Vario 814DA 4x4 T he number of factory-built 7.5-tonne integral panel
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vans on the market is small — one, to be exact. Some people may think the Vario died years ago, but don't tell the 4,000 faithful buyers who still sign up each year. 500 of whom are in the UK. On our last visit to the Stuttgart factory, we asked how long the Vario would survive, and were told bluntly: "As long as it makes money." The big van's tooling costs paid for themselves years ago, so the current production level provides a more than adequate contribution to parent company DaimlerChrysler'scoffers.That is highly likely to ensure the van's survival until at least the arrival of Euro-5.
If the basic Vario range is not exclusive enough for you. Mercedes also offers the niche 4x4 Vario 814DA. a 7.5-tonne panel van that can carry a 3,300kg payload on or off-road. Two roof heights are available on the 3,700mm wheelbase, giving load volumes of 13.3 or 14.3m3.The engine is the familiar 0M904LA 4.25-litre four-cylinder unit,driven here in Euro-3 form and developing 134hp and 520Nm of torque. Models ordered now will come with the latest version, which delivers Euro-4 emissions courtesy of Ad-Blue SCR, with outputs of 156hp/610Nm and 177hp/ 675Nm.
Apart from its 75mm increase in ride height. the Vario 814DA doesn't look all dramatic, but it is a serious bit of off-road kit. Its permanent four-wheel drive is backed up by centre and rear-axle differential locks. If that's not enough,the five-speed ZF gearbox incorporates a 1.67:1 reduction ratio for when the going gets tougher. Using these features is simplicity itself, as dash-mounted toggle switches operate the range changes and dill locks.
Due to the increased ride height,an extra step has been provided to ease access. Sideloading is facilitated by a clever mechanism that extends and lowers another step when the door is opened. Meanwhile, in the cabin, apart from those extra switches everything is regulation Vario. with its slab-like dashboard and wide, comfortable seating for three.
But how it drives is what counts and on the move, the 4x4 Vario handles much like any other large van,and the extra height doesn't present any serious issues.The van will do 70mph on the motorway, getting there as quickly as you would expect for a 134hp 7.5tonner. However, it's off-road that the variant really shows its mettle. We started off by tackling a serious double hank around 5(X)mm high around a car park, confident that there was a loading shovel nearby. It took the diff locks to get through, but get through it did. Axle articulation was much greater than expected, and all four wheels stayed in touch with the ground even through some pretty tough conditions. On a variety of other surfaces around the quarry test site,we found nothing to seriously challenge the big red van. Not many off-roaders provide such good visibility. either.
You wouldn't expect this unique blend of ability to conic cheaply. Remember that comfy seat we mentioned earlier? That is probably the best place to he when you open the price list, as the basic van is £41,380 and the highroof,i42,214. However, that includes a premium for the 4x4 kit, which comes to a night out short often grand.
But if you need to carry three crew and morc than three tonnes of payload at motorway speeds. then take them to serious off-road locations, the options come down to a 4x4 Vario or a decent-sized helicopter. And we all know how much they cost.