Test Drive

Test driving the new Scania P280 7-Litre

In what may send ripples of concern through the sales departments of Japanese truck manufacturers, Scania’s offering the smaller displacement DC07 engine option to complement the existing DC09, five-cylinder, throughout the P-series range.

Dubbed the 7.0ltr, the actual swept volume for the new, six-cylinder engine is 6.7 litres, (rounding up is always good for marketing), power options are 220, 250 or 280hp.

Euro-6 emission compliance has been achieved by SCR and DPF only, without the need to include problematic EGR systems.

Scania are keen on targeting the mid-sized truck buyer, a segment typically dominated by Japanese truck manufacturers, with the promise of power and economy wrapped up in a comfortable euro truck.

Big Rigs was thrown the keys to a rigid 6X2 P-280 Scania to evaluate the truck in real world conditions, on a day-long test drive.

To simulate a typical average load situation, the P-280 was loaded to a GVM of 19.4-tonnes, by way of concrete blocks.

A quick walk around the truck and a check of the lights via the key fob test button didn’t reveal any immediate differences from the outside, to any other P-series trucks I have previously experienced.

The engine appears to have maximum potential between around 1400-1800 rpm.

Upon entering the cabin through the wide door opening, I’m greeted by the familiar Scania cabin layout, but the new, smaller statured DC07 engine has an added positive side effect to cab layout.

The engine hump is now 95mm lower than a P-series truck fitted with the DC09 engine. This offers increased spaciousness and allows fitment of storage compartments found in the larger G-series cabs.

Leaving the Scania dealership at Prestons, Sydney, quickly places the truck on the M7 motorway for the southbound.

As I have come to expect from the new truck generation of Scania’s, the ride was comfortable and the experience at motorway speeds was both quiet and relaxed.   

My chosen route from here was to exit at Narellan Road and take in some urban driving followed by an ascent of the infamous Razorback Range.

This would undoubtably evaluate the pulling power of the new engine. The twists and turns while negotiating the ascent provide a perfect test of performance from both the engine and transmission.

As with previous Scania test reviews I have experienced with a load, the selection of the transmissions ECO mode does not provide for adequate engine speed to propel the truck and keep it at the prevailing speed limit, the short-shifting protocols in the ECO program labour the engine too much in the lower rev range, where power is not sufficiently available.

With that in mind I conduct test drives predominantly in the STD mode, unless negotiating steep hills, at such time selecting the Power mode.

The DC07 engine offers an impressive 1200nm of torque at just a tad over 1000rpm which is useful, however at that engine speed just 180hp is delivered from the 280hp available, which is why I opt for the STD or power mode for loaded test drives.

Prior to the Razorback climb, the competency of the DC07 engine had already become noticeable. Contrary to the small displacement the truck easily carried out its duties bringing the truck up to speed from traffic lights in a reasonably timely fashion.

Starting the climb up Razorback, I selected power mode in anticipation of the ascent, I also left the transmission to do its thing in auto-mode.

Having experienced Scania’s 12-speed automated transmission and Opticruise control system in many of the brand’s trucks, the fact that I still choose to let the auto mode make the decisions on steep inclines should stand testament to the intellect of the programming.

The lower engine hump offers increased spaciousness and allows fitment of storage compartments found in the larger G-series cabs.

Scania’s transmission programming is remarkably intuitive and resists upshifting when the throttle is released on hills to negotiate curves, a scenario encountered on the chosen Razorback test route several times.

Many AMTs I have experienced see the releasing of the throttle as an opportunity to save fuel and initiate an upshift to reduce engine revs. A practice which robs valuable momentum (and annoys the hell out of anyone behind you).

While climbing the Razorback range, the corners call for a slight reduction in speed before resuming throttle on the exit of the corner, at no point on the ascent did the transmission upshift once it had found the correct ratio for the climb.

Ninth gear was determined by the Opticruise brain as the optimal choice, and there it stayed, varying between 1350-1800 rpm throughout and dropping no lower in speed than 55km/h. At nearly 19.5 tonnes gross, that was quite impressive.

What goes up must come down and the descent down the other side of Razorback Range provided the opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of the exhaust brake. Unfortunately, after becoming accustomed to the stellar performance of Scania’s retarder in other models, the two-stage exhaust brake only fitted to the P-280 didn’t overly impress.

Upon activating the exhaust brake to position #2, the transmission downshifted to a point where the tacho registered anything up to 22-2300 rpm in a bid to counteract the weight induced overrun I was experiencing. Even at such high engine revs the 88kw of retardation on offer (@ 2500rpm) was modest in effect.

Winding along the old Hume Highway, through the small townships and eventually rejoining the Hume Motorway at Bargo, the P280 provided a pleasant and harmonious workspace. The ride and comfort no doubt aided by the air bag suspension on all axles.

By incorporating air bag suspension on the steer axle, Scania have been able to draw on the measurable air pressures to include a full axle weight gauge system, with individual axle and total gross weights readable at any time via the digital dash display.

The final drive ratio from the single differential is 3.08:1. The differential is also fitted with a diff lock to minimise wheel spin from the 6X2 drive configuration which can have a tendency to get hung-up on uneven ground.

At 100km/h the tacho reads just a little under 1600rpm, which places the engine speed in just the right position for highway cruising.

The engine appears to have maximum potential between around 1400-1800 rpm, so when small inclines are encountered on a motorway, the power and torque at that point combine to keep the truck rolling at a reasonable speed without the need to downshift, thus maintaining favorable fuel efficiencies.

All the safety features that we have come to expect from Scania are included in the P-280. Drivers’ airbag and dual side rollover curtain airbags are standard fare. The electronic park brake will automatically deploy if you open the door without applying it manually.  Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) and EBS are also standard.

Scania’s 360-degree area view camera system enhances safety even further. Four cameras, one front, one rear and one on either side of the body at the top rail, combine views to provide a bird’s eye view of the surrounds of the truck.

The view is very close to real time and displays a view that looks as though it has been shot by a drone, high above the truck. The displayed image on the dash mounted tablet is remarkably accurate and all encompassing.

If I had any complaint it was that I noticed that I seemed to catch my boot sometimes when moving from the throttle pedal to the brake. I haven’t noticed this before on Scania trucks and am unsure if anything has changed in this area, perhaps the seat position?

At test end, the fuel usage recorded was 30.2 lts/100km or 3.31kms/ltr. I could imagine average fuel consumption figures dropping to the low to mid 20s with progressively lightening loads over multi-drop runs.

In conclusion, the P-280 surprised a little. The small displacement DC07 engine, certainly punches above its weight in terms of performance. Comfort and ergonomics are at a premium, fuel economy is encouraging and the included safety features may give reason for market rivals to strive for even greater driver protection.

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