Mercedes-Benz celebrates 25 years of the Atego

In Mercedes-Benz, News7 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineDecember 8, 2023

The truck was first presented in 1998 at the RAI International Commercial Vehicle Show in Amsterdam.

After a total of 14 years, the Atego replaced the LK (“Leichte Klasse”; light class) model series.

According to Mercedes-Benz, its developers had one key objective in mind for the new generation: The configuration options of the new distribution haulage vehicle had to reflect the diversity of applications in the light to medium-duty truck segment.

At that time, the broad spectrum ranged from professional freight forwarding vehicles with tarpaulin or box bodies to platform and tipper vehicles for the construction and construction-related sectors, as well as models with special equipment for municipal services, right down to its use as a platform for a host of bodies for special-purpose vehicles.

Atego Launched with 25 Basic Models, Six Power Output Categories and Four Cab Variants

The Atego initially covered the segment with a permissible gross mass of between 6.5t and 15t. The vehicle range comprised 25 basic types, six power output categories and four cab variants to meet the diverse requirements of the light to medium-duty truck segment.

Customers could choose between the OM 904 LA model series four-cylinder in-line diesel engines and the OM 906 LA model series six-cylinder in-line diesel engines. They generated 90 to 205kW (122 to 279hp) and a torque of 470 to 1300Nm from 4.25 and 6.37 litres of displacement respectively, the maximum of which was achieved between 1200 and 1600rpm.

From the very beginning of the model series, Mercedes-Benz’s aspiration was to set a new benchmark for profitability. In order to offer fleet operators maximum availability and appealing operating costs, major assemblies’ mileage was increased to 600,000km and maintenance intervals were significantly extended.

During the 57th IAA Commercial Vehicles Trade Show, the heavy-duty Atego was presented, featuring a higher frame, the large-capacity and the even more powerful OM 926 LA six-cylinder in-line engine (7.2L displacement, 240kW/326hp) and permissible gross vehicle weights of 18 to 26 tons, in 17 basic types and two power output categories (170kW/231hp and 205kW/279hp, 1300Nm).

With this model, the vehicle manufacturer closed the gap to the heavy-duty Actros model series.

 Mercedes-Benz Atego Crowned “International Truck of the Year 1999”

The new Mercedes-Benz Atego won the coveted title of International Truck of the Year 1999. With the first facelift in 2004, the Atego was fitted with a new, groundbreaking transmission. The G85-6 with Telligent automatic gearshift system including ABS and ASR safety systems as well as the Brake Assist system BAS boosted ride comfort to a level previously only achieved by Mercedes-Benz heavy-duty trucks while, at the same time, these features optimised road safety. The engine range was also enhanced and, thanks to BlueTec SCR emissions technology, it was adapted to the requirements of the Euro IV and V or EEV emissions standards.

First Series-Production Truck with Parallel Hybrid Drive

In 2010, the BlueTEC Hybrid 1222L model was the first series-production truck with a diesel-electric parallel hybrid drive and EU homologation. In addition to the 160kW (218hp) OM 924, the 12-ton vehicle was equipped with a water-cooled electric motor generating 44kW (60hp) maximum power output. This unit was able to drive the truck fully electrically at low speeds. The diesel engine kicked in at higher speeds and with high load requirements. The electric motor also served as an alternator and was thus able to recover kinetic energy in overrun as well as braking phases to temporarily store it in the lithium-ion battery pack of the Atego until the next acceleration procedure. This reduced fuel consumption by up to 20 percent and on average by 10 to 15 percent in urban distribution haulage.

For this reason, the Atego was awarded the German Sustainability Award 2010 by the German Sustainability Award Foundation. The following year, the Atego was once again crowned Truck of the Year.

Second Generation with Highly Efficient Euro VI Engines

In 2013, the second generation of the distribution haulage specialist bearing the three-pointed star was rolled out – this time with Euro VI-compliant engines from the OM 934 LA and OM 936 LA model series. Their most recent versions still power the Atego today.

The power output now ranged from 115 to 220kW (156 to 299hp). Despite the high emissions quality requirements, engine developers managed to reduce consumption by an average of five percent compared with the previous generation. This success came thanks to cutting-edge common rail injection, which replaced the unit injector elements, as well as high ignition pressures and aerodynamic optimisations on the cab.

In addition, they managed to cut AdBlue consumption to 2 to 2.5 percent of diesel consumption. Various design measures ensured that the payload did not have to be reduced. Maintenance intervals increased again to now 120,000km, a plus of 20 percent. This meant that number crunchers would also be pleased about the significant progress made.

Latest Safety Assistance Systems in the Atego from 2024

From April 2024, the Atego will be equipped with the very latest safety assistance systems. These include the Active Brake Assist 6 (ABA6) emergency braking assistant and the Active Sideguard Assist 2 (ASGA 2) turning assistant. The basis for this is a new electronics platform and the associated sensor fusion, merging radar and camera data for a larger view to the front and side.