Visual upgrades don’t do much to show off the pickup’s capabilities

The 2020 Mercedes X-Class gets lost in the shadows among the coolest new Mercedes models to hit the market in recent years. That should change, at least for the time being, with the introduction of the first-ever X-Class to wear the “special edition” label: the X-Class Element Edition. Based on the Progressive trim of the X-Class, the Element Edition benefits from a smattering of exterior and interior touches, as any special edition model would. Options and packages are also included as standard equipment on the special edition pickup. There are no engine upgrades, though, so if you’re looking for a little power bump from the pickup’s four-cylinder diesel unit, you’re not getting any. Unfortunately, you’re also not getting the actual special edition X-Class if you live in the U.S. market.

What Makes the Mercedes-Benz X-Class Element Edition Special?

2019 Mercedes-Benz X-Class Element Edition
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The Mercedes X-Class Element Edition isn’t the sexiest special edition model you’ll see this year. It’s not really that sexy at all. But there’s always room to experiment with SEs, especially when it comes to new models that are still trying to establish a fanbase. What better way to get noticed than to launch a special edition model, right? Mercedes is known for dipping into this well whenever the opportunity presents itself. It just so happened that the German automaker has a new model that in tow, one that it wants to get some traction on in markets where it’s available. And so, the Mercedes X-Class Element Edition has arrived.

I suppose the X-Class Element Edition fits the bill of a special edition. It comes with a menu of exclusive features that provides an aura of exclusivity to the model, even if the sum of all these parts isn’t something that’s going to blow anyone away. But it is a special edition because it’s presented as one.

On the surface, the X-Class Element Edition is available in three colors, two of which are of the metallic variety. There’s Metallic Silver, Metallic Black, and Non-Metallic White.

None of the three colors offer the kind of visual pop you want to see in a special edition model, even if it’s a pickup. The good news is that X-Class Element Edition does show off a bit of personality with the splashy graphics in the rear bodywork, specifically stretching from the middle of the rear doors to the back of the truck. The word “Element” is even emblazoned on the side of the truck bed so at least no one’s going to confuse this X-Class for anything other than its SE designation. Other interesting exterior details include a sports bar surrounding the rear truck bed. It’s color-coded, too, to match any of the three available colors that Mercedes is offering.

2019 Mercedes-Benz X-Class Element Edition
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Since the X-Class Element Edition is based on the Progressive trim level of the pickup, it benefits from all the standard bits and goodies that are included in the specific trim. In this case, the X-Class boasts chrome door handles, load-securing rails, heated mirrors, and a rugged-looking black under guard. Even if the result isn’t what I’d like to see from a special edition Mercedes, let alone a first SE for a new model, it’s not like Mercedes did a half-hearted job in its development. On the contrary, a lot of work went into creating this special edition X-Class. Mercedes even threw in the Style Pack, a package that’s traditionally offered as an additional low-cost option on a model like the X-Class. The package actually comes with a few interesting pieces I wouldn’t mind seeing in a special edition model. It’s hard to say “no” to privacy glass, right? How about side steps and roof rails? Not too exciting, but very functional nonetheless. The pack also includes all-around LED lights (score!) and a set of 19-inch alloy wheels (bigger score!).

2018 Mercedes-Benz X-Class Interior High Resolution
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Move inside the interior of the Mercedes X-Class Element Edition, and you’ll be greeted by a cabin that largely comes in stock configuration.

It’s a bit disappointing, sure, but at least buyers also receive a classier-than-you’d-expected Artico leather upholstery to go along with automatic climate control, and an advanced filter system that can keep dust and unpleasant smells from entering the cabin. If used and driven the way it’s supposed to, that advanced filter system is going to play a bigger role in keeping the stink and grime away from the cabin. There’s no shortage in safety equipment, either, so at least you’ll get bang for your buck in that department. By virtue of the trim it’s based on, the X-Class Element Edition comes with autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, traffic sign assistance, and an anti-theft package that should be able to deter the fleet of hands out there. A reverse camera also comes standard, and in the event you want to throw in a little extra, you can secure a trailer stability assistance system.

There are no engine upgrades to speak of so don’t even fool yourselves into hoping that Mercedes is hiding one in its sleeve. What’ll you receive with a purchase of the X-Class Element Edition is a 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder diesel engine that produces 188 horsepower and a torquetastic 306 pound-feet of the good stuff. All that power courses through a seven-speed automatic transmission, which then sends it to a selectable four-wheel drive system. All told, the X-Class Element Edition can sprint from 0 to 62 mph in 11.8 seconds and is capable of towing a little over 7,000 pounds.

Mercedes-Benz X-Class Element Edition drivetrain specifications
Engine 2.3-liter turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Horsepower 188 horsepower
Torque 306 pound-feet
Transmission seven-speed automatic
0 to 62 mph 11.8 seconds
2018 Mercedes-Benz X-Class Exterior High Resolution
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On paper, the Mercedes X-Class Element Edition has all the makings of a solid special edition model for the upstart X-Class pickup. But a deep dive into everything it offers reveals an overall package that, quite frankly, isn’t that special. Fortunately, I won’t have the problem of having to decide whether to buy one or not because it’s not available in the U.S. market. Mind you; it’s not just the X-Class Element Edition that isn’t available; it’s the X-Class pickup itself. It does seem weird that Mercedes would hold out the X-Class in a market where the popularity of pickup trucks are exploding as we speak. If anything, the X-Class, and all subsequent special editions born out of the model (the Element Edition), is a perfect fit for this pickup-obsessed market.

But just like the Mercedes X-Class Element Edition, the truth doesn’t reveal itself until you dig a little deeper on the matter.

The Mercedes X-Class isn’t available in the U.S. market for a number of reasons, none of which have anything to do with the real model itself.

First, there’s the market. As bullish as the pickup truck market is in the U.S — the three-best selling models in the U.S. in the past few years are all pickups, led by the incomparable Ford F-150 — the full-sized pickup truck segment is actually doing most of the heavy sales-lifting. The Mercedes X-Class isn’t a full-sized pickup; it’s a mid-size pickup that belongs in a smaller market than its big bros. Even if Mercedes developed the X-Class as a full-size pickup, it’s not going to make any dent in a segment dominated by the F-150, as well as the Chevrolet Silverado and the Ram 1500. No chance whatsoever.

2018 Mercedes-Benz X-Class Exterior High Resolution
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Then there’s the question of identity and reputation. Mercedes is known as an automaker with a fine taste for performance and luxury.

The Mercedes X-Class is neither of those two things. It’s reasonable to develop and sell the X-Class in other markets, but not in the U.S. where image matters.

Besides, how would American customers react when they find out that their precious X-Class pickups are actually built on a Renault-Nissan platform, or to be more specific, the same platform as the Nissan NP300 Navarra. No disrespect to the Navarra, of course.

So I guess we should be thankful that the Mercedes X-Class Element Edition isn’t coming in the U.S. It’s going to remain across the pond in the U.K. where the SE is actually available for business leases, from £459 per month on a 36-month contract, with a £2,754 deposit. Not that it matters, but that converts to around $580 per month based on current exchange rates with a deposit of around $3,500.

Further reading

2018 Mercedes-Benz X-Class Exterior High Resolution
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Read our full review on the 2020 Mercedes-Benz X-Class.

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