4x4 off-road driving step by step guide.

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If you don’t yet know the feeling of freedom off-road driving can provide, pack your sleeping bags and get in gear. With the right vehicle and preparation, anyone can drive a 4x4. But before you head off, it’s worth knowing that not every 4WD is made for off-road adventures.

The Mercedes-Benz X-Class 4WD ute is definitely ready, though. Inside and out, it’s built to tackle almost any terrain, while providing the comfort you’d expect from a vehicle with a three-pointed star on the front. So if you’re keen to explore this vast country in style, here’s how you can get out there.

What kind of car can I drive when off-roading?

Tough terrain needs a vehicle with the power and features to take it on. If you’re been driving the city streets, but dream of kicking up some dirt with your tyres, only a 4 wheel drive will do.

Four-wheel drive vehicles.

Designed to go where cars simply can’t, a four-wheel drive can take you off-roading where adventure awaits. With power going to all four wheels, a 4WD delivers the best hold possible in rough terrain. Even if the back two wheels get jammed in mud, the front two keep up the traction to haul you out.

4x4 utes.

The ute is fast becoming a popular choice for those who head out of town and off the road. Featuring more off-road functionality than a wagon or sedan, the Mercedes-Benz X-Class 4x4 ute offers the space, and a versatile load-carrying capacity to shoulder up to a tonne of getaway gear. They’re engineered to work hard every time.

The Mercedes-Benz X-Class.

Keen to rough it outside, but not inside your ride? The Mercedes-Benz 4x4 X-Class ute makes extreme conditions look easy, while style doesn’t take a back seat.

If you want to engage the capability of 4x4 only when you need it, the selectable 4-cylinder variants of the X-Class range provide power outputs of 120 kW and 140 kW.

If you want to take it up a notch, the V6 4MATIC’s permanent all-wheel drive delivers a turbocharged 190 kW of power and 550 Nm of torque. With a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder diesel engine, it’s one of the most powerful utes in its class.

Thanks to DYNAMIC SELECT, you can personalise your engine and suspension preferences with a choice of five unique driving modes that power your ride, whatever your style.

Engine started, it’s time to make tracks. With stable handling at inclines of up to 45 degrees, you’ll stay on top in the X-Class. A generous ground clearance of 222mm and a wading depth of 600mm means the ute holds up in the wet and dirt – while the rear axle differential lock supports your outdoor action with plenty of traction.

With the Mercedes-Benz X-Class ute, you can pack in all you need for adventure. The sturdy framework carries loads over 1,000kg, with a maximum tow rating of 3,500kg on 4x4 models. That means there’s no need to leave anything behind.

The X-Class provides safety and handling in spades, too. The first in its class to have automatic emergency braking, the X-Class is a secure drive thanks to Active Brake Assist. This technology uses a camera and radar to warn you if you’re at risk of a collision, and may apply the brakes if you don’t react.^

Meanwhile, Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) helps prevent wheel spin, to reduce the chances of a sideways tail slide. While the wide track, multi-link coil suspension improves steering and handling precision, and minimises vibration and harshness to keep up your driving enjoyment and comfort.

When you’re entering uncharted territory, the X-Class COMAND Online multimedia system* helps you navigate the less travelled paths.

*Standard on POWER and optional on PROGRESSIVE, unavailable on PURE.

^Various safety systems and features included in Mercedes-Benz vehicles are driver assistance aids only and the driver at all times remains solely responsible for maintaining proper control of the vehicle, ensuring safety and monitoring the driving environment and complying with all applicable road rules. 

How do I prepare for an off-road trip?

When the wild calls, you want to get behind the wheel and take your 4WD off road to answer it. But your choice of wheels is just the beginning. You’ll want to know your route, and what your vehicle is capable of. That means planning and preparation.

Tyre conditions.

When you’re off-roading, your tyres can be pushed to the limit, so ensure they’re suitable for the ground you’re covering.

If you plan to spend time on and off the road, a versatile all-terrain tyre delivers performance over a range of surfaces. Meanwhile, the open tread pattern of mud-terrain tyres provides superior traction for heavy-duty adventures. If you’re taking it a little easier, highway terrain tyres are best suited to bitumen and gravel roads.

Before you head off, check your tyres (including the spare) to ensure they’re in good nick and inflated properly. While you’re driving, keep an eye on the tyre pressure, too. An automated Tyre Pressure Monitoring System like that found in the X-Class is a valuable feature to keep things in check on long drives.

Maintenance.

When tackling tough conditions, you’ll only ever be as ready as your vehicle is – so make sure it’s in good condition before you leave. Look under your 4WD for any leaks or mechanical problems and top up all the fluids. Check the state of your wheel alignment and brakes, and ensure any necessary repairs are carried out before you head off road – the last thing you want is a problem to arise when you’re far from home.

Weather forecasts.

Whatever your plans, nature might have something else in store. Take note of the recent weather in the area where you’re headed, and check the latest forecast. Don’t forget to be prepared for sudden changes and make sure you have an idea of how rain or snow might affect conditions on your route.

Others.

Your sense of adventure doesn’t automatically unlock every destination. Check for road restrictions, make sure you have the permits you need to access remote locations, and always travel with a GPS. With the X-Class, Garmin® MAP PILOT^ helps guide you to your destination thanks to 3D maps on a tablet-sized screen. Fold out maps are also useful if you stray out of range of a signal. The X-Class COMAND Online multimedia system can also help get you to your destination quickly and safely using real-time traffic information.* 

 

^Standard on PROGRESSIVE, optional on PURE.

*Standard on POWER and optional on PROGRESSIVE, unavailable on PURE.

  

What items or equipment should I bring when off-road driving?

If you’re heading into the great unknown, the right equipment will have you prepared for unplanned events. Here are some of the essentials.

Spare tyre.

Consider this an absolute must-have when tackling challenging terrain. Make sure you know where the spare and the jack are located, and be ready to use them. If you’re not an expert at changing a flat, schedule a practice run or two before you head off.

Emergency equipment.

New terrain means new challenges, so plan for the ‘just in case’ by keeping all your emergency supplies in one readily-accessible bag.

Jumper cables.

Don’t let a flat battery bring your adventure to a standstill. Jumper cables are one of the most important pieces of equipment you’ll take off-road.

Winch.

The more difficult the terrain, the harder freeing yourself of getting bogged can be. Sometimes a tug from a tow strap on another vehicle won’t cut it, and only the pulling power of a winch will get your off-road ute moving again.

Work gloves.

Not just for winching. Durable, reinforced work gloves offer essential protection from heat and dirt, or when collecting firewood and setting up camp. Handy indeed.

Others.

When you’re packing your 4x4, make sure it’s done effectively. Distribute your load evenly within the vehicle, so you reduce sag. Plus, if you have a roof rack fitted, be aware of the weight on top and how it’s distributed – and remember it adds extra height to your vehicle. On the X-Class, adjustable load securing rails on three walls of the load bed make it easy to keep things tidy and secure.

 Standard on PROGRESSIVE and POWER, optional on PURE.

Survival kit.

You’ll want to have your personal essentials on hand. Consider the season, too. Think warm layers and emergency blankets during winter, or sunscreen and insect repellent when it’s summer.

Water.

Don’t underestimate the importance of staying hydrated, or assume you’ll come across water sources. A good rule of thumb is to carry 2-6 litres of water per person, per day, but remember that hotter conditions may require you to drink more. Don’t forget that alcohol dehydrates, so if you’re having a drink by the campfire, keep up your water intake.

Fire starter.

You can’t always count on the weather being in your favour. A fire starter is an indispensable solution for sparking a flame in a range of adverse elements.

Multitool or Swiss Army Knife.

You never know what challenges an off-road adventure can throw up, so carrying a multitool is a smart idea. From opening a can to cutting a bandage, you’ll be prepared.

First aid kit.

You can pick up a ready-made first aid kit from the chemist or a hardware store. But if you want to DIY, make your own with bandaids and bandages, alcohol swabs, dressings and scissors. Don’t forget to pack medication you or your passengers might need on the trip.

Flashlight.

A flashlight will be your best friend at night, around the campsite or if you need to get under the body of your off-road ute. On the X-Class, four 12-volt outlets and LED lighting in the load bed will also help light the way.

Others.

An adventure is best shared, so make other people part of your survival kit. Travel with at least one passenger and convoy with another vehicle when possible. Make sure someone at home knows where you’re headed, and organise a time to get in touch and let them know you’re okay. Take a list of important phone numbers (and contact details for the local police) in case you need outside help while you’re away.

How do I drive off-road?

The first step should be to get familiar with your vehicle’s instruction manual, to make sure you know your 4x4 inside and out. Once you make tracks, work with the environment and your vehicle’s capability.

Identify the terrain.

If you’re heading off the beaten path, make sure you have a sense of the conditions. Before navigating uneven ground, secure anything inside the vehicle that could fall, and remove anything on the roof rack if you need to. Keep the driver's side close to obstacles so you can judge distances more accurately, avoid gear changes, and carefully approach any new types of terrain. Where necessary, get out of your vehicle to check the situation around you. Finally, although the X-Class has a wading depth of 600mm, don’t drive into water unless you really, really have to.

Select your gear accordingly.

Your 4x4’s instruction manual will help you know which gear to use in which circumstances. Typically, you’ll use the highest gear to climb, and the lowest to descend. Features like Downhill Speed Regulation on the X-Class 4MATIC variants are there to support you when you’re off-road. The key is to find balance between traction and momentum – if you have decent traction, use less momentum.

Stay on the track.

It might sound obvious, but staying on track is critical to off-road safety. Just like when you’re on the road, stay left to avoid oncoming traffic. But what if there’s only room for one vehicle to pass? The more manoeuvrable vehicle or the more experienced driver should take the right-of-way. If you’re new to all this, let the other vehicle pass first.

Follow the speed limits.

Getting off the main road isn’t a licence to put the pedal to the metal. Make sure you adhere to any posted speed limits – they’re there for your safety and the safety of those around you, including the wildlife.

Others.

Don’t expect to be blasting over sand dunes straight out of the garage. Work up to more challenging off-road terrain and take it easy – off-roading is generally a driving art attempted at low speeds.

What do I do if I get stuck during off-roading?

Even the most capable off-road warriors get bogged, so be prepared to get out of a jam. Your best bet is always getting towed out by other vehicles. If they can’t tow you out, you’ll at least be able to hitch a ride to civilisation.

Assess the situation.

If you get jammed on a rock or a log, first evaluate the circumstances and determine how best to free your vehicle without causing any damage. A 360° camera, like the one available as an option on the X-Class, can be a way of seeing obstacles you can’t from the driver’s seat.

Remove obstacles.

They just get in the way of adventure. Whatever you’re stuck on, you’ll need to jack up your vehicle. If the obstacle can be moved, clear it away for the next driver. If not, you’ll be free to drive over or around it.

Clear a path.

After removing obstacles, make sure your tyres get the traction they need by clearing a path in the direction you'll be travelling. For an added boost, engage the locking rear differential – standard on the X-Class 4MATIC variants – to push equal power through to all wheels, even if one is off the ground.

Add traction aids.

If you don’t have the grip of permanent AWD like that of the X-Class V6, you can employ the help of traction aids. Pack accessories known as recovery tracks, or improvise using rocks, floor mats or even sleeping bags under the tyres to help you get out and on your way.

How does off-road driving impact the environment and how can I drive responsibly?

We can’t keep enjoying our great land if we literally tear it up with tyres. So keep some basic off-road etiquette in mind.

Avoid creating a new trail.

Blazing new trails for yourself shouldn’t mean leaving your mark on the bush. Stay on established paths, because driving a heavy 4WD off-road can leave damaging ruts in the ground that will deepen when it rains.

Don’t damage the soil.

Respect the areas you drive. Spinning tyres break the soil surface, leading to erosion and making it tough for plants to grow. Remember to restore any damage or rocks after freeing a bogged vehicle.

Respect the wildlife.

When you’re exploring nature, take care of the creatures who live there. Give way to animals, and avoid damaging plants and trees. Digging into wetlands with your tyres can impact generations of wildlife if there’s a lack of plant life and clean water.

Experience off-road driving.

Feeling ready to explore? Freedom awaits when you’re equipped with the right plan and a capable 4WD.

Any off-road ute has the capacity to get you out there, but when it comes to the power and comfort off-roading demands, the Mercedes-Benz X-Class 4MATIC has the credentials to take you further.

 

The above is intended as a guide only and may not be applicable to your specific circumstances.

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