Drive down any suburban road in Australia and I’ll give you 10 to 1 on passing a Japanese truck.
Our friends from the Land of the Rising Sun have carved out a substantial foothold in this segment of the market – that being local, with a bit of intrastate transport thrown in, here and there.
There is obviously a lot of faith from the trucking consumer in the job these vehicles do.
Conversely, you don’t see too many out on the major highways even though three of the four Japanese manufacturers produce a prime mover. Why is it so?
Power and torque would be the obvious answer.
Until now there was a choice of 455 (2200Nm), 460 (2200Nm), 480 (2157Nm) or 512Hp (2255Nm). Those 512 horses may sound great until you find out it comes from 15.7 litres of old and lumpy – and that company does not make a prime mover.
Another possibility is that where a Japanese truck manufacturer is tied in with a European who produces big bangers, those Euros don’t want their market share eroded.
Indeed, this was what occurred with one Japanese brand who deleted a more powerful motor from its option list a while back.
Fuso is owned by Daimler, along with Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner and there is the suggestion that they had similar concerns.
Enter Daimler Australia boss, Daniel Whitehead, who felt that a more powerful donk in the already successful Shogun would only enhance its market share without cannibalising the mothership’s other products.
“We pushed hard to get the 13-litre engine into the Shogun for our market because our customers made it clear they wanted a Japanese heavy-duty truck with serious performance,” he said.
It took time to overcome resistance from Germany but young Mr Whitehead is nothing if not persistent and eventually won the day. It is a reflection of the influence this relatively small part of the Daimler Empire has, that the powers that be listened.
It is worth mentioning that Australia and New Zealand are the only two markets where the 510 is sold and other Shogun owners will notice the blacked out grill and larger air intakes.
The 12.8-litre in-line six was plucked from the Mercedes-Benz range to give those 510 horses together with all 2500Nm of twist coming in at 1100rpm through to 1500rpm. In fact you will get over 2200Nm at a mere 700rpm.
Meanwhile, the available horsepower at that 1100rpm is over 400, climbing in a beautifully linear line to its 510 peak at 1600 revs and there is where it pretty well stays right up to that 1900rpm mark. Long story short: The two work superbly together.
The Shogun 510 was unveiled last October but a certain bug running around delayed testing until now.
Back in June of 2020 I hopped behind the wheel of a test-bed Shogun 460 with the 455Hp (2200Nm) donk.
It may now be a couple of years since I drove that first Shogun but I do remember being impressed with the way it pulled at the time (you can still opt for that motor if you wish).
This is a big step up! Put the brilliant 12 speed in auto, press the pedal down and let the 510 do its thing. ‘Its Thing’ is to pull, pull and pull some more.
The OM471 six-cylinder engine features an asymmetric turbocharger and the latest generation common rail system with variable pressure boosting for the best possible fuel efficiency.
The 12-speed ‘box has the clever EcoRoll, allowing the truck to free-wheel in the right situations, further aiding fuel consumption.
The Japanese like their indicators on the right-hand side (sensible people) so they did a swifty in simply rotating the Actros’ indicator and opposing gearshift stalks through 180 degrees around the steering column.
Simples! The only mistake I made was to try and pull the three-stage retarder back, instead of pushing it forwards. Everything falls to hand and it is a terrific set-up, and it saved Fuso re-inventing the wheel.
Shoguns now have daytime running lights, missing from that first test model, along with LED headlights, auto wipers and all the safety goodies you could ask for – emergency braking, lane departure warning, pedestrian sensing, adaptive cruise, ESP, Hill Start Assist and so on.
I can vouch for the auto wipers on this test day of light drizzle through to heavy showers. I should have known that heading to Ballarat was a silly idea.
Also new to the range is the Intelligent Headlight Control which automatically turns on and off the high beam in response to traffic.
The interior is largely unchanged from that test model and that’s no bad thing as controls are ergonomically laid out with everything in easy reach. Two cup holders will take anything from a coffee cup to a 1.25 litre bottle.
The logbook sits snugly in the door pocket. The passenger door feature a secondary window set down low which is always handy to check on traffic – or to give Fido his own view of the world. There are also a couple of decent sized storage bins.
The bug-eye (bus type) side mirrors on the test mule, which I personally loved at the time, gave way to standard truck mirrors on production vehicles. These are well placed as far forward as possible on the doors however, with little eyesight intrusion when coming to intersections or roundabouts.
Behind the seats is a bunk which, although narrow is very well padded. You could take a comfortable kip on it if needed. The rest of the cabin carries faux carbon fibre and glossy silver highlights.
It even carries a couple of ashtrays in the doors – something I’ve noticed in other Japanese brands. A good place to store loose change perhaps. Lol. Outside changes include a blacked out grill to let others know that you’re in the Top Gun Shogun.
And now to the biggest change from that test truck I drove – the steering.
Back in 2020 I was less than enamoured with the way that test mule steered. I hit a pothole and had no idea of which way the steer wheels were pointing.
The steering was vague and frankly disconcerting. It was an issue that I bought up at the time with the company and they told me a short while later that they had addressed the problem before the truck was released to the public.
Whatever they did worked. The steering felt well weighted and confidence-inspiring from the outset. I looked for a depression in the road and steered straight for it. In, down and out; this truck steers straight and smooth with little input (read: wheel twirling) required for safe and assured progress.
I like it when companies take criticism on board and act upon it. Good one Fuso.
On the open highway the Shogun drives straight and true with good seat comfort and great vision, climbing hills with ease. If the 460 version was capable of pulling B-doubles – and it was if absolutely needed – then the 510 does it easily. If you have to haul doubles around town or intrastate, or even interstate on the odd occasion, then it will do the job. Easily.
Around the burbs it is a breeze navigating narrower roads. Given this is part of the design brief and intended job for this vehicle it is pleasing that it does it so well.
Daimler has plenty of other choices for interstate work, with cabins that you can live in for an extended period, but if needed the Shogun will shift your load to wherever you need it to go. And it will get you there just as quickly as most other big rigs, the only difference being that you’ll have to top up the 400-litre tank more often.
The Shogun is now the Top Gun of Japanese prime movers.