Mercedes X350d – Travelling companion

A truly epic road trip requires a few crucial ingredients. Good people, good food, a good destination and a good car. So it was that I found myself pedalling the Mercedes X350d down to KZN for a karting weekend with mates, the back full to the brim with spares, tyres, tools and beer. Occupants discussing important issues of the day; can you really have too many project cars, the merits of oversteer on the daily commute and how to get the maximum spray out of a bottle of champagne when on the podium.

Sound proofing goes a long way to make these highly intellectual conversations possible. The more the cabin is insulated the better the occupants can hear each other, always a good thing, provided you don’t have backseat drivers of course. Bakkies being primarily designed as working vehicles are notoriously noisy and have never really needed to take any of this into account. Typically, they’re also on large tyres, more often than not made a whole lot worse by being some kind of hybrid on/off road variety and it all adds up to the bakkie being a practical way of getting from A to B with a lot of stuff, but far from the most comfortable.

Enter Mercedes-Benz and the X class. A bakkie not only supposed to be utilitarian, but provide the occupants with levels of luxury and comfort that should come standard in any Mercedes. And from a sound quality point of view they’ve certainly succeeded. I can say with confidence that the X class is by far the quietest bakkie I’ve ever driven. Great for the drive down and you certainly end up at your destination noticeably more refreshed than any other bakkie, but unfortunately for me the benefits from what Mercedes has done with the X class starts and ends there.

Sure you get more leather inside and a Mercedes branded steering wheel, but as we all know it’s a Nissan underneath and quite frankly it’s not fooling anyone. The key fob is quite clearly from a Nissan, tacking a Mercedes logo on in its place fool’s no one and it’s a disappointment that permeates through the whole vehicle, particularly on the inside. The worst part is that you’re then expected to a pay a premium for all this extra “luxury” and I just don’t see where the value lies in it all. It’s a lot to try prop the Mercedes brand up on and so far for me and seemingly from vehicle sales, it’s just not working.

The silver lining is there is surely a niche market for the X class though. It was a great road trip and there’s no denying that the vehicle on its own is actually rather good and one of the best bakkies for doing long distance in. So for those taking regular holidays down to the coast with trailer, bikes, dogs and kids in tow then there is an argument to be made for it. The unfortunate part is that when thrown into such a difficult market where Ford and Toyota have put huge amounts of effort to up the game, the X Class is left somewhat floundering.

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