Mazda 3 SkyActiv-X Prototype

Petrol Bounces Back

Mazda 3 SkyActiv-X Prototype
Mazda is just one of the car manufacturers investing heavily in the next generation of petrol engines

This article was first published in Forecourt News, the magazine of the Irish Petrol Retailers Association (IPRA). You can download the magazine online here.

The IPRA is the representative body for petrol retailers in Ireland, providing advice and guidance to members as well as lobbying on their behalf. Please check out their website here to find out more about the work of the IPRA.

In the article I discuss the resurgence of sales of petrol cars in Ireland, and the brands that are winning, as buyers look for good petrol alternatives to the diesel family car.

Cast your mind back to 2008. The Irish Government had just moved the motor tax system for new cars to one based on CO2 emissions. The new system rewarded vehicles with the lowest CO2 emissions with a lower cost of annual motor tax and favoured the diesel cars of the day.

Irish motorists began to desert petrol cars in their droves. In 2007, petrol accounted for about 70% of the new car market in Ireland; by 2011 diesel accounted for about 70% of the new car market. We went from being a country with a strong petrol bias to one with a strong diesel bias. Similar trends were seen in other European countries.

But petrol is now undergoing an unlikely resurgence. In the last few years diesel cars have received some terrible press regarding false manufacturer claims on emissions. In 2017, the media was awash with reports of diesel bans in many European cities.

There is already some movement in the industry away from diesel. Toyota announced earlier this year that the company will begin to phase out diesel engines in passenger cars in 2018 in favour of petrol and hybrid models. Honda launched the tenth generation Civic in 2017 with two petrol engines (though a diesel has since joined the range). The next Honda CR-V SUV will be available in hybrid and petrol only when it arrives in Ireland later in 2018.

Fuel pumps
Sales of petrol cars in Ireland are undergoing a resurgence

So as the industry and consumer buying behaviour begins to change, who are the winners?

Petrol electric hybrids and plug-in hybrids are making gains, with sales so far in 2018 up about 67% on 2017. But this still only equates to about 4,178 cars.

Petrol is the real winner as buyers stop defaulting to diesel. According to figures from the Society of the Irish Motor Industry, sales of new petrol cars are up nearly 20% in 2018, equating to about 26,940 new petrol cars registered in Ireland in the first three months of the year. Market share for petrol is up now to about 38% from 30% in 2017, while diesel has slipped down to 56% already in 2018 from 67% in 2017.

Individual brands are also seeing the same shift away from their previously popular diesel models. At a press briefing given by Nissan Ireland in December 2017, Irish motoring journalists were shown some interesting data on 2018 pre-orders for the brand. Nissan has a strong market share in Ireland with the Qashqai being the bestselling car in Ireland in March 2018. There is also a petrol and diesel option so the Qashqai is a good barometer for what is happening in the market.

Nissan's data showed that the number of new car buyers who had opted to buy the petrol version of the Nissan Qashqai had increased from 29% in 2017 to 54% for 2018. The numbers buying the diesel model have fallen from 71% to 46%.

It’s clear that car buyers are no longer defaulting to diesel and are really doing the maths and looking at the sort of journeys they make to work out what the best option is for them in the long run.

Nissan Qashqai
The Nissan Qashqai is Ireland's bestselling car. According to Nissan, the Qashqai's popularity is driven by the availability of petrol engines in their range

Manufacturers who can offer good, efficient petrol engines in their model ranges now have the opportunity to really ride the crest of this wave. The last few years have seen a trend in the industry for engine downsizing, with the likes of Ford, Peugeot, Kia, Hyundai, Nissan, Toyota and the Volkswagen Group leading the way. The addition of turbochargers has facilitated the manufacture of powerful and efficient three-cylinder engines, some with as little capacity as 1.0-litre. But in small to medium-sized cars these are more than capable of lugging around the average family and their gear.

Brands are also investing more in making their petrol engines even more efficient with manufacturers like Mazda claiming that the next generation of petrol engines could be as efficient as an electric vehicle when measured 'well-to-wheel'. Mazda's SKYACTIV-X petrol engine with innovative Spark Controlled Compression Ignition is currently in development and Mazda claims that engine efficiency will be up 20%-30% over the current generation of Mazda petrol engines when the engines go into production in 2019.

Many people are predicting the demise of the internal combustion engine. But there is vagueness about when and too much doubt still about electric for anyone to write off the internal combustion engine just yet. We can expect to see more innovative petrol technology in the next few years. For now at least, petrol seems to be the real winner.

Caroline Kidd


Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio Irish Pricing

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio
The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is now on sale in Ireland!

The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio performance SUV has gone on sale in Ireland priced from €118,795.

Powered by a 2.9-litre V6 Bi-Turbo petrol engine with Q4 all wheel drive as standard, the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio has 510hp and 600Nm of torque.  The SUV can sprint from zero to 100km/h in just 3.8 seconds and on to a top speed of more than 283km/h. The specifically calibrated eight-speed automatic transmission allows gear shifts in just 150 milliseconds in Race mode.

The Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio is also equipped with the exclusive Alfa™ Chassis Domain Control unit, which acts as the brain to coordinate all the car's electronic systems. The system simultaneously assigns specific tasks to the various active systems, such as the Alfa™ DNA Pro selector, Q4 all-wheel drive, Alfa™ Active Torque Vectoring system, Alfa™ Active Suspension system and the ESC.

The standard Torque Vectoring technology optimises the Stelvio Quadrifoglio's drive distribution. The two electronically controlled clutches in the rear differential make it possible to control torque delivery to each wheel separately. This ensures the optimal transfer of power to the ground even when the car is pushed to its dynamic limits, without the need for intrusive inputs from the stability control system.

Equipment

Standard specification on the Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio in Ireland includes 20-inch Quadrifoglio alloy wheels with special profiled wheel arches, restyled rear diffuser, sports exhaust with four outlets, and bi-xenon headlamps with LED daytime running lights.

Inside, the Stelvio Quadrifoglio comes as standard with a leather dashboard and door tops, leather and Alcantara seats, leather steering wheel, carbon fibre trim and stainless steel pedals. There's also an 8.8-inch Alfa™ Connect infotainment system, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto™.

Safety specification includes advanced Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Blind Spot Monitoring (DSM), Integrated Braking System (IBS), Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and a rear-view camera with guide lines. Alfa™ Chassis Domain Control, Alfa™ Active Torque Vectoring, Alfa™ Active Suspension system and Alfa™ DNA Pro, with Race Mode, complete the standard set-up.


The 2018 Jeep Renegade

Jeep Renegade 1.4 Petrol Review

The 2018 Jeep Renegade
The 2018 Jeep Renegade

Caroline drives the Jeep Renegade.

The Jeep Renegade arrived in Ireland in 2015 as Jeep’s first entry into the small SUV segment. The Renegade fitted the brief perfectly for the smallest Jeep of all: it's compact, boxy perfection bearing all the classic hallmarks of Jeep design. With pricing starting from €21,950, it's positioned among an ever-growing list of similarly sized crossovers and SUVs.

But on looks alone, the Jeep Renegade sure brings kudos to this segment. It's the boxy antithesis to all those curvy crossovers like the Renault Captur and Opel Mokka X. Jeep's seven-bar grille is prominent at the front framed by two round headlamps, while the squared-off wheel arches and boxy rear pay homage to the classic Jeep Wrangler.

Thankfully the Renegade is a much more market-friendly product than the Wrangler. The Renegade is the first Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) car to be jointly developed by Italian and American engineers and the first Jeep to be built in Europe.

This means that inside, there is a distinct European flavour to the fit and finish of the car and it's certainly a nice interior to interact with. The Renegade has seating for five but like a lot of its competitors, realistically four will be most comfortable and there is a 351 litre boot. Anyone looking for something larger, should consider the new Jeep Compass.

The interior of the 2018 Jeep Renegade
The interior of the 2018 Jeep Renegade

Equipment and engines for the Jeep Renegade

Jeep Ireland markets three trim levels: Sport, Longitude and Limited. Standard equipment on the entry Sport model includes the UconnectTM infotainment system with 5″ touchscreen, Bluetooth, 16-inch alloy wheels, multifunction steering wheel with audio controls and air conditioning.

Longitude models are available from €25,800 and add 17-inch alloy wheels, black roof rails, front fog lamps, dual zone air conditioning, rear park distance control, cruise control, and UconnectTM 8.4-inch infotainment/navigation system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Limited models start from €28,300 and add 18-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, heated front seats and steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, forward collision and lane departure warning, front and rear park distance control, chrome exterior pack featuring chrome front grille, exterior mirrors, exhaust tailpipes and roof rails, and a premium 7″ TFT colour cluster display.

The engine line-up for Ireland includes a 1.6-litre e-torQ petrol (110hp), 1.4-litre MultiAir Turbo petrol (140hp), 1.6-litre MultiJet diesel (95hp and 120hp) and 2.0-litre MultiJet (140hp). There are manual and automatic gearbox options. Renegade is front wheel drive as standard but 4x4 is also available.

On the road in the Jeep Renegade

My test car was a 1.4-litre turbo petrol with 140hp in Limited trim with a list price of €28,300. On the road the petrol Renegade is smooth and refined but feels a little bit gutless. The on the road driving manners are good, and though the steering is not the most communicative of units, the Renegade stays composed through corners and is fun to drive in its own way. The ride is a little on the firm side so the suspension picks up more of the changes in road surface.

The 2018 Jeep Renegade
The Jeep Renegade is the smallest SUV in Jeep's range, priced from €21,950 in Ireland

The Jeep Renegade can get very expensive for what is still a relatively compact vehicle so be careful with your engine and trim choice. Along with the larger Jeep Compass however, the Renegade is a step in the right direction for Jeep if they are to conquer European hearts and minds with competitive compact SUVs. It's impossible not to be enamoured by the Jeep Renegade's rugged charms and character!

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Jeep Renegade 1.4 MultiAir Turbo 140hp FWD Limited
Price: 
€28,300 (Available from €21,950)
Engine: 1.4-litre turbo petrol
Power: 
140hp
Torque: 230Nm
0-100km/h: 
10.9 seconds
Top speed: 180km/h
Claimed Economy: 
6.0l/100km
CO2 emissions:  
140g/km
Motor tax: 
€280 per year


The 2018 Jeep Compass

Jeep Compass 1.6 Diesel Review

The 2018 Jeep Compass
The 2018 Jeep Compass

Caroline drives the new Jeep Compass.

Jeep has long been the maker of tough off-road vehicles and SUVs. As SUV sales continue to grow, you could say that there has never been a better time to market a Jeep. The brand is starting to get its house in order again with the launch of some market-friendly products like 2015’s compact Jeep Renegade and the new Jeep Compass.

Priced from €27,995, the new Jeep Compass goes squarely up against the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, Opel Grandland X and Kia Sportage. These soft-roaders are hot property these days but on looks alone the Jeep Compass holds a lot of promise. The Compass is an ideal product for this market mixing modern kerb appeal with classic Jeep styling cues like the famous seven-bar grille and squared-off wheel arches.

New Jeep Compass is a very European SUV

Jeep's parent company is Fiat Chrysler (FCA) and the Compass is built in Europe. Slip inside and it's clear that while Jeep is still thought of as a very American brand, the new Compass is a very European SUV. The interior is lacking the character you might expect of a Jeep, but the build quality is good and there are soft touch materials to add aesthetic appeal. The Uconnect infotainment system is mounted in a trapezoidal shaped surround, a characteristic Jeep design cue, and there are plenty of other convenience features on board too.

The interior of the 2018 Jeep Compass
The interior of the 2018 Jeep Compass

On a practical note, the Compass has a very roomy cabin, particularly in the rear, and families will love the generous accommodation for three. My test car had a spare wheel that eats into the boot space a bit, though with a tyre repair kit, it’s a more competitive 432 litres.

The Jeep Compass range in Ireland

In Ireland there are three trim levels for the new Jeep Compass: Sport, Longitude and Limited. Standard equipment includes 16-inch alloy wheels, LED tail lights, leather steering wheel with audio controls, air conditioning, cruise control, forward collision warning and lane departure warning.

Engine options for Ireland include a 1.4-litre MultiAir Turbo petrol engine (140hp), a 1.6-litre MultiJet diesel (120hp) or a 2.0-litre MultiJet diesel with 140bhp or 170hp. A six speed manual comes as standard but there is an auto option. There are 4x4 models available too, though in standard form the Compass is front wheel drive.

Rear legroom in the Jeep Compass
There is good rear legroom in the Jeep Compass

My test car was a Jeep Compass 1.6-litre diesel in Limited trim with a list price of €34,695. This high spec model includes 18" alloys, front fog lamps, leather upholstery, electrically adjustable and heated front seats, heated steering wheel, a 560W BeatsAudio infotainment/navigation system, dual zone air conditioning, reversing camera and parking sensors, power folding exterior mirrors, 8.4″ infotainment/navigation system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, keyless entry/go, blind spot monitoring with rear cross path detection, and parallel and perpendicular park assist.

Is it nice to drive?

On the road, the Jeep Compass does well with the 1.6-litre diesel and manual gearbox. The engine never gets too raucous and it has plenty of power and torque, while being efficient also. The steering and gearing all feels cohesive and the car handles confidently for a family SUV of this size. It fits the requirement for being comfortable though I did note some road noise at speed out on larger roads.

The Compass is a great addition to Jeep's portfolio, allowing the SUV manufacturer to tackle a very lucrative segment with a competitive product. While the Compass lacks some of the character of the smaller Renegade, it makes up for it with a more practical size, extra comfort and refinement.

Competition is fierce in this segment and there are a few major players. But the Jeep Compass feels like a bit more of a novelty with its roots. Welcome back Jeep!

The Jeep Compass is an alternative family SUV
The Jeep Compass is an alternative family SUV

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Jeep Compass 1.6 Multijet 120hp FWD Limited
Price: 
€34,695 (Available from €27,995)
Engine: 1.6-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
120hp
Torque: 320Nm
0-100km/h: 
11 seconds
Top speed: 185km/h
Claimed Economy: 
4.4/100km
CO2 emissions:  
117g/km
Motor tax: 
€200 per year


According to Cartell we are spending more on new cars in Ireland than ever before

Average Value Of New Car In Ireland Over €30,000

According to Cartell we are spending more on new cars in Ireland than ever before
According to Cartell we are spending more on new cars in Ireland than ever before

According to Cartell.ie, the buyer of a new car in Ireland is now purchasing a vehicle worth more than €30,000 on average.

Cartell calculated the total value of new vehicles purchased in Ireland between the years 2006 and 2018 based on the recommended Open Market Selling Price (OMSP) for each vehicle. The total value for each year was divided by the number of new vehicles sold that year to establish the average value per buyer.

Over the years, the average value of a new vehicle purchased in Ireland has fluctuated with the fortunes of the economy. In 2007 at the height of the boom the average value of a vehicle purchased was €28,106. This figure dropped to €24,758 in 2011 and has since increased steadily every year as the economy has improved. In 2016 the average value of a new vehicle was already back to boom time levels at €28,385, while in 2017 the value was up 4% to €29,481.

For the first 6 months of 2018 the average value has hit €30,130. This shows the average Irish buyer is now buying a vehicle worth €30,000 for the first time since Cartell started recording these statistics.

Why has the average value been increasing?

Cartell has considered several possible reasons for the increase in the average value of a private vehicle purchased in Ireland over the last few years.

  • Consumers may be opting for more expensive vehicles, or more expensive vehicle types like SUVs and Crossover vehicles, or MPV
  • Buyer has more cash to spend or more available lines of credit. Financial products such as Personal Contract Plans (PCPs) came to prominence in Ireland during the recession as manufacturers sought a means to provide direct lines of credit to potential buyers
  • Buyers may want larger cars. The country had a recorded population of 4.23 million in Census 2006 which increased to 4.76 million in Census 2016. This increase may have weighed on buyer decisions, for instance, buyers with younger children may need additional space
  • Vehicles are more expensive to manufacture, to comply with NCAP safety ratings, for example, this increases the cost of manufacture: the consumer now often expects certain higher specification items as standard too – larger wheels, alloys, on-board technology, Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) features – which all increase the manufacture cost
  • Increased consumer demand for hybrid vehicles (where technology is more expensive to implement) could be making an impact, along with changes in buyer habits to more environmentally friendly vehicles, and guided generally by the move to city-clean air policies.
  • Vehicles in the current generation often weigh more than for previous generations to accommodate additional safety systems

John Byrne, Legal and Public Relations Manager, Cartell.ie said:

“The buyer of a new vehicle is getting more features than ever before, more technology, more safety, for example. The buyer has also shown an appetite for other features which manufacturers are increasingly rolling out as standard such as alloy wheels and electric windows. Combined, these features increase manufacturing costs and push average values upwards. The buyer may also be opting for more expensive cars owing to more readily available lines of credit or simply because buyers are keen to buy a larger car when fuel economy and motor taxation figures have dropped so significantly across the board.

Buyers have different buying habits: some will enter the market with an open mind and opt for the best available deal within their budget; while others will be keen to opt for the same manufacturer or the same model.

Remember this study is considering average values of new private vehicles based on the Open Market Selling Price: we are not looking at the price actually paid by the buyer: the actual deals struck between the buyer and the seller will vary widely to account for discounts, sales events, and trade-in values for example.”


The 2018 Mazda6

2018 Mazda6 Goes On Sale In Ireland

The 2018 Mazda6
The 2018 Mazda6 goes on sale in Ireland priced from €31,945

The Mazda6 Saloon and Tourer range has been revised for 2018. The 2018 Mazda6 goes on sale in Ireland priced from €31,945.

The new Mazda6 has been refined inside and out and offers a suite of new technology and safety features.

According to Mazda, the cabin of the 2018 Mazda6 is now more refined, quiet and comfortable than ever, but has also been updated with the very latest in multimedia connectivity on an 8-inch centre screen.

To improve refinement the new Mazda6 has thicker body panels, natural sound smoother technology and noise absorbing materials.

Engines have been improved to maximise efficiency and power. The new Mazda6 will offer a choice of two SKYACTIV-G 2.0 litre petrol engines available in either 145PS or 165PS. A new SKYACTIV-D 2.2-litre diesel engine with 184PS will accompany the 2.2-litre diesel with 150PS option.

Both petrol and diesel engines are available in either manual or automatic transmissions.

The range of i-ACTIVSENSE safety systems has also been broadened with features such as Mazda Radar Cruise Control, Projected Active Driving Display with integrated Satellite Navigation, Adaptive LED Headlights and Blind Spot Monitoring all as standard. Intelligent Speed Assistance and 360° parking view monitor are available on higher spec grades.

John Perry, Managing Director of Mazda Ireland commented; “The outgoing Mazda6 has been such a successful car it has continuously received praise as one of the leading cars in its segment, aesthetically and as a driving experience. Refinements to the new Mazda6 raise its profile as a segment leader and a true alternative to premium rivals. Not only has the design, engine line up and technology been upgraded, driving dynamics have also been improved to further strengthen the engaging driving experience provided by Mazda's unique, Jinba Ittai, car-and-driver-as-one philosophy. The new Mazda6 should be a genuine consideration for any driver looking for a premium yet fun to drive offering, even in the era of SUV and crossover dominance."

The interior of the 2018 Mazda6
The interior of the 2018 Mazda6

Ford Ireland Chairman and Managing Director, Ciarán McMahon, is pictured with the first model of the latest all new Ford GT to arrive in Ireland.

First Ford GT Arrives In Ireland

Ford Ireland Chairman and Managing Director, Ciarán McMahon, is pictured with the first model of the latest all new Ford GT to arrive in Ireland.
Ford Ireland Chairman and Managing Director, Ciarán McMahon, is pictured with the first model of the latest all new Ford GT to arrive in Ireland.

The first model of the latest all new Ford GT has arrived in Ireland.  The all new GT is the latest version of Ford’s ultra-high-performance supercar that features rear-wheel drive, a mid-mounted engine, and a sleek, aerodynamic, lightweight carbon fibre body shell.

The Ford GT uses the most powerful EcoBoost petrol production engine ever – a next-generation twin-turbocharged 3.5 litre EcoBoost V6 engine producing 647 horsepower and 550 lb-ft of torque.

Commenting on the arrival of the new GT in Ireland, Ciarán McMahon of Ford Ireland said: “I am delighted to welcome this latest version of the renowned Ford GT to Ireland. It is truly a beautiful car that has a rich and celebrated legacy. It is at the pinnacle of design and technological development and it has proved itself as one of the best supercars in the world with podium finishes at many of the key racing events across the globe, including the 24 hour event at Le Mans.

The Ford GT is a much sought-after, limited edition production with only 50 models available in Europe each year, so it is a privilege to welcome this stunning car to Ireland. With only a very small number of models arriving here, I am sure it will be a particular thrill for all Irish car enthusiasts to see the latest Ford GT at displays or events around the country.”


2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI

2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI Arrives In Ireland

2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI
The 2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI!

The new Volkswagen Polo GTI is now on sale in Ireland, priced from €32,395.

Based on the all-new Polo that arrived in Ireland late last year, the latest-generation Volkswagen Polo GTI has a 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine putting out 200hp. It will do the 0 to 100 km/h sprint in just 6.7 seconds, going on to a top speed of 237 km/h.

The new Polo GTI is fitted with a 6-speed DSG gearbox as standard.

There's also a number of styling features to distinguish hot GTI versions of the Polo including GTI badging, a red stripe in the radiator grille, GTI gear knob, legendary “Clark” plaid seat covers and 17-inch “Milton Keynes” alloy wheels.

Standard equipment includes items such as Park Distance Control, an Electronic Differential Lock, Driving Profile Selection and Adaptive Cruise Control.

Customers can avail of a Technology Upgrade for the Polo GTI, which bundles a Rear-View Camera, Active Info Display, Folding Mirrors and the ‘Lights and Vision’ Package for €499. According to Volkswagen this is a saving of €1,183 compared to these items priced individually.

The Polo GTI is available with PCP Finance of 1.9% (€294 per month). For a limited time only there is the chance to avail of a Free 3 Year Service Plan for Polo models ordered and registered by the end of August.

The new Volkswagen Polo GTI is available from Volkswagen dealerships now.

The interior of the new Volkswagen Polo GTI
The interior of the new Volkswagen Polo GTI

Charles Hurst Belfast Ferrari Classiche Officina

Charles Hurst Belfast Awarded Ferrari Classiche Officina Status

Charles Hurst Belfast Ferrari Classiche Officina
Andrew Gilmore, Aftersales Operations Director and Macros Dos Santos, Aftersales Manager at Charles Hurst Belfast's Ferrari showroom

Charles Hurst Belfast, the only official Ferrari dealership on the island of Ireland, has been awarded the title of Ferrari Classiche Officina.

As an ‘Officina’, or ‘Workshop’ location, Charles Hurst Ferrari and its customer base throughout Ireland can benefit from the direct support of the Ferrari workshop in Maranello, Italy, for vehicles over 20 years old.

There are only 49 confirmed ‘Ferrari Classiche Authorised Workshops’ worldwide, each committing to maintain a dedicated workshop ramp and a fully-qualified and trained technician exclusively for the maintenance, repair and certification of Ferrari classic cars.

Each nominated Ferrari Classiche Officina is authorised to implement the Ferrari Classiche certification process, ensuring the maintenance of the vehicle’s value and further safeguarding the technical heritage of the Ferrari brand.

Charles Hurst’s Aftersales Director, Andrew Gilmore, said: “To be recognised as a Classiche Officina by Ferrari is testament to our ongoing commitment to the marque, its heritage and all our clients who have invested in the world’s best driving experience.

This honour distinguishes the hard work of the whole Charles Hurst Ferrari team, from Aftersales through to Maintenance, and ensures these classic supercars continue to receive the treatment they deserve.”

Charles Hurst, part of Lookers plc, represents 20 automotive brands across seven sites, including the largest automotive park in Europe at its 20-acre Belfast base.


The Mercedes-Benz X-Class

Mercedes-Benz X-Class Review

The Mercedes-Benz X-Class
The new Mercedes-Benz X-Class

Caroline drives the new Mercedes-Benz X-Class.

When Mercedes-Benz says that it’s going to build a pick-up, the world takes note. At first there seems something a little incongruous about one of the finest makers of luxury saloons and sports cars adding a pick-up to its line up – but it actually makes absolute sense. Think of the G-Wagen, Mercedes’ iconic boxy off-roader.

There’s also a partnership with Nissan to consider that makes the development of a pick-up a good move for Mercedes-Benz: the X-Class and Nissan's Navara pick-up are blood brothers, with Nissan providing underpinnings and engines.

Now that might rub some of the “glamour” off the Mercedes pick-up but hang on because Mercedes-Benz hasn’t just rebadged the X-Class: they also promise they’ve done some work to fit the more premium positioning of this new model.

And it’s to the extent that Mercedes-Benz is loftily billing the new X-Class as “the Mercedes among pick-ups”. Let's see shall we?

The interior of the new Mercedes-Benz X-Class
The interior of the new Mercedes-Benz X-Class

Certainly the Mercedes star perched on the grille raises expectations to what is otherwise a relatively generic design. For the Irish market there are three trim lines – Pure, Progressive and Power – each impacting the styling somewhat. The Power models in particular are aimed at a more lifestyle crew and come with smarter body jewellery and LED headlamps.

How much does the Mercedes-Benz X-Class cost?

Pricing in Ireland for the new Mercedes-Benz X-Class starts at €39,950 but that’s for a 4x2 and I reckon it’s 4x4 y’all be wanting – they start from €42,300.

At launch the new X-Class is available with a Nissan engine - a 2.3-litre turbo diesel. The X220d has 163hp while the X250d uses a biturbo version putting out 190hp. They qualify for the commercial rate of motor tax of €333. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard with 7-speed automatic transmission available for the X250d 4MATIC models. There's also a V6 diesel on the way.

The new Mercedes-Benz X-Class has a payload of over 1 tonne and towing strength is up to 3.5 tonnes, giving it power to pull a trailer containing three horses or an 8 metre yacht!

The model I tested was a X220d 4MATIC Progressive retailing from €43,995. Standard equipment on this model includes 17" alloys, air con, Mercedes infotainment system with 7" screen, touchpad and rotary controller, Bluetooth, reversing camera, electric windows, front fog lamps, cruise control, Active Brake Assist, Lane Keeping Assist and Traffic Sign Assist.

Mercedes-Benz X-Class
The Mercedes-Benz X-Class range starts from €39,950 in Ireland

Inside, there is seating for five and the cabin of the new X-Class has some very familiar Mercedes switchgear. But it's all set into a durable base of hard plastics so this still very much feels like a working vehicle. Yet the steering wheel and instrument dials look and feel of good quality so there is a pleasant layer of refinement to the cabin. The X-shaped air vents are another nice detail.

So what's the Mercedes-Benz X-Class like to drive?

Built on a solid ladder type steel frame, Mercedes has tuned the spring and damping system for superior comfort and invested in some extra sound deadening materials. On the road the Mercedes-Benz X-Class is surprisingly refined and comfortable once you get it up to speed. The X220d with 163bhp is coarse and is hardly fast but it does the job and settles down at cruising speeds.

The suspension can be a bit bouncy over rougher road surfaces but long distance cruising on larger roads is not a problem. The steering is predictably slow but once you get the hang of it the X-Class is far from useless when the road gets twisty.

The selectable 4MATIC with low-range gearing makes the Mercedes-Benz X-Class excellent for off-roading and there's also a hill descent mode. Ground clearance is also very good. I went off-road in the X-Class and I felt far more adventurous than I usually do!

Mercedes-Benz X-Class
The Mercedes-Benz X-Class has impressive on-road and off-road capability

The Mercedes-Benz X-Class certainly carries a premium over other more mainstream brands offering the same sort of working vehicle. The X-Class can't disguise its tough utilitarian roots so buyers expecting something akin to an E-Class will be disappointed! But for sure being a Mercedes-Benz means there is a refined element to the new X-Class, yet this is no show pony: it's the X-Class' capability on- and off-road that will truly endear it to owners.

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz X-Class 220d 4MATIC Progressive
Price: 
€43,995 (Range from €39,950)
Engine: 2.3-litre turbo diesel
Power: 
163hp
Torque: 403Nm
0-100km/h: 
12.9 seconds
Top speed: 170km/h
Claimed Economy: 
7.6/100km
CO2 emissions:  
200g/km
Motor tax: 
€333 per year (commercial)