Mercedes-Benz Is on the X-Class Defensive - Is It Really More Than Just Badge Engineering?

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain
mercedes benz is on the x class defensive is it really more than just badge

Australia’s pickup truck markets wants to know: is the Mercedes-Benz X-Class more than just a badge-engineered Nissan Navara?

“This is hardly a double badge,” Mercedes-Benz Vans’ global boss Volker Mornhinweg told Motoring.

But there’s a tendency to see matters another way. The production X-Class, not yet bound for North America’s nonexistent premium midsize pickup truck market, isn’t exactly a carbon copy of the X-Class Concept shown in late 2016.

Moreover, that X-Class gear lever looks downright familiar to Navara drivers.

Mornhinweg isn’t denying the intrinsic partnership between Daimler and Nissan-Renault. Acknowledging that Mercedes-Benz doesn’t commonly seek platform partners in the passenger car sector, Mornhinweg says, “We had a target of introducing the car at a short-term notice, and as it’s a global product, we could not build-up one facility for this product.” Indeed, that inability to quickly build a U.S. factory for the X-Class all but eliminates the X-Class from reaching the U.S. market because of high Chicken Tax import tariffs.

“Therefore,” says Mercedes-Benz’s Mornhinweg, “we discussed it with Nissan, if they are keen or have the willingness to work with us. They have a long tradition of doing pickups, and their base overall was useable for us, so we had it done.”

Mercedes-Benz would have been “stupid” to distinguish parts “a customer cannot feel or see,” Mornhinweg says, “because you need those economies of scale.”

To be fair to the X-Class, it isn’t just a Navara. It’s bigger: 3.3 inches longer and 2.8 inches wider despite riding on the same wheelbase. This is bound to alter the styling, though the two pickups naturally look similar when viewed from the side, as pickups are wont to do. But the Benz wears GM-like squared wheel arches. The X-Class’s front end is decidedly Benz GLS-like; only the housing for the fog lights maintains a similar shape. The Navara’s tailgate is more distinctive; the X-Class’s more plain. Inside, Mercedes-Benz plants a screen atop the vents as in many of its passenger cars and also slots its touchpad/control wheel in the center console.

They’re not the same trucks. Under the skin, Mercedes-Benz says the X-Class’s coil springs are heavier, the dampers are re-valved, and the anti-roll bars are thicker. The front track is wider.

As a result, “To be honest there was no challenge [to improving the Navara chassis],” Mornhinweg says, seemingly insulting Mercedes-Benz’s truck donor/partner, “because we had a clear development target of what we’d like to achieve with the pickup when it comes to driveability, comfort, suspension, and turn-in.”

So the X-Class isn’t merely a Navara. Yet given the degree to which consumers already know that the first Mercedes-Benz pickup is based on a Nissan, all of those detailed changes and styling alterations may not be enough to sufficiently distinguish the new Spain/Argentina-built German truck.

[Images: Mercedes-Benz, Nissan]

Timothy Cain is a contributing analyst at The Truth About Cars and Autofocus.ca and the founder and former editor of GoodCarBadCar.net. Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

Comments
Join the conversation
2 of 55 comments
  • W210Driver W210Driver on Jul 22, 2017

    While I am not the least bit interested in pickups or this car, I must say that the concept for the pickup looked so much better than the official X-Class that Europe, South America and Australia will be stuck with for some years. This is one of those cases where the concept should have made production with no exterior and interior changes. The X-Class, when compared to the concept, looks seriously underwhelming. Regarding the Nissan platform, I am personally not bothered by it as Mercedes has just essentially borrowed it and then built their pickup on it using their technology. The engines, transmissions, suspensions, brakes, 4Matic system and so forth are all from Mercedes-Benz. It's not a badge engineered Nissan in other words.

  • Joeaverage Joeaverage on Jul 24, 2017

    Looks like alot of nice potential upgrades to the Nissan drivers...

  • Jeff S Corey--We know but we still want to give our support to you and let TTAC know that your articles are excellent and better than what the typical articles are.
  • Jeff S A sport utility vehicle or SUV is a car classification that combines elements of road-going passenger cars with features from off-road vehicles, such as raised ground clearance and four-wheel drive.There is no commonly agreed-upon definition of an SUV and usage of the term varies between countries. Thus, it is "a loose term that traditionally covers a broad range of vehicles with four-wheel drive." Some definitions claim that an SUV must be built on a light truck chassis; however, broader definitions consider any vehicle with off-road design features to be an SUV. A [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossover_(automobile)]crossover SUV[/url] is often defined as an SUV built with a unibody construction (as with passenger cars), however, the designations are increasingly blurred because of the capabilities of the vehicles, the labelling by marketers, and electrification of new models.The predecessors to SUVs date back to military and low-volume models from the late 1930s, and the four-wheel drive station wagons and carryalls that began to be introduced in 1949. The 1984 [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeep_Cherokee_(XJ)]Jeep Cherokee (XJ)[/url] is considered to be the first SUV in the modern style. Some SUVs produced today use unibody construction; however, in the past, more SUVs used body-on-frame construction. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the popularity of SUVs greatly increased, often at the expense of the popularity of large [url=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sedan_(automobile)]sedans[/url] and station wagons.More recently, smaller SUVs, mid-size, and crossovers have become increasingly popular. SUVs are currently the world's largest automotive segment and accounted for 45.9% of the world's passenger car market in 2021. SUVs have been criticized for a variety of environmental and safety-related reasons. They generally have poorer fuel efficiency and require more resources to manufacture than smaller vehicles, contributing more to climate change and environmental degradation. Between 2010 and 2018 SUVs were the second largest contributor to the global increase in carbon emissions worldwide. Their higher center of gravity increases their risk of rollovers. Their larger mass increases their stopping distance, reduces visibility, and increases damage to other road users in collisions. Their higher front-end profile makes them at least twice as likely to kill pedestrians they hit. Additionally, the psychological sense of security they provide influences drivers to drive less cautiously. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sport_utility_vehicleWith the above definition of SUV any vehicle that is not a pickup truck if it is enclosed, doesn't have a trunk, and is jacked up with bigger tires. If the green activists adhere to this definition of what an SUV is there will be millions of vehicles with flat tires which include HRVs, Rav4s, CRVs, Ford Escapes, Buick Encores, and many of compact and subcompact vehicles. The green movement is going to have to recruit millions of new followers and will be busy flattening millions of tires in the US and across the globe. Might be easier to protest.
  • Sckid213 I actually do agree that most Nissans are ultimately junk. (I also think many BMWs are also). I was talking challenging the 3 in terms of driving dynamics. Agree all were failures in sales.
  • THX1136 More accurately said, we are seeing exponential growth in the manufacturing capabilities in this market. Unless, of course, all those vehicles are sold with customers waiting until more a produced so they can buy. Indeed, there are certainly more EVs being purchased now than back in 2016. Is demand outstripping manufacturing? Maybe or maybe not. I sincerely don't know which is why I ask.
  • ToolGuy The page here (linked in the writeup) is ridiculously stupid https://www.tyreextinguishers.com/how-to-spot-an-suvLike, seriously stupid, e.g., A) Not sure that particular Volvo is killing the planet as quickly as some other vehicles we might choose. B) A Juke is "huge"??? C) The last picture shows a RAV4 Hybrid?
Next