The Zetros was developed, initially, in Germany by Benz as an armed forces truck. It has all wheel drive and a considerable off road capacity combined with considerable load carrying. It sits somewhere between the road going Axor sold in Europe and the all terrain, go absolutely anywhere Unimog.
At first impression, this is not a pretty truck. It sits high off the ground on oversize wheels and could be described as a conventional, although the duckbill-like protuberance at the front of the truck doesn’t quite do it. It is also big, this is a 6×6 truck, which can run out to a 27 tonnes GVM.
Climbing up into the cabin is just that, a bit of a climb up the the three narrow, but angled backwards, steps. This truck has considerable ground clearance. In the kind of applications it is targeting, it needs it. This truck was not designed to be pleasing on the eye, it’s all about handling the task at hand.
Climbing inside the cabin is a bit of a surprise. It is so practical and functional on the outside, you might expect a straight steel dash and skinny steering column coming straight up out of the floor. In fact, the interior is very truck like, reminiscent of a pared down version of the original Actros interior of the nineties. In fact, it is from older Axor and Atego models
The seat is comfortable and adjustable. Looking around the cab it looks like a good, if a little dated road going cab interior. Then you look out of the windscreen and realise you are higher up than you would expect. The truck’s bonnet also sits up quite high, so the visibility all round the truck in front of the bonnet is quite limited.
Fire the engine up and the sound is the familiar low drone of Mercedes Benz. This is the 7.2 litre OM 926 LA in line six engine putting out 326 hp (240 kW) of power and 1300 Nm (960 ft lb) of torque between 1200 and 1600 rpm. The engine is ADR 80/03 compliant and uses SCR for emissions control.
This is married to an Allison six-speed fully automatic transmission, with the familiar transmission control unit next to the driver’s seat, not something you see in Benz product very often. There is a manual option for those who prefer it. It is a Mercedes Benz G 131 and has eight forward gears plus a deep reduction crawler.
When driving the Zetros, the first few moments can be a bit unnerving. The controls look like a normal truck but the vehicle is in fact a very large all wheel drive with all six wheels driving all of the time. This means steering is more positive than expected and the ride is distinctly choppy on normal bitumen.
There is also quite a bit of tyre noise coming of the six large 14.00R20 tyres of the 6×6. The ride is tolerable, nothing like as bad as some off road vehicles can be on the open highway.
Turning off the highway and on to the sandy tracks climbing up into the hills and the feel of the truck is transformed. It suddenly feels comfortable, the steering and suspension are no longer jerking, they are smooth, or as smooth as it can be on a badly rutted track.
The strength and rigidity which made the ride uncomfortable on the flat smooth bitumen, becomes a virtue out here in the bush. The combination of a suspension able to take the buffeting, along with a chassis flexible enough to cope with the strain, the three point rubber mounted cab and a driver’s seat which holds the driver in place without too much fuss, and you have a pleasant driving experience.