The world is not quite done with Mercedes-Benz’s double-cab bakkie.
Although X-Class production ended earlier this year, in a rare instance of the German luxury vehicle brand getting it completely wrong, some of its technologies will continue to be available in the market. A new report from Spain, where X-Class was built, suggests that customers seeking some of the German double-cab bakkie’s ride quality might have a revival opportunity next year.
The cooperation between Nissan and Mercedes-Benz, with their Navara and X-Class bakkies, has created an opening for the Japanese brand to borrow some German engineering legacy, to its own advantage.
With X-Class no longer a rival, Nissan can deploy some of the platform and suspension upgrades that Mercedes-Benz developed for its double-cab bakkie.
As part of the expensive differentiation project that Mercedes-Benz assumed would justify the original X-Class price position, engineers modified the Navara platform – and Nissan sees no sense in having those upgrades go to waste.
Mercedes-Benz made its X-Class wheel tracking widths 7 mm wider (for greater high-speed stability) and strengthened the front chassis area, to support a heavier 3-litre V6 engine. This creates the possibility that Navara could meaningfully increase the engine size and performance of its Navara, having a platform capable of using V6 power, something only offered by Amarok in many markets.
But which V6 engine would Nissan use? For the American market, the 3.8-litre petrol V6 is an obvious candidate. But for Navara to become a V6 turbodiesel powered bakkie again, as it once was, would be difficult. Renault supplied the last 3-litre V6 diesel engine to power a Navara and the French company’s own Alaskan double-cab, which is a technical twin of the Nissan bakkie, does not feature anything beyond a four-cylinder engine option.
Nissan’s plan is to deploy an ‘X-Class’ evolution of the Navara, due as part of a significant product upgrade next year. This should enable the D23 Navara to remain relevant in a competitive and profitable global bakkie market, until its replacement arrives, in 2022. Although Nissan plans to dispose of its Barcelona production hub, where current Navara/X-Class production sourced from, the updated bakkie should keep that line open for another year or two.
Partnerships are crucial to Nissan’s sustainability and it will be moving away from Mercedes-Benz engineering assistance to a Navara joint-venture with Mitsubishi, for the next-generation Navara.