For the better part of the decade, BMW and Mercedes have found success expanding into just about every segment you can think of. Between GTs and X- models, BMW just might offer more crossovers and SUVs than any other automaker. Hell, you can even spec a Mercedes Metris work van into an honest-to-God minivan. But neither German brand has attempted to tackle a pickup truck until now. Late last year, Mercedes unveiled the X-Class as a concept in Stockholm, Sweden. But don’t let the “concept” designation fool you; the X-Class will see production. It’s just a matter of whether or not it’ll ever come stateside.
Mercedes has been developing the truck for at least a year through a partnership with Nissan. So far, it’s unlikely it will come to the U.S., but if the demand for luxury trucks continues, it just might. Pickup trucks are moving consistently upmarket, but while American buyers still largely flock to domestic brands, a high-end German model might go over well with well-heeled buyers that are already OK with spending $70K on a loaded hauler.
Skipping the American market doesn’t mean that Mercedes has it easy, either. The global market is intensely competitive, with rugged, go anywhere models like the Toyota Hilux, Volkswagen Amarok, Ford Ranger, and Nissan Navara (which the X Class is based on) jockeying for sales as the demand for trucks continues to grow worldwide.
Despite the X-Class’s recent unveiling, its near-production status means that we already have a good picture of what the production version is going to be. Here are five things you need to know about the Mercedes-Benz X-Class.
1. It’ll be here sooner than you think
Unlike the usual deflections about a concept car’s chances of production, Mercedes has already announced that the X-Class will enter production in late 2017. It’ll reach Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Germany, Great Britain, and South Africa first, but with a strong demand for Mercedes SUVs in the Middle East, expect it to appear there soon after.
2. Don’t let the Nissan DNA fool you
The X-Class is closely related to the Nissan Navara, something that’s most evident when you look at it in profile. It will even be built in the same plant, along with the closely-related Renault Alaskan. But that’s where the comparisons end: The X-Class will feature a unique bed and sheetmetal from the A-pillars forward, as well as a unique interior. What’s more, it will feature Mercedes powertrains. In essence, Mercedes has expedited its development process by finding a platform that works, and doing the rest.
3. Powertrains are all Mercedes
Like the bodywork, the powertrain options in the X-Class will be all Mercedes. The company announced that the range-topping powerplant will be a six-cylinder diesel mated to a full-time all-wheel drive system, but promised that a range of engines will be available. Expect two-wheel drive entry-level models, as well as a host of other four- and six-cylinder gas and diesel engines to be sold around the world.
4. It’s all truck
As the Navara and Alaskan have already proven, Mercedes is working with a seriously capable truck platform. When the project was announced last year, the company declared that it would be able to haul as much as — or more than — any other midsize truck in the world. With the ability to haul 2,200 pounds, and tow up to 7,000, it looks like Mercedes has made good on its claim.
5. It will appeal to truck buyers everywhere
The X-Class was unveiled in two different trims: The off-road ready “Powerful Explorer,” and the urbane “Stylish Adventurer.” We’d be surprised if those trims made it to production full-stop, but they show what the X-Class can be. Buyers at the top end will almost certainly be able to option their trucks as either a luxury vehicle or rugged off-roader, but expect the vast majority to just be pickup trucks. Remember, Mercedes has a long and successful history selling entry-level and work vehicles around the world. Regardless of whether it’s hauling farm equipment in Argentina, or parked on the streets of Berlin, X-Class is likely going to become an important part of Mercedes’s global lineup very soon.