That is why we decided for a

Mercedes Vario 4x4

Here you get all facts about our Mercedes Vario 4x4, why we decided for such a vehicle, how the floorplan looks and here you find also some videos about the Vario 4x4. So let´s start with the facts.



Manufacturer and type

Mercedes Benz Vario DA 816 4x4

Year of construction


Former owner

German army


OM 904, 4.25 litres diesel engine, 4 cylinder, 156 HP, 610 NM, Bluetec Euro 5

Max speed

120 km/h


Permanent 4 WD drive with a 6 speed manual transmission

Differential locks

Middle diff lock and rear axle diff lock, reduction transmission


4.25 meters


Michelin XZY 9.5 R 17.5

Weight 6.7 tons ready for traveling (inclusing full tanks), max weight 7.5 tons
Dimensions Length 6.90m, width 2.37m, height 3.55m
Diesel tanks 90 litres + 140 litres = 230 litres; Separ diesel filter
Diesel consumption 18 litres / 100km
Other Second diesel heater, SCR catalyst, engine brake, Marquart shock absorbers

Habitation box

Manufacturer Woelcke, Heimsheim/Germany (
Year of construction 2017/18
Overcab habitation box 50mm sandwich panel (2mm fiberglass on each side, foam inside), 60mm floor plate
Water tank 400 litres fresh water, 200 litres grey water
Water Famous Water filter (2 ceramic + 1 carbon filter), outside shower
LPG tank 24kg
Cooking 3 flame CAN cooker (LPG), no oven (we use an Omnia oven instead)
Fridge Kissmann compressor with 120 litres
Heating Truma Combi D6E (works with diesel and electricity) incl kit for high altitudes
Batteries 2 x 160 Ah Lithium
Solar 3 x 100 Watts
Toilet Kildwick separating toilet with a 40 litres urine tank in the subfloor and 12V vent
Windows/roof hatch KCT
WLAN Batlink travel connector
Seats / Beds 3 with seat belts / 4 beds
Awning Thule 2.60 x 2m
Offroad lights 2 additional offroad lights from Hella with a Ref value of 40

Our considerations for such an overland vehicle

These are our must criterias for our truck:

  • The chassis should be a well-known brand with a worldwide service network
  • The vehicle should be robust and realiable with a minimum of electronics
  • It should be a truck in the 7.5 tons class with a high payload
  • The vehicle must fit to our budget. Not only for the purchase of the vehicle but also for the running costs (diesel consumption, maintenance, repairs, ...)

Further considerations:


Realistically the main use will be on the road. However, the truck should manage all kind of dirt tracks, not neccessarily hardcore offroad tracks (deep mud, sand dunes). A good ground clearance, a permanent 4x4 drive and difflocks are a must for us.


Comfort is more important to us than extreme offroad capabilities. That is the reason that our vehicle should have an overcab to realise kind of a 2 room apartment with some privacy. The vehicle should have a high level of self-sufficiency for at least 2 weeks (requires appropriate levels of solar power, Lithium batteries, diesel tank capacities, fresh/grey water tank capacities as well as a separate urine tank).


The 3.5 tons class was not an option for us due to limitations in comfort and too many compromises. The >7.5 tons class is "oversized" for us, and also impractical: We don't want to drive such a huge truck through small villages or in the city. Not to mention the huge maintenance costs and the driving restrictions for >7,5 ton vehicles in Europe. So our goal is to stay in the 7.5 tons class.


The overall size should allow a high level of comfort within the cabin (separate shower and bathroom, two beds north-south etc.), but should still be compact enough to ensure drivability. So another goal was to stay below 7m in length.


(As of 2016) The vehicle choice in the 7.5 tons class is very limited. Apart from exotic chassis such as the Bremach, Bucher Duro and the Fuso Canter, there is only the Iveco Daily or the Mercedes Sprinter available as a new truck.


The Iveco Daily is available with a max weight of 7.2 tons, but only with 4x2.  There is the possibility to order a 4x4 conversion by Achleitner.


The Mercedes Sprinter 4x4 is available with a max weight of 5.3 tons. With a 6x6 conversion package from Oberaigner a max weight of 7 tons is possible. However, such a three-axle vehicle is technically very complex and has some disadvantages (fuel consumption, tire usage,  etc.). Also Iglhaut offers 4x4 conversions for the Sprinter. However, such conversion packages are very expensive: Only for the chassis and including the Achleitner or Oberaigner conversion package the total bill would exceed EUR 100,000 (without the cabin).


There are older 7.5 ton chassis available such as a Mercedes 914 or an Iveco 90-16 and they have lots of fans due to their simple technology. But we don't want to drive around with an oldtimer as we are not mechanics. There are also some trucks available downsized to 7.5 tons like the Mercedes Atego or the Unimog, but they have limited payload and an alcove wouldn't be possible.


So at the end of the day there was only one option left: A used Mercedes Vario 4x4. Luckily we found an ex-army Mercedes Vario 4x4 from 2011 in a top shape. The ideal chassis for our project. Our Benny is a Mercedes Benz Vario 816 DA 4x4. It is a midsize truck in the European 7.5 ton class. The basic concept of this vehicle goes back to the 80s and established a separate category between vans/transporters (mainly up to 5 tons) and heavy trucks over 7.5 tons. The Vario uses heavy truck technology, which makes the vehicle very robust, and was produced until 2013.  The engine is considered to be unbreakable. That is one of the reasons why the Vario was also used by the German army and is still in use by local governments (road construction, forrest works). The chassis has technical reserves: The max weight can be increased from 7.5 to 8.5 tons without technical changes (but then needs to be registered as a heavy truck). While Sprinter, Daily & Co offer a car-like driving experience, the Vario has a very rough charm, like a tractor. We like it.


The Vario has no luxury. There is power steering and ABS, an air conditioning and electric mirrors. Other modern achievements such as ESP or passenger airbags do not exist. And that's good, because what doesn't exist can't break. On the other side, the Vario -with its Euro 5 engine- is not free of electronics.


The Vario is available with four wheelbases from 3.15m to 4.8m. Our Benny has the 4.25 m wheelbase with rear twin wheels. This is good for the stability and security (if a rear tire blows up), but limits hardcore off-road driving (which we do not plan anyway). The ground clearance is sufficient for our purposes. Some Vario expedition vehicles changed to super single tires. In these cases the maximum permissible weight is reduced to under 7 tons and in Switzerland it is not so easy to get the permission for them. 


The Vario has a geat advantage over a heavy truck with more than 7.5 tons: With its compact size the Vario is perfect to manage small roads and small villages. This easy handling outweighs the somewhat limited offroad capabilities.


Furthermore we like the global presence of Mercedes Benz, the availability of spare parts and the Vario 4x4 community is simply cool :-).


To sum it up:

Advantages of a Vario

  • Robust heavy truck technology
  • Strong engine with enough torque
  • Permanent 4x4 drive and 2 difflocks
  • Chassis with 4 tons of payload
  • Alcove is possible (engine is accessable from the front)
  • Technical reserves (max weight can be increased up to 8.5 tons)
  • The Vario is a "door-opener" for many things
  • Worldwide Mercedes service network


  • In no way comparable with the offroad capabilities of a Mercedes Unimog (due to rear twin wheels, lower ground clearance)
  • No passenger airbag in combination with 4x4
  • Not as comfortable as a Mercedes Sprinter
  • Adblue exhaust treatment
  • Expensive spare parts
  • Exposed to rust (if no anti-rust treatment)

Floorplan of our Mercedes Vario 4x4

We decided for the following floorplan, pretty much standard in many other expedition vehicles with this size and with an overcab concept:

Videos about our Mercedes Vario 4x4

Here you find some videos about our all-terrain truck.