It’s 6pm on a Friday afternoon and I’m sitting in the usual traffic jams that beset the Hume Highway as you come off the Western Ring Road.
The four lanes are having their regular in-fighting, trying to become two. It’s every man for himself here, where the possibility of common courtesy – as in let one merge, move forward, let another merge and so on – is only the stuff of dreams.
And I find myself smiling, even as three other drivers decide that they have some God-given right to force their way between me and the car in front.
‘Go for it, boys,’ I think to myself, backing off to let them all in and to save the crumple zone at the front of the trusty Territory from self-activating.
Sometimes, when you’ve had a really, really good day, not even bad road manners can detract from the mood. And I have in fact spent the entire day in heavy traffic weaving in and out and around the truck-laden roads of Laverton and other choc-a-block streets of Melbourne’s suburbs which should have soured the mood for the trip home.
So, why am I smiling? Because I’ve spent my day in a Scania Super 500G, and as a ‘workplace’ in which to cope with the frustrations of traffic, roundabouts, roads of all description and their requisite potholes, I can’t think of a better office to be in.
The G is the middle sized cab in the Scania range – the others being the smaller P cab and the larger R cab. The 500 denotes the horsepower and in this iteration is paired with 2650Nm. This is better than any other 13-litre on the market barring Scania’s 560hp version of the same donk that gives a whopping 2800Nm. There are also 420hp and 460hp versions available.
It’s not only the numbers but how they interact with each other and here the power and torque complement each other beautifully. No matter the speed or the incline, one or the other (or both) is always in play.
The Super in-line 6-cylinder engines offer fuel savings of around 8 per cent compared to their predecessors. Employing a Twin-SCR system with dual AdBlue dosing, the motors are designed to meet both current and (foreseeable) future emissions’ regulations.
Just as importantly, Scania has reached new levels of brake thermal efficiency, breaking the 50 per cent barrier. Brake thermal efficiency shows the amount of power taken by the crankshaft out of total power generated by the combustion of the fuel
That doesn’t sound especially riveting until you discover that Formula 1 engines have only recently broken this figure and that the average for diesel trucks is a mere 30-40 per cent.
After that spellbinding information all you really need to know is that the resultant effect of Scania’s work is to give you better fuel economy and more usable power.
That power is now pushed through Scania’s new 12-speed Opticruise gearbox with faster and smoother gear changes – not that the old ‘box was a slouch.
But while the engine, gearbox and the myriad of safety features – including being the only truck brand with side curtain airbags – is enlightening, that’s not what put the Smile-On-The-Dial.
Being the ‘Momma Bear’ (middle-sized) of the range, there are three steps to climb up into the cab instead of the ‘Poppa’s’ four. The lower cab means that there is a slight hump in the floor between the seats, but it’s no higher than a certain American brand’s bigger cab-over.
Inside, there are all the usual Scania accoutrements such as very comfortable seats with fold down armrests, lots of cubbies, a clear and logical dash, a fridge to keep lunch cool and an inner spring mattress in the bunk.
I’m joined by Alexander Corne, Scania’s PR man, who’s mapped out a city route sure to put a strain on the nerves of any truck driver – much less this rural dwelling part-timer.
In keeping with expectations of this type of driving, we’re hooked up to a single trailer with 30-something tonnes of ballast. Unlike the all airbag R660 I drove a couple of weeks back, the 500G has parabolic steel springs on the steer and airbags on the rear so I’m expecting a difference in ride and steer quality.
Yes, there was, but it was so minimal as to be forgotten almost as soon as I’d thought about it. This is a super (pun intended) truck to drive around in.
We come to a road with ragged edges and enough potholes to keep the local council workers employment for the next few years and Alexander tells me to drive over as many as I can. Happy to oblige, I’m impressed with the suppression both in the ride and at the wheel.
There’s zero kickback through the steering and I’m quickly at ease with the way the Scania handles all types of surfaces.
At the (many) sets of light we come to, the truck’s retarder does its job to perfection, leaving the braking until the last few metres. A dab on the brake and the Hill Hold comes into play until the lights turn green when a touch of the accelerator disengages it.
Now we’re on a two-lane road and the driver in the truck beside me is changing up though his gears – 3, 4, 5, 6, etc, while I’m sitting back enjoying the scenery.
I know there are many out there who’d have nothing other than a Road Ranger but for the life of me I don’t know why – particularly in this urban setting. Auto boxes are great these days and Scania’s is up there with the best.
I wrote in my recent drive of Scania’s V8 R660 how easy it was to place that truck between the lines and this is no different. Point it and that’s where she goes, whatever you’re driving on.
I’ve always been a two hands on the wheel driver but sitting there chatting away with Alexander, I had to remind myself a couple of times to do so. I also had to remember that I had a decent length trailer and 30-plus tonnes behind me, such is the ease of driving this truck.
The hours went by, we chatted away in well insulated near-silence and all too soon the day was over. Climbing down from the cab and I’ve surprised myself at just how good I feel physically.
Like all Scania’s product, the Super 500G is a joy to drive and is the perfect companion to the driver who traverses the ‘burbs all day. Not that you wouldn’t be just as happy driving it intrastate or even interstate – the only caveat on the latter being the fuel capacity of 640 litres.
I pulled up at a truck stop recently – as it happens, in a Scania – and got into a conversation with a driver of a well-known American truck brand. He described his cab-over ride as “a paddock wagon”. Reckoned his back wouldn’t last too much longer and he’d have to retire.
If the Scania had been my truck, I’d have thrown him the keys and invited him to go for a spin around the block.
I reckon it would add 5-10 years working life to ‘shaken and stirred’ old bones. The same applies to the Super 500G. Don’t believe me? Just get in one and drive it!