Stralis worth it in long haul
Driver comfort comes first, writesGRAHAMSMITH
HEADING out of Melbourne in one of the latest Iveco Stralis AS-L prime movers hauling a fully loaded B-double and bound for Sydney, the importance of driver comfort quickly comes into sharp focus.
The Hume Highway connecting Melbourne and Sydney is the busiest freight corridor in the country; hundreds of trucks ply the sinuous strip of bitumen each way, each day.
It’s a mind-numbing experience, to put it mildly. South of the border between Victoria and New South Wales, the Hume is wide, flat, smooth and monotonously endless. But then north of the border it turns into a narrow, rough, largely singlelane road with long stretches of roadworks that has the driver being bumped, bounced and thrown about in the seat.
Inside the high-roof cab on the run north to the border at Albury the 13.0-litre Cursor engine merely a muffled rumble below the cab.
The latest noise regulation — ADR83 — mandates the truck be quiet and the work done by engineers to comply has led to an ambience inside the cab that drivers once wouldn’t have even dared dream of.
With virtually no road noise, and just a hint of wind noise from the rear-view mirrors it’s so quiet you could hear the proverbial pin drop.
The Active Space version is the largest of the cab choices for the Stralis. With more than 2m from the cab floor to the ceiling, even a tall driver can stand up.
The interior is typically European. It’s stylish, well-laid, but above all it’s functional.
Instrumentation is kept to what is necessary — speed and engine revs — with numerous warning lights to alert the driver to a problem.
To the left the dash has some of the controls for the transmission and drive, and airconditioning and sound system. Other controls for the windows and the like are on the driver’s door and there are controls for the sound system on the leatherwrapped steering wheel.
The driver is seated in an ISRI self-levelling air-suspended seat for comfort, while the passenger also has an air suspended seat, which can be swivelled or folded as needed.
Under the cab the Stralis on the interstate run had the optional 418kW 13.0-litre Cursor 13 engine, the most powerful powerplant in the Stralis range.
It was the latest version, using SCR to quell its tailpipe gases.
When working at its peak it was putting out 418kW and 2495Nm — enough to pull up the Hume Highway hills with manful determination.
Life at the wheel is less stressful and more comfortable with the 16-speed Eurotronic automated shift transmission.
There’s no gearshift lever protruding from the floor; a stalk on the right side of the steering column controls it.
For the most part the driver can simply pull it into ‘‘drive’’ and let it go without further interference.
Left to its own devices the transmission will smoothly select each gear.
It’s smart, but not yet perfect and still needs a driver’s input to get it right. While it will take care of the shifting, it can’t read the road. It will sometimes make a downshift when in sight of the top of a climb when it’s not the best time to do it.
That’s when the driver can intervene and lock the transmission in the gear it’s in, the one it’s trying to downshift from, and hold it to the top of the climb.
The driver’s decision to change down or not can be based on the fuel consumption readout on the dash, which shows him/her the instantaneous fuel consumption. From that they can effectively work out whether the higher or the lower gear is the most efficient.
Several times during the Melbourne to Sydney run the transmission looked to downshift just as it was about to reach the crest of a hill. Each time the engine was lugging without distress and consuming fuel at a lower rate than it would have done in the lower gear.
Locking it into the gear is simply a matter of flicking a switch on the Stralis’ dash to engage it, and flicking it again when the hill was crested and it was time to allow it to change up.
It’s also possible for the driver to shift two gears at a time if that’s more efficient than progressing through the gears one in sequence.
Driver comfort is also boosted by the smooth-riding Stralis suspension. At the front it has leaf springs with a stabiliser bar and telescopic shocks, while Iveco’s eight-bag rear air suspension ensures a comfortable ride. After climbing out of the Stralis in Sydney at the end of the run, it’s hard to comprehend why more drivers don’t opt for the comfort and efficiency of European trucks like the Iveco.
On the double: the Iveco Stralis insulates the driver from road noise and the sound of the 418kW/2495Nm engine
Cruising: the Stralis was a quiet achiever on the run up the Hume Highway.