Yes, Mercedes-Benz really is building a pickup truck. After announcing this unlikely plan last year, Mercedes unveiled a concept version of its upcoming pickup at an event in Stockholm. The production version goes on sale in late 2017, but it may not come to the United States.
Confirming previous rumors, the truck will be called the X-Class. It’s a midsize pickup that will actually be sold under the Mercedes-Benz Vans division when it goes into production. The styling mixes traditional truck boxiness with some elements borrowed from Mercedes’ SUVs. Mercedes showed two versions of the X-Class concept: the “stylish explorer” features a more car-like look, with big wheels and a clean exterior, while the “powerful adventurer” is an off-road model, with a jacked-up ride height, fender flares, and a winch.
On the inside, design elements like round air vents and infotainment screens propped up atop the center stack tie both versions of the X-Class to Mercedes’ current cars and SUVs. The designs hint that the X-Class will be more of a luxury vehicle than a spartan workhorse. Mercedes promises connected services that will allow owners to track their vehicles’ locations and import navigation destinations from phones, among other features. The production X-Class will also feature “modern driver assistance systems based on cameras’ radar, and ultrasound sensors,” Mercedes says.
The X-Class features old school body-on-frame construction, with a version of the 4Matic all-wheel drive system used in other Mercedes models. Mercedes was light on technical details, only saying that the top-of-the-line version will have a V6 diesel engine. The X-Class was developed with help from the Renault-Nissan Alliance, and will be built at Renault and Nissan plants, meaning it could share components with the Nissan NP300 Navara and Renault Alaskan trucks, which it does resemble somewhat.
But why build a pickup truck at all? It may seem like a stretch for a manufacturers of luxury cars, but Mercedes has plenty of experience with commercial vehicles and off roaders, as the military-bred G-Class, Unimog, and Sprinter and Metris vans demonstrate. Speaking at the X-Class concept’s Swedish launch, Dieter Zetsche, head of Mercedes parent Daimler, cited anticipated growth in the midsize truck market, and the increasing use of pickups as “lifestyle vehicles” by urban professionals as reasons for Mercedes’ big leap into the market.
The X-Class will launch late next year in Europe, Australia, and South Africa, and a South American launch will follow sometime after that. A Mercedes statement noted that “while a pickup is under consideration for the U.S. market at some point, no timeline is available for a decision to be made.”