Mercedes is well known for its nice luxury cars that can move you in full comfort from point A to point B. Everyone likes these cars, as they are like small oases of luxury and make you feel relaxed and safe wherever you are.
The German manufacturer however, has also a darker side. This time the intelligence of its engineers was put to work with the main purpose of constructing the ultimate heavy duty work truck. The result was the Zetros which is the toughest truck built by the company. The vehicle has a bullet proof build quality and it’s so tough, that even if you’ll drive it in the middle of a war zone it will feel just like a walk in the park.
The Mercedes Zetros is available in all-wheel drive, two-axle models with a gross vehicle weight of 16.5 or 18.0 tonnes, as well as three-axle vehicles with a maximum of 25.0 or 27.0 tonnes. The payload for the two-axle models is almost ten tonnes, while for the three-axle models it is 16 tonnes (excluding body weight).
The truck looks like it means business. It features a robust design that leaves no confusion about its true all road nature.
Mercedes decided to give the Zetros a cab behind engine configuration which is the ideal choice as permits the truck to tackle the toughest terrains without affecting the driver comfort. In the cab-behind-engine configuration, the driver sits behind the front axle, rather than over it, and also occupies a lower position. Thanks to this position, the driver is subjected to less stress and the ride comfort is much improved compared to the cab-over-engine or conventional cab configurations.
Thanks to its huge ground clearance and the massive wheels conquering any virgin forest, construction site, snow deserts or muddy terrains will be a drama free affair.
The truck’s power train and chassis are based on the Actros and Axor but have received a significant boost of testosterone which made them even tougher.
At the front of the squared bonnet there is an imposing vertical radiator grille which comes with three horizontal stripes and bares the three pointed star in its center.
The oversized wheel arches have also a robust shape and come with two turn signals mounted at the front. The main headlights are fitted into the three parts bumper which is made of strong steel being able to go head to head with the most arduous working conditions without suffering any damage.
Due to the high ground clearance access inside is like a climbing exercise of military training, as you’ll need to put some serious efforts into it. Once you’re in the cabin however, you’re welcomed by a pretty ergonomically environment. There is also a fair amount of space and the low engine tunnel will permit you to move pretty easy through the cab.
Don’t expect to find any soft touch or modern designs as the cabin was engineered to be a perfect match for the utilitarian character of the truck.
Needless to say, that the built quality and materials look like they are made to last just a bit longer than forever and everything fits into place perfectly making us praise one more the German engineering.
The Mercedes Zetros cab can accommodate up to three passengers and all seats come with integrated safety belts and head restraints. There are also available optional air-sprung seats for extra comfort. The seats are a bit flat for our tastes and could’ve come with better side bolstering, but at least they feature a wide range of adjustments, hence you’ll find a proper driving position pretty fast.
The instrument cluster was borrowed from the Mercedes Axor model, but it received a few modifications to cope with the Zetros necessities.
Needless to say, that all instruments and switches are well-organised and have a practical layout. The instrument panel is fitted with a speedometer and rev counter, as well as a fuel/air pressure gauge and a useful central display. To the right of the steering wheel, you’ll find the mirror adjustments, the controls for the air conditioning system and also rotary switches for the differential locks and for engaging the off-road gear.
For practical reasons, there are four front DIN slots located beneath the roof which can be used to accommodate a variety of equipments according to your wishes.
You won’t complain about the storage places either and our favorite one is a convenient tray mounted in the middle of the armrest, featuring a non-slip finish and a raised edge, as well as two integrated cup holders.
Engines and transmissions
The truck is fitted with an Euro 5 (there are also available Euro 3 versions) 7.2 liter inline six cylinder engine which develops 326 hp with a peak torque of 1300 Nm achieved between 1200 and 1600 rpm.
The engines can be mated on two types of transmissions. The standard unit is a manual hydraulic-pneumatic nine speed unit, while the optional gearbox is a six speed Allison automatic.
Needless to say that the engines are able to tackle the heaviest jobs without blinking and the ruck has the determination of a veteran navy seal that won’t surrender in any situation.
The engine is mated to an all wheel drive system that was especially engineered to deal with heavy steep inclines and severe off-road conditions, being able to tow massive loads on any terrains.
Ride and suspensions
In order to deal effortless with any off-road conditions, the truck is fitted with wide gap parabolic springs in conjunction with stabilisers and shock absorbers. The suspensions have been specifically tuned for long deflection and they offer a surprisingly good ride for a heavy duty off road truck. Moreover the suspensions can be set to cope with fording depths between 0.8 - 1.2 meters.
The Mercedes Zetro’s heavy duty character is also sustained by its ladder-type frame chassis which is resistant to bending and torsionally soft, therefore giving it very good torsional flexibility and offering performant handlings abilities. For enhanced off-road performances the truck also features open C-profile longitudinal members and bolted-on C-profile crossmembers.
If you like strong trucks it will be hard not to fall in love with the Zetros. It’s highly masculine character is combined with an unbeatable build quality, mad engines and absurd axle articulations. The cabin is kitted with anything it needs to keep you relaxed even in the middle of nowhere, while the ride is surprisingly comfortable as well.
In this case, the verdict is clear and Mercedes proved its point and showed us once again that knows how to build technical marvels that can deal with any conditions.
Video: Mercedes Zetros