Mercedes-Benz Vans All-Wheel-Drive Event in Turin 2011: all-wheel drive for all
Stuttgart/Turin
Apr 15, 2011
Mercedes-Benz Vario 4x4: the robust off-road professional for all tough jobs
  • The best of both worlds: straddling the van and truck sectors
  • Mercedes-Benz Vario large-capacity van: robust and resilient
  • Great versatility and high payload as all-wheel-drive model, too
  • Spacious cab, excellent range of individualisation options
The indefatigable Vario plays a very special role: with a gross vehicle weight that ranges from 6.0 to 7.5 t, it straddles a line between the van and truck sectors, with a unique design that combines the advantages of both types of vehicles. The Vario 4x4 in particular, with all-wheel drive and a gross vehicle weight of 7.5 to 8.2 t, is an extremely robust workhorse for professional use in the construction industry as well as by local authority vehicle fleets and utility companies.
Mercedes-Benz Vario large-capacity van: robust and resilient
The design of the Mercedes-Benz Vario large-capacity van, with the short nose of the van and the extremely robust ladder-type frame of the truck – brings together two very different worlds. It is characterised by its legendary, almost indestructible engineering with ladder frame, rigid axles with parabolic springs and rugged BlueTec engines that incorporate the finest truck technology and have the load-bearing capability to match. The Vario has really got what it takes, and yet at the same time it is also surprisingly manoeuvrable. All these qualities make it the perfect vehicle for use away from metalled roads in the form of the Vario 4x4 with all-wheel drive.
Great versatility and high payload as all-wheel-drive model, too
With around 60 different variants available, the Vario offers tremendous versatility. Its high payload is second to none. A chassis that has a load-carrying capacity of up to 4550 kg (3950 kg with all-wheel drive; at 8.2 t GVW even 4650 kg) makes the Vario eminently suitable for carrying special bodies. The Vario 4x4 with factory-fitted tipper body can carry a payload of up to 3.1 t.
The Vario thus casts classic trucks in the 7.5 t category into the shade. Thanks to its high permissible axle loads, the Vario does also not capitulate when confronted with extra-heavy loads when working off public roads.
The tremendous traction of this large-capacity van is also very convincing. Indeed, it has a towing capacity of up to 7.5 t. The maximum weight for truck and trailer is 15 t (Vario 4x4: 13 t), making the Vario ideal for transporting construction machinery on low loaders. Depending on the specific application, it can be fitted ex works with the appropriate equipment. It is thus also available with either a ball hitch and/or jaw-type coupling (Vario 4x4: ball hitch retrofitted by company sales and service outlet).
Spacious cab, excellent range of individualisation options
A glance at the list of optional extras certainly reveals the Vario's very individualistic character. Examples include reinforced springs or reinforced stabilisers on both axles for the Vario 4x2 (standard on the 4x4). The hot-water auxiliary heating system, available in two different versions, or a hot-air heating system, help to keep the cab at a comfortable temperature even when it's cold outside – after all, the Vario 4x4 is very often where the whole gang gathers during breaks.
Gangs such as this are well looked after in the Vario. The high and broad cab is exceptionally spacious, offering a two-seater front-passenger seat as standard. The Vario with double cab proves itself to be a real crewbus: the bench seat in the second row is wide enough for four, with stowage space underneath it for all sorts of tools and materials. Another big plus of the cab is the good visibility it offers, thanks to its large windows and essentially box-shaped body – an advantage that should be not be underestimated, in off-road operations as well
Powerful, economical and durable engines
Nor do the powerful engines of the Vario take it amiss when they're pushed hard. The four-cylinder turbodiesel with economical and clean BlueTec technology meets the Euro 5 emission level. It is available in three output categories, ranging from 95 kW (129 hp) to 130 kW (177 hp), and offers a choice of 5 different final-drive ratios.
Vario 4x4: the large-capacity van for tough conditions
The Vario is well prepared to operate off the beaten track anyway. But it's also capable of far more if needed: as an alternative to rear-wheel drive, Mercedes-Benz can also supply the large-capacity van as a Vario 4x4, with permanent all-wheel drive and additional selectable reduction gear. With this technology – in this case the otherwise optional differential lock and the lock on the interaxle differential come as standard - the Vario 4x4 meets the most exacting requirements in terms of pulling power and traction. The model designations of the all-wheel drive versions are differentiated by the addition of the letter "A" (813 DA/816 DA/818 DA).
The front axle, as well as the twin-wheel rear axle, is driven by a Mercedes-Benz VG 500 triple-shaft transfer case, also built in-house. The torque ratio between the front and rear axles is fixed at 28:72 %. The driver can select the low-range gearbox by pressing a rocker switch on the dashboard. The speed in the individual gears, at 1:1.67, is reduced by 40% and the pulling power thus increased by the same proportion.
In difficult road conditions or in off-road operations, the driver of a Vario 4x4 can increase traction still further with the help of differential locks. The standard specification of the Vario 4x4 includes two locks. The lockable longitudinal differential has the effect of creating a rigid through-drive to the front and rear axles, so ensuring the maximum possible driving power at all times. The mechanical differential lock on the rear axle, which also comes as standard, has a locking effect of 100% that enables forward momentum to be increased still further. The locks are activated one after another using rocker switches on the dashboard.
The equipment on the all-wheel-drive versions of the Vario is modified by Mercedes-Benz. Stabilisers on both front and rear axles come as standard, as do special tyres in size 215/75 R 17.5 for the 4250 mm-wheelbase chassis and the panel van. The chassis and tipper on the 3700 mm wheelbase actually run on tyre size 9.5 R 17.5. Tyres like this mean that the ground clearance at the rear axle rises by about 40 mm to 216 mm. Reinforced parabolic springs on the front and rear axles are just as much part of the standard specification of the Vario 4x4 as is a reinforced stabiliser at the front.
On the Vario 4x4 it is furthermore possible to deactivate the ABS anti-lock braking system. This brings the advantage that in slow operations using snow chains, in deep snow, or on sand or gravel, the locked wheels can dig in when the brakes are fully applied, so shortening the braking distance.
Slope climbing ability of around 70%, depending on the engine, when fully laden and in solo operation, is further evidence of the Vario's excellent pulling power.
Since the Vario has a high payload from the outset, despite the solidity of its chassis design, it has no problem at all in coping with the additional 400 kg of weight of the all-wheel drive technology. Even with all-wheel drive, its payload exceeds the additional load that can normally be carried by conventionally powered 7.5-tonne vehicles. The Vario 4x4 is only available in the version with a gross vehicle weight of 7.5 t.
Powerful, economical and durable engines
Their excellent traction makes the powerful BlueTec engines in the Vario predestined for use off road. The four-cylinder units of the OM 904 LA engine series, with a displacement of 4.25 l, meet emission level Euro 5. The engine is available in three output categories, ranging from 95 kW (129 hp) through 115 kW (156 hp) to 130 kW (177 hp).
Their maximum torque of 500 Nm, 610 Nm and 675 Nm is impressive. The rated engine speed of 2200 rpm in each case, coupled with the availability of maximum torque in the 1200-1600 rpm range, results in a very broad usable engine speed range. This is especially important in off-road driving operations, where every interruption to tractive power is unwelcome, since it brings with it the risk of becoming stuck.
The maximum torque of the sturdy three-valve engines, with their direct injection, charge-air cooling and exhaust gas turbochargers, is also available in each case in the 1200-1600 rpm range. This reduces shift changes and again limits interruptions to tractive power – important on rugged or slippery terrain. These robust engines are renowned for their undemanding nature and longevity – they can always be relied on, however tough the conditions. The injection process is controlled cylinder by cylinder via unit pumps – a system that has already been proven over many years in heavy-duty truck engines.
The engines in the Vario 4x4 feature Mercedes-Benz's BlueTec engine technology with SCR (selective catalytic reduction), a combination that has aleady been tried and tested many thousands of times over in both trucks and buses. In this cleaning process, synthetic urea (which goes under the trade name of AdBlue) is injected into the exhaust gases. Harmful nitrogen oxides are converted in the downstream SCR catalytic converter into the harmless elements of nitrogen and water. Exhaust gas aftertreatment optimises the combustion process in the engine, so reducing fuel consumption as well as particulate emissions.
Power transfer in all cases comes courtesy of a manually operated six-speed transmission with floor shift. Its broad gear range delivers good traction when pulling away as well as fuel-efficient low revs at higher speeds. The fuel tank has a capacity of 90 l, so giving the engines a good range even when working under difficult conditions.
Different versions for broad range of applications
The Vario 4x4 is available ex works in numerous different versions. Three engine variants, from 95 kW (129 hp) to 130 kW (177 hp), and two wheelbase lengths, 3700 and 4250 mm, form the basis of the range.
Something of a rarity in this weight class is the panel van. With a wheelbase of 3700 mm and the standard-height roof (interior standing height 1785 mm), it has a load capacity of 13.3 m³. When supplied with the longer wheelbase, 4250 mm, the panel van also features a high roof with an interior standing height of 1930 mm in the load compartment. This takes its load capacity up to a formidable 17.4 m³.
The Vario 4x4 pick-up and tipper models are only available with the 3700 mm wheelbase. The loading platform here is 4000 x 2200 mm (with short cab). The chassis with driver's cab is available in both wheelbase lengths, its ladder-frame design and high payload making it the perfect basis for many different types of body.
In addition, the open models of the Vario 4x4 are available in a double-cab version with up to seven seats. Accordingly, a passenger cabin is included in the range for the panel van. If you consider all the different bodies, cabs and engine variants, you will find there are more than 30 different permutations for the Vario with all-wheel drive.
Mercedes-Benz is broadening the scope of the Vario 4x4 with a "Mercedes-Benz VanSolution" programme. This includes, for example, three-way tippers from Meiller, available with either single or double cab. The Schutz bodybuilding company can provide special accessories for the basic drop-side body, such as ladder racks, stowage boxes and aluminium-reinforced tailboards.
The Vario 4x4: all-wheel drive large-capacity van – made to measure
From the outset, the Mercedes-Benz Vario 4x4 is equipped to be robust and functional - ideal for the uses to which it is typically put. With a range of special optional equipment items, it can then be transformed into an all-wheel-drive large-capacity van tailor-made to suit its customer.
Reinforced parabolic springs and a reinforced stabiliser on the rear axle improve the Vario's load-bearing capability and make its handling even more stable, even under the toughest operating conditions. Power take-offs to the left of the through-drive countershaft are used to drive auxiliary components. The use of jaw-type couplings, of which two different makes are available, transforms the Vario 4x4 into a professional tractor unit.
Fuel-fired hot-water auxiliary heating systems – available in two power categories – keep the cabin warm during breaks. Further convenience options such as air conditioning, electric controls for side windows and exterior mirrors, a roof hatch or a hydraulic or air-sprung driver's seat, serve to enhance the sense of well-being.
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