The Mercedes-Benz X Class ute earned a five-star safety rating after becoming the first in its class with automatic emergency braking. Picture: Supplied.
The Mercedes-Benz X Class ute earned a five-star safety rating after becoming the first in its class with automatic emergency braking. Picture: Supplied.

Utes now have carpet, air con...and they can avoid a crash

THE Mercedes-Benz of utes will be able to avoid rear-end crashes in slow moving traffic when it goes on sale next month.

Automatic emergency braking technology - which slams on the brakes if the driver isn't paying attention - will make the Mercedes the only vehicle in its class able to earn a five-star rating when measured against the latest crash safety standards.

However, rival utes are still allowed to advertise their five-star ratings even though some scores are up to seven years old, according to data published by the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP).

The Volkswagen Amarok has a five-star safety rating based on tests done in 2011 - but it would be unlikely to earn more than 3 stars if measured against the latest criteria given it lacks rear airbags, and driver assistance systems such as automatic emergency braking, lane wander warning or lane keeping assistance.

The top-selling Toyota HiLux has a five-star score based on 2015 tests but would likely drop to a three-star score for safety if tested today because it lacks driver assistance systems. Incredibly, automatic emergency braking is available on HiLux utes sold in Europe but not Australia.

Certain variants of the Ford Ranger equipped with lane keeping assistance and Holden Colorado models that come with forward crash alert may be eligible for only a four-star score under the latest criteria, rather than the five-star ratings they wear in showrooms today.

The Nissan Navara would likely drop from a five-star to a three-star score - even though it shares its underpinnings with the Mercedes X Class - because Mercedes' autonomous tech is not yet available on the Nissan.

The Mitsubishi Triton would likely also score three stars for safety if rated today.

Automatic emergency braking has been slow to roll out on utility vehicles, despite their popularity on our roads. Picture: Supplied.
Automatic emergency braking has been slow to roll out on utility vehicles, despite their popularity on our roads. Picture: Supplied.

Automatic emergency braking (AEB) is increasingly standard on passenger cars but it is rare on utility vehicles.

The Mercedes-Benz X Class will be the first with the technology on a ute in Australia but it still lacks some safety aids available on rivals.

Radar cruise control and lane-keeping technology - available on the Ford Ranger - are not available at any price on an X Class.

And no vehicle in the class in Australia currently has blind spot warning systems.

For now, the Mercedes X Class and VW Amarok are the only two utes in their class available with tyre pressure monitoring.

James Goodwin the head of the ANCAP safety body said the Mercedes ute is a "game-changer" for the ute market and "puts pressure on competing brands".

"The (ute) segment has generally lagged passenger cars and SUVs with regard to safety specification, so the inclusion of AEB as standard across the X-Class range is to be commended," said Mr Goodwin.

The Mercedes-Benz X-Class will be one of the dearest utes on sale in Australia when it arrives in showrooms in April. Picture: Supplied.
The Mercedes-Benz X-Class will be one of the dearest utes on sale in Australia when it arrives in showrooms in April. Picture: Supplied.

The new Mercedes X Class will be one of the most expensive utes on sale, starting from $45,000 for a cab-chassis version with a vinyl floor and topping $70,000 for one with the works.

The Mercedes ute shares its underpinnings and four-cylinder engines with the Nissan Navara; both models are made on the same production line in Spain. Navara utes sold in Australia are made in Thailand.

However, Mercedes has made substantial changes including a wider body, a slightly bigger footprint, and four-wheel-disc brakes on all models.

This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling


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