Test Drive

Scania’s superb two new Supers

When Scania rang to ask me if I’d like to take their new ‘Super’ 460 and 560 for a spin, I was more than delighted to accept – even though these trucks were mere in-line sixes.

The last time I got behind the wheel of a Scania was to test drive their Big Daddy – the 770. That I was impressed by that truck is an understatement. Big V8 pushing out those 770 horses, huge torque (3700Nm), great sound, excellent auto ‘box, terrific dynamics in the cabin. And the steering. The steering was so good that I more or less based the article around it.

Now, I’m the type of scribe who likes to write about how a truck feels – its handling, ride, steering, environment and that certain je ne sais quoi that some trucks have in spades.

I usually skim over the numbers apart from the basics like horsepower and torque, figuring that the reader can easily look those things up online. But not this time. What Scania has done with this drive train deserves more than just a passing nod. So here goes…

The Super 460 and 560 that I drove denote the horsepower (there is also a 420 and 500 to cover most segments of the market).

The Super 560 will pull this lot all day, every day.

What those figures don’t say is that those horses are put out by a 12.74-litre engine. Yes, there are a number of engines out there that punch from 480-520 horses from that displacement, but there are none that can match that with the torque that the Scania Supers have.

I looked at other 13-litre donks on the market and they produce, for example, combinations of 480hp/2157Nm, 520hp/2500Nm, and also  510hp/2508Nm.

 The Scania Super 460 has less power than all these but is twisting 2500Nm – equal to the best of the competition.

No other 13-litre is producing the 560hp the Super can, and none are producing anywhere near that versions 2800Nm.

All those Newton Metres are on tap from a mere 950rpm and the curve stays flat right up to 1450Nm. There is no other 13-litre producing that sort of torque, which matches plenty of 16- litre truck engines.

But that’s just the start of the story. The all-new Super engines are 75kg lighter than their predecessors and Scania has introduced twin overhead cams on them for the first time. They also have a 23:1 compression ratio which is huge when compared to others in the market segment which are around 17:1.

The Super engines have crossed the 50 per cent thermal efficiency barrier for the first time. If that doesn’t sound all that impressive, Scania’s director of sales, Ben Nye, pointed out that Formula 1’s McLaren team has only recently broken this barrier. 

The car industry gets pretty excited when they’re in the high 40s. To give more perspective, the average for the diesel truck industry is 30-40 per cent. The result is that more power is available to drive the wheels instead of disappearing in heat and noise.

All new from front and back.

Scania has done the bees knees with this engine without any real trickery. 

“It’s basic engine design,” explained Nye.

“We don’t have a variable geometry turbocharger, we don’t have EGR. We clean up our emissions with AdBlue only, using our Twin-SCR system where we inject the AdBlue just after the turbocharger where the gases are at their hottest and most turbulent instead of the muffler.” 

So, therefore the AdBlue atomises correctly in the gases. Basically it does a bit of a sniff test and if it needs more it will do a second dose in the muffler. But we find the majority of it is done first up.” 

Scania’s new platform is designed and produced with the latest technology and the technical life length has increased by 30 per cent compared to the previous generation despite extended maintenance intervals. This is clever stuff.

So, we have a 13-litre mill pumping out up to an unmatched 560 horses and 2800Nm but Scania kept going by mating it to an all new Opticruise gearbox – also 70-75kg lighter by dint of being smaller and cased in aluminium. The auto ‘box has 14 forward gears including crawler and overdrive gears and the method of oil delivery has been changed which results in a lot less inertia.

Then there’s two really big changes: Firstly there’s no synchromesh. This is effectively an automatic Roadranger. So how does it change gears without graunching them? There’s electronics within the gearbox and the engine to make sure the revs are matched. There’s also three countershaft brakes in the gearbox to slow down the appropriate shaft to match it to other shaft speeds for seamless meshing. Also clever stuff.

The Super 460 is just fine for singles.

Secondly, this gearbox has no reverse gear! I can hear you all going, “What the…?” because that’s what I said. Instead Scania lock up the planetary gears at the back of the gearbox so it actually puts the whole gearbox in reverse. This is a really simple solution for reverse. Theoretically what you have going forward you could have going backwards. Obviously, Scania have restricted it because who needs OD in reverse. Even more clever stuff.

So, the gearbox is shorter, lighter and since 2016 Scania have reduced change times by 115 per cent. It is certainly quicker than the excellent ‘box I experienced in the 770. This will make its way into the other V8s but needs strengthening for the 770 – something Scania is currently working on. It all adds up to make it a lot sweeter through the gear changes and takes away a fair bit of rolling resistance, and hence it’s picked up a couple of percentage points on fuel just out of the gearbox alone.

To finish it all off, Scania then looked at the final drives which are taller than in the past, meaning the engine is now working at lower revs. At 100km/h the engine is ticking over at just over 1100rpm in overdrive. To compensate for the tall final drives the lower gears are spaced relatively closely together to avoid any judder when moving off the mark.

Putting all this together has resulted in an 8 per cent improvement in fuel consumption. Indeed, Nye has seen up to 14 per cent. That’s massive but 8 per cent is a safe number so Scania has gone safe.

So, Scania’s new engine platform offers more uptime, longer service law and reduced weight. There is much more in the Super Scanias, such as improved retarder performance which can give a maximum brake torque of 4700Nm. 

There is the new Modular Architecture Chassis (MACH) with dedicated holes for mounting parts both inside and outside the frame – the result being a more modular and predictable chassis layout, opening up greater flexibility which should be appreciated by both customers and truck bodybuilders. There is a new fuel tank design which carries a larger percentage of usable fuel without onboarding a greater volume of fuel, thus allowing a greater payload.

This is all wonderful stuff, but the proof of the pudding is in eating it, so it’s time to hop behind the wheel. 

First up I am in the Super 560 B-double with 60-tonne of payload running from the BP at Calder Park to Bendigo and back, giving a nice mix of flat running, hills and drops.

Start ‘er up, twist the stalk mounted gearstick into drive and the brakes automatically disengage. Foot on the accelerator and away she goes smoothly and powerfully with not a skerrick of judder from the drivetrain. 

Out onto the Calder, set the adaptive cruise to 100km/h, settle back into the seat and enjoy the scenery from the air suspended cab. 

Scania’s Electric assisted steering is the best in the business.

Have I got the power of the venerable 770? Of course not. Did I miss it? Not at all apart from that muted rumble of a powerful V8 which every would-be boy racer lusts after. 

The fact is that you are going to get from Melbourne to Sydney just as quickly in this truck as you would in a 770.

That (standard in this truck) electric hydraulic steering. Just wow! I’m lucky enough to get to drive a variety of new trucks and I’ve yet to find one as good as the steering in the Scania. It is simply superb. 

The lane departure warning in this truck is pretty much superfluous because the fact is you can steer it with pinpoint accuracy. I had to keep reminding myself to use two hands on the steering wheel rather than just thumb and forefinger. 

Seriously, the R-series cab – Scania’s biggest – seems to shrink around you. As I said in the 770 article I wrote, it’s bloody brilliant!

If I thought the gear changes in the 770 were good, the Super gearboxes have taken it to a whole new level. Super quick, super quiet, super refined. Uphill or down dale the truck finds the right gear for every occasion. Most of the time I only knew that I’d gone up or down a gear by looking at the tacho and that says a lot, not only about the gearbox but also the cabin which is beautifully insulated against noise from the outside world.

This is a truck that you could climb out of after your maximum logbook driving hours and do a Highland jig. It is aided and abetted by quality cabin fixtures and fittings with no rattles or squeaks. One of these trucks will make you want to come to work each day.

My lead-footed drive to Bendigo and back returned an average fuel consumption of 2.3km per litre – this with 60-tonne of ballast on board.

The trucks feature a new fuel tank design.

Back at the BP and I swap into the Super 460 with the mid-height G series cab – this time pulling a single with 40 tonne. The very first thing I noticed was the steering which was not up to par with the Super 560. I turn to Nye and say: “Are we on springs?”

“Yes we are,” he replies. “This is the poverty pack [note: Scania’s idea of ‘poverty’ is well above that of some competitors]. This is also hydraulic steering rather than electric. But bear in mind that you can order whatever you want in any of our trucks.”

Whilst definitely a level below the electric version, the steering was nevertheless superbly accurate and within a few minutes pointing the truck had slipped into my subconscious. Case in point is that not once during the trip did this sometimes, occasional truck driver set off the lane departure warning.

In the Super 460 of course 100 horseys have left us and gone out to pasture and we have 20-tonne less ballast on board. That’s 22 per cent less power and 33 per cent less ballast. Again, with the lead-foot the truck returned a very credible 2.7km per litre. 

My mathematics is lousy, so I leave it to you as to whether you go for the 460 and a single, or the 560 and pull B-doubles. 

Or you could simply buy one of each. If it’s the 460, make your drivers’ day by ticking the electric hydraulic steering box and the air ride. They’ll love you for it.

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