New Zealand Truck & Driver - - Big Test -

I’VE TRIED A COU­PLE OF TH­ESE 750HP Volvos out on the high­ways over the past cou­ple of years but it’s taken un­til now for one of th­ese big Swedes to make it into the bush.

Barry Her­mansen’s truck is work­ing out of Whiri­naki, so it’s got plenty of hill coun­try nearby to con­tend with on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

I take up the drive af­ter load­ing-out way up Po­hokura Road, north of the Napier Taupo High­way. In other words, way out the back of be­yond.

Barry’s con­vert­ible unit is set up to cart 18-me­tre stems so we’ve got a load of

around eight logs on, weigh­ing-out to about 45-tonne.

Climb­ing up into the big Volvo cab is a breeze, de­spite the fact I’m only a few weeks out of shoul­der re­place­ment surgery, so a bit weak in the old left arm. The good, wide steps and the full-length grab­han­dle up the right­hand side of the door open­ing, com­bined with a nice, wide-open­ing door make it easy.

Once you’re in the cab it’s easy to for­get that you’re in a log truck, with the high-qual­ity in­te­rior cab fin­ish in this full sleeper-cab model.

There’s been a bit of rain up here over the past few weeks and there’s not a lot of metal on the forestry road so it looks slip­pery in places and we do on a few oc­ca­sions ac­ti­vate the “slip­pery road” warn­ing on the dash.

Scooby, the truck’s reg­u­lar driver, has come back from his hol­i­days for the morn­ing to give us his thoughts and ad­vice on the op­er­a­tion of the big Volvo.

He rec­om­mends man­ual for the of­froad sec­tion of the run, which in­cludes a forestry road and the cor­ru­gated gravel of the Po­hokura and Waitara Roads. It’s good ad­vice.

I take off in auto but im­me­di­ately find that the truck’s try­ing to change up more gears than I re­ally want it to, so I quickly follow Scooby’s ad­vice and drop it back into man­ual.

There’s a few good climbs on the way out, but they re­ally are a non-event when the power and torque of the 750 en­gine hits them. I’ve got 3550Nm of torque, con­stant be­tween 1000 and 1400rpm, so there’s a great rev range avail­able to en­joy the en­gine’s peak per­for­mance.

Go­ing to man­ual is no big hard­ship, with a touch on the tog­gle switch on the side of the gear­stick it’s a gear up or a gear down in­stantly.

On the run out, the low­est gear I need is sev­enth – and I let it drop down to 1100rpm with no need to grab more gears. On the steep­est climbs it drops to 35km/h, which is im­pres­sive given that there are some pretty steep climbs.

At the wheel it’s easy to for­get you’re on gravel and dirt roads, as the ride in the cab in­su­lates you from the bumpy road sur­face, but you do have to keep in mind that – while you’re rid­ing along, float­ing on air – the truck and trailer sus­pen­sion is work­ing over­time on the many cor­ru­ga­tions…so I back off to avoid knock­ing the gear around too much.

Vis­i­bil­ity out of the cab is ex­cel­lent, with the dash slop­ing away down to the bot­tom of the wind­screen, giv­ing plenty of for­ward vi­sion. The ex­cel­lent mir­rors give me great vi­sion down the sides of the truck and trailer on th­ese tight, wind­ing roads.

The ride is great, the seat gives great sup­port and all con­trols are close at hand. With only two ped­als on the floor there’s plenty of legroom – and you need it, be­cause your left leg doesn’t need to do much.

When driv­ing this beast you don’t need to keep your foot hard into it as it re­ally is a bit of a Sun­day cruise with so much horse­power and torque on tap.

Noise lev­els in the cab are ex­cel­lent de­spite the rough road sur­face and the gi­ant en­gine un­der us, with nor­mal voice lev­els eas­ily heard.

The Patchell four-axle trailer tracks well de­spite the 18m logs on board, but you do need to keep an eye on the in­sides of the cor­ners, given the slip­pery con­di­tions.

On the down­hills the en­gine brake keeps us well un­der con­trol, no mat­ter how steep the drop. I leave it on stage 3, its high­est set­ting, and keep an eye on it just in case it might work too well on this slip­pery road sur­face as I feel it could eas­ily lock up a wheel. Scooby con­firms that he has had it hap­pen.

Back onto Waitara Road we pick up the pace a bit, but we’re still on a metal road and there are still some very good climbs and tight cor­ners to watch as well as the pos­si­bil­ity of some tourist traf­fic, par­tic­u­larly down by the Mo­haka River where there is a DOC camp­ground.

Turn­ing back onto SH5, right at the bot­tom of the Ti­tiokura Hill, I put the I-Shift into auto mode and, once we’ve built up a bit of speed, I slip it into cruise con­trol. Scooby’s set the cruise con­trol at 91k and while we won’t be do­ing that speed up here, the en­gine and gear­box will do all the work for us.

It set­tles down in 8th, pow­er­ing up this much-re­spected steep climb at a re­spectable 38k at worst.

At the top, It’s time for me to get out and give Scooby his truck back, al­beit un­der duress! I’d be quite happy to do a few more loads in it.

I hop out not feel­ing at all like I’ve just driven a fully-laden log unit over 20-odd kilo­me­tres of of­ten-rough, very windy and very steep for­est and back-coun­try gravel roads.

While there’s mas­sive power un­der your foot, the 750 doesn’t give you that feel­ing of push­ing you back in your seat – the power is de­liv­ered so smoothly. As I say to Scooby, it feels a bit like an old man’s truck – where you just sit back and re­lax. There’s cer­tainly no stress, even on re­ally try­ing roads. T&D

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