Driving the Mercedes Unimog

Driving the Mercedes Unimog
Driving the Mercedes Unimog

If you like big things, then clearly Unimog Live is the sort of place to make you come out in a sweat. Unimogs have been around since the 1950s and have done everything from towing trains, hauling animal feed and appearing as the Autobot Hound in a Transformers film. They’re chunky Tonka toys and we wanted to drive one. The problem was we got in the wrong side of the cabin.

That’s not a problem in the U218 we’re sat in as the Vario Pilot will let you switch over the whole steering assembly complete with manual gear lever on the steering column. The world is it’s lobster, whatever side of the road they drive on.

You sit up high, with 347mm of ground clearance thanks to the portal axles. You have a huge number of buttons and levers to worry about, and the pre-selector for the next gear is tricky to use but satisfying too. Time to tackle some sideslopes, deep water and tricky gradients.

Unimog reckons any of their rigs can tackle a 100% gradient even if it’s loaded with people and gear. Certainly the U218 made mincemeat of a course that would have had some more famous off-roaders whimpering gently.

There’s only 177bhp but look at that torque figure – 553lb ft of it. Gulp, strewth etc. You’re not going to run out of grunt. But here’s the thing. This is a little one, a toy Unimog. Clearly we need to try a big one.

That’ll be the U5203 then, which has 1200mm of wading depth and is intimidatingly bigger, taller, chunkier, more-er. On a course that looked pretty alarming it just chunked through it all. It’s hard to imagine what sort of course would actually cause it a moment’s hesitation.

If there’s a nuclear conflagration, it’s a good bet that, out of the smoke and flames, the only thing to be seen moving would be a Unimog, driving determinedly on to whatever task it had originally been set.

In a quarry or a muddy forest, a Unimog looks like a machine in its element. Every now and then you might catch one in London, at which point it looks like it’s been overdoing the steroids compared to everything around it, including the buildings.

And if that’s not enough, then remember that Brabus played with one of these a while ago. Just the sort of thing to put those hedge fund managers in their place as they draw up alongside you in Sloane Square in their blinged-up Brabus G-Class.

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