The legendary Mercedes-Benz Unimog all-terrain trucks are refreshed for 2013 with a comprehensive makeover inside the cabin, underneath that boxed ladder chassis and outside with a menacing new grille and LED lighting.
The top of the new Unimog lineup in terms of off-road ability is the new U5023 model, which replaces the previous U5000 nameplates. Sharing the nose layout with its shorter sibling, the U4023, these models are the freshest outside with a dramatic new single-wing grille to house the dinner-plate-sized Mercedes star emblem.
This is a unique touch for the U5023, as this design is usually reserved for the sportiest models in the lineup, like the SLS AMG . Regardless, the new design is functional more than stylish, with a new cab and engine mounting position that is farther back in the chassis and other significant changes to go along with this new grille design.
The chassis itself of these off-road models is quite something. With a flexible central spine, the Unimog U5023 is able to articulate its wheels farther than any other production vehicle, and now can even flex the chassis to ensure at least one wheel has traction on the ground.
The other big news for the Unimog line is a vastly improved cabin with better visibility, easier off-road traction settings, a vastly improved driving position with a tilt/telescoping wheel, and a new Euro6-complaint BlueEfficiency turbo diesel engine.
Despite a (limited) top speed of 56 mph in Europe, the Unimog U5023 has some of the most clever and innovative off-road tech designed right into its chassis.
How far ahead of a Jeep is the Unimog? Well it has 664 pound-feet of torque and an eight-speed automatic for forward movement. A six-speed automatic handles reverse, where the Unimog can also hit its 56 mph top speed going backwards. Not something many would attempt in a Jeep .
Click past the jump for the full review of the new 2014 Mercedes-Benz Unimog U5023.
Among the 10-plus variations and configurations of the Unimog, the U4023 and U5023 are by far the most reworked on the outside. The smaller models continue with a small grille cutout that is not nearly as current and attractive.
The smaller U218 and other variants do have some style benefits of their own, including the four-pack of circular lighting pods in the outer bumper edges. The smaller models also get a much larger windshield glass and roof-mounted windshield wipers.
For these hard-core off-road specials, the only difference between the U4023 and U5023 is the truck’s total payload capability: from 21,000 pounds up to 29,000 pounds in the U5023.
The front grille, and redesigned hood and cab layout of the U5023 is quite radical for a machine who’s shadow has not changed much since the 1950s. Wildly flowing grille edges look like they are from a concept car, and the grille’s full width of the Unimog’s face almost makes it seem like an unmanned vehicle at first. It is not, and requires a brave driver still. The LED running lights are paired with indicators and the low/high beam projectors quite low in the bumper, creating an unusual profile at night with no cab-top lights to let you know this is a massive beast coming toward you.
Moving to the profile of the U5023, and things start to feel much more familiar. A new running board design and various additional mechanical boxes house the diesel after-treatment and other oily bits of the Unimog.
This generation does have a much shorter overhang, increasing the already-formidable approach and departure angles to a barely-imaginable 44-degrees on approach, and 51 degrees on departure.
2014 Mercedes-Benz Unimog U5023 - Off-road Angles Detail
A pickup truck bed is the standard configuration for these cargo haulers, but an enclosed cargo hold is visible in a few of the special purpose demo images: like firefighting, search and rescue, snow removal and hundreds more. A double cab U5023 option is coming soon.
New running boards are a welcome feature, and lead to a cabin that is vastly improved in terms of access and also safety, tech and comfort.
2014 Mercedes-Benz Unimog U5023 - Exterior LED Detail
While the smaller U218, U230 and other variations maintain the adjustable driving configuration from left-hand-drive to right-hand drive via a sliding wheel, the U5023 and its little brother now have a central dash control center and a set wheel position, either left-hand or right-hand drive.
The U5023’s gear level is now moved from the lower console up to the steering column stalk (a la the S-Class ), which makes a huge difference in the ability to carry three people comfortably inside. A new heating and A/C system promises much better comfort in extreme weather, while the new steering wheel has multifunction control pads and adjustable rake and reach for the first time.
A big promise from Mercedes-Benz for this updated Unimog range is the vastly simplified off-road settings and controls. Locking differentials and multiple low-range gears for forward and reverse continue for 2014, but the U5023 also offers a dial-operated terrain selection mode (like the Range Rover and others). This updates all the parameters to match the road, sand or ’Bad Surface.’
Included, as always, is the on-board adjustment of tire pressures. This system is critical for real off-roading in deep sand or in other conditions. Once through the obstacle, the tires can be re-inflated for safe road and highway travel.
2014 Mercedes-Benz Unimog U5023 - Interior Tire Pressure Adjustment
Integrated external cameras are a welcome feature for such a big machine, but the Unimog does not mention the external microphone that is included with the latest Dodge Ram HD trucks. This feature is very critical to hearing trailer hitching instructions over the sound of a big truck engine or in bad weather when you would not otherwise want your window down.
The cab is still wide and huge, but now has much more room and a lower floor to give great legroom, especially versus the legs-forward position required by most normal SUVs. This is firmly like driving a truck, except this truck is quite special when the freeways turn to rocks and sand.
2014 Mercedes-Benz Unimog U5023 - Interior Updates
- Large ergonomic cab with modern interior
- Easy handling with innovative and clear operating controls
- New heating and air-conditioning system
- Front camera to extend range of vision
- State-of-the art and efficient Mercedes-Benz drive technology, tried and tested in large-scale production
- Low consumption of fuel, AdBlue and engine oil
- Low maintenance costs due to longer intervals between inspections
- Driving speeds up to 90 km/h
- Powerful premium engine brake
Drivetrain, Engine and Brakes
The Unimog U5023 is a hugely impressive machine. A giant turbo diesel four-cylinder replaces the previous in-line-six engines with more power, better driveability and greatly increased fuel efficiency.
Engine smoothness and throttle response are said to be the big improvements, while the quicker transmission improves acceleration pace. Acceleration is more accurate than "sprint" for any Unimog, as the pace is leisurely while the engine thrums away and the pneumatic automatic fires off speedier changes than last year’s autobox.
Performance figures are very broad and should really not be directly compared with road cars. After all, no F-350 can haul big weight over rough ground like the Unimog. An estimates 22 seconds to 60 mph is projected outside the EU, whereas in the European Union an 18-second sprint to 50 mph is realistic. These times, it is worth noting, are possible both empty and with a full load. That is what this truck is geared to do.
An EU-wide large truck speed cap is set at 56 mph, but the Unimog is geared for at least 95 mph before its brick-wall aerodynamic drag ends the fun.
2014 Mercedes-Benz Unimog U5023 - Mechanical Updates
- New uprated engine with 170 kW (231 hp)
- New transmission with faster gear changes
- Batteries with increased capacity
- Higher standard load ratings
- Extremely high standards for outstanding off-road mobility and safety
- Transmission-run PT0 can also be operated when floor assembly for special bodies is used
- New engine-run PTO as a mechanical interface for operating implements (650 Nm)
- Standardized attachment points
- Uprated vehicle hydraulics
- New uprated engine with 170 kW (231 hp)
- New transmission with faster gear changes
- Batteries with increased capacity
- Higher standard load ratings
- Central tire inflation system with practice oriented pre-settings
- All-wheel drive for high traction
- High ground clearance with portal axles
- Differential locks
- Short frame overhang provides greater angles of approach and greater ramp angles
- Off-road reduction gears for climbing ability up to 100 %
- Torsionally flexible vehicle frame
- Fording ability up to 1,200 mm
2013 Mercedes-Benz Unimog U5023 - Mechanical Details
|Engine||5.1-liter 16-valve Turbocharged Diesel I-4|
|Powertrain Layout||Front-engine, Four-wheel-drive|
|Forward Transmission||8-Speed Auto|
|Reverse Transmission||6-Speed Auto (8-Speed Opt)|
|Curb Weight (Pounds)||9500|
|0-60 mph (Seconds)||18.8, est to 50 mph|
|Top Speed (MPH)||56, Limited in EU|
|Top Speed Max (MPH)||95, est|
|EPA Fuel Economy MPG (City/Highway/Combined) - Manual||8/16/12, est|
2013 Mercedes-Benz Unimog U5023 - Transmission
- Simpler handling
- Shorter gear changing times
- Longer life span
Fully synchronized electro-pneumatic transmission with its eight forward and six reverse gears translates the engine performance into tractive power. A special off-road gear group with an additional eight forward and eight reverse gears is available for slow driving speeds. The transmission is characterised by its very smooth and ffective running and long life span. And the synchronised reversing group Electronic Quick Reverse makes it much easier and quicker to change direction while driving.
Mercedes-Benz BlueEFFICIENCY Power technology does more than just comply with the standards required by Euro VI. It combines the greatest efficiency with environmental conservation. Four-valve technology and Common Rail high-pressure injection with 2400 bar make them even more effective.
Exhaust gas after-treatment
- BlueEFFICIENCY Power exhaust gas after-treatment combines a particle filter and the Mercedes-Benz SCR system with AdBlue injection.
- Reduces nitrogen oxide and soot particle emissions by up to 90% compared to previous Euro V engines.
Pricing and Availability
After a brief stint of selling Unimogs in the U.S. for a few years in the early 2000s through Freightliner dealers, the Unimog was pulled from the Mercedes-Benz price sheet after failing to comply with recent EPA emissions rules.
We have an email in to Mercedes-Benz HQ in Germany to determine if these new Euro6 engines will allow the Unimog to be road-legal in America. More relaxed rules in Canada means that our northern neighbor has plenty of pre-owned Unimog’s to go around.
Pricing is not yet available from Mercedes, but is estimated at the equivalent of about $250,000 before customization and attachment up-fitting to become a fire truck, etc.
The G63 AMG 6x6 is really hot with the Dubai and Abu Dhabi crowds, but few others. It makes big tradeoffs versus the standard G63 AMG SUV - including a much longer overall length, almost 1,000 pounds of extra weight from the second back axle, and a virtually useless pickup truck bed that is very, very narrow.
As a mobile platform for launching hunting falcons, the AMG 6x6 makes sense. But be sure there is a Unimog on standby to tow you out of wherever you get stuck.
The Bremach T-Rex is an Italian competitor for the Unimog. With sleeker styling and various riot-proof window shields, this is a popular vehicle for governments in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
It certainly looks tough, and has pricing that barely cracks $100,000. Italian durability and the non-production-ready interior are strikes against the T-Rex, as is Italian mechanical reliability,durability and parts concerns.
Looks that would make a toddler cry in fear? Check.
Extreme durability and virtually unstoppable off-road - even while hauling thousands of pounds of cargo? Check.
Improved cabin comfort and technology, and a brand new air conditioner? Check and Check.
The Unimog U5023 is incredible. In every car guy’s dream garage, the Unimog’s unbelievable off-road skills and unstoppable traction mean the U5023 deserves just as much love as the Ferrari’s it will sit next to.
Vastly different machines though they are, the Unimog U5023 is the Enzo Ferrari of the muddy ruts and rocky trails.
- Looks great up front, almost like an unmanned or driverless convoy machine
- New grille is pretty cool versus smaller Unimog sibling’s
- Mercedes-Benz has maintained and enhanced all the Unimog’s talents, with no down sides to added tech, comfort and ease of use
- Very pricey compared with the cheaper U230 models’ that also have more torque
- Unknown U.S. sales prospects
- May cause Terminator nightmares
Mercedes-Benz Special Trucks: World Premiere of the New Generation Unimog
Unimog U 4023 and U 5023: Setting standards for off-road mobility
- Perfection off-road, better handling with centrally-positioned engine
- New BlueEfficiency Power Euro VI engines with higher output and higher torque
- Chassis concept with torsionally flexible frame, torque tubes and coil springs retained
- Strong and reliable, many details improved
- New engine power take-off with increased applications
The outstandingly mobile off-road Unimog with its new reference numbers U 4023 and U 5023 as the follow-up models for the U 4000 and U 5000 is now more environmentally acceptable and efficient, but still just as mobile off the road as its predecessors and even stronger – that means better all round. It is fitted with the new four-cylinder BlueEfficiency Power BlueTec 6 engine with an output of 170 kW (230 hp) and a strong torque of 900 Nm.
The Unimog transmission has been improved and uprated so that the gear changing times are shorter with an increased life span. In future the gears will be changed using the pitman arm on the steering column and this also includes the electronic quick reverse function (EQR).
As up to now, there are eight forward and six reverse gears available as well as the optional crawler gears for off-road use with a speed range between 2.5-35 km/h. The main difference between the two big Unimog vehicles lies in their axles and frames i.e. their axle loads and the gross vehicle weights which is a maximum of 10.3 tonnes for the U 4023 and 14.5 tonnes for the U 5023.
Time-tried cab with a short bonnet radically reworked
This cab is first class – it has left its mark on the appearance of the outstandingly mobile off-road Unimog since 1974.
The designing engineers were confronted with the challenging task of installing technology complying with Euro VI and they succeeded by repositioning the engine one metre further back under the cab and this is now the core of the new concept. In comparison with its predecessor, the new cab has been lengthened by 120 mm and is slightly higher – and by moving the transmission controls from the central console to the pitman arm on the steering column there is much more space in the interior of the cab.
This cab has also been upgraded with its new fittings: The multifunction steering wheel, adjustable steering column, pitman arm control, multifunction touch-keys and instrument cluster with a large display as well as a new stronger heating and ventilation system provide the very best conditions for the driver.
The central tire inflation system "Tirecontrol Plus" has been redesigned so that the correct tire pressure for the prevailing conditions can be chosen simply and easily in the display with the pre-programmed modes "road", "sand" and "bad surface". From the outside the dynamic design of the radiator and the new bumpers with modern headlamps show at the first glance that here there is a new generation of the Unimog on the job. Also the access to the cab is completely new with easy to master and safe steps, two or three depending on what the customer requires.
The altered position of the engine also allows power to be taken directly from the engine with an engine-driven PTO so that implements can be run independently of the driving situation unlike the transmission-driven PTOs which are still available.
Perfect for off-road operations
The big advantages of the extremely mobile off-road Unimog such as its outstanding handling over tough terrain remain untouched and in individual points its strengths have been improved. In the new model, the curving of the frame is now further back due to the central position of the engine and altogether the Unimog has a lower centre of gravity while retaining its high ground clearance which is extremely important for off-road operations.
As both frame and tubular cross members are welded, this guarantees the extremely good torsional flexibility of up to 600 mm when driving cross-country. The axle articulation of up to 30° is made possible by the torque tube technology combined with the coil springs by connecting the torque tube and the torque ball to the transmission.
Portal axles, the low centre of gravity and extremely good angles of approach and departure (at the front 44°, at the rear 51°), and ramp angles (34°) as well as its slope climbing ability (45°) all go to make the outstandingly mobile off-road Unimog just what it is – and in addition there is its fording ability of a maximum of 1200 mm as well as its side tilting angle of 38°. Driving in extreme situations is supported by the engageable all-wheel drive, engageable differential locks and the central tire inflation system.
Unimog vehicles have a long life and they are robust and reliable. The completely welded frame and the enclosed parts of the chassis stand for the claim that the vehicle is able to stand up to great stress and strain. The axles are reinforced, all important power units and equipment are metal clad or installed in safe positions – and this is also true for fording ability within the guaranteed depth of 1200 mm.
Extreme operations the world over
All this shows quite clearly just why the outstandingly mobile off-road Unimog has such an excellent reputation all over the world. Working in extreme off-road conditions is the order of the day, whether it is fighting forest fires, for disaster control, crane operations, pipeline construction, expeditions, rescuing man and machine and last but not least for transporting crews and other people – in remote areas where the roads turn into bad tracks and rough terrain, that is where the Unimog U 4023 and U 5023 are on home ground.
The Unimog is also looked after perfectly as far as maintenance, trouble diagnosis or repairs are concerned as competent Unimog Dealers are there to take care of the vehicles in over 650 service stations in more than 130 countries where special service packages and financial services round off the customer care.