The Mercedes-Benz Unimog has proven its merits as the best 4×4 off-roader ever. But it didn’t do it for bragging rights or to break existing records. In fact, the Unimog braved the world’s highest volcano to install some radio transmitters, providing researchers, climbers, and mountaineers a secure radio connection around the area.
There were two Unimogs in the journey
The volcanic expedition near the top of Ojos del Salado in the Atacama Desert in Chile required ten crew members and a pair of Mercedes-Benz Unimogs. The goal is to install four radio transmitters across the various high-altitude camps on the mountain.
Of course, the Mercedes Unimogs were modified for the job at hand. First, special tires were installed to provide secure traction and grip. The tires are designed specifically to pair with the Unimog’s standard tire pressurization system – the same ones found in the magnificent Mercedes-AMG G63 6×6 truck.
But in order to cope with varying levels of terrain, the boffins at Unimog Museum and the Unimog development team installed a trick ‘variable center of gravity system.’ The custom body is built exclusively for the record-breaking Unimogs and can variably adjust the vehicle’s center of gravity for better stability.
The trucks were able to reach dizzying heights
And we literally mean ‘dizzying’ since the Unimogs reached a record-setting altitude of 6,694 meters. That’s 21,962 feet if you do the math, and we’re talking about above sea level altitudes here. If you consider the fact Ojos del Salado is the world’s tallest volcano at 6,893 meters (22,615 feet), it seems the Unimogs were only hundreds of feet below the volcano’s summit.
At that altitude, all bets are off. Ojos del Salado is higher than Mount Kilimanjaro (19,341 feet) and Denali in Alaska, the latter of which is measured at 20,310 feet above sea level and is considered the highest mountain peak in North America.
If you remember Clarkson, Hammond, and May’s Top Gear expedition to the Atacama Desert many years ago, the trio only managed to climb around 17,200 feet before literally running out of air. The very fact those Mercedes-Benz Unimogs continued running at higher altitudes is nothing short of astonishing.
The Mercedes-Benz Unimog is perfect for climbing treacherous volcanoes
A bone stock Mercedes-Benz Unimog is available in two main variants: Unimog U 4000 and U 5000. The most powerful variant is equipped with a 7.7-liter six-cylinder turbodiesel mill producing 299-horsepower and a massive 885 pound-feet of torque.
With standard portal axles and a versatile all-wheel-drive system with differential locks in both front and rear axles, Unimog is the vehicle of choice where other 4×4 off-roaders have failed. With a 14-speed manual transmission (8 forward gears and 6 reverse gears) or optional automatic shift gearbox and hydraulic power steering, it’s as easy to drive yet more capable than a conventional SUV.
But climbing a 22,000-foot volcano is a different matter altogether. It only proves that if you need a vehicle that’s tougher and more capable than any commercial off-roader, Mercedes’ Unimog is always up for the task.