Bush bashing in a Mercedes-Benz Zetros

By: Matt Wood

Matt Wood tests the ability of the Zetros to roar through scrubs and tear past trees

Bush bashing in a Mercedes-Benz Zetros
The Zetros riding the bumps.


Vehicles with military heritage tend to have a look all of their own. Function takes over from form very quickly and you often end up with a vehicle that looks like someone has emptied a parts bin over the top of it.

I actually quite like the effect, take the Mercedes-Benz Zetros for example.

It's kinda ugly, brutish and cool all at the same time.

The odd shaped cabin means that it will fit into the cargo hold of a military transport aircraft, indeed someone from Daimler recently suggested that I may like to try driving one out of an aeroplane, ala Fast and Furious.

Not really sure what they were trying to say to me…

Anyway, the 6x6 and 4x4 Zetros off-roaders are an interesting combination of Benz components bolted together in a functional package.

The doors are Unimog; the engine is Atego/Axor; and the interior is pure Benz truck family. There are familiar bits and pieces where ever you look.

The Zetros uses a Euro 5, 7.2-litre OM926 LA engine which provides 326hp and 1300Nm of torque. Tranny options include a 3000 series 6-speed Allison auto or a 9-speed Benz synchro manual.

The Zetros is a constant all-wheel drive that uses a 2-speed transfer case which gives you a choice of 1.00:1 for road use or 1.69:1 for belting around the bush.

All axles use a planetary hub-reduction drive and diff-locks are standard front and rear. And the whole kit and caboodle sits on steel parabolic springs.

This all should mean that it’s a pretty tough character.

The trouble is, it’s a very hard truck to review. Mainly because it’s hard to find the limitations of a vehicle that is designed to go anywhere.

So as I rolled along the freeway at 90km/h at 2000rpm, where the Zetros felt most comfortable, I began to fantasize about what I could do with this beast.

Driving though a house seemed like fun, but not many people would have a sense of humour about that.

Pushing over trees for laughs wouldn’t win me many friends either.

The 4x4 cab chassis I first drove kicked and bucked as you’d expect an unladen truck to ride.

But the 6x6 I later drove was carrying four tonnes on its back which did a good job of planting it in the dirt.

Off the blacktop it was simply a matter twisting dial on the dash to grab the lower geared off-road mode and another dial to select diff-locks if needed.

This thing literally ate any obstacle I pointed it at. It flattened mounds of dirt and climbed hills that would make a Landcruiser squirm.

In fact, it became very clear that the only way we were really going to unsettle this thing would’ve been with some IEDs and maybe some withering sniper fire.

The combination of chassis flex and parabolic springs did an excellent job of keeping all six feet on the ground while roaring through the scrub.

The Allison behaved quite well and is a nice, quiet installation. Though it didn’t appreciate being fiddled with too much in the bush and was hesitant to make manual down changes at times.

But it’s also hard to ignore that tractability benefits of having a torque converter in an off-roader like this one.

Having a bonnet out front makes for a much better ride than a Unimog and cab access is also very easy for a big off-roader.

The only downside is visibility compared to the ‘mog, but it’s also a much bigger truck.

The accelerator pedal position is a little awkward too as the switch to right hand drive means that there’s some wheel arch intrusion under the pedal area.

But to be honest at times I was too busy hanging on the steering wheel and making juvenile whooping noises to really notice.

In between evil chuckles I even managed to notice that the Benz donk did a nice job of hauling the Zetros down rutted tracks and up hill sides.

This thing ticks a lot of boxes for the infrastructure sector. Powerline maintenance, rail maintenance, and construction are all perfect roles for the mud crunching Benz.

There are even some agricultural roles where the Zetros would do well. And there’s no doubt an emergency service or two that could do with a vehicle like this.

After all, you can even throw it out of a plane.


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