Looking at Australia’s sales charts, it’s clear that Aussie buyers are fond of two, very different things, one being dual-cab utes, and the other being high-performance machinery – often with a European badge attached.
That makes the idea of giving the as-yet unreleased X-Class ute from Mercedes-Benz a sure-bet for the AMG hot-shop treatment, right? On the contrary, the official word is that the high-power Mercedes-AMG treatment won’t be bestowed up on the X-Class just yet.
The X-Class will be the first dual-cab pickup built by Mercedes-Benz though it owes a large part of its underpinnings to the Nissan Navara ute though an alliance between to two brands, and is due for international release towards the end of next year.
It is an attempt by Mercedes-Benz to capture (or indeed, create) the premium end of the ute market that currently accounts for a large percentage of Australia’s new-vehicles sales.
While the term “premium” in this case includes Mercedes styling both inside and out and the replacement of Nissan drivetrains with German ones, according to AMG boss Tobias Moers it’s unlikely to include outright performance.
“As of now I don’t see a market, I don’t see room for that,” Mr Moers said about a specific AMG X-Class model.
“I think it’s too niche, but never say never, that’s what I always claim.”
As well as regarding an X-Class AMG as being of limited appeal to customers, Mr Moers also cited the difficulties of turning what is essentially a commercial vehicle into a proper performer.
“It’s a platform that is not necessarily a Mercedes platform and you have to discover all the complexity, and then there’s the outcome,” he said.
“Is it the perfect brand ambassador for AMG?”
While Mr Moers conceded his company had already worked with heavy duty off-roaders such as turning the G-Class into a G 63 AMG, the company had other things on its development plate such as the upcoming Project One super sports-car.
“A hypercar is more important in my opinion than having a pickup,” he said.
Meanwhile, development of the X-Class continues ahead of its launch including prototype testing in the Australian outback.
“A few of them will be there because this is what we do always in the regions [where] there are different climate conditions or different road conditions,” said head of Mercedes vans (including X-Class), Volker Mornhinweg.
He said the Australian testing regime will be validation of systems Mercedes is using in the X-Class such as its own suspension settings, anti-lock brake and stability control hardware and the two full-time and part-time 4WD systems.
“We have test tracks where we do the basic setup and durability tests, but then at a certain level we test the durability in the different regions, in Australia, in South Africa, in Latin America to figure out if there is something we do not check in our test tracks.”
Mr Mornhinweg also confirmed the X-Class would be available solely as a dual-cab body style with no single-cab configuration, although a more rugged interior with vinyl floors might not be out of the question.
“We won’t go for the single cab because it’s a very small market and a low price,” he said.
“But we have some customers in the premium sector that when it comes to fleets they would like to have this kind of floor.”
MORE: Mercedes-Benz News and Reviews