Mercedes-Benz Trucks held a demonstration to introduce the Unimog U529 to the South African Market.
The demo was held on Meersig, the farm of Leon Rohrs, in the Winterton District of KwaZulu-Natal. The Unimog had a presence in South Africa in the early eighties when it was sold alongside the MB trac, but the agricultural market for the Unimog was not targeted after the demise of the tractor.
Mercedes-Benz now sees a new opportunity, driven by the large numbers of conventional tractors that are used for haulage, particularly in the timber and sugar-cane industries. The soaring cost of fuel is a motive to promote the fuel efficiency of the high-speed Unimog. At the demo Mercedes-Benz quoted the results of extensive testing by the DLG, which claimed that the UGE Unimog had proved to be more fuel efficient than standard agricultural tractors in roughly 70% of farming operations.
The U529 (also see the video below!) is powered by a 6-cylinder 7.7 litre Mercedes-Benz OM 936 Euro 5 engine rated at 210kW, equipped with an engine compression brake. This is an extremely flexible engine with really impressive torque of 1150Nm from as low down the rev range as 1150 rpm.
The central tyre inflation system (CTIS) is an important feature on this unit, making it highly suitable for both in-field and on-road operations. This system makes it possible to inflate or deflate the tyres while the vehicle is moving. The advantage of CTIS is that it improves traction in the field whilst, at the same time, reducing compaction and wheel spin. When in transport mode the tyres are inflated, on the move, to highway pressures, improving fuel economy and vehicle handling.
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Weight distribution is optimal, again, improving traction and providing predictable handling at high road speeds. The powerful two-stage auxiliary engine compression brake, usually referred to as a ‘Jake brake’ in South Africa, together with full air braking and air operated trailer brakes make this unit safe on the road. Many of the tractor trailer rigs currently in operation in South Africa have braking systems that can only be described as primitive.
The Unimog has permanent all-wheel drive with driver selectable centre and cross-axle diff locks. The short front overhang aids visibility on the road, significantly reducing the risk when approaching cross-roads or concealed field exit points.
The versatility of the Unimog concept was well demonstrated. It can be used throughout the year in all seasonal agricultural jobs including manure spreading, high speed haulage, crop spraying, fertiliser spreading, mowing, raking and baling, silage harvesting, hauling the combine chaser bin when harvesting or as a fire fighting unit.
On the day we saw it handling a spray rig, a 12-row No-Till maize planter and even a heavy ripper, although MB conceded that this is not the type of task for which the Unimog is best suited; it handled it quite well. Probably the most impressive demo was the high-speed run hitched to the Fliegl multi-purpose trailer. Leon Rohs is the importer and distributor of the innovative Fliegl trailers and sees real prospects for the Unimog/Fliegl combination.
The U529 for South Africa is fully specced for both agriculture and haulage with front and rear linkage, PTO and trailer hitches. Safe road speeds of up to 80km/h, significant fuel saving, real in-cab comfort and exception versatility in the field should enable it to find a market here.
German TopAgrar performed a field test with the Unimog 529, as seen in the video below