By on July 21, 2017

Mercedes-Benz X-Class Nissan Navara - Images: Mercedes-Benz & NissanAustralia’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.Mercedes-Benz X-Class & X-Class Concept - Images: Mercedes-Benz“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.

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55 Comments on “Mercedes-Benz Is on the X-Class Defensive – Is It Really More Than Just Badge Engineering?...”


  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I don’t think they’re the same vehicle at all. They share a basic bodyshell and frame. That’s it. The Mercedes-Benz model has different front and rear fascias, entirely different drivetrains, and even different electronics architectures. It’s the equivalent of gutting an NA Miata and putting everything from a C5 Corvette in it. Then redesigning almost every non-crucial exterior panel as well as the interior.

    Even the door skins, front fenders and beds are entirely different.

    Besides, if this vehicle did come to the US, MBUSA could console itself in the fact that the X-Class’ Nissan cousin isn’t even sold on these shores and, like I said, it’s got Mercedes-Benz interfaces, so a lot of people wouldn’t know the relationship.

    This goes much further, in my mind, than a lot of other “joint” efforts, including Daimler-Nissan’s own QX30, which, despite having its own slinky sheetmetal, is obviously a Mercedes-Benz inside, sharing very few of its interfaces with the other members of the Nissan family.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      Importantly they have different suspension geometry.

      For example, front control arms are longer on the Merc.

      The rear axle is longer.

      As you stated different drive trains. But, I will acknowledge that the Reno twin turbo 2.3 is used in the cheaper X Class variants.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        @BAFO – Where do you get your “info”?? They share the same “track”, Nissan and “merc”.

        A “longer” rear axle” as you call it, makes no sense in the 1st place. Maybe you meant *wider*?? But no the axles are the same.

        It’s clear you pull info out of your “back pocket”, then present it as *fact*.

        For our purposes it’s a 100% Nissan built “badge job”. The X-class does have slightly wider fenders, with most of the differences, Nissan to “merc” being cosmetic.

        The Ford Raptor has less in common with normal F-150s.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      The door skins look exactly the same to me and if if the skin is slightly different it is certainly hung on the same structure and went through many of the same dies along the way. I’m pretty sure that the beds aren’t entirely different either just the bed sides and skin on the tail gate are unique.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        and so does a Colorado, Hilux, BT50, DMax, Ranger,……………

        Midsizers are no different than a fullsize.

        1. They have a cab

        2. They have a tub

        3. They have four wheels

        4. They have a tailgate, how many different tailgate designs are there??

        Scoutdude, you comment is just that a comment.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al From 'Murica

          You know perfectly well what he means. In 10 years when one goes to a junkyard to get a door for there Navarra the computer will also pull up any of these that are on the yard. Yes, it has a cab, a bed, etc…but this one seems to have the exact same cab as the Navarra. If you are cool with that, fine…it seems to be a solid truck, but dont try to make it something it isnt. This sort of thing can work. Given the choice between a Miata or a 124 Abarth I’ll take the FIAT but I know in my heart it wouldnt be an Itallian sports car. This ain’t a real Benz in the sense that US buyers view the brand. It probably works globally though where the brand is more than a premium offering, hence why we dont get it here. Chicken tax would be a non issue since it is being built on existing Navarra lines…they could crank it out in Mississippi with a federalized Mercedes motor or the VQ40.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            If I am going to pay a premium for a vehicle like a Mercedes, I am not going to like the fact that it is an *ALTERED* Nissan.
            That would be like Ford contracting its F150 line to GM.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            Lou,
            We are talking Ford and VW Amarok prices.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        The door skins are not the same. Note the indented surrounds for the door handles that are on the Nissan version, but missing from the Mercedes-Benz version. Also, the Mercedes-Benz has a subtler character line running across the bottoms of the doors, where as the Nissan one is swoopier.

        Yeah, I’m sure everything has the same structure underneath, for the bed and the doors, but the panels aren’t the same.

        I still wouldn’t call it a re-badge, for the reasons I just mentioned. Now the Yukon and the Tahoe? *That’s* a rebadge.

        But here, Mercedes-Benz did what we all wish we could do. It took the shell and frame of one vehicle and endowed it with all of its own parts to create something different.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al From 'Murica

          Ah…I had to really stare at it. Perhaps the skin is pushed out to accomadate the wider body. It hardly seems worth the effort for such minimal differences especially when all the glass is the same. Are those doorhandles from anything else Mercedes? In my opinion little things like that go a long way towards making something like this successful. If the switchgear and stuff are changed so it feels more like that brands other offerings I think it makes it better. That is my beef with the aforementioned 124 Abarth. It looks Italian from outside, It sounds the part at the tailpipe (in Abarth trim anyway), but inside is straight up Japanese.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          Kyree,
          I do think he’s talking about how the rear of the window sill kicks up.

          This is quite common on midsizers.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Upon closer look the door skins are slightly different. I’m not saying that is a classic rebadge like a GM though.

          However this isn’t some big leap, look at those American less than full size trucks that ended up wearing a Japanese badge, they had many unique body pieces too.

          I’m mentioned my mother in law’s Ranger before and her sudden need to have it look respectable again. One of the things she needs is a driver’s side tail light. I happened to be passing the self serve wrecking yard so I thought I’d stop in and see if they had one.

          This particular yard still subscribes to putting the cars in sections based on the mfg. So I trudged out to the far back corner of the yard where the Ford products that aren’t full size reside. On the way back empty handed I was surprised to the the Oval on the tail gate of a truck and it had a driver’s side tail light in it. Of course when I got closer I saw that it was a B-Series that someone had put a Ranger tail gate on and since the bed sides and tail light opening are not shared of course it wouldn’t work.

          But the fact is that on the exterior the only things that are shared are the doors and the rest of the cab, the tail gate and the “tub” of the bed.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            I remember you mentioning your mother’s Ranger. A friend of mine had a B-Series with Ranger parts, and, yes, it looked disjointed.

            But you’ll notice that it’s rare for BOF-based SUVs and trucks not to share bodyshells with each other. I don’t know why that is, but it’s true. They’ll do a different bodyshell for the unibody LaCrosse and the XTS, but not for the Yukon and the Escalade. The most significant departure from this trend is probably the 2016+ LX570, which was given a dramatic enough sheetmetal alteration that it doesn’t look exactly like its Land Cruiser sister.

        • 0 avatar
          alexndr333

          The M-B truck is as different from Nissan’s as the late ’70’s Firebird was different from the Camaro. Different body panels that looked the same. Me thinks Mr. Williams doth protest too much.

    • 0 avatar
      RobertRyan

      Kyree S Willems
      Can add a different extra diesel engine..V6 one at that

  • avatar
    EAF

    The Benz will be less reliable and cost more. Thank you Mercedes!

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    Cimarron was also “different” from its donor.

    • 0 avatar
      Corey Lewis

      That’s not really a fair comparison. Mercedes went much further than just changing some lights, grilles, and interior components.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        Corey,
        Here’s a link that might dispel some of the is it a Nissan or is it a Mercedes Benz argument.

        To me from reading the article it seems to be different.

        http://www.drive.com.au/new-car-reviews/2018-mercedesbenz-xclass-first-impressions-20170720-gxfn28.html

        • 0 avatar

          Well the your link is pretty non commital. To me the heart of every vehicle is the engine and all the volume for this one will be with Nissan powerplants. To me is brand equity destroyer and I’d never consider one but I’m sure there will be plenty who will. Continues the slide downwards for Mercedes though, it used to be such an aspirational brand.

          • 0 avatar
            RobertRyan

            @ Mark Morrison,
            The ” Nissan” engines are really Renault that have proven very relible in the Masters Vans. You do not get these in the US.
            MB V6 to be introduced mid year

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Right. And even rebadges like the Cimarron aren’t offensive in and of themselves. The problem was that the Cavalier and the rest of the J-bodies weren’t good cars to start with. Turning them into a Cadillac, then, was putting lipstick on an under-engineered, poorly-built pig.

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    I see more differences than I did upon initial inspection. The X-Class is a bit less cartoony than the Navara. I wonder how many they’d sell here – I can think of a few people who’d choose a Benz truck over a Denali, just for the badge.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      They will sell in the US. But, will they sell more than the 100 000 figure to make it viable?

      The chicken tax kills any imports and competition. I suppose GMC will be happy with that more so than Chev, Nissan or Toyota with their US midsizers.

      It would be awesome to see the US with a larger variety of pickups on offer, 14 brands is a significant increase and range of choice.

      If we can sell 14 brands with 24 million and have cheaper pickups than the US, imagine how much prices will drop with the larger quantities sold in the US.

      They are not expensive as you would think either. From what I can gather equivalent or near enough Rangers and Amaroks are going to be around the same price.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al From 'Murica

        In this case, I call bunk. This truck is from what I read to be built in existing Navarra factories. Mississippi will eventually tool up for the new truck and they could just run it down that line if there was money to be made. Issue is that Nissan USA would rather sell you a Titan because they make more money in the transaction BUT they blew the redesign and nobody is buying them. The Frontier sells and is in a part of the truck market that is more import friendly here so I think it would have been a better investment but the US fullsize market is lucrative so I understand Nissan wanting a piece.

        I wonder though about the benz selling here. I dont think you sway the Tacoma buyers…they are as brand loyal as the US Fullsize buyer. The Frontier sells largely on value, something this truck (and maybe the new Frontier) would have a harder time with so you are either creating a segment or grabbing high trim GM midsize buyers. Even you have to admit that is a tough road. Even if they could just import some is the market even worth the cost of federalizing the model?

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          lil’Al,
          They why the chicken tax?

          Come on. You can do better than that.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al From 'Murica

            Im not arguing the chicken tax…I am simply stating that in the case of the X class it would be easily circumvented at the likely volumes we are talking. The chicken tax isn’t why this truck won’t sell here…it won’t sell here because the market doesn’t justify the investment by the manufacturer. It is a tiny sliver of a rather small market. If they wanted to make money in the US they should give this treatment to the Titan. There is way more room to add in the “Mercedes tax” in a full sized truck as that market supports a higher price point.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al From 'Murica

            And nt like they don’t have the capacity on the Titan line for another variant.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            Li’l Al,
            First Nissan needs to agree.

            Second the US Frontier is not the global.

            Thirdly the US might be getting the smaller global Navara.

            Fourthly will enough be sold to warrant changing the line for a limited run.

        • 0 avatar
          RobertRyan

          Frontier they sell in the US is prehistoric

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al From 'Murica

      And honestly, on Style I like the Navarra better. The Merc to me looks like someone overinflated it.

  • avatar
    I_like_stuff

    Conversation I had with my wife”

    Me: Check this out there is a Mercedes truck?

    Her: laughs

    Me: No really, it’s coming out soon.

    Her: Oh. Well I don’t know who would buy one.

    She’s right. Truck people won’t buy it because truck people will look at it as a joke. And MB buyers won’t buy it, because MB buyers think truck owners are toothless rednecks, and want nothing to do with that image.

    This whole idea is beyond dumb.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      I like stuff,
      Odd you say that!

      I remember as a young one, back in the 70s it was frowned on to own a pickup with cloth seats, carpet, radio/cassette, etc.

      How times have changed ………………. not.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      I think part of what you say is true but is based on people not being aware of MB products.

      I wonder how many people in the U.S. are aware of the utterly off road capable Unimog or of the OTR Actros?

      On road or off, Mercedes makes very good trucks.

  • avatar
    justinx

    Mercedes Benz Van had no problem rebadging a Renault Kangoo as a Citan. I guess this more Lincoln Versailles than Cadillac Seville. It looks like the two trucks share windshield and other glass, the only increase in width comes from the fender flares. If this is a real Mercedes, how do they explain that its being built by Nissan workers on the same assembly line as the Navara?

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    What interests me is how does the ute drive and how does it off road.

    For the price of a fancy Ranger or Amarok, I’d look at one of these if it offers better vehicle dynamics.

    I wonder if anyone has driven one, other than a Mercedes Benz stooge?

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    F*ck Mercedes/Daimler directly in their piehole, disingenuous asshole$ that they are.

    This X-rated excrement is 92% Nissan Navajo-Nacho-Navarra no matter what they claim (lie/deny).

    They’re on quite the tear of squandering the massive and deep well of heritage, goodwill and brand prestige that it took them over 100 years to build by putting out piles of slop like this (with a ridiculous upcharge), the CLA, GLA, etc, and slapping the LED-lit ginormous tristar on its hideous face and telling everyone that is accurately represents what their genuine raison de etre once was.

  • avatar
    thavashg

    The Best or Nissan !!

  • avatar
    roverv8i

    Infiniti QX30 vs. Mercedes GLA
    Toyota Matrix vs. Pontiac Vibe
    Chevrolet Cavalier vs. Cadillac Cimarron

    What’s one difference – the first two are roughly in the same price range and market demographic. The third is not. So, it not really how much the look the same or different but how much the association with each other adds or subtracts from perception. I believe American customers still perceive MB as a premium/luxury brand only. The vans and commercial trucks don’t resonate with them. In much of the rest of the world there is a perception of MB making work vehicles so you drive a MB while on the job and then you can drive a tough MB home.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    No chicken tax in Canada. Will we get the X class or won’t we? Who cares, precisely no one. But apparently it is a matter of the highest national importance in Australia, where a deep investigation is now under way lead by crack teams of specialists to ensure most Nissan DNA is expunged except for glass, a bit of a dead giveaway that. As we speak, those people are measuring the length of the front A-arms, checking bushing specs against a parts catalogue to ensure they’re German, making sure the fragrance dispenser is present and accounted for, that the MBTex upholstery is the latest version known in salons de couture as Artico, that someone actually painted the frame at the Nissan plant so it doesn’t break in half at inconvenient times. Whoa, here comes the farm cow cesspool sucker truck! Careful! Pour it more slowly! Good! Yes mate, that’s 1000 kg of genuine Strine you-know-what there. Try that in an F150! Buckle the springs, mate, you know it would. Yup, it’s a real truck all right, but with benefritz.

  • avatar
    Prove Your Humanity 2+9=?

    It’s worth noting that Mercedes apparently thinks that basing “their” truck on a Nissan, they are getting a superior product.
    Nissan is not asking to build anything based on a Mercedes.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      11,
      The Navara chassis is unique in what it offers.

      It is quite a flexible chassis.

      Nissan and Renault sell these with a leaf sprung rear end. But, Nissan and Renault also sell these with coils.

      I do think this is what interests MB, the coil rear end.

      I would love to see MB build a short wheel base version of this as a SUV wagon, with the V6 diesel.

    • 0 avatar
      joeaverage

      Search for “Mercedes engines being built at Decherd, TN”

      Nissan and Mercedes are working together on several (many?) projects.

  • avatar
    W210Driver

    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.

  • avatar
    joeaverage

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

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