“I’ll go and stand at the back of the truck with my boot at the end of the trailer. All you do is use the arrow up and down on the wheel and when the green line on the mirror lines up with my foot, you go left to right and the other side will also be set.”
These instructions came from Mercedes-Benz’s Noel Griffiths who is riding shotgun in the new Mercedes-Benz Actros 2663 GigaSpace.
He wants me to set up the second-generation MirrorCam so I know exactly where the back of the trailer(s) will be. Above this green line are three others in orange which indicate 30m, 50m and 100m behind the trailer.
Looking at the setup that green line looks like it’s halfway down the length of the trailer. “So, try it,” says Griffiths. “Back up to the fence behind us.”
I do, and I put the trailer within six inches of that fence! And I’m being cautious. You can put a trailer (or two, or more) smack bang up against a loading dock all by yourself with this system. Ok, I’m convinced. More on this later.
The Actros GigaSpace Driver Edition was on display at the Brisbane Truck Show in May and attracted a lot of attention. So much so that it was sold well before the show was over. Now M-B has invited me to take the truck for a spin.
Climbing up into the cab I’m surrounded by truck luxury. The two high resolution tablet screens – one behind the stitched leather wheel and the other slanted toward the driver are familiar, having driven a number of Actros’s over the years.
Apart from looking like they’ve been lifted from an S-Class sedan (and they have – with software designed for a truck obviously) these screens are, to my eye, the best in the biz, both in looks and the way they operate.
Fact is, you don’t need 30 different dials staring you in the face when this system will tell you all you want to know at any time. Instead of regularly scanning all those dials you can keep your eyes on the road.
The dashboard is a mix of shades of grey and a swathe of beige, split with a tasteful strip of dark timber veneer (you have other choices here) and it looks luxurious, especially with the two supremely comfortable, quilted leather armchairs for driver and passenger.
All the trays are rubber-faced so no sliding around of odds and ends. There’s a phone recharge pad atop the dash, cup holders of various sizes galore, USB-C, 12- and 24-volt sockets and a work/dinner table that folds out of the dash in front of the passenger seat.
A drawer in the lower centre of the dash is perfect for the log book with another open space beneath it. Between the seats is a decent slide-out fridge and space for a second. Behind them is, of course the bunk and, in this case a second above it with plenty of headroom above that when folded out.
It’s Euro so you’re not going to get a queen-size bed, but it is supremely comfortable with plenty of room for my girth to constantly roll around on. Switches for lighting and reading lamp are also in the bunk area. The cab is finished off with a skylight, side window shade blinds and a curtain running around the perimeter.
Throw the proximity key into a cubby, foot on the brake, press start and the 16-litre, 630hp, 3000Nm diesel purrs into life. I twist the right-hand wand into drive and the electronic park brake automatically disengages.
The truck knows that I haven’t moved yet so keeps some pressure in the system until I dab the accelerator, then the brakes automatically release and we’re on our way.
Now I’m using those MirrorCam screens placed on the A-pillars of the cab and the view is just brilliant in any direction as I peer through the glass. I can check the LH screen with barely a move of the head. Changing lanes, and those green and orange lines extend across the screen so I know that the truck behind me is more than 100mmetres away.
The cameras themselves are now 100mm closer to the cab, lessening the chance of damage. The advances over Gen-1 give a more normal view in the screens in that you see less of the trailer sides and still plenty of your surroundings – better than through glass mirrors in my humble opinion. They’re heated of course.
Active Driver Assist – level 2 automation – ‘drives’ the Actros for me, reading both lanes and keeping me in the middle.
Push a button on the wheel, slide your finger across the OK button and you can reset a little to the left or right depending on your needs. Otherwise, its leave the truck to its own devices for most of the time.
Take your hands off the wheel and the truck will warn you and if ignored pulls itself up, unlocks the doors and activates the hazards. I’m surprised it doesn’t apply paddles in the event you’ve had a heart episode!
It’s wonderful this steering, as is the ride, the quietness and most everything in this truck. Alongside every safety system you could think of there’s also Predictive Powertrain Control system, which uses topographical information to enable the truck to make the best and most economical choice of throttle application and gear selection. This includes saving fuel by coasting for long periods.
The whole lot drives through M-B’s excellent 12-speed AMT auto. The 3-step intarder will haul you up quickly and in the event of an emergency there’s ABA which will pull the whole rig up as safely as possible.
Cruising through the ‘burbs is a breeze with the truck, under certain conditions, able to stop and start at lights, for example, without having to touch brake or accelerator.
The GigaSpace cab is taller – like I can’t reach the sunroof, taller – and allows for three huge front-mounted and internally lit cabinets above the windscreen, the middle containing the microwave. Below these are another couple of storage cubbies.
Whilst this doesn’t sound like a big deal, the fact is that space is at a premium in the Euros so a few inches here or there and any advance in ergonomics is appreciated.
Previously the microwave was situated above the bunk which meant having to lean over said bed. The move and the extra height means plenty of room for a second bunk and more importantly for the person occupying it, they won’t feel like they’re in a coffin.
Unless you place the GigaSpace next to another Actros, you probably won’t notice the changes, but once inside you will appreciate them.
All-in-all this is one magnificent truck. It rides, drives and handles brilliantly, and will do everything within its considerable power to keep you – and by extension other road users – safe.
If you’ve never driven an Actros, or you have but it’s an older model, I urge you to go and try one. You won’t be disappointed!