Looking after their own - Fuso HDT launch

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Last year we travelled to Japan to see Fuso’s new platform HDT in development with a projected New Zealand release date of mid 2019. It’s here early, launched to media on 5 April, and the order books are open. A whole new truck, a clean slate, and a safe bet.


Photo: Natalie Richards wheels the Shogun around the Coromandel.

What if you believed in your product? We mean really believed, as in utter faith in it. How would you launch it? Talk about it while pointing at it? Puddle around a racetrack cab and chassis? Burn around a racetrack loaded? Maybe, go to a testing ground if there’s one handy, with some of your new wares? Or would you load a selection of models to the absolute gunnels, and send a bunch of crazy journos and sales staff off for well over half a day into some serious rural country with the mandate to “put what we’ve been saying to the test”. Yep, probably the latter. “We wanted you to have a real go in them. We wanted to you to drive them to see they’re nothing like anything we’ve had before,” said Fuso New Zealand CEO Kurtis Andrews.

The new Fuso HDT is a truck we [the media] have had a connection to for a long time. We’ve seen it in a state of gestation and development, having heard some of the discussions with designers right there in Japan, taken prototypes for a burn at the Kitsuregawa proving ground, and we’ve looked at the pristine test labs at Fuso’s K1 Kawasaki plant. Fuso New Zealand has given us an incredible insight into the truck’s journey, all for one reason, so we too know it’s nothing like the machine it replaces. So we can get a feel for the hours that have gone into it, and the genuine desire to deliver the right thing to the home market.

Although a few shared panels mean form factor is an obvious progression, and for now the peak output numbers line up roughly similar to the outgoing HD Euro, that’s where any connection between the trucks end. Behind the face nothing in terms of environment, safety, engine or transmission is the same, and neither is the drivability. The way the new machine delivers its peak performance is an unrelatable experience in comparison with the HD.

But first the name
In the best traditions of successful Japanese trucks, the name ‘Shogun’ has returned. It’s a name that will resonate instantly with New Zealand truckies, and a part of Japanese culture we Kiwis tend to like. HD Euro created confusion, and purported to be something it clearly wasn’t. A truck stricken by ‘partialplatformistis’. Ironically, this incarnation of Fuso’s top offering is called Shogun, and is more Euro than HD Euro could ever have dreamed. It’s a proper Daimler platform vehicle. Go figure! And Shogun’s arrived in the nick of time. UD have had the new generation uber-safe, uber-efficient heavy Japanese truck sandpit all to themselves for a year or so; not anymore. Fuso too has joined the H&S managers’ and accountants’ dream club, and they claim their mechanical marvel now holds the title ‘The safest Japanese truck ever’. Neither has Fuso New Zealand skimped on field trials. Test trucks have been with two renowned users of the brand for almost a year. Golden Contracting in Silverdale and Carr & Haslam in Auckland have had trucks clock up more than 150,000km in local conditions – that’s on top of the three million-plus kilometres the Japanese put the core vehicle through.

Mark ‘Skip’ Golden’s machine has been on regional truck and dog tip work in the north, and Chris Carr’s had two: one on line haul tractor/semi vehicle deliveries, and a curtain-side rigid on regional distribution. It’s worth noting both men have bought their trial machines. Interestingly, Fuso’s drivetrain engineer who did much of the development work on Shogun, Morimoto san, did the development on the HD Euro also. The perfect choice in all reality, as who better to know where the tweaks were needed having journeyed the trials of the last model, all the time getting a real feel for New Zealand’s conditions. “One of the cool takeaways was his respect for the quality of the Kiwi truckers testing the field units, especially Skip Golden’s ability to identify exactly how to tune the transmission, knowing when changes needed to be made, and didn’t need to be made,” said Kurtis.


Photo: The 460 made short work of 40 tonne gross, and wasn’t being pushed around by the big barge.

The vision
If you’re going to bring a new product to market you need a philosophical cornerstone that guides the project so people aren’t rushing around like mozzies in a swamp. Fuso New Zealand decided the Shogun’s would be ‘Looking after our own’ and the activity silos feeding into that would be efficiency, safety, and comfort. So let’s look at those.

Efficiency
Central to efficiency is the engine and gearbox obviously. The new engine in the first wave of offerings will be the 10.7-litre OM470 Daimler motor as seen in the Arocs 2643 6x4 tipper. Now, here’s an interesting thing. The Fuso lads spoke about the engine’s links to Detroit Diesel’s DD11 a lot, and the hangin- there qualities of the famous US engine brand now under Shogun’s floorboards. Try mentioning the DD word in earshot of Mercedes-Benz purveyors and look out. Although it’s a modest displacement we all know that’s the way of the new planet-protecting world we live in. But it’s a modern clever engine with a big heart. Product planning manager for Fuso New Zealand, Ian Porter, said that in the New Zealand trials, actual numbers stuff, the new truck was 20% lighter on fuel burn than its predecessor. Looking deeper into the nitty gritty, it’s a Euro 6 engine, 170kg lighter than the OM457 it replaces, and comes in two power variants, a 298kW (400hp) unit with 2011Nm (1483lb/ft) of torque, and a 343kW (460HP) unit producing 2213Nm (1632lb/ft). There’s the X-PULSE injection system, a low-pressure common rail with electronically managed high pressure injectors to tailor fuel burn precisely, and an asymmetrical turbo with twin independently fed scrolls, one increasing suction for improved combustion and the other feeding the EGR system.

Auxiliary braking comes courtesy of Jacobs and Jacobs only, and it produces an impressive 343kW (460hp) of retardation at 2100rpm, in both engines. It operates in three stages via the one-stop wand – mounted on the left incidentally – the first stage runs on three pots, the second on six, and the third six with gear-downshifts thrown in also. On the subject of cylinders, the engine warms up on three pots as well, and in the cut and thrust of daily life if the weight is down and throttle load light, it might decide three’s the ‘bully’ then too until the load comes on proper.
In Japan the truck is available with the 7.7-litre OM936, or DD8 if that’s your preference. Now that’s an interesting metro proposition in a clean air world. Anyway… Out goes INOMAT-II and in comes Daimler’s fabulous Power-Torque 3 rebranded ShiftPilot, arguably the truck’s most transformational feature.

Photo: Looks-wise it’s an evolution, which is a good thing.

“Skip summed it up,” said Kurtis. “He said ‘INOMAT was an AMT you drove in manual and used in auto on occasions. ShiftPilot is a proper AMT; you drive in auto with a very occasional need to change a gear.’”
Running both transmissions in his operation, Chris Carr goes a step beyond that and chucks Felix right amongst the pigeons by making the bold statement that “ShiftPilot is better than Power-Torque 3”. But there’s a reason for him saying that. The whole platform thing is just that, a platform. Its primary reason as a strategy in this day and age is streaming production costs, and unifying electrical architecture so safety and data management are less of a headache…pretty much the first reason again really.

But individual OEMs hone the platform pursuant to their market and customer requirements. So, the fact that Fuso engineers were burning around, laptops plugged in, hanging on Skip and co’s every word, means the ShiftPilot in Shogun is tuned to the requirements. “We did things like tune kick-down points on the throttle to make better use of the torque/power sweet-spots,” said Ian. Because Shogun’s a Euro 6 with all the safety and efficiency bits and bobs, there is no manual option. ShiftPilot is a 12-speed unit with snappy .6-second shifts, crawlers for lift-off, and Eco-roll function. Again, there are two variants, the G230 and the G330 on the big line-haul model, with auto-economy,auto-power, and manual modes. Obviously you need to be in the ‘A’ game to take advantage of features like Adaptive Cruise, Active Brake Assist, Eco-roll and other things you’ve paid for. The trucks don’t come with a disc brake option, something Ian didn’t see as a big thing. “The maintenance costs of discs can be high and the roller-cam drum brakes in the trucks give comparable response and efficiency.”

Photo: This, would be a grouse place to spend a metrodistribution day. Refined routing.

Alcoa alloy wheels are standard, with taper leaf springs and shocks at the front, and 6-rod or air at the rear. Diffs are unchanged. Service intervals are out to 60,000 kilometres where application suits, and Fuso are standing by their trucks with a 5-year/500,000km bumper-to-bumper warranty (not just driveline), but you must get your machine serviced at an authorised service agent, at the time required. If you don’t, it reverts to the standard 3-year/250,000km. Can’t moan about that in all reality.

Safety
Not surprisingly, Fuso New Zealand has delivered a lot in terms of safety. They couldn’t not in all honesty. If you’re going to have ‘Looking after our own’ as the project mantra, what do you leave off? You’re sort of committed at that point. So, there’s an Electronic Braking System (EBS), Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Active Brake Assist – 4 (with Emergency Stop flashing brake lights), Brake Override (brake gets priority in the event throttle and brake are pressed together), Adaptive Cruise Control, Speed Limiter, Lane Departure (with an ‘Oh my goodness, this lane is narrower than the truck, I’m turning off momentarily’ function for places like the Coromandel), and Active Attention Assist for driver fatigue monitoring.
The 7” HD touch screen supports the reverse camera, navigation, coms and entertainment. That includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, something Fuso have exclusive rights to for two years.
On the go side of safety there’s Hill Start Assist, the normal legacy traction aids like diff-lock (they’re safety systems now, LOL), autosensing and levelling, LED headlights, and auto wipers. There are telematic outputs for downloading Joe and Jane’s daily highs and lows to customer vehicle management software, and if all that doesn’t keep it on its wheels, it’s time to review your employment criteria. Optional safety add-ons include additional cameras, tyre pressure monitoring, and truck-specific navigation (DG routing etc).


Photo: Shoguns after their hill retreat.

Comfort
One of the real touch points with the new truck is comfort and ease of operation, therefore its ability to attract new blood into the industry, both male and female. In fact, Fuso New Zealand put out a call for a female driver to drive the Shogun in the video promo, which resulted in Natalie Richards burning around the Coromandel with an ear-to-ear grin. That’s a cool story for the grandies. If you’re familiar with the new Mercedes-Benz range you’ll feel right at home in the Shogun. Kiwi trucks will have a dark interior, blacks and greys, with additional soundproofing. Fuso New Zealand has retained the Daimler driver’s seat over the ISRI option because it’s an integral part of many of the safety systems. One of the huge ‘yucks’ with HD Euro was entry and that’s well and truly gone. It’s three wonderfully placed steps then up into the cab, which incidentally is set lower on the 400hp model.

Once in, there’s adjustment for Africa in regards to seat and tiller. Rapidly becoming the modern standard in today’s trucks, there’s a two-gauge binnacle with telemetry screen between, with a lovely wrap housing switchgear, coms/nav/ entertainment/camera screen, and climate management. The fatigue management thing staring at you from the top of the binnacle looks a bit weird and ‘slapped on’, but you never know when you’ll thank your stars – sorry, ‘diamonds’ – it was there. On a console to the left of the driver are park and trailer controls. The smart wheel must have been easy to design and looked to involve a change of badge – stars to diamonds. On the right spoke are phone and cruise control management, and on the left menu screens and associated navigation and selection buttons. On the ‘left’ also, is the directional control, shifter, engine brake wand - straight out of a German Daimler obviously - and they must really sink more than the occasion stein in the old Deutschland, because pushing the wand up increases the Jacobs clout, and down turns it off.

Again, it’s a Mercedes-Benz-alike fob key, and starting the truck is only a small part of what it does. It would take another article just to explain that, so if you want to know all its clever tricks, buy one. Like the UD, the quality of materials and trim has taken things to the next level for Japanese trucks and is a clear indication of parentage. Cab lighting is voluminous, oh, and of course it wouldn’t be a Japanese truck without an ocean of plastic lockers and things between driver and passenger.


Photo: It’s a new refined interior whose origins are not all hard to identify, especially if you know your steering wheels.

Photo: Wow, a big Fuso without the Stephen Adams access pack. We can all get in.

Drive time
There were three gigs on the drive, a (343kW) 460hp tipper and dog loaded to 45 tonne, another one in 6x4 tractor and flat-deck semi configuration at 40 tonne GCM courtesy of some bricks, and a 298kW (400hp) 6x4 rigid curtain at about 20 tonne GVM.

First impression as we left Fuso HQ in Mangere driving the tipper and dog was the unmistakable smoothness of that transmission clicking its way through gears, and you were instantly aware of how much that engine depends on that gearbox. The truck picked up happily and kept pace relative to the traffic. The first minor test was pulling away from a slow roll on the connection between SH20 up and on the motorway South over the Manurewa Hill, and again the truck was no disruption to the general flow. St Stephen’s at its ‘nippiest’ was dispatched in 10th at 1655rpm and 55km/h, but then the first real party piece availed itself. At 45 tonne the Shogun barely needed a breath on the brake descending the southern side of the ‘Bommers’, again in 10th at 2100rpm and the Jacobs fully on. That was impressive. Our route took us out through Tuakau, Glen Murray, Naike and then Huntly.

It’s a hideous patch of pavement; narrow, winding, and washed-out in places, with nasty climbs and steep drop-offs. We drove all the trucks, but our interest centred mainly around the tipper at the weight it was. The truck was hard to fault. Steering and comfort were on point as were brakes; time for all that in a proper test. The highlight was an exceptionally horrible hill on the road between Naike and Huntly on Hetherington Road, probably a worse version of Mt Michael between Fairlie and Geraldine if that means anything. If it doesn’t, we’re talking short, sharp, steep, and unforgiving. We were adamant from the outset that we were going to leave the transmission in Auto all day (A-power on this road mind) and although everything screamed at us to press ‘M’ and find a gear at the bottom of the cliff that would do the job, we resisted, and launched the poor bugger at it. There’s no doubt in our mind that with INOMAT-II you’d have had 45 tonne sitting still a third the way up. Not so ShiftPilot. It managed to grab every gear needed and settled down for the climb to the top in 5th at 1800, and 20km/h. That was bloody impressive. Driving AMTs is all about finessing the throttle, and with a bit more time and familiarisation she’d have maybe lived in 6th and few less revs on the climb. One thing we did find as we trundled around the hills was that sweet spot in the 460 power and torque curve at about 1400rpm when both numbers are at their peak. It certainly takes something nasty to dislodge it from its happy place. Yep, by the end of the day we were well taken with Shogun.

The arrivals area
Initially there are nine variations all due by the end of the year, including the 8x4 Hi-Top which is still a couple or three months away. But the truck that will make this range really ‘shine’ comes next year. Fuso has the huge advantage of being able to sell these first Shoguns into targeted applications that suit the vehicle’s capabilities. Next year will see the arrival of the 13-litre 403kW (540hp) model. The most powerful Japanese truck yet, a proper 540, based on the OM471 engine. That truck will not only provide real solutions for the 50 tonne club, but also take the pressure off these trucks, by not requiring them to be all things to all people. So, Shogun is here and HD Euro is gone. A new truck by each and every definition. “We are very excited to bring Shogun back to New Zealand,” said Kurtis. “It’s an iconic name with an impressive legacy, and the new generation model is sure to add to its prestige.”