Test Drive

Safer, greener and packed with Euro style

Big Rigs was thrown the keys to a Hino 700-series FR 2632 for a 220km test drive on the south side of Sydney.

The recent release of the all-new Hino 700-series range sees the brand treat the 700-series model to broader levels of power, connectivity and business telematics, while offering upgraded driver comfort and features.

To evaluate the latest version of the Hino 700-series, Big Rigs was thrown the keys to a Hino 700-series FR 2632 6X2, Euro-6 compliant model to test under real world conditions.

In a first for Hino, the 700-series range and our test FR 2632 are now available with the proven, AO9C engine rated at 320hp/235kw, which until now was previously found in the 500-series model range.

This engine fitment is said by Hino, to increase versatility for the 700-series range in the heavy-duty sector by offering a smaller displacement option to further enhancing choice and operating efficiencies.

The 320 horsepower AO9 yielded capable performance derived from the engine’s available 1275nm of torque.

Our test vehicle was fitted with a fully automatic Allison six-speed transmission, which is standard fitment for all A09 equipped 700-series models.

Loaded to a gross weight of around 19-tonnes, my chosen test circuit would take me from Hino’s Sydney headquarters in Caringbah, south along the Princes Highway through Waterfall then onto Picton road, then westward to the Hume Highway, before heading south to the Southern Highlands before returning to Caringbah via the Hume Highway, M5 and King Georges Road, a total test drive distance of 220km.

Immediately noticeable with the new 700-series is the ease of entry to the cabin, the doors open all the way to sit basically on the same plane as the grille, this combined with the three-step staircase entry aided by two sensibly positioned grab handles, provide secure and surefooted entry and exit.

Once onboard, the ISRI NTS2 drivers seat provides welcome comfort with a raft of adjustment options to get that “Just right” seating position. The tilt and telescopic steering wheel adjustment also aided functionality in this area.

The new wrap around dash layout, trimmed in a mix of carbon fibre and earthy tones provides practical visibility and ergonomics to the central dash area while the dash-mounted park brake control lever gives off a distinctive Euro feel.

Adaptive cruise control settings and system diagnostics are easily accessed vis the steering wheel control buttons on the go.

The jewel in the new 700 series crown is the Hino Connect system, offering integrated operational and business telematics provided by Melbourne based automotive and consumer electronics specialist, Directed Electronics.

The Hino Connect system and what it can offer business operators is worthy of a story in itself, so I won’t dive too deep into that here, other than to say from the driver’s seat the 6.5-inch, multi-media unit and the 7.1-inch multi-information display (MID) are integral in the systems operation, providing real time service and operational information, remote diagnosis and warning alerts direct to drivers.

The MID provides the driver monitorable information in relation to fuel and AdBlue levels, as well as critical engine operating temperatures.

Adaptive cruise control settings and system diagnostics are also displayed, all of which are easily accessed vis the steering wheel control buttons on the go.

Vision from the driver’s seat is superb; a large windscreen, minimalist A-pillars and a total of six large mirrors provide good all-round vision.

This unfettered vision is enhanced by a standard reverse camera and complimented by side mounted cameras which providing video monitoring via the multi-media unit screen (which supports up to four cameras) when the turn indicators are applied.

Leaving the Hino headquarters during Sydney’s afternoon peak period, immediately imparted the sense of effortlessness that is required to operate the Allison transmission.

Side-mounted cameras provide video monitoring via the multi-media unit screen.

The stopping and starting was no real chore as the transmission took care of all the thinking and shifting decisions, allowing myself to get a feel for the cabin environment.

Gear changes from the auto transmission were barely noticeable, the smooth yet timely shifts were for the most part only referenced by the tacho needle movement. The six-speed transmission offers two driving modes.

The default ECO mode which is aimed at fuel economy and the power mode. The power mode seemed most fitting for the loaded truck negotiating heavy traffic, as the eco mode left me languishing a little and at times missing traffic light phases.

Once the traffic abated and the traffic lights disappeared the 700-series felt comfortable on the open road, the ride and handling are no doubt influenced by the four-point, air suspended cab which imparts a ride quality of Euro truck standard.

At 100km/h the NVH levels were quite respectable with only a small amount of wind noise evident, however as it seemed to be coming from behind me, I suspect that it may have been coming from the top of the tautliner body.

The 320 horsepower AO9 yielded capable performance derived from the engine’s available 1275nm of torque. The torque line holds a peak plateau from 1100-1600 before tapering off above that point.

Peak power is achieved at just short of 1800rpm. These figures seemed to culminate in an optimal operating range between 1400-1700rpm, offering best bang for your buck, as far as performance goes.

One aspect I did find annoying was the MID regularly notifying me that I was applying excessive acceleration.

Immediately noticeable with the new 700-series is the ease of entry to the cabin.

The visual criticism was accompanied by a gentle yet passively annoying chime. This electronic berating was a little distracting, being relayed even under moderate throttle while trying to get the vehicle up to the speed of the prevailing limit and traffic flow.

However, at the end the test drive while scrolling through the menus, I noted that this function could fortunately be switched off, (I wish I’d found that earlier).

The AO9 engine is fitted with a “Jacobs” engine brake which provided admirable speed retardation while minimizing service brake reliance and subsequent wear. A Sync button is located on the dash which when activated, applies the engine brake with just a light touch of the brake pedal.

I was not impressed during this test, by the way the engine brake communicated with the engine and transmission management system.

During the test drive if I was coasting down a slight gradient and the vehicle speed looked as though it would breach the 100km/h limit, applying the engine brake to wash of a few km/h and remain compliant, induced a downshift sending the tacho to as high as 2100rpm, this shift protocol would certainly have a negative affect on fuel efficiency.

With most companies now issuing driver warnings for speed breaches in excess of 100km/h using the engine brake to remain compliant is commonplace and a downshifting of gears is in my mind not necessary at this speed. (Please note, on my return of the vehicle and raising this issue with Barry Noble, Homologation and Engineering support Manager of HMSA, Noble said that this can be reprogrammed at an Allison dealership level to not downshift at high speed.)

To return back to the Hino dealership, I punched the address in to the I-Go, sat nav system which had been inputted with the trucks weight, height and configuration to direct me back without any routing issues.

At the test runs end, which for those not geographically familiar was quite an arduous one, I had travelled 220km (if you include the Maccas run) returning a figure of 2.6km/L of fuel at an average speed of 63km/h.

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