Vehicle Comparisons

Mitsubishi L200 Series 6

Mitsubishi L200 Series 6

The Series 6 version of the Mitsubishi L200 pick-up features far-reaching changes. As a result, Mitsubishi claim to have brought us the most advanced version of this model yet. You can see why so many buyers in this segment choose it.

The engine is a freshly developed 2.2-litre 150bhp diesel unit and the optional 6-speed auto gearbox is also new. Plus there are new drive modes for the four-wheel-drive drivetrain; gravel, snow, sand and rock settings have been added, each one varying how power is needed to optimise performance. As ever, all L200 models are fitted with either 'Super-Select' 4WD (which delivers optimum traction and handling characteristics for any given surface); or 'Easy-Select 4WD' (which simplifies switching between drive modes for different road surfaces).

There's only so much you can do to make a pick-up enjoyable to drive but Mitsubishi has made more effort in this regard as part of this update, conscious that any L200 is likely to spend the majority of its time on tarmac. There's re-developed suspension, plus there are shock absorbing body mounts, which absorb vibrations and aim to provide a quieter, more comfortable cabin. Those damping updates are welcome but since there's still the same combination of solid chassis and live rear axle, things can still get a bit bouncy from time to time unless you're careful. Getting from rest to 62mph occupies around 10.5s and as before, the L200 can be driven in either 2WD or 4WD on tarmac or off road. This vehicle can also tow up to 3.5 tonnes. And for a pick-up, there's a reasonably tight turning circle too.

The visual changes made to this improved L200 model aren't difficult to spot. The key update is a bolder, more aggressive front end that features a fresh version of Mitsubishi's 'Dynamic Shield' grille. Plus there's a higher bonnet line and beefier-looking lamps now located higher up. Newly sculpted body curves with contrasting sharp lines, extended wheel flares and bright accents add a bit more street side presence too. And Mitsubishi continues to claim that this vehicle's 'athleticism' is expressed through sharp, muscular surfaces and a taut 'belt line'.

Take a seat at the wheel and as before, you'll find a driver-centric dashboard that centres attention on the road and includes much of the kind of important equipment you'd expect to see in a premium car. There weren't too many changes made as part of the update package changes, but Mitsubishi has tried to give the cabin a higher quality feel with new surrounding frame trim for the switch panels and air outlets. Plus you get softer-touch materials and classy stitching on the floor console, armrests and parking brake. Most UK buyers will continue to want the Double Cab body style with its rear seat.

There's no doubt that the changes made to this L200 have freshed its showroom proposition but essentially, we're being offered much the same package that was available before. And since the pick-up that was available before was a best seller, that's not necessarily a bad thing.

You can see why so many pick-up buyers choose this one, whether their need is to transport quadbikes and surfboards or hardcore and shovels. As before, it's tough, good looking and offers a wide range of choice but now, it's that bit easier to live with too. All of which, more than ever, makes this Mitsubishi a vehicle that customers in this segment can't ignore.

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Mercedes-Benz X-Class

Mercedes-Benz X-Class

The Mercedes X-Class pushes the boundaries of what's possible from a classic mid-sized pick-up. It bends ruggedness and practicality with the typical Mercedes-Benz characteristics of driving dynamics, comfort, design, safety and connectivity. If you can afford it and don't want your pick-up to lead too arduous a life, it's a tempting combination.

The X-Class borrows its mainstream engines from the Nissan Navara NP300 pick-up model it's based upon. There's a choice of two 2.3-litre diesel units; the X220d gets a single turbo 163bhp powerplant and uses manual transmission, while the pokier biturbo X250d features 190bhp and comes only as an auto. Both models come only with engageable 4MATIC all-wheel drive. Power is transferred via a six-speed manual transmission. If you want more, then you can talk to your Mercedes dealer about the high-torque V6 diesel engine used in the X350d 4MATIC AWD variant, which offers 258bhp and a maximum torque of 550Nm.

Whatever your choice of engine, Mercedes reckons that this X-Class sets a fresh standard for tarmac driving dynamics in a pick-up, without compromising off-road performance. It's helped in this by the adoption of the Nissan Navara's coil-sprung suspension system - most rivals still have a cruder leaf sprung set-up. A wider track helps cornering stability and Mercedes is the only manufacturer in the segment to opt for large, internally vented brake discs on both axles as standard. Optional is the Mercedes 'Dynamic Select' driving modes system, this kind of set-up a rare thing to find in the pick-up segment. There are five drive programs to choose from: Comfort, ECO, Sport, Manual and Offroad. These modify the engine characteristics, the automatic transmission's switching points and the ECO start/stop function.

Mercedes hopes that the X-Class manages the fine balance between being both tough and stylish. A Doublecab bodystyle is the only one being offered, the design featuring a long 3150mm wheelbase, a short cladded front overhang, a backward-shifted passenger compartment and a very long rear overhang. The design of the side windows with their dynamic kink along the beltline is distinctive, while widely flared wheel arches that house 17, 18 or 19-inch rims aim to give this pickup a powerful on-road presence. Predictably, the front borrows from the looks of the brand's SUVs, with a centrally positioned star, a twin-louvre radiator grille, a high and powerfully honed bonnet and headlamps extending far into the wings.

Inside, there's a classier cabin than anything pick-up buyers have ever seen before. The instrument panel has the concave trim element typical of a Mercedes and round ventilation outlets add a sporty touch. Dominating the centre of the dash is a freestanding colour infotainment touchscreen which has a screen diagonal of 8.4 inches - the biggest in the segment.

Plenty of attention was paid to comfort when developing the seats, too. Premium materials and a seat structure featuring optimum lateral support, a high seat position and the use of ergonomically formed soft foam should make sitting comfortable for both the driver and front passenger, even on longer journeys.

The X-Class is the pick-up buyer's Rolls Royce, easily the most desirable contender in this growing segment. Mercedes has chosen its donor model wisely, the Nissan NP300 Navara providing this contender with car-like driving dynamics that'll impress those used to the crude responses of rivals like Mitsubishi's L200, Ford's Ranger or Isuzu's D-Max.

The X-Class has the smartest cabin in the sector too - and the most scope for personalisation. But would you really want to subject one to really heavy labour? If that's not on the cards but you still want a pick-up, then this one's likely to be high on your list.

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Volkswagen Amarok

Volkswagen Amarok

Oriental models have for too long held sway in the UK pick-up truck market, a state of affairs that Volkswagen set out to change when they launched this Amarok model in 2011, then updated it in 2016. Big, economical and very capable, Volkswagen's off-road load-lugger was designed to give the Japanese contingent a few sleepless nights but originally boasted a 2.0-litre diesel line-up in a class where rivals had 2.5 or 3.0-litre units. Hence the development of a lustier six cylinder 3.0-litre TDI unit for this latest version claiming an effective mixture of power and efficiency. The result should be a very complete pick-up indeed.

A tough ladder-framed chassis and a solid, leaf-sprung rear axle necessary to carry heavy loads offer the inevitably utilitarian feel. Within the confines of this approach though, the Wolfsburg engineers have actually done a very good job in making this Amarok as car-like as it reasonably could be. The introduction of 3.0-litre V6 TDI power means that there's nothing wrong with the performance now on offer, this unit available in three guises offering either 163, 204 or 258PS. The pokiest unit develops 580Nm of torque at just 1,500rpm.

UK customers can choose from selectable (with manual gearbox) and permanent (with auto) 4MOTION four-wheel drive. An optional mechanical rear-axle differential lock is also available for demanding off-road use. On the road, this Amarok should feel sharper to drive courtesy of a new Servotronic steering system. Plus new 17-inch brake discs on the front axle and 16-inch discs at the rear ensure that this pickup always comes to a stop quickly and safely.

On to design. As before, with a length of 5.25 metres and a width of 2.23 metres, this Amarok is a substantial thing. To reflect the changes made beneath the bonnet, Volkswagen's stylists have tried to give this improved version a more athletic-looking front end. As before, the chunky shape appears solidly planted to the ground with cleanly sculpted bonnet curves and a large Volkswagen emblem and grille, with clear horizontal lines linking them together across the front of the vehicle.

Inside, there's a completely re-styled dashboard. Together with new ergonomic seats, these features aim to lend the vehicle a more sophisticated appearance. As before, there's neat switchgear, clearly defined instruments, a lovely three-spoke reach and rake-adjustable steering wheel and soft-touch plastics lifted straight from Volkswagen passenger cars. It's rather like being in a Golf on stilts and it'll be rather surreal if you come to this vehicle straight from an older pick-up rival. It's practical too, with lots of storage, including large bins in all the doors which can hold a 1.5-litre bottle in front and a 1.0-litre bottle in the rear. There's also a lidded bin, a lockable glovebox, a compartment for your sunglasses, two cupholders between the front seats and under-front-seat drawers on most models.

In the rear, the extra width of the vehicle makes it easier to accommodate three adults if need be - though two will obviously be more comfortable. All will get proper three-point seatbelts and most trim levels include rear cupholders for their use. If the rear bench isn't in use and you need more storage room, you can tip the backrest forward to free up extra loadspace.

And in summary? Well, pick-up users aren't necessarily expecting their vehicles to be advanced, car-like and fuel efficient. But most would be very pleased if they were. These are people who should get themselves behind the wheel of this very complete 3.0-litre V6 TDI Amarok. You do have nagging worries in the plush, car-like cabin as to whether this vehicle really is going to prove as tough and durable as its Asian rivals in the long term. But these are concerns your Volkswagen Van Centre will be quick to play down, pointing to this vehicle's development in the Patagonian wilderness and its use on the testing Paris-Dakar rally.

This aside, the only issues are those common to all pick-ups, essentially based around a utilitarian on-tarmac feel. And this is less of an issue with an Amarok than with any other rival model. Limited UK numbers mean that this Volkswagen isn't going to threaten its Oriental rivals' market dominance too much, but in terms of product excellence, it certainly should give them plenty to think about. At last, we Europeans have given the Far East something it can learn from.

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