Mercedes-Benz Antos: first driving impression Short-haul distribution made easier with the new Mercedes-Benz Antos

Oct 10, 2012
  • For the first time, an automatic transmission with no
    ifs or buts
  • 7.7-litre engine sounds – and pulls – like a big unit
  • First-rate vehicle controls on par with Actros
  • All safety features available
Which one to choose? Before test-driving the new Mercedes-Benz Antos, it's a tough choice to make. For the first test drive in Düsseldorf, there are two driver's cabs to choose from. We opt for the CompactSpace "S" version over the super-flat cab, a special design for car transporters and similar low-positioned applications. The new specialist family includes three engines for just about all types of distribution application. Three engines, that sounds clear enough, but 13 power ratings? Read on for more details.
Alongside the familiar 12.8-litre six-cylinder OM 417 from the new Mercedes-Benz Actros, the new, mid-sized 10.7-litre OM 470 power plant which develops 326 to 428 hp (240 kW – 315 kW) is also available in this vehicle family. The Antos was systematically designed from the outset to meet the stringent Euro VI standard. And then there is the also brand-new "small" in-line six-cylinder OM 936 with a working volume of 7.7 litres, which development engineers have endowed with a full five power ratings, ranging from 238 to 354 hp (175 kW – 260 kW).
First test with the rigid distribution vehicle
We choose the Mercedes-Benz Antos 1830 L 4×2, a two-axle rigid vehicle with a box body, frequently used for short-radius distribution of foodstuffs, for example. With a rated output of 299 hp (220 kW), the engine is the middle-of-the-range option for the 7.7-litre Euro VI unit. This clean‑runner achieves its best tractive power between 1200 and 1600 rpm. Within this broad engine speed range, 1200 newton metres are available at full load.
As mentioned earlier, for the driver's workplace, we opted for the short "S" cab. A likely choice for regional transport applications. And after an easy entry via an elegant, stair-like entrance, it already becomes clear: Mercedes-Benz has built the ideal truck for short-radius distribution. Welcome home.
Ergonomic workplace
From behind the steering wheel in the new Mercedes-Benz Antos, it is also apparent that vast improvements have been made to the driver's workplace. The driver sits in a premium cockpit, a real standard-setter in short-radius distribution. For starters, just look at the multifunction steering wheel and the generous height and longitudinal adjustment of the seat. The ample steering wheel adjustment of up to 16.5 degrees is also exemplary – drivers of all sizes will feel right at home in the Mercedes-Benz Antos.
Connoisseurs will recognise the cockpit from the new Mercedes-Benz Actros. This means ergonomics, controls and a logical layout beyond reproach, with all instruments arranged within the driver's reach, as well as radio and navigation being integrated into the dashboard.
Ready for take-off at the touch of a button
So let's get the show on the road. The 300 hp engine starts with the touch of a button, the classic old-style key being a thing of the past for the Antos. In its place is a drive authorisation system in credit card format. The generous seat adjustment range accommodates every body size, and the perfect work position behind the four-spoke steering wheel is quickly found.
The controls in this new vehicle for short and medium-haul routes are definitely in line with progress, or rather: with a philosophy committed to making work easier. This means that manual transmissions are now a thing of the past in short-radius distributions, with no ifs or buts. Mercedes-Benz is the first truck manufacturer to make life easier for every Antos driver on short-haul routes by equipping its vehicles with fully automatic transmissions as standard.
Distribution vehicle improvement: PowerShift 3 as standard
Following the Mercedes-Benz Actros, the new Mercedes-Benz Antos now leaves the production line equipped only with a PowerShift 3 transmission. Alongside the 12-speed version well-known from the Actros long-haul model, an eight-speed version is available for the first time in the Antos.
The new transmission is custom-made for use in two and three-axle rigid vehicles with a maximum permissible gross vehicle weight of up to 26 tonnes, but can also be used in light semitrailer/tractor combinations or drawbar combinations. The eight-speed PowerShift is designed as a four-speed main transmission with a splitter group – a distinctive feature worthy of special mention. 
Naturally, this unique characteristic is unnoticeable on the road. What is noticeable as soon as the vehicle starts up is the perfect interplay between the 7.7-litre power plant and the automatic transmission. The subdued sound impression making its way into the driver's cab is more reminiscent of an eleven-litre engine than a seven-litre engine.
Same gear-shift strategy as in full-sized units
And the PowerShift transmission plays its part in presenting the small engine in the compact Antos 1830 as one of the "full-size" units. The automatic transmission gears up quickly, in big gear-ratio steps, always maintaining that Actros-like engine speed decrease.
It's obvious that this comparatively light drivetrain can easily measure up to the big long-haul model. At no time during the almost hour-long tour through Düsseldorf's city centre, with one extended jaunt into the hilly surroundings, does the fully loaded Antos 1830 show any drive-related weaknesses.
Pure intuition – vehicle operation the way it ought to be
Vehicle operation using the gearbox switch to the right of the steering column, where the engine brake is also activated, is an intuitive task. But there's not much to do, really, since this is usually done by the high-quality drive and brake management system.
Directly adjacent to the new gearbox and brake control unit, important assistance systems such as cruise control – both with and without Proximity Control Assist – and the freely adjustable speed limiter are operated by the driver via an extremely easy-to-reach control panel on the right-hand steering wheel spoke. Previously in the Actros, such functions were integrated in a steering column lever.
Quick info, quickly programmed
The freely programmable hotkey is particularly helpful: to this button, drivers can assign the submenu of most relevance to them (driving time or journey consumption, for example) – a press of the button is all it takes to display the desired information.
A true enhancement to a trucker's daily routine is the manoeuvring position of the right-hand mirror. The mirror glass turns outwards at a ten-degree angle to reach the manoeuvring position.
On motorway exits with difficult-to-judge curves, the new Antos gives drivers substantially more handling leeway should they happen to underestimate the curve's trajectory. On interurban roads, higher suspension reserves generally ensure that drivers have more options for making rapid corrections when faced with sudden obstacles.
All safety systems in short-radius distribution, for the first time
Finally, electronic assistance systems ranging from the standard stability assistants to the optional Lane Keeping Assist and the unique, new-generation Active Brake Assist 3 are there to lend a hand in potentially critical situations. With such assistance systems, Mercedes-Benz has put together a safety package without compromise for the new Antos, one that is unparalleled in short-radius distribution. To promote the use of safety systems in short-radius distribution, Mercedes-Benz has bundled these systems for the Antos and made them available in the "Safety Pack Basic" and "Safety Pack Classic" packages.
Mercedes-Benz Antos 1832, exterior
Mercedes-Benz Antos 1832, exterior
Mercedes-Benz Antos, exterior
Mercedes-Benz Antos, exterior