Deutsch Style: Germany's Delta 4×4 is doing off-road builds its own way

Located near Munich, Delta 4×4 — led by off-road veteran Josef Loder and his son Maximilian — are creating clean, capable off-road builds. Their take on the Mercedes-Benz X-Class pickup shows off their signature style.

Located near Munich, Delta 4×4 — led by off-road veteran Josef Loder and his son Maximilian — are creating clean, capable off-road builds. Their take on the Mercedes-Benz X-Class pickup shows off their signature style.

Located near Munich, Delta 4×4 — led by off-road veteran Josef Loder and his son Maximilian — are creating clean, capable off-road builds. Their take on the Mercedes-Benz X-Class pickup shows off their signature style.

Located near Munich, Delta 4×4 — led by off-road veteran Josef Loder and his son Maximilian — are creating clean, capable off-road builds. Their take on the Mercedes-Benz X-Class pickup shows off their signature style.

Located near Munich, Delta 4×4 — led by off-road veteran Josef Loder and his son Maximilian — are creating clean, capable off-road builds. Their take on the Mercedes-Benz X-Class pickup shows off their signature style.

Located near Munich, Delta 4×4 — led by off-road veteran Josef Loder and his son Maximilian — are creating clean, capable off-road builds. Their take on the Mercedes-Benz X-Class pickup shows off their signature style.

Located near Munich, Delta 4×4 — led by off-road veteran Josef Loder and his son Maximilian — are creating clean, capable off-road builds. Their take on the Mercedes-Benz X-Class pickup shows off their signature style.

Located near Munich, Delta 4×4 — led by off-road veteran Josef Loder and his son Maximilian — are creating clean, capable off-road builds. Their take on the Mercedes-Benz X-Class pickup shows off their signature style.

Located near Munich, Delta 4×4 — led by off-road veteran Josef Loder and his son Maximilian — are creating clean, capable off-road builds. Their take on the Mercedes-Benz X-Class pickup shows off their signature style.

Located near Munich, Delta 4×4 — led by off-road veteran Josef Loder and his son Maximilian — are creating clean, capable off-road builds. Their take on the Mercedes-Benz X-Class pickup shows off their signature style.

When in doubt, go bigger.

That’s the mantra at Delta 4×4, a German off-road aftermarket company hiding away in a tiny two-story office outside Munich. The building is surrounded by farmland, and you have to go over to the next county for good spaetzle. But what Delta lacks in outward presence, it more than makes up with a rallying pedigree and pickup truck creations seemingly dreamed up by lunatics.

The company’s founder, 70-year-old Josef Loder, is a former racer who regularly competed in the Paris-Dakar Rally in the ‘80s. After hanging up his coveralls, he helped budding German rally drivers navigate the tricky French paperwork to kick-start their careers. Now, along with his son Maximilian as chief executive officer, Loder has turned Delta into one of the most recognizable aftermarket companies in the country.

For my visit, Delta has readied its latest creation: a pumped-up Mercedes-Benz X-Class, a midsize pickup based on the Nissan Navara. Mercedes introduced the X-Class to global markets in 2018 but does not sell the truck stateside. From the exterior, with its high ground clearance and wide front grille, the X-Class makes an imposing presence. In Delta’s hands, it is a monster.

The company took a customer’s Mercedes X350d, the top-line trim with a 3.0-liter six-cylinder turbodiesel engine, and added 35-inch Cooper Discoverer STT Pro tires on 20-inch wheels of Delta’s own design. It installed a stainless-steel bumper bar, a roll bar in the bed and a 5.5-inch lift to bring the truck’s total ground clearance to 14.5 inches.

“We wanted to present the maximum that we could do,” said Max Loder, the CEO.

The truck’s signature features, though, are the massive, ballooning fenders that extend several inches to cover the extra rubber. European regulations state that the fenders must cover the width of the tires, and the rules are especially stringent in Germany.

It’s a necessity in order to fit the huge tires — and often an expensive one, as aftermarket equipment in the country must be crash-tested as if it came from the factory. But Delta has turned the bubbly style into its calling card. The fenders, like the wheels and protection bars, are designed in-house and bolted on to exacting quality standards.

“We try to make them look like they’re from the factory,” Loder said. “Very — how do you say? — lean.”


Delta 4×4’s Josef Loder is an off-road racing veteran.

Sales are hot for the company due to a strong economy and growing interest in pickup trucks. The highest volume of Delta’s work is done on popular models like the Volkswagen Amarok and Ford Ranger. The X-Class is in third place and growing fast, he said. Delta has modified more than 100 of the Benzes in the short time they’ve been on sale.

“We discovered a big, huge market,” Loder said.

On a maze of long, winding off-road trails through Bavarian farmland, the Delta-fied Benz seems right at home. The X-Class has a locking center differential, a two-speed transfer case with a low gear and hill descent control — more than enough to make short work of wheat fields and forest trails.

Riding on its enormous Cooper tires, the truck tears through the dirt roads with ease. The 3.0-liter diesel sounds a little vacuum-y but packs a nice turbo punch that accelerates the pickup in a hurry. Under the hood lies 255 hp and 406 lb-ft of torque, put to the wheels through Mercedes’ seven-speed automatic transmission.

Handling is crisp at low speeds, though the truck does get wafty at 60-70 kph, likely thanks to the massive tires and lift. It’s a bit unnerving on tight European back roads with heavy farm machinery and heavy cab-over trucks coming at you. But overall the truck delivers a comfortable ride. The extra height, width and weight make it feel about the size of a traditional half-ton truck. Electric power steering is nicely weighted and responsive for a pickup.

Alongside his father Josef, Maximilian Loder has built Delta 4×4 into one of Europe’s most recognizable off-road brands — and they’ve got their sights set on the U.S. market.

The X-Class is growing in popularity in Germany, but it’s not yet a common sight. Trucks, in general, are still relatively rare. People point, mouths agape, the following day as Loder pilots the truck through downtown Munich. It sticks out like a mammoth in sheep’s clothing.

As he drives, Loder outlines his dream of breaking into the U.S. aftermarket. He and his father regularly travel to Las Vegas to attend the Specialty Equipment Market Association show, or SEMA, and are amazed by the size and number of the trucks on display. Sales of pickup accessories exceeded $12 billion in 2018 for more than a quarter of the total aftermarket, according to SEMA.

Loder would love to bite off a piece of it. Delta exports to other countries, mostly Australia, and could ship to U.S. customers as well. But there haven’t been any stateside sales yet. The typical Delta package—wheels, tires, suspension lift and those giant fenders—runs about 15,000 euros, or roughly $17,000, and takes two weeks to complete. The black X-Class on hormones cost its owner 25,000 euros, or about $28,000.

In a twist, the typical Delta buyer actually uses their truck for vocational work, like carpentry or construction, according to Loder. It acts as a rolling, big-fendered billboard for their business. He is surprised to learn that many American pickups modified to this Instagram-ready extreme are more likely to see a valet than a work site—particularly if it were wearing a Mercedes-Benz badge.

For now, the X-Class is forbidden fruit in America. The complicated chicken tax on imported trucks, plus an interior that is far more Nissan than Mercedes, will keep the pickup out of arm’s reach for U.S. buyers.

But the rest of the Delta product line is available. Loder recently unveiled a new wheel design for trucks, SUVs and vans. It’s called the Geländesport. He wanted it to sound as German as possible. Maybe, he thought, Americans will like that.

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