An FL lot going for it
Volvo is after the Japanese, writesGRAHAMSMITH
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.