Stralis worth it in long haul

Driver com­fort comes first, writesGRAHAMSMITH

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Big Wheels -

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.