Navara. This move alone put the X Class where it needed to be in terms of ride quality and comfort; it is after all a Mercedes-Benz so it needed to feel as close as possible to the real deal. The face-lifted Hilux is no slouch in that department, with an almost evenly matched ride feel. Where the Hilux begins to pull ahead slightly is when things get moving—no pun intended.

On the road, the Mercedes feels very lethargic and heavy despite having slightly higher outputs than the Hilux, with an extra 10kW and 30Nm; a DNA flaw inherited from the Navara 4×4. The Toyota, on the other hand, moves along with a lighter stride and feels more brisk, it also benefits from a manual gearbox and a handy power button next to the gear selector. In power mode, the Hilux moves with a strong spring in its step, with the engine configured to deliver more torque to the wheels. The power button is not a gimmick; you can actually feel the extra surge of power from the moment you press it, and it’s present through the rev range. It makes you wonder where Mercedes-Benz and their associates went wrong.

 

The Hilux’s touch infotainment screen is not something old farmer Brown would be a fan of

 

The interiors of both cars are adequately equipped for the modern tech savvy consumer, with all the niceties you expect from a car, like an infotainment screen with Nav, USB and bluetooth audio. We were slightly disappointed by the X Class’s interior quality, because it isn't that much more superior to the Hilux’s when it should in fact be setting the standard—I mean it does wear the Mercedes-Benz nameplate! The Hilux’s touch infotainment screen is not something old farmer Brown would be a fan of, even we weren't too pleased with it as city slickers. The problem lies in the fact that all of its functionality is through touch, and nothing is analogue or mechanical. It makes it difficult to operate while driving because you have to put all of your focus on touching the correct function with your fingers—not the screen’s best friend.

The one area Toyota has gotten right is with the Hilux’s exterior aesthetics. The most attractive bakkies currently are those with a strong masculine face and presence, and that is exactly what the Hilux is with its square nose and black and chrome accents for a more pronounced look. It can now sit comfortably around the table with the likes of Ranger and Amarok, without feeling insecure about its appearance. The Germans seem to have also hit their mark the first time around with the X Class’s exterior styling, it’s exactly where it needs to be to sit at the round table with the other goons and wheedle the local buyer.

 

The Mercedes-Benz puts up a decent fight for its first brawl in this segment; but with a price tag of over R700k, it had a hard time convincing us. There are equally competent alternatives which will save you over R100k, like the Hilux here at R604 500. We do, however, have sneaky suspicions that people will still willingly part with that kind of money purely for its novelty. Mercedes-Benz just announced a V6 diesel version of the X Class—whats the damage? We figured you would ask: it’s slightly below the R1m mark, and that’s excluding any of the bells and whistles you might want to add!