Aussie Angles - On the Scania road show

Friday, November 9, 2018

In a bit of an Aussie Angles special, New Zealand Trucking magazine’s Howard Shanks spends time with the roadshow touring the new Scania range around Australia. Adelaide was where he leapt aboard the latest R620 V8. So let’s hear how it went first-hand…

New Scanias don’t come along that often and so when they do, it’s a special occasion. Over the past few months the latest G500 and R620 have been circumnavigating the Australian continent on a mobile roadshow. My flight touched down in Adelaide a few minutes ahead of schedule, and that was handy because my host, Scania’s Alan McDonald, was keen to get on the road. I scribbled the rego number into my work diary along with a corresponding line next to the time, threw my bags up into the sleeper and we were off.

The seat adjustment in the new Scania is relatively straightforward, with the controls located in the right-hand side of the seat base, and in few moments the seat was set up comfortably. The mirror adjustment is via switches located in the forward section of the door’s armrest, which also houses the vehicle’s light switches. Glancing around the dash it’s evident that a lot of thought has gone into the ergonomics of this cockpit layout. At the Australian launch, Kristofer Hansen, Scania’s head of styling and industrial design, explained at length how his team had focused on putting the essential switches and controls a driver would frequently use within easy reach without the driver needing to take their hands off the steering wheel. That includes gear selection and the retarder lever.

These days the ability to quickly adapt to a new truck’s environment is paramount for large trucking fleets with tight schedules, and compliance with fatigue requirements. In the space of few moments I had the Scania rolling out of Wingfield bound for the border town of Mildura up on the Murray River. To be perfectly frank, I like V8 engines. My Holden ute is powered by a V8 – albeit a tad smaller than the 16.4-litre V8 under the shed of this new Scania R620. However, while the R620’s V8 appeared to have an unyielding appetite to haul the 62 tonne B-double with relative ease, it lacked the tenacious, punchy, robust V8 note. The ride inside the cabin is smooth and quiet. There are few distractions for the driver because the smarts of the new Scania take care of the little things. The driver is free to concentrate on the road ahead.

Talking about the road ahead, the new R620 cabin has enhanced visibility when compared with the model it replaces. For starters, the flat windscreen wraps around the outer edge of the cabin. This means the A-pillar is set further back, and along with redesigned mirrors, this greatly reduces the blind spot area at intersections. The short four and a half hour run from Adelaide to Mildura meant there was little time to test out the new integrated auxiliary cab cooler. However, Alan explained that the cooler runs on battery power to maintain constant cabin temperatures when the vehicle and driver are at rest. While on the subject of rest, Alan pointed out that the spring mattress in the bunk extends to a full metre in width. The cabin is fully appointed with generous storage space above the bunk. Up front the standard H7 halogen headlights have been replaced with LED headlights and daytime running lamps, and the rear lamps have also been upgraded to LED.

Like most trucks on the market today, the Scania comes with a raft of safety features that include Advanced Emergency Braking, which provides semi-autonomous protection; Adaptive Cruise Control with Active Prediction that monitors topography for improved fuel saving strategies; Electronic Stability Programme, and Lane Departure Warning. Ride and handling in the new R620 is a step up from the previous model, and according to Scania, is partly attributed to the revamped front suspension that sees the front axle 50mm further forward compared with the model it replaced. This has the added advantage of reducing dive under braking. The relatively flat floor in the cabin means there is room for a decent size fridge with sliding drawer under the bunk, and a pullout drawer beside that. While the creature comforts and ease of operation in the driver’s seat were making light work of the journey north along the Sturt Highway, the conversation turned to the research and development that had gone on behind the scenes to improve the operating efficiency of this new NTG Scania range. Alan indicated that Scania had invested around AUD$3 billion over 10 years to deliver the machine we were driving.

Photos: Hi-tech and operational efficiency is what it’s all about in the new Scania. The question then becomes ‘what’s in it for the man behind the wheel?’ You wouldn’t want to ding the driver’s door.

“Fleets are not only looking at all our safety features when making a purchase decision,” Alan said. “They’re looking for greater efficiencies from engines and driveline components. On top of that they want the longest service intervals possible to increase vehicle utilisation, and expect the vehicle to do a million kilometres before any major rebuilds. It’s this type of criteria that Scania took into consideration when developing this model.” The 16.4-litre V8 in this R620 is the Euro 5 variant and punches out 456kW (620hp) with 3000 Nm (2213lb/ft) of torque from 950 RPM through to 1400 RPM. The power is transferred through Scania’s GRSO905R overdrive Opticruise transmission to a final drive of 3.07:1 ratio. Scania also offer Euro 6 versions of the V8 with power ratings from 388kW (520hp) through to 545kW (730hp). The tall diff ratio did mean that cruising RPM was relatively low, and that, according to Alan, is where it needs to be to get the optimum fuel economy. Higher torque with tall final drive ratios is becoming a more common spec these days. You could be forgiven if you thought the tall final drive might mean the truck is lethargic leaving traffic lights, but not so. Agreed, it won’t be the quickest machine off the mark but the torquey V8 does have the fully loaded R620 B-double mobile in a timely manner.

This new Scania, like the models before it, has the driver support centred around a display system in the main instrument panel. It provides ongoing advice to drivers, such as suggesting they reduce the power slightly before cresting a rise. “To avoid making drivers feel under pressure or frustrated, the system rewards fuel-efficient driving,” Alan explained. “It assesses areas including reversing, brake use, gear selection and the driver’s ability to plan ahead. If a driver often accelerates and then subsequently brakes, it detects a lack of forward thinking and the driver score will drop.” If you recall earlier in the article, I mentioned Scania’s smarts take care of the little things. The system’s smarts also monitor how the truck is being operated and reports this information to Scania, which is used to calculate the service intervals and costs. The new Scania truck is clever enough to monitor how it is being operated and adjusts its scheduled maintenance accordingly.

But what’s in it for the driver? Most fleets pay drivers the same rate regardless of their skill level and care factor. Getting five little green stars in a message on the dash is ok, but does it put a few extra dollars in the driver’s pocket? Sadly, across the board the answer is no, it’s a flat rate regardless of the driver’s score. From a driver’s point of view the new NTG Scania certainly is a comfortable truck that is well appointed with ample storage space and creature comforts for long haul drivers. Its road manners are what we’ve come to expect from Scania; the truck is very sure-footed, which conveys confidence even over some the rougher sections of highway. In terms of fit and function it ticks all the boxes, with good visibility and a simple to use cockpit. From a fleet operations point of view, this R620 is primarily set up for B-double line haul work, and in this application, is a vehicle that should at least make into the pile for consideration. “How did you enjoy that?” Alan enquired as I handed him the keys to the R620 in Mildura. “Very nice,” I replied. “But sadly I’ll have to wait till I get home to hear a V8.”