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Monday, January 20, 2020

The S-Way is a huge step up from the Stralis it replaces, but could Iveco have done more?


Photo: Cursor powertrains ex-Stralis remain.

International supermodels could be doing naked cartwheels around the truckstop I pull into on the outskirts of Turin, Italy, and nobody would notice. That’s because I’ve arrived in a new Iveco S-Way, and all eyes are firmly on that. At the time of writing there are only 200 of them on Europe’s roads, so they’re very much a novelty. Now I start to hear the rustling of shell suits and the flipping and flopping of cheap plastic footwear (the truckdriving uniform of choice for many European truck drivers) on the urine-drenched tarmac. A crowd of them climb out of their ageing cabs, and gravitate towards me, enchanted, jaws dropping and drool pooling on bottom lips. They all want a closer look at Europe’s newest truck. The S-Way is the first truck to be launched in the manufacturer’s Way heavy range. Although initially only available in one size, a narrow cab and different roof heights will be added in 2020.

These will be joined by the X-Way light construction truck, and the T-Way Trakker replacement. Following a flurry of smartphone photo activity, the crowd finally dissipates, and I’m left with one driver who won’t go away. He’s asking me lots of questions in what I assume is Bulgarian, but I can’t understand a word of it. He (from now on I’m going to call him Ivan) points to the front of the truck, gives a thumbs-up, smiles broadly, and says the word “Scania”. I nod enthusiastically to let him know that I understand he’s telling me it looks like a Scania. Most of social media seems to share his view, believing the S-Way to be some sort of Scania copy. I can sort of see where they’re coming from, as they do share a few styling cues.


Photo: S-Way’s ride is a world better than the outgoing Stralis.

As for it being a copy, definitely not! I’ve seen pictures of the S-Way on the drawing board from almost a decade ago. But Ivan is right to give the S-Way a big thumbs-up, because this is undoubtedly a fantastic-looking vehicle. In fact, I believe it’s one of the smartest trucks on the road, and reckon the Iveco stylists can give themselves a pat on the back. The S-Way’s cab is new and shares very few components with the Stralis it replaces. One of the more notable features is a new, longer door, which has been extended to cover the second step. As well as improving security, this also enhances the aerodynamics and contributes to a 12% improvement in drag reduction. This equates to up to 4% better fuel economy. Now Ivan wants to look inside the cab, and gestures for to me to open my door. I oblige, and he climbs up the three well-spaced steps, and holds onto the grab handle as I slide my seat back to give him a better view. He immediately clocks the leather-stitched multi-function steering wheel with its 22 switches and flat base, and nods enthusiastically. Judging by his waistline he enjoys a pie or two, so would appreciate the squared-off wheel.

Then he points at the 7” infotainment screen, which is in driver evaluation mode and is currently displaying a less than impressive percentage score. Instead of attempting to explain that I’ve been testing its acceleration, I switch modes, and demonstrate the Apple CarPlay and sat nav. Then I point out the new stop-start ignition button, show him the redesigned dashboard, and attempt to explain with numerous arm gesticulations that the cab sits higher than it used to. This means the engine tunnel has been reduced from 205mm to 95mm. It’s not a flat floor, but it’s not far off being one. A new roof gives an impressive 2.15m standing height. Ivan nods towards the lockers, which are bigger than they used to be, and have a combined 250 litres of space. There is a new storage console on the floor in the centre of the dashboard too, which features cup-holders and an A4 drawer. The door pockets are deeper, and will each accommodate a 1.5-litre bottle. The one-piece lower bunk is wider, and comes with a choice of 14cm mattresses with two levels of comfort. The bed module – which controls the lighting, heating, radio and door locks – is positioned centrally. Pockets and USB ports are located at both ends, meaning the driver can sleep either way around. Embracing my new role as an Iveco ambassador, I decide that it’s best not to point out that the S-Way retains the Stralis’ mechanical parking brake.


Photo: NP models running on either CNG or LNG offered for Europe.

Instead, I press my finger firmly into the centre of the dashboard, showing him that it’s soft, and hoping that this distracts him from noticing some of the lowest-bidder plastics used elsewhere in the cab. That said, I don’t think he would have minded, as he is clearly smitten. Personally, I find the S-Way’s interior to be a bit of a letdown, and think it lacks flair and imagination. Yes, it represents a huge improvement over the Stralis, but that bar wasn’t particularly high to begin with. Iveco is Europe’s smallest truck maker, and had a budget of just €250 million ($434 million) for this truck. I suspect the lion’s share of it went on the exterior. Then again, if it had access to a larger pool of money, would giving the truck Scania S-Series levels of refinement have done it any favours? Iveco knows who its customers are, and more importantly, it knows what they are prepared to pay. Ivan probably wants to know what it’s like to drive, but seeing as I can’t speak any Bulgarian, I can’t tell him that the S-Way uses the identical driveline to the Stralis, which is great news in my opinion. The Cursor engines are fantastic, and the Hi-Tronix (ZF TraXon) gearbox is quick and precise.

Photo: Some cheap plastics and a lack of imagination let the cab down for our author.


Iveco is having a massive push on natural gas in Europe, and the 4x2 NP tractor I’m driving runs on LNG. It pulls just like a diesel, only revs slightly higher, is noticeably quieter at tickover, and more refined when working hard. Diesel-powered S-Ways get a choice of 9-, 11- or 13-litre engines (330hp to 570hp), while CNG and LNG trucks have either the 9- or 13-litre (270hp to 460hp). A few extra horsepower here and there would have been nice, and it’s a shame that rumours of a 16-litre option never materialised. I recently spent a day in the passenger seat of a Stralis, and twice during the drive my pedometer watch buzzed frantically to congratulate me on achieving 10,000 footsteps. That’s how rough the ride was.

The S-Way has new cab suspension, and it successfully irons out most of the bumps. After two hours of driving I’m still on the measly 1750 footsteps I was on before setting off. Iveco is the only major European truck maker to still use mechanical steering, but that’s not necessarily a negative in my view. It’s precise, with plenty of positive feedback, and copes admirably with the ‘tram-tracks’ carved into the Italian motorways by heavy traffic. Overall, I find it to be an incredibly easy truck to drive, comfortable, and strangely familiar too. It’s a bit like putting on your favourite pair of work boots. Ivan can’t hold on any more, so he mutters something favourable, grins again and climbs down the steps. He wanders to the front of the truck, takes a selfie in front of it, and gives me a double thumbs-up this time. I like the S-Way a lot, but clearly not as much as Ivan does. He begins to walk away, then turns around and gives the truck one final look of admiration, before climbing into his 10-yearold Renault Premium and driving off.


Photo: Iveco S-Way styling, almost a decade on the drawing board.

Connection
Iveco S-Ways come with a connectivity box as standard, which works off a service platform developed in partnership with Microsoft. Hauliers can tap into a number of free services, designed to optimise uptime, fuel efficiency and total cost of ownership, or pay a fee for a more comprehensive package. The system records driver behaviour too, which, as well as being accessed via the infotainment screen, can also be monitored by the new myIVECO EASY Way app. Using the app, drivers can additionally control the truck’s electric windows, door locks, heating, lighting and audio.

Now we see you, now we don’t
The S-Way has a pair of rather large rear-view mirrors. Rearwards visibility is unsurprisingly great, but their size does create a slight blind spot on the approach to roundabouts. A gap between the main and wide-angle mirrors would certainly help in this respect. However, an insider tells me the mirrors will soon be replaced by cameras and screens, similar to the MirrorCam system offered in the new Mercedes-Benz Actros. “But ours will be better, as they will record too,” he reveals.