Axle articulation keeps power at each wheel.
Axle articulation keeps power at each wheel.

Lots of brawn, but it’s no beauty

IF THERE is ever a beauty pageant for trucks, you can be sure the Mercedes-Benz Zetros won't win it.

Neither will it score well in any assessment of aerodynamic efficiency - it's about as streamlined as a brick dunnie.

But it's not as if it was designed with ugly in mind.

You can actually blame NATO. The European countries that make up the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation know from bitter experience that mobility can either win the war, or lose it.

Trucks that are bought by NATO countries have to fit in C130 Hercules aircraft, as well as fit in any tunnels used by the rail network.

So the Zetros has been built to meet these requirements above all other qualities - including good looks.

NOT PRETTY: Just what’s needed, non-slip pads on the bonnet.
NOT PRETTY: Just what’s needed, non-slip pads on the bonnet. David Meredith

The truck takes the driveline from the only recently-departed Axor, and wraps it in a conventional design that distributes the weight better and drops cab height significantly.

Daimler Trucks' people feel that the Zetros stands a better chance of grabbing market share in a tough sector than the cab-over Axor.

The heart of the Zetros is the 7.2-litre OM 926 LA Mercedes-Benz 6-cylinder engine in Euro 5 form.

It develops 240kW of power and 1300Nm of torque at 1200rpm. Power heads through an Allison 3000 automatic transmission, to a two-speed transfer case and planetary hub reduction axles with through-drive and differential to the third axle.

The permanent all-wheel drive includes inter-axle and inter-wheel diff locks.

The transfer case has an off-road gear ratio of 1:1.69, meaning pretty much unstoppable crawling ability. Fording ability is 800mm and up to 1190mm with the optional headlamp and diff breather air-intake kit installed.

I drove an unladen 6x6 on an access track for an hour or so last week.

We didn't have time to put a load on board, but I suspect that given the Zetros' gearing and chassis engineering it'll take a lot more than just a payload to bring the Zetros to a grinding halt.

Chassis flexibility was very good for a largish off-roader, and the axle articulation was impressive.

The chunky 395/85 R20 tyres straddled any and all of the ruts and fissures on the track.

An in-cab tyre inflation system is an option for lazy types, but the truck has a 10-metre hose anyway for those vital adjustments.

Here's a unique quirk - apparently Zetros drivers like to climb up on the bonnet and mudguards - there are non-slip pads on both!

If looking tough is any measure, Zetros will do well.

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