We’ve seen the explorative sketches from 2015 and we’ve seen the Nissan NP300 Navara-based test mule a while ago, but these are our first actual spy pictures of the highly anticipated Mercedes-Benz double-cab bakkie.
At this stage it’s rumoured to be badged anything from X-Class to the GLT (‘GL’ is now Benz’s prefix for all things big/4×4/SUV), and it is part of the three-pointed star’s strategy of expansion into vans and trucks and any type of car imaginable. Expect it to be a thoroughly tough workhorse (think of the capability and engineering of a G-Class, for example) with requisite Merc luxury touches and niceties where it counts.
As we saw with the Nissan test mule, and as per the Nissan-Renault alliance, it will share the tough body-on-frame chassis with the latest Nissan NP300 Navara (due out here in SA third quarter); of course, Renault is developing its own double cab version as well as previewed by the Alaskan concept. Distinct styling and interiors will be used to differentiate them, and we’re sure more than a few under-the-skin tweaks besides. Expect a large Mercedes-Benz grille up front very much in keeping with the original sketch.
There is little to learn about the bakkie’s styling from these pics, but we know the photographs show this is a Mercedes instead of any other test mule owing to the particular camouflage used exclusively by Mercedes, and they were taken at a testing facility used for the automaker’s industrial and commercial vehicles.
A while ago the manager in charge of the project, Volker Mornhinweg, said they would not be making a full-size American style truck. ‘…our focus is on a smaller and lighter pick-up truck which is already perceived as premium product in South America, Africa and the Middle East. The take up of mid-size pick-up trucks is around 2.3-million units per annum, according to Daimler. The long-time leader of the pack is Toyota which sells around 700 000 of its Hilux/Tacoma twins.’
Once into production, the trucks will be built at Nissan’s plant in Barcelona, Spain, as well as a Renault plant in Cordoba, Argentina. There is no concrete news on engines either, be we speculate Merc could use its own range of 4- and 6-cylinder diesel/petrol engines. And as we’ve seen with the massive support for the newly detailed V6 VW Amarok – engines are important to product success.
As an alternative to the standard live rear axle, you’ll be able to specify an independent suspension as well as 4Matic AWD. A six-speed manual transmission is standard but you’ll be able to opt for a seven-speed automatic if you don’t want to shift yourself. The only area where you do not have a choice is bodystyle – of which there is only one, namely a four-door double-cab.
Already a formidable force in the rest of the commercial van market, a concept of the double-cab bakkie could be shown as soon as the Paris Auto Show in September, with a production version expected to debut sometime in 2017 or the following year.