Mercedes Benz Vario 816 DA 4x4

Our Benny is a Mercedes Benz Vario 816 DA 4x4 from 2011. It is a midsize truck in the European 7,5 tons league. 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. The engine is considered to be unbreakable. That is one of the reasons why the Vario was also used by the German army and local authorities (road construction, forrest works). While Sprinter, Daily & Co offer a car-like driving experience, the Vario has a very rough charm. 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 have converted to super single tires. In these cases the maximum permissible weight is reduced down to 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.  


OM 904 LA diesel engine with 4,25 litres, 4-cylinder, 156 hp and 610 Nm at 1200 to 1600 rpm. 


Direct injection, turbocharger and intercooler.


Consumption: 18 - 20 litres / 100km


Bluetec Euro 5

Weight / Size

The MB Vario has a GVW of 7.5 tons. It is possible to increase GVW up to 8,2 tons.


Our Benny has a weight of 6,7 tons (incl. water, gas, diesel and 1 driver), leaving a payload of 0,8 tons.


Length is 6,90m, width is 2,37m and height is 3,55m.


Permanent 4x4 drive with a 6 speed manual transmission.


The Vario has a longitudinal differential lock (the driving force is equally distributed to the front and rear axle) and a rear axle differential (the driving force is equally distributed to the wheels of the rear axle).


In addition, the Vario has a reduction transmission (offroad). 


Wheelbase 4.25 m


Tires 9.5 17.5 R


Engine brake


Hydraulic braking system


Auxiliary diesel heater with timer


SCR catalyst



Advantages of the Vario

  • Robust heavy truck technology
  • Strong engine with enough torque
  • Compact size (length below 7m)
  • Permanent 4x4 drive and two difflocks
  • Chassis offers 4 tons payload
  • Alcove possible (driver cabin is fixed)
  • Worldwide Mercedes service network


Disadvantages of the Vario

  • In no way comparable with the offroad capabilities of a Mercedes Unimog (due to twin wheels, limited ground clearance etc.)
  • No passenger airbag in combination with 4x4
  • Not as comfortable as a Mercedes Sprinter
  • AdBlue exhaust treatment
  • Expensive spare parts
  • Rust sensitive (if no anti-corrosion treatment)