The Grunt Fac­tor: Mea­sur­ing up the big truck en­gines in Oz

Big Rigs al­go­rithm calls out the grunt list


WALK into a truck stop, grab a cuppa and a feed and lis­ten. An out­sider might ex­pect a high level of brag­ging and pride about the power of a driver’s truck.

With a few ex­cep­tions, this is not the case. It is more likely that a driver will be whin­ing about not enough power, “needs a new fil­ter”, the boss has cut the power rid­ing back, “bloody emis­sion gear” and so forth.

Even with the com­plaints of lack of power, most of these driv­ers wan­der out to their trucks and drive away with a pow­er­ful growl and a smile on their face.

Most know that a truck driver to­day has more power to play with than they did 10 years ago and cer­tainly a lot more of the old blokes talk about when they are re­mem­ber­ing the “bad old days”.

The ex­cep­tions are when an owner driver has got his en­gine tuned to the hilt, and he or she has ab­so­lute con­fi­dence in the power and they’re quite happy to talk about it.

So we all look at the spec­i­fi­ca­tions for var­i­ous en­gines, we talk to blokes on the road, and most im­por­tantly the mo­ment we take on a long hill and an­other truck loaded as heavy as we are, pulls out and passes us and we think “bloody hell”.

All the spec sheets in the world tell us only so much about the power of a truck en­gine, there are so many vari­ables from how the diffs are set up through to the rat­ings set on the en­gine and those set­tings these days are al­most in­fin­itely vari­able with com­puter man­age­ment of en­gines. And of course there is an ac­tual vari­abil­ity in the same spec of en­gine from a man­u­fac­turer.

We’ve all heard of the dreaded lemon through to the oc­ca­sional en­gine that just seems to fire un­der all con­di­tions.

So to at­tempt a com­par­i­son of en­gines through power, torque and drive­abil­ity is not a chore for the faint-hearted.

In this Drive Line fea­ture in Big Rigs it seemed ap­pro­pri­ate to be­gin the drive line where the power be­gins – in the en­gine.

We have picked the grunty end of en­gine specs from half a dozen man­u­fac­tur­ers, taken to ac­count the horse­power, the torque peak, the range or plateau of the torque hold­ing through the driv­ing range and cre­ated an al­go­rithm to make the com­par­i­son for us.

As part of this al­go­rithm, the data is fed through a fil­ter of driver feedback and on road per­for­mance.

Not for a sec­ond are we claim­ing this com­par­i­son is the be all and end all of sci­en­tific assess­ment but we do say it is a lot more rel­e­vant than just look­ing at spec sheets.

So we took top of the line en­gines with the high­est nor­mally avail­able horse power rat­ings, out of the yard horse­power rat­ings and ran them through this al­go­rithm. Man­u­fac­tur­ers rep­re­sented are Mack, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, Cum­mins, Sca­nia, Detroit and Cater­pil­lar.

A rea­son­able rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the en­gines out there do­ing it hard to­day.

In­ter­est­ingly enough, the com­par­a­tive rat­ings through this assess­ment do not nec­es­sar­ily fol­low these sim­ple horse­power mul­ti­plied by torque index of­ten used.

Time to make the call and we’ll talk through the com­pe­ti­tion from the win­ner to the also-rans.

No 1: Mack MP10

What the MP10 has done over the past five years is no news to any­one who spends a bit of time on the road. From the ear­li­est days in road train work, these en­gines ei­ther in a Su­per-Liner or a Ti­tan have made a name for them­selves on ev­ery hard pull in the coun­try.

Yes, as with ev­ery en­gine there have been some is­sues that have been for the most part sorted out rea­son­ably

quickly. One of the early hur­dles with the MP 10 was that it was only avail­able with the au­to­mated MDrive trans­mis­sion.

While some have es­caped the coop and gone out on the road with a Road Ranger, Mack Trucks has largely held to its guns and the vast ma­jor­ity have the au­to­mated trans­mis­sion and driv­ers are get­ting used to them.

This is a trans­mis­sion that can han­dle the hefty 3150 Nm of torque (for com­par­i­son sake we have con­verted all lb/ft torque mea­sure­ments to New­ton me­tres).

The MP10 in its high­est form is rated at 685 hp, and is a 16 litre in-line six cylin­der block, with Euro 5 (ADR80-03) emis­sion stan­dards.

The Big Rigs al­go­rithm gives this en­gine the top rat­ing of 21.6.

No 2: Sca­nia DC16730

The big V8 from Sca­nia on pa­per is all grunt and power, and the al­go­rithm has served the big Swede well. The DC16730 is a 16 litre V8 rated at 730 hp with 3500 Nm of Torque (Euro 5 ver­sion).

The Big Rigs al­go­rithm re­turned rat­ing of 20.444 for the big Sca­nia.

No 3: Cum­mins X15

While the power rat­ings of the Cum­mins en­gine were based on the new X15, road feedback took into con­sid­er­a­tion the run­ning of the pre­vi­ous 15 litre ISXe5, as they are both pretty much the same en­gine with the X15 be­ing adapted for more so­phis­ti­cated elec­tronic man­age­ment and in­te­gra­tion with elec­tronic trans­mis­sions.

The X15 uses SCR emis­sion tech­nol­ogy and will not go back to EGR to meet the Euro 6 re­quire­ments.

The high­est horse­power rat­ing avail­able is now 600 hp with a torque peak of 2780 Nm.

The Cum­mins X 15 scored 19.5 on the Big Rig ’s scale.

No 4: Cater­pil­lar

The 15 litre Acert Cat en­gine has a long his­tory, work­ing in line­haul and road train ap­pli­ca­tions.

The in-line six cylin­der en­gine has a top rat­ing of 550 hp at 1800 rpm with a torque peak of 2780 Nm. The strength of this en­gine lies in the flat torque plateau that runs from 1000-1500 rpm.

The al­go­rithm gave the Cater­pil­lar en­gine a score of 19.0.

No 5: Volvo D16G700

The fact that the Volvo more than com­pares favourably with its close rel­a­tive the Mac MP10, de­liv­ers a re­sult that is a lit­tle counter-in­tu­itive. No ac­count­ing for these al­go­rithms as they crunch data.

With a high 700 hp out­put with the power of 3150 Nm of torque, the top-of-the-line Volvo is no doubt a grunt ma­chine.

It scored 17.6 on the Big Rigs scale.

No 6: Mercedes-Benz OM3358

This is one pow­er­ful en­gine from the Mercedes-Benz sta­ble but it has a ways to go for on-road ac­cep­tance. We are see­ing the re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion of this brand go­ing on at present.

The OM3358 pre­sents well on pa­per with the 15.6 litre block pump­ing out 625 hp with a 3000 Nm torque peak and a lot of hang­ing on power.

But al­go­rith­mic rat­ings are what they are and this en­gine has a Big Rigs rat­ing of 15.

No 7: Detroit

It could be ar­gued that the 560 hp, 14.8 litre en­gine be in­cluded in this round-up of the big blocks.

Even the peo­ple from Mercedes-Benz made it very clear that the Freight­liner is avail­able with the Cum­mins op­tion.

But the in-line six cylin­der Detroit is a lit­tle bat­tler, has good pulling power down to 1100 rpm and still pump­ing out 90% of torque at the horse­power peak of 1800 rpm.

The Big Rigs rat­ing for this en­gine was 15.4.


NOT BAD AT ALL: The Mack MP10 has claimed the top spot of Mr Grunt from the mix of mod­ern, road ready en­gines.

The Cum­mins SCR X15 and its im­me­di­ate pre­de­ces­sor the ISXe5 scored well.


What the big en­gines are built for: heavy road train line haul work calls for big horse­power.

Look­ing into the fu­ture, will the Cum­mins pow­ered In­ter­na­tional ProS­tar per­form through 2018?

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