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Introducing SA’s most powerful, expensive bakkie

November 30, 2018

Mercedes-Benz South Africa has given its X-Class double-cab bakkie an upgraded driveline which includes a V6 engine, seven-speed gearbox and permanent all-wheel drive. Dubbed the X 350 d 4Matic, it is currently the most powerful bakkie on sale in South Africa, as well as the most expensive…

This 190 kW “premium” bakkie retails at R904 188 for the Progressive-spec model, and R973 188 for the Power model.

So what does close to a million rand of bakkie get you? The reason de’etre of the X 350 d is its 3,0-litre, common-rail, direct-injection, diesel engine with variable-geometry turbocharger. Its 550 Nm comes on tap from 1 400 r/min and is sustained to 3 200 r/min. It is paired to the Mercedes-Benz 7G-Tronic Plus transmission and rear-biased, 4Matic all-wheel drive system.

The 4Matic system offers high and low-range selection, as well as centre and rear differential locks. Aiding its off-road capability is a 222-mm ground clearance and electronic driving aids such as hill-descent control. The X-Class is claimed to be able to ford 600 mm of water and climb a 100-percent (45°) gradient.

On-road prowess is aided by the same double-wishbone front and five-link rear suspension as its lesser-powered siblings, with a range of driver-assist systems that include Active Brake Assist, Traffic Sign Assist and Active Lane Keeping Assist (optional). Unfortunately, the likes of adaptive cruise control are not offered.

For those who may want to make use of this bakkie’s load-carrying capability, the 3 250 kg gross vehicle mass nets a payload of between 861 and 1 001 kg, while towing capability is up to 3 500 kg with a braked trailer.

So what’s it actually like to drive? From the moment the engine is started it is clear that it is a far more refined powertrain than the smaller four-cylinder models. It’s also far more punchy. Keep the revs in the torque band and the X 350 d will gain momentum with surprising ease to the accompaniment of a smooth, yet growly, soundtrack.

That 7G-Tronic gearbox is a sharp, snappy unit. For most occasions its perfectly fine left to its own devices, though you can use the steering-wheel shift paddles to flick through the gears. The V6-exclusive Dynamic Select system allows the driver to leave the car in comfort mode, or switch between Sport, Eco, Manual or Off-road profiles.

Overall, the drivetrain adds a sense of polish to the driving experience when on road, and offers easily accessible grunt when tackling demanding off-road trails – as we did on launch. It was also interesting to note that the ride refinement was one of the biggest advantages on the off-road trails. On road, the X 350 d manages most road types well, although its still not class-leading in terms of bump absorption, ultimate comfort and ride refinement.

Push it through some bends, though, and you’ll be mighty impressed by the high levels of grip, body control and overall composure – a good thing when one considers the ease with which the V6 builds momentum…

For the rest of the time, drivers will enjoy the standard leather-wrapped steering wheel, keyless start and dual-zone electronic climate control. Opting for the Progressive spec nets features such as 17-inch alloy wheels, and the eight-speaker Audio 20 infotainment system.

Power spec bumps this up to 18-inch wheels, chrome-plated accents on the front and rear bumpers, LED headlamps, a leather-covered dashboard and electrically adjustable seats.

Naturally, one could spec the X 350 d to well over the million-rand mark with a diverse range of accessories and optional equipment.

Which begs the question, should one contemplate spending so much money on a double-cab bakkie? Mercedes-Benz is aware that the X 350 d will attract a niche buyer – one who wants a bakkie’s capability combined with a butch image and the status of the Mercedes-Benz badge. To them, it’ll surely be an attractive proposition.

For the rest of us, the rivalling VW Amarok V6 offers all the refinement, capability and real-world power for around R200 000 less…

My life has always revolved around anything with wheels and an engine. It doesn’t matter if its an old banger, the latest hot-hatch or a fancy 4×4 – any excuse is a good excuse to take it for a cruise, spank it at the track or go bundu-bashing (the mud-and-rocks-side-of-a-mountain type, not the exploring-Joburg’s-pavements type). Otherwise, chances are you’ll find me lying underneath one of my beloved toys or with my head buried in its engine bay, tinkering away.

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