An FL lot go­ing for it

Volvo is af­ter the Ja­panese, writesGRAHAMSMITH

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Big Wheels -

EURO­PEAN trucks like the Volvo FL don’t tra­di­tion­ally sell well against the might of the Ja­panese mod­els that dom­i­nate the medium-duty mar­ket.

Euro­pean medium-duty trucks claimed less than six per cent of the eight to 39-tonne 4x2 or 4x4 mar­ket last year. The re­main­ing 94 per cent was largely taken by Ja­panese mak­ers Isuzu, Hino, Fuso and UD.

It’s some­thing Volvo na­tional sales man­ager James Mor­ris is well aware of and he’s not put off by the chal­lenge it presents.

The FL won’t take many sales away from the Ja­panese, but Mor­ris be­lieves it will win some ex­tra sales that would oth­er­wise go to one of the Ja­panese brands.

It might ap­peal to an op­er­a­tor who wants more com­fort and re­fine­ment than the Ja­panese can of­fer, or to an op­er­a­tor who is run­ning big­ger Volvos, likes the brand and wants the sim­plic­ity in parts and ser­vice that comes from run­ning a sin­gle make.

What­ever the rea­sons, Mor­ris reck­ons the FL is not a lost cause. He con­fi­dently looks for­ward to get­ting it on to the mar­ket so op­er­a­tors can see for them­selves what he thinks is a given: that the FL is a great lit­tle truck.

Lit­tle is not a word nor­mally used to de­scribe medium-duty trucks, but it’s of­ten heard around Volvo head­quar­ters, where the FL is known as the ‘‘ute’’. Along­side its big­ger brethren it is rel­a­tively small, but ‘‘ute’’ prob­a­bly ap­plies more to the way it drives than its size.

The FL Crew Cab is part of the new FL range of 16-tonne GVM mod­els Volvo dis­played at Fe­bru­ary’s War­ragul truck show, aimed squarely at those who need to trans­port a crew, their ma­te­ri­als and tools to job sites.

The Crew Cab is huge, eas­ily able to seat six in com­fort. Four burly blokes can com­fort­ably sit across the rear bench seat, the outer two in lap/ sash seat belts and the in­ner two in lap belts.

In front of them is a foot rail and a pair of big bins to hold lunch boxes, por­ta­ble cool­ers, tools and bits of equip­ment bet­ter car­ried se­curely in the cab than in the tray out back.

The driver and front-seat pas­sen­ger have the com­fort of ad­justable cloth-trimmed buck­ets, move­able in all di­rec­tions un­til the driver finds a com­fort­able driv­ing po­si­tion.

A com­pre­hen­sive ar­ray of di­als and in­di­ca­tor lights are housed in the in­stru­ment panel. Other mi­nor con­trols are to the left with the gearshift and park brake, all within easy reach of the driver.

Air is stan­dard, as is a sin­gle-CD sound sys­tem and power win­dows. A mul­ti­tude of stor­age pos­si­bil­i­ties to hold just about ev­ery­thing a work­ing crew could need are spread around the cabin.

Power comes from Volvo’s new 7.0-litre, sin­gle over­head camshaft, four-valve, in­ter­cooled turbo diesel, six-cylin­der en­gine.

It puts out 205kW and 1050Nm be­tween 1200 and 1700 revs, and meets Euro 4 emis­sion lim­its (ADR 80/02) us­ing SCR tech­nol­ogy.

The Ad­Blue so­lu­tion vi­tal to SCR is car­ried in a 50-litre tank on the right-side of the chas­sis, along with the 300 litre diesel tank.

Drive is sent through a nine-speed all-syn­chro­mesh ZF gear­box and on to a sin­gle re­duc­tion diff that’s slung on ei­ther leaf springs or airbags rated up to 10.9-tonnes.

The front also pro­vides a choice of leaf spring or air bag sus­pen­sion, rated up to 6.3-tonnes.

The FL of­fers a range of chas­sis lengths, with avail­able wheel­bases rang­ing from 3070mm to 6500mm, and a choice of Day, ex­tended Com­fort and Crew cabs.

A truck work­ing a city de­liv­ery route needs to be ma­noeu­vrable and flexible to deal with old load­ing docks hid­den at the back of an­cient fac­to­ries or tucked down a back al­ley, and the FL is able to deal with most sit­u­a­tions.

The en­gine’s 205kW, along with 1050Nm, trans­lates into plenty of on-road zip, the sort that has the ‘‘ute’’ keep­ing pace with traf­fic with­out a prob­lem.

Cou­ple the per­for­mance of the en­gine with the sweet shift­ing ZF gear­box, with its syn­chros and easyto-use H-on-H shift pat­tern, and the FL is a de­light to drive.

It won’t give the Ja­panese truck brands a headache, but any­one who ap­pre­ci­ates com­fort and ease of use will find it an ap­peal­ing medi­um­duty truck.

Crew cut: the Volvo FL Crew Cab may drive like a ute but it’s part of the new FL range of 16-tonne GVM mod­els.

Com­fort sta­tion: the FL has much go­ing for it when it comes to ease of use.

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