It might be hard to believe, but the Unimog was originally developed in post-war Germany as a simple, if not hulking, farm tool. It wasn’t until later they were pressed into military service and then modified for extended off-road travel. Within that latter application, the Unimog is a definite rarity, but it is also much loved, and the undisputed king of the category. Decades after the first Unimog rolled off the line, Mercedes continues to improve on the platform with the new U 5023. Available now for a paltry quarter of a million dollars, these might be vehicles genuinely worth every penny, if you can manage to scrape enough together.
As Mercedes is prone to do, the redesign of the 2015 Unimog was comprehensive and uncompromising. Every facet of the new U 5023 received considerable attention from the chassis to the engine, and even the driver controls. It is a sight to behold. The grille even features the single bar oft reserved for the brand’s most exotic sports machines. Other design refinements include subtle LED headlights and hardened lines along the front and sides as today’s trends seem to favor.
The new chassis features a central flexible spine that allows the frame to articulate in conjunction with the suspension. This adds to the truck’s ability to keep the wheels firmly planted for maximum control and traction. Driving power to those wheels is a new clean-burning BlueEfficiency Turbo Diesel paired to a 6-speed transmission. That new engine has been positioned just aft of the front axles to give the truck better overall balance. If fact, it now sits directly under the cab. There are a number of head scratching attributes to these incredible vehicles, the top speed of 56 mph not one of them. The purported ability that it can achieve that speed in reverse however––that is interesting.
Mercedes also spent a great deal of attention improving on the driver’s controls and positioning within the cab. Visibility is reported to have been much improved and the layout of the various controls have been transitioned from overly utilitarian to modestly stylized to replicate those from the brand’s more finely appointed interiors.
There’s a lot to be said about the redesign of the new premium off-roader from Mercedes, but it’s better to just see it in action.