Trucks: New tools, transmission highlight 2006 Unimog updates

To the uninitiated, the Unimog is an odd looking vehicle – a truck with roots in post-World-War-II Germany that helped feed and rebuild a defeated nation. Look a bit closer, however, and you’ll see a rolling tool carrier absolutely brimming with vocational potential. Indeed, “Unimog” is a German abbreviation of Universal Motor Geraet. The English translation is “universal motor tool.”

The latest model, the U500, carries on this tradition with impressive off-road capability, a high performance hydraulic system with front and rear quick disconnect couplings, a host of engine and transmission PTO options for powering pumps and front-mounted implements, a central tire inflation system and up to 24 gears forward and reverse coupled with an intelligent shifting system. Unimogs can quickly reach sustained highway speeds of up to 70 mph to a jobsite, then go as slow as 340 feet per hour when cold planing asphalt or working with other implements.

“Without implements or attachments, Unimogs don’t do much for our customers,” says Robert McTernan, director, Unimog North America. “It’s just a cool-looking truck. But the ability to transport, power, use and control a wide array of work bodies and front and rear attachments such as augers, backhoes, articulating booms and grapples makes Unimog much more than a truck.”

Thanks to its many capabilities, Unimog has been hugely successful around the world, although, curiously, not in North America. Mercedes-Benz, which has designed and built the Unimog since its inception, is working hard to change that. Since 2003, Unimogs have been marketed in the United States and Canada as a subsidiary of DaimlerChrysler’s Freightliner and have found their way into the hands of a variety of customers engaged in municipal, public works and construction applications.

Just last month, McTernan and other Unimog North America officials announced the addition of three attachments and an all-new automated transmission for the U500. The EAS transmission is available as an option on all 2006 U500s and offers both Unimog drivers and owners the best traits of manual or fully automatic units, McTernan says. “A Unimog operator can drive to a jobsite in the automatic mode for easier use and better fuel economy, then switch to the manual mode when work begins and more precise shifting is required,” he comments.

The EAS transmission’s clutch is hydraulically actuated when the transmission is in automatic mode. In manual mode, drivers can choose among three gear sets to match working conditions. Working gears allow for operation between 1 and 9 mph and you can select crawler gears for operations under 1 mph. Each gear set has eight forward and six reverse speeds. Standard mode is for on-highway operation.

Also new is the optional VarioPower hydraulic system, which allows Unimog to power attachments that previously required an external engine. VarioPower features a 33-gallon-per-minute hydraulic flow capacity operating at 4,351 psi. Unimog’s standard hydraulic system has a 6.5-gpm capacity at 2,900 psi. The VarioPower hydraulic motor operates at a constant velocity so attachment performance is not affected by changes in engine speed.