Mercedes Unimogs set record for high-altitude driving

While placing radios on a Chilean volcano, they reach 21,961+ feet above sea level

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Unimog
One of the pair of Mercedes-Benz Unimog reaches a world-record height for a driven vehicle | Mercedes-Benz photos

Automakers boast of their vehicles’ lap times around the Nurburgring or over a 1-mile straightaway, and recently of the range of their electric-powered fleet. But Mercedes-Benz is claiming an automotive record of another sort as a pair of its Unimog U 5023 off-road vehicles have claimed driving at a height of nearly 21,962 feet.

The mission was to install four emergency radio units at various high-altitude camps on Ojos de Salado, the world’s tallest active volcano, which is located in Chile. The radios were needed so the camps could communicate for safety and scientific research. 

‘Climb every mountain’ is not just a song lyric

Ojos de Salado reaches to a height of 6893 meters (22,614.8 feet) and is part of the notorious string of active volcanos known as the Pacific Ring of Fire.

“After the expedition team made it to the Amistad high-altitude camp at 6,100 m with the two Unimog U 5023 and had completed the installation of the fourth emergency radio unit there, the team set about achieving another milestone,” Mercedes-Benz noted in its announcement, “breaking the altitude record for wheeled vehicles. 

“This was achieved by one of the two Unimog trucks at an altitude of 6,694 m. Never before had vehicles climbed to such heights anywhere around the world.”

The 10-person expedition was supported by Mercedes-Benz Special Trucks, which provided the pair of extreme off-road vehicles. The trucks were equipped with special tires, winches and even special bodies with variable center of gravity-balancing technology developed at the Unimog Museum, by Unimog body supplier AS Soder and by engineers from the Unimog development team. 

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Spare tires carried on special fixture

Leading the expedition was Matthias Jeschke, owner of Extrem Events, who had set the previous high-altitude driving record in 2014 using Mercedes-Benz Zetros.

The Mercedes news release quotes Jeschke for praising the way the Unimogs “mastered” the extremely steep and rocky passages thanks to a combination of the best, reliable technology, a balanced center of gravity and amazing tire technology to bring the materials and equipment to these enormous heights.”

Mercedes launched the Unimog model 70 years ago as a vehicle designed for all climates and all places.

Nice view from up here


A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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