12 years of the Mercedes-Benz Atego: highlights of a successful career

1998: a perfect debut in the distribution industry
At the time of its high-profile debut in 1998, the Mercedes-Benz Atego heralded a technical revolution in the distribution transportation industry. Like the introduction of the first generation of heavy-duty Actros models, from the very outset the Atego left its mark in the distribution transportation sector. In terms of its design and driver's cab layout, as well as its frame concept, suspension and drive, the new distribution truck had been consistently devised to meet the demanding requirements of distribution transportation applications.
With its unique offset frame structure, incorporating lowered, spray-type longitudinal members in front of the front axle, the successor to the established LK offers a level of comfort not previously enjoyed in urban applications involving frequent embarking and disembarking. The driver is able to gain access to the cab - which is now 2.30 metres wide and suitable for long-haul journeys - safely and conveniently via just one wide step.
Four different cab types are available, tailored to the respective application assignments. When it comes to the interior, the Atego driver can expect to find a completely newly designed working area, including through-cab access to the co-driver's side. The ergonomically-shaped seats and the interior design, which has been consistently planned specifically with the driver in mind, set new standards in distribution transportation.
Pneumatically-operated disc brakes on all axles, controlled electronically by the Telligent brake system (incl. ABS, ASR and roll-back lock) and combined with the constant throttle auxiliary engine brake, plus the balanced matching suspension, make the Atego one of the safest trucks on the market. Depending on the area of application, customers can choose between leaf, leaf/air and full-air sprung suspensions.
Thanks to long maintenance intervals of up to 100,000 kilometres in long-haul applications and significantly reduced service costs, the Atego has immediately moved to the top of the class among light-duty distribution trucks. The flat top side of the frame, with its regular hole pattern matrix, is particularly appealing to body manufacturers: length adjustments and trouble-free installation of a wide variety of bodies can be carried out easily and cost-effectively with the variable Atego chassis.
In terms of engines, the Atego makes use of a number of different four and six-cylinder variants from the 900 series, which are already equipped to meet the forthcoming Euro 3 emissions standard. The power output of the electronically-controlled, fuel-efficient pump-line-nozzle engines ranges from 90 kW (122 hp) to 205 kW (279 hp) in six appropriate hp levels. Five different transmissions offering 6 to 12 speeds and a five-speed automatic transmission can be combined with 15 different axle ratios.
At the time of its market launch in 1998, the new Atego offered a total of 25 different basic types and 240 model variants - from the classic distribution vehicle, local authority versions and semitrailer trucks, right through to construction dump trucks. As the most modern light-duty truck on the market, the Atego immediately enjoyed widespread customer acceptance and built on the market successes of the preceding model, the LK.
The Atego demonstrates its close ties with the Actros series not only in terms of technology, but also in terms of design. And just like the Actros, right from the start of its successful career the Mercedes-Benz Atego has picked up a number of international awards, including the coveted title of "International Truck of The Year 1999". The Atego has also regularly shone in international comparison tests, emerging to take the top places on a number of occasions.
In the initial years of its international career, the Atego quickly adopted the leading position in the distribution truck segment, thanks to its wide range of diverse model variants. With its modern technology, the Atego has proved its worth in the widest variety of application areas, and has contributed significantly to the financial success of its operators: favourable fuel economy figures combined with exceptional performance, long maintenance intervals, competent servicing and above-average sale values on the used vehicle market all contribute towards making the Atego the favourite among operators. Drivers too benefit from the unique chassis design inherited by the light-duty Mercedes-Benz truck. No other competitor is able to offer more interior comfort together with optimum operator convenience.
Heavy-duty tasks and a bigger brother called Axor
The subsequent introduction of a series of heavy-duty variants, which were implemented as solo or trailer units, saw the launch of the "heavy-duty Atego" - producing 205 kW (279 hp) and with a gross combination weight of 36 tonnes - which bridged the gap to the lightest Actros. Consequently, as an all-purpose vehicle the Atego took over the tasks which its predecessors, the LK and MK, had proved successful at for many years. As part of continual product improvement, in the year 2000 a powerful 240-kW (326-hp) top-of-the-range version of the heavy Atego chassis was brought onto the market, which also bridged the power output gap to the Actros.
In 2001, the Atego received a bigger brother in the form of the Axor. The new Axor models series emerged within the Mercedes-Benz truck range from the "heavy-duty Atego" weight class, and covered the upper segment of the heavy-duty distribution and fleet truck sector with gross vehicle weights of 18 to 40 tonnes. The Axor combines the heavy chassis of the Actros with the long Atego cab, which in the high-roof version offers space for two bunks. Housed beneath the cab of the Axor are six-cylinder in-line engines ranging from 170 kW (231 hp) to 240 kW (326 hp), combined with 5, 6 and 12-speed manual transmissions. The Axor range was rounded off at the top end with the OM 457 LA six-cylinder in-line engine, new in its class and available in the Axor from 2001 in 3 power categories (265 kW (360 hp), 295 kW (401 hp) and 315 kW (428 hp)), in conjunction with 16-speed transmissions.
Whether used in distribution transportation applications, as a fleet vehicle or semitrailer truck for weight-critical tasks such as tanker or silo transportation, the Axor has quickly gained a large following thanks to its reputation as both an economical and powerful semitrailer truck.
2004: a new look, combined with extensive interior upgrades
The second generation of the Atego made its debut at the 2004 International Commercial Vehicle Show, and following the production of 170,000 units heralded the introduction of the new edition the Atego and its brother the Axor. The new products and features were so numerous and comprehensive that it was right to refer to it as a new model. The most eye-catching design feature was the newly designed front section – it once again followed in the good tradition of the product family, being based on the style of the latest heavy-duty Actros. The large Mercedes star on the bonnet moved to the centre of the radiator grille. The modern H7 clear-glass headlamps, large high-set white-glass indicators, new wind deflectors and redesigned exterior mirrors all contributed to the multi-talented vehicle's completely unique appearance.
The product revolution of the 2004 Atego did not stop short of the interior of the four different cab variants either. The interior of the spacious cab was completely redesigned, reflecting the latest developments in ergonomics with its cockpit grouped around the driver. By way of a unique detail, the new Atego gave customers a choice between three different cockpit versions, which in each case were oriented towards the varying requirements of urban, medium-haul and long-haul transportation. The climate control technology and operating characteristics were similar in many of their details to those of the heavy-duty Actros models. With its unrivalled diversity of variants and combination of premium materials in the driver's cab, the second generation of the Atego once again raised the bar for the competition to the highest level.
Automated shifting helps combat big city stress
The same can be said of the Atego drive technology, which has been consistently enhanced over time to provide catalytic converter-equipped Euro-3 variants in the form of four-cylinder engines with outputs from 90 kW (122 hp) to 130 kW (177 hp), and six-cylinder engines with outputs of 170 kW (231 hp) and 205 kW (279 hp). A newly developed nine-speed transmission replaced the previous twelve-speed transmission. With the introduction of a Telligent automated gearshift as an optional extra up to 175 kW (238 hp), Mercedes-Benz again came up with a world's first in the light-duty distribution truck sector. The automated six-speed trans­mission was an ideal match for the powerful Atego engines and helped to make inner-city delivery transportation work considerably easier. The Telligent automated gearshift in the Atego soon became a trend-setter in the distribution class and also increased ride comfort and safety at the wheel of this best-selling distribution vehicle. The integration of modern safety technology such as ABS and ASR in the drivetrain are of course features in both the Atego and Axor. The roll-back lock built into the Telligent brake system made its debut in the 2004 Atego, significantly ahead of comparable systems on the market. In the same year, the data technology of the Atego was linked to the Fleetboard telematics system. This enabled all dynamic data, routes and order planning to be transferred direct from the vehicle to the distribution managers and vice-versa.
Like the Atego, the Axor too saw the introduction of numerous new features at the 2004 International Commercial Vehicle Show. Visually, the Axor also adopted an appearance similar to that of the heavy-duty Actros series. The six-cylinder in-line engines in the Axor were also combined with a partly-automated Telligent gearshift with 16 gears. For the 2006 model year, the Axor became available with BlueTec engines meeting the Euro-IV standard, or optionally even the Euro-V standard. The top-of-the-range variant was the 12-litre OM 457 LA large-scale six-cylinder in-line engine, available in three power output variants: 265 kW (360 hp), 295 kW (401 hp) and 315 kW (428 hp). As a result, the Axor now also covered a weight range within the Actros power output spectrum from 18 tonnes as a solo vehicle, up to a gross combination weight of 40 tonnes. As a payload-optimised fleet vehicle, it therefore represented an economically attractive alternative to the flagship vehicle in the Mercedes-Benz truck range.
The Atego and Axor did not just stop at this high point, however, and have been consistently and continually further enhanced, as evidenced by the numerous market-oriented special versions which have been made available. The most important representative of the Atego range is the payload-optimised 12-tonner, introduced in 2005, which has a low chassis and 17.5-inch tyres, and is driven by a new addition to the range, a 160-kW (218-hp) four-cylinder engine. As a solo truck exempt from road tolls, the Atego 1222 combines the safety and comfort of a fully-developed Mercedes-Benz truck with maximum utility value and lowest possible operating costs.
Innovation in the Atego continued to occur: in 2006, dump truck versions of the Atego were fitted with high-performance disc brake technology on all axles.
2008: exhibition debut of the Atego with "two hearts"
Since its debut in 1998, more than a quarter of a million Atego's have rolled off the production line onto the roads of Europe. The light-duty Mercedes-Benz distribution truck commands the role of bestseller on the European truck market. At the world's largest specialist truck fair, the 2008 International Commercial Vehicle Exhibition, Mercedes-Benz offered the multi-purpose distribution vehicle in both Euro-IV and Euro-V variants, which thanks to their BlueTec engine technology provided the optimum solution to mastering the difficult balance between cleaner exhaust emissions and the best possible fuel consumption levels. The optional engine start/stop system is just one of the many unique selling points with which the Atego has been able to dominate the competition.
Quite a stir was also caused at the 2008 International Commercial Vehicle Exhibition with the premiere of the Atego BlueTec Hybrid. Developed for a pilot fleet, the 12-tonner featured a 160-kW (218-hp) turbodiesel engine as standard, supported by a 44-kW electric motor. Powerful lithium-ion batteries store the electrical energy, which is fed via the electric motor when braking and supports the Euro-V EEV engine during the acceleration phase. Depending on the application, the Atego with "two hearts" can achieve fuel savings of around 10 - 15 percent compared with an equivalent conventional diesel-powered vehicle.
How far the development of hybrid technology has already advanced in the Atego has been demonstrated by an innovative fleet of the first 50 Atego BlueTec Hybrids only two years later. Once again the Mercedes-Benz Atego is writing commercial vehicle history – a new chapter in a success story which is likely to continue for some time.
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