Test Drive

Big Rigs jumps behind the wheel of the new V8 Scania R770

Seven hundred and seventy. It’s a big number when we’re talking horsepower out of a truck diesel engine. In fact, it’s the biggest number in the road-trucking world at the moment and it belongs to Scania.

The V8 Scania R770 is the truck and I’m here to tell you that those 770 horses are big-hearted. 

It pairs those horses with 3700Nm of torque from 1000rpm. Those horses pull a laden B-double like a racehorse carries a jockey – they just don’t know that there’s a B-double behind them.

At the time of writing there is only one R770 in Australia and I was invited to spend a day behind the wheel. Lucky me! 

The familiar Scania profile is there with a few changes such as a new chrome strip between the lamps, colour-coded headlamps surrounds and a new ‘Epic Black’ grill trim replacing the gloss black.

The interior will also be familiar to Scania owners with a place for everything and everything in its right place, easily accessible and intuitive to use. 

The two-tone grey dashboard carries red highlights and chrome surrounds for the air vents – the roof lining (with sunroof) in a lighter beige gives the cab a light, airy, welcoming feel. 

My driving partner, Scania’s Peter Verbrugge, had to virtually drag me from the cabin.

The instrument binnacle shape reminds me of the Kia Sorrento grill, with all instruments in sight in whatever position you place the flat-bottomed, leather clad steering wheel. 

The steering wheel has a massive range of adjustment, including moving up and forward to such an extent that getting out from behind it to enter the rest of the cab is an absolute breeze, no matter how big that belly may be.

The wheel is complemented by premium leather Recaro seats (with adjustable armrests) for both driver and passenger. After sitting in them for four hours I could easily have done another four, but that would mean fibbing in my logbook.

Between the seats and below the bunk are two slide out fridges, one of which can be used as a freezer. The bunk itself is thickly padded and with seats moved forward pulls out to give a full metre of width. If you are going to live in this truck for a week at a time – and the specs indicate that you will – you are going to sleep comfortably.

Pulling up for lunch or have some work to do on your laptop? Hop over into the passenger seat, pull out the folding table from its possie in the glove box, and access one of the myriad USB points. Plenty of cup holders and usable door pockets complete the interior picture.

The driver’s side window incorporates a pull down blind – a nice touch. As well as the driver’s airbag, Scania is the only manufacturer to incorporate two side curtain airbags, life-saving in a rollover but let’s face it, this truck is so well behaved that you’d have to be doing something really idiotic to find yourself in that position.

Wing mirrors are split so that you can see between them with the convex ones placed at the top, which I personally like.

At the heart of this truck however is that beautiful 16.4-litre V8 motor, which is 70kg lighter and sips less juice than its smaller R730 sibling. Mated to a superb Scania-built 12 speed automatic gearbox, the two work with sublime synchronicity.

We were pulling a B-double with 56 tonnes of ballast on board. Put your foot down from a standing start – or indeed from any speed – and the R770 just gets up and goes. There is no twisting chassis, no juddering, just a muted V8 rumble (but loud enough to appreciate and enjoy) and a smooth surge of power through that gearbox.

The ergo-layout, complete with a Kia-like instrument binnacle and electric-powered steering wheel.

And oh, what a gearbox! As well as Hill-hold, changes up and down the range are imperceptible. You have a choice of Economy, Standard or Power modes but really, the first two are all you will ever use. Indeed, I found Standard mode to be more effective than Power going up inclines.

The R770 includes every safety feature available in a modern truck including adaptive radar cruise, the toggle switches for which are placed on the bottom of the steering wheel hub. 

Initially I thought this to be a strange location but within 10 minutes had changed my mind, using them to adjust speed uphill or down dale without taking my eyes from the road or dash. 

Set the downhill speed and the truck will not deviate one kilometre from it, no matter how steep the drop. Use this and you will never have a speeding infringement. Of course you can change the gears manually but really, why would you? 

I said earlier that the heart of this truck is that brilliant V8. Within five minutes of sitting in the driver’s seat I had changed my mind. The absolute heart of the R770 is the electric-powered steering wheel. When I last drove a Scania V8 I commented that its steering was the best in the business. By comparison the R770’s is off the charts!

The self-centring steering is so direct, so precise, that the truck seems to shrink around you. I come to some roadworks on the Calder Highway where the left lane is closed. Witches hats are placed well to the right of that lane’s markings, leaving little space between them and the rumble strip. 

The two trucks in front of me have their offside wheels well over the rumble strip. Not this little black duck. The accuracy and feel of the steering in this truck has to be experienced to be believed.

The confidence this inspires in the driver (I don’t have a B-double license, so don’t have a lot of experience with them and I’m driving with DUI plates) is just awesome. I’ve driven other trucks where the steering is akin to stirring a wooden spoon in a bowl of porridge. 

Without exaggeration I can write that within five short minutes I was confident of my ability to control truck and trailers and to accurately place them exactly where I wished. It is simply brilliant.

Mix that steering in with a cabin that may well be on a gimbal, such is its smooth, level ride, the ambience of that cabin and the power and the glory that is the marvellous engine/gearbox and you will not want to get out of this truck. Ever! 

My driving partner, Scania’s Peter Verbrugge, had to virtually drag me from the cabin at the end of my time behind the wheel. I begged for a bit more time to drive the truck, “Perhaps to Cairns, mate?”

Peter well understood my desire but alas, another truck journalist was booked up for the next day. It’s when I get in a truck such as this that I realise just how lucky I am to do the job that I do. To be one of the first behind the wheel of this truck was a privilege.

Scania is taking orders for the R770 now, with deliveries due in the second half of 2022. An obvious market for the truck would be road train work but if I was in business with just a single trailer, I’d be calling Scania right this second. 

This truck is a magic carpet ride with a beautiful V8 soundtrack, improved fuel economy over its smaller sibling, all the safety that technology can muster and awe-inspiring confidence.

Try it. You’ll be a convert.

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