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

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

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 and the founder and former editor of Follow on Twitter @timcaincars.

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  • 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...

  • Dave M. The Outback alternates between decent design and goofy design every generation. 2005 was attractive, 2010 goofy. 2015 decent. 2020 good, but the ‘23 refresh hideous.Looking forward to the Outback hybrid in ‘26…..
  • Lorenzo Subaru had the ideal wagon - in 1995. The Legacy Outback was a straight two-box design with rear quarter and back windows you could see out of, and was available in brown with a 5-speed manual, as God and TTAC commenters intended. It's nice they're not raising prices, but when you've lost the plot, does it matter?
  • Bkojote Remember a month a go when Cleveland wanted to create a more walkable Cleveland and TTAC's 'BIG GOVERNMENT IS THE PROBLEM' dumbest and dullest all collectively crapped their diapers? Here's the thing- look on any American highway and it's littered with people who don't /want/ to be driving or shouldn't be. Look at every Becky on her phone during the morning commute in her Tucson, look at every Brad aggro driving his 84 month loan GMC. Hell look how many drivers nowadays can't even operate a headlight switch. You expect these people to understand a stoplight? In my neighborhood alone 4 people have been rear ended at lights from someone on their phone. Distracted driving over the past 10 years has spiked, and it's only going to get worse unless Becky has an alternative, because no judge is going to pull her license when 'she needs it to get to work!' but heaven forbid she not check fb/tiktok for 40 minutes a day.
  • Scott Shouldn't the The Italian Minister for Business be criticizing The Milano for being too ugly to be Italian?Better use of resources doing that....
  • Steve Biro Frankly, while I can do without Eyesight and automatic start-stop, there is generally less B-S with Subarus in terms of design, utility and off-road chops than with many other brands. I just hope that when they adopt Toyota’s hybrid system, they’ll also use Toyota’s eCVT.