Truck testing can be fun if the truck is a 6×4 truck with a GVM of 28.3 tonnes and a power output of 480hp. The general consensus would tell us that this is a bit too much power when running around at 26 tonnes, but it means it has a GCM rating right up there at 72 tonnes. You never know when you might need that extra power.
The truck in question is a Hino 700 FS , set up to suit rural operators in the farming community. Hauling out of a farm can often mean some jump-ups on dirt roads which need some skill to get over at high masses. A bit of power in the back pocket is always useful. That is also the situation where the 2157 Nm (1591 ft lb) of torque comes in handy. Getting through sticky situations and getting the job done.
The 13 litre engine uses a combination of EGR and SCR to reach the ADR 80/03 exhaust emission rules, this seems to be the preferred combination of technology these days. Using SCR allows the engine to be a bit more free running and using common rail injection makes for a drive train responsive to the driver’s right foot.
Further down the drivetrain is another component which adds to the system’s adaptability and responsiveness, the ZF Traxon AMT. This is the 16 speed version, an overdrive box designed to be able to handle a wide variety of driving conditions.
On this test, there was hardly a point at which the AMT put a serious foot wrong. Admittedly, the truck was not fully loaded or pulling a trailer in rough conditions, but the Traxon always felt very much in full control.
At the end of the day, a smooth well engineered relationship between a torquey engine and a smart transmission can be very effective and make life easy for the driver. Traditionally, in any kind of rural task, for which this particular truck setup has been specified, a rugged manual box would always be the first choice. Now, we have seen the level of automation reach a point where it is a no-brainer to choose the AMT option, and if there is a situation with which it cannot cope, the driver can always hit the switch back to manual again.
This engine is not a European power plant designed to continue to pull uphill around 1000 rpm, it is a Japanese 13 litre and these are built to perform in a completely different way. Torque is 2200Nm at 1200 rpm and is still 2000Nm at 1800rpm, but going down the rev range it starts to drop away quite quickly as revs reduce past 1000rpm.
Like most Japanese heavy duty engines, this one should be kept between 1200 and 1800rpm. On this particular set-up the engine is running at above 1600rpm in top gear at 100 km/h.
The performance of this transmission retarder has always been impressive, as it has been fitted on a number of European trucks over the years. This is not just engine braking, this is a beneficial tool to minimise unnecessary brake wear.
Driving along the highway and spotting a suitable parking bay does not need a complex mix of braking and downshifting from the driver, it’s just a single movement to perform a seamless task. Pull on the stalk to activate retardation and speed drops immediately. The retarder is holding back the driveline and communicates what’s going on to the AMT.
As a result, the AMT starts downshifting quickly. Revs go up and so the engine braking and transmission retardation becomes even more effective. The truck slows without any driver input, the truck drops to the right speed to enter the parking bay and continues to slow. When the truck is about to park, the driver simply presses on the brake pedal to bring the truck to a complete halt.
This kind of integration shows us just what can be achieved by this relatively new technology in basic workhorse trucks designed for rural areas. The truck buyers in country areas have long held out against any move away from the most basic truck designs, but the latest smarter technology now coming on-stream should be a no-brainer. It works well, is safe and only uses the sophistication in the system, which has to be included to ensure the modern engine meets emission rules.
The way the truck has been set-up it is possible to drive the truck in the traditional manner, brake into corners, perhaps grab a gear as well and then power out of the bend, resuming top gear. However, it is also possible to drive it using the more modern systems. Use the stalk to activate some retardation into the corner, until a safe speed is reached, before resuming cruise control on the exit and letting the transmission decide on the best gear to be in.
Compared to some of its competitors, this truck is a relatively simple, good, solid , basic truck. As a general rural truck it ticks all of the boxes without going over the top in terms of the kind of electronic control systems which can be available. It should also be possible to fix quite a few problems, which may arise on this truck by the side of the road, without a diagnostic laptop on hand, most of the time.