Mercedes-Benz Unimog: Award-Winning All-Terrain Reign

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The 2015 Mercedes-Benz Unimog has just bagged this year's Best Cross Country Vehicle award for the eleventh time in a row, by a 30,000-participant-strong reader poll conducted by Off Road magazine. The Unimog won this honour in the Special Vehicles Category.

Maybe you haven't heard of this truck before, but rest assured this one's as serious as they come. Which is why we thought we'll walk you around in a little more detail how the famed German manufacturer shows off the real badass side of its engineering capability.

Aren't those some purposeful-looking sets of nuts and bolts? The ‘Unimog' name is an acronym coined from the German phrase UNIversal MOtor Gerat, where ‘Gerat' means ‘machine' or ‘device'. They are currently produced in the Mercedes-Benz truck manufacturing facility in Worth am Rhein, Germany.

The Unimog is capable of speeds up to 56 mph (around 100 km/h) on regular roads, however, leaves anything of a similar size in the lurch when put through all-terrain and extreme off-road duties. It can be highly specialised for a diverse range of duties including search and rescue, military applications, and operations in extreme conditions like deserts, icy terrain, and even dense forests.

Engines are high torque motors because of the truck's often extreme off-road applications, with power outputs ranging up to 300 hp for the U216 - U530 range, and up to 218 hp for the U 4023/U 5023 range. Transmissions include a full-syncronomesh, electro-pneumatic gearbox with 8 forward and either 6 or 8 reverse gears. Pneumatically-engageable all-wheel-drive features too.

Unimogs have a maximum wading depth of 800 mm, so even most water obstacles can be dealt with with ease. There's also a ‘fording package' that seals and pressurises key components, and takes maximum fording depth to 1.2 m. Axles are torque-tube type and allow up to 30 degrees of twist, with 100 percent differential locks at the front and the rear, that can be engaged electro-pneumatically via a dog clutch.

There are more reasons why the Unimog able to master varying terrain so effectively. Those short overhangs, ground clearance hovering at around one-and-a-half feet(!), long-travel coil springs, single 20-inch tyres, 100 percent gradient capability, and central tyre pressure adjustability, are all par for the off-road course with the Unimog. Mind you, with permissible GVWs (Gross Vehicle Weight) of up to 12 tons..

Unimogs have even won prestigious motorsport events like the Dakar Rally in the 1980s, albeit often ‘by accident', since they were support vehicles! While higher-powered trucks have now taken over the scene, the ever-reliable Unimogs are still often used as support and service trucks.

Photo credit: Wiki Commons/Tiraboschi Tiziana

The Unimog's history dates all the way back to the 1940s, with the first prototype developed in 1946. Daimler Benz took over production in 1951, and the Three Pointed Star replaced the earlier ox horn symbol. The Unimog stands to this day as a purpose-built truck with possibly the most purpose out there, and still leads the pack when it comes to special operations prowess, both on and off the beaten path.

Photo credit: Wiki Commons/Yitzhach

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Story first published: Tuesday, June 16, 2015, 16:48 [IST]
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