Fit for purpose 06 January 2014

In updating its Unimog to Euro 6, Mercedes-Benz is also aiming to appeal to a broader range of applications and operators. John Challen travels to Germany to find out more

When fleet engineers think of the rough, tough Unimog, most associate it with this time of year, and predominantly with a snowplough attached. But at the launch of the new Euro 6-compliant version, Mercedes-Benz was keen to emphasise not only its versatility but also just how compact this tough all-wheel drive truck can be.

Operators and local authorities, says the company, could maximise their investment by using the machine for all 12 months. Because, yes, winter service may be the most obvious reason for adding a Unimog to a fleet, but the same vehicle can operate as a grass cutter, bark chipper, agricultural plough and fire truck. Put that way, it's potentially a very shrewd acquisition.

Together with the Econic low-entry chassis, Unimog is the last of the Mercedes-Benz range to have been re-engineered for Euro 6. But it's not just about massively reducing engine emissions: as part of a €137 million investment, the German giant has also improved the drive system, added more variants and re-designed the cab. The goal: to make Unimog a more economical and efficient workhorse, as well as a more comfortable environment for drivers.

On first impression, the company has delivered on its aspirations. Inside the cab there is a larger, lower and more panoramic screen, enabling a better view of attached implements. That makes coupling and uncoupling much easier, says Mercedes-Benz. Additionally, for those that need it, new Unimog also gets an optional camera monitoring system, which transmits images to a unit on the windscreen.

As for power, Euro 6 Unimog will be offered with a choice of five of Mercedes-Benz's new BlueEfficiency engines. Three four-cylinder OM 934 and two six-cylinder OM 936 engines are available, with displacements of 5.1- and 7.7-litres respectively. Power is thus from 156 to 299bhp, with torque ranging up to 1,300Nm (so slightly up on the outgoing Euro 5 equivalents), and the company claims a 3% fuel consumption improvement, to boot. And, as for the transmission, Unimog retains its eight forward and six reverse gears, as well as the company's EQR (electronic quick reverse) system.

In total, four body-mounting areas are available for attachments – two at the front on a standard mounting plate, and the others between the axles or on the loading bed at the rear. Improving the performance of these is EasyDrive, what Mercedes-Benz describes as a "synergistic drive system for precision applications". Translated, it enables the vehicle's hydrostatic drive and transmission to work together to provide smoother power changes while on the move.

In Drive-Work mode, for example, drivers might be cutting a grass verge, but when they are finished, a flick of the switch transfers all power to the manual gearbox, allowing speeds of up to 50km/h, a significant improvement over the outgoing model. The fully adjustable driving and working modes also mean less clutch wear, and extra efficiency, not to mention better fuel economy when switching to the manual transmission.

On the road
There's no doubt that some operators will be attracted by new Unimog's compact dimensions (the latest model boasts a width of just 2.15m, compared with the maximum 2.55m for conventional trucks), but it genuinely also offers even more versatility. What's more, U 218 has a turning circle of just 12.6m (slightly less than a B-Class hatchback), and a wheelbase of 2.8m – a combination that should appeal to anyone where space and/or access are issues.

For a vehicle with such an agricultural heritage, the new engines are refined, and the gear changes smooth. So while, as you would expect, the Unimog will tackle tough terrains with ease, it will also be more at home on the tarmac. Who says it's only a winter warmer?

Example specifications:
Model: Unimog U 218
Engine: OM 934 5.1-litre four-cylinder
Max power: 175bhp @ 1,200-1,600rpm
Max torque: 750Nm
Gearbox: Fully synchronised Mercedes-Benz transmission, eight forward gears; six reverse
Wheelbase: 2.8m
Suspension: Coil springs with progressive codes
AdBlue tank: 18 litres capacity

Model: Unimog U 427 SWB
Engine: OM 936 7.7-litre six-cylinder
Max power: 272bhp @ 1,200-1,600rpm
Max torque: 1,100Nm
Gearbox: Fully synchronised Mercedes-Benz transmission, eight forward gears; six reverse
Wheelbase: 3.15m
Suspension: Coil springs with progressive codes
AdBlue tank: 25 litres capacity

John Challen

Related Downloads

Related Companies
Mercedes-Benz UK Ltd

This material is protected by MA Business copyright
See Terms and Conditions.
One-off usage is permitted but bulk copying is not.
For multiple copies contact the sales team.