Test Drive

Is the new fit for purpose Iveco a game-changer?

So, you’re in the market for a European truck. Question: Have you considered Iveco? I’d wager that you probably haven’t. Well maybe you should read on and be enlightened.

I’m heading to the AARC test facility at Anglesea, Vic to test drive Iveco’s new S-Way range of trucks. As often happens when I go to these type of events I notice the relevant brand name popping up everywhere on the trip. 

This wouldn’t surprise if it was a KW function, but it’s not common to see Ivecos one after the other. I pass a council truck and it’s an Iveco. Come to a roundabout and sure enough I’m giving way to an Iveco. Around a corner and heading towards me is – yes, you guessed it.

Now to be fair these are not Iveco heavy-duty trucks but rather iterations of their successful Daily truck, used for everything from delivery vans to tradie utes to RVs.

Otherwise, the most common sighting of an Iveco – for me at least – is a blue/green Hansen cement mixer, or the company’s ubiquitous ACCO collecting garbage. This is in stark contrast to my European trip last year where Iveco is as ‘common’ as any other brand on those highways.

Iveco readily admits that they have struggled in the Australian heavy-duty market in recent years.

Now they have the S-Way, a truck range that they hope will turn the company’s Oz fortunes around. I think they may have hit the nail on the head!

Firstly there’s the look. That big shield-shaped blacked out grill (optional matt chrome is available) is in-your-face! You’ll know what’s coming towards you long before you can read the brand name. 

Flanked by all LED headlights, daytime running lights reminiscent of an ‘S’ and a heap of aerodynamic aids, this is a cab-over that won’t be mistaken for any other Euro brand. First impression? I like it…very much.

Climbing up into the cab of the hi-cab Active Space (AS) variant, there are certain design elements that have been lifted from the Highway model but all areas have been improved upon, from the Apple Car play/Bluetooth/phone mirroring media system to simplified controls, a new multi-function steering wheel, push button start, heaps of storage, chrome highlights, new instrument binnacle, the deletion of quarter panels in the side windows to aid vision, multiple cup holders, the list goes on. Again, I like it.

The S-Way arrives in Australia as both rigid and prime mover with so many variations that it’s easier to look at the accompanying photo rather than list them all here. In a nutshell there’s three prime movers available in 4×2 and 6×4 configurations and a choice of four wheelbases. There are three cab options: Active Day (AD), Active Time (AT) and the Active Space (AS) as mentioned above. Additionally, three cab height options are available across the range.

S-Way offers a truck for every application.

Then there is the rigid range, available as 6×2, 6×4, and 8×4 with two cab variants (AD and AT) and two cab heights. Phew! If you can’t find what you’re looking for to suit your application amongst this lot, then you’re just being obstreperous (look it up).

Power for the trucks comes from 9, 11 or 13-litre Euro 6 (Step E) Cursor engines mated to  Iveco’s Hi-Tronix 12 or 16-speed AMT gearbox, depending on spec. Outputs span 340-550hp and 1400-2500Nm. Umm, no 15- or 16-litre donks I hear you say. I’ll come back to that. 

All engines use Iveco’s patented HI-eSCR emission control technology. All you need to know here is that it’s a single after-treatment system featuring passive DPF (Diesel Particulate Filter), requires no driver intervention, is uncomplicated and there’s no dreaded EGR in sight

The trucks have parabolic front suspension with dampers and air-bagged rears with the exception of the 8×4’s that run air all ‘round. 

Safety is all you’d expect in a modern truck – with the glaring lack of a driver’s air bag – including Advanced Emergency Braking, Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Departure warning, Electronic Stability, Discs all round, Hill Holder and Driver Style Evaluation + Driver Attention Support which check the driver’s level of attention by analysing steering wheel movements. There should be enough there to keep you out of trouble.

It’s worth noting that whilst the trucks are now fully imported, Iveco having closed their Australian manufacturing facility recently, Australia and NZ had significant input in shaping the final spec for our markets. 

There’s a bigger radiator an additional heavy duty crossmember for increased rigidity on our crap roads, an extra fuel tank and other stuff which will be appreciated by the discerning buyer. Hundreds of thousands of kilometres were clocked up in Oz and NZ to ensure that the trucks we get would tick all the boxes.

So, what is the S-Way like to drive?

First up I’m in a prime mover, running bobtail. This version has the 530hp/2400Nm version of the 13-litre Cursor. Now I expect it to get up and move with no weight on board, but the damn thing took off like a scalded cat! I commented to my shotgun riding Iveco rep that it could be an electric vehicle it was that quiet. Am I exaggerating? Yes – but not by much. It was serene inside this beast. 

Wind noise? Tyre noise? Nothing. If you don’t believe me I’ve got an audio recording to back up my claims. Following on from these revelations was how comfortable the truck was with no load. I expected a lot of jiggle, but again no. It was planted to the point where you felt like you could chuck it around corners with abandon.

So we get off the tarmac and head over some rutted dirt road and it still felt just as composed. I’m seriously impressed. All too soon I’m out of that and into the B-double with 55 tonnes of ballast aboard.

This has 550hp and 2500Nm and like the bobtail is mated to a 16-speed ATM. Press the ‘D’ button on the dash and the truck pulls away strongly and smoothly – surprisingly so for a ‘mere’ 13 litres. 

S-way AS 6×4 prime mover interior.

Those Newton metres are on full tap from 1000 to 1605rpm at which point you have full power up to 1900rpm, so there is a nice transition between the two which are both on song where it matters.

I’m doddling along at 50km/h and the truck’s in 14th gear. Foot down and she accelerates smooth as without needing to drop a gear. I should add here that the gear changes are pretty well imperceptible.

I’m now looking around the cab and appreciating the layout where everything is easy to reach. The quarter windows have gone so vision out the sides is improved. 

The aerodynamically designed mirrors, with the convex moved to the bottom give a great view. There are aero aids on the A pillars which aid in keeping the side windows clear in rain. I’m pulling a decent weight so I can hear the motor working but it is beautifully muted. Conversation at normal levels is a given.

The steering is hydraulic but you’d be forgiven for thinking its electric. I’d have sworn the front axle was on bags but it’s in fact parabolic. This would have to rate as the best steering truck with this setup that I’ve driven. Point it and that’s where it goes – and stays. There’s no need for any minor jiggling of the wheel to stay on course. 

Steering is very light which brings me to the only bugbear I have with the truck. The wheel could be smaller. Don’t get me wrong, it’s comfortable in both leather and composite versions but I reckon an inch or two off the diameter would be even better.

The bigger engine trucks have a 5-stage engine brake/intarder which hauls you up in double time and are complimented by progressive brake feel on the all-disc brakes.

Next up is the rigid with the 360hp/ 1650Nm donk with a 12-speed ‘box and 3-stage engine intarder which is plenty for the configuration. Interior layout is a little different in this truck with the multimedia screen in the middle of the dash at the straight ahead – until you give it a twist toward you. Clever.

Now I’m realising how comfortable the Isri seats are. The lower lumbar support is superb, the squab is cossetting my tender backside and the side bolsters wrap around you giving great lateral support. I’d trade in my (very comfy) armchair at home for one of these.

Storage abounds with a decent fridge/freezer (two in some models), drink holders and cubbies everywhere. The bottom of the grill folds down as a step to clean the windscreen and the electric cab tilt control is under the bonnet where all the essential fluids are within easy reach.

Cab tilt control under the bonnet.

Finally, I’m in the single semi where everything is as previously described. I’m trying to adjust the steering wheel without joy until I’m pointed to a button on the floor. Push it and move the wheel to your favoured position. Overkill? Maybe, but I love toys.

Everything about the cabs feels as though they’re carved out of stone in terms of fit and finish. No squeaks or rattles anywhere. I know these trucks are not long off the boat but I’m betting that they’ll be the same a million clicks from now.

Iveco have backed the S-Way with a 3 year/750,000km warranty on the 11- and 13-litre engines and 3 years/500,000km for the 9-litre variants. Extended warranties are available up to 5 years/1,000,000km. To seal the deal there’s a first year, free service package.

Back to the non-availability of a 15- or 16-litre engine. You don’t need it. I recently drove another Euro with a couple more horses and an extra 300Nm of twist and I honestly didn’t notice the difference.

Iveco have gone the whole hog to produce a world class truck range with improved fuel efficiency thanks in part to an improved 13.5 per cent Cx (drag) figure, and design input to ensure it’s suited to Australian conditions.

There’s a lot more to discover about the S-way range which can be found at Iveco.com.au. I highly recommend you take an extended tour.

My drives ended all too briefly but Iveco have promised me extended time in the truck of my choice and I gotta say, I can’t wait. 

Is this a game changer for the company? You betchya! Do yourself a favour, if you’re in the market for a Euro rig – or any rig for that matter – and take one for a spin. I reckon you’ll be both surprised and delighted. Smart people those Europeans.

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