Heavy-duty hauler could prove worth the wait

LAUNCH NEWS/ Mercedes-Benz has fi­nally launched the Ac­tros in SA, writes Ler­ato Matebese

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

Fol­low­ing a rather long wait in SA, MercedesBenz has fi­nally made the Ac­tros avail­able here, five years be­hind the curve of the model’s in­tro­duc­tion in Euro­pean mar­kets.

Ac­cord­ing to the lo­cal out­fit the de­lay was due to our poor qual­ity of fuel and, as such, ex­ten­sive test­ing had to be con­ducted to en­sure that the en­gines can op­er­ate re­li­ably on our lo­cal diesel. The tests — which in­cluded long-haul and high tem­per­a­ture load-lug­ging — racked up 16-mil­lion test kilo­me­tres in SA alone, which the com­pany says was es­sen­tially de­signed to place the en­gines un­der sig­nif­i­cant duress to see how they would fare un­der nor­mal op­er­a­tional con­di­tions.

The new Ac­tros is avail­able lo­cally with both Euro 3 and Euro 5 emis­sion stan­dard en­gines and both are rec­om­mended to run on 50ppm (parts per mil­lion) diesel fuel.

Pow­er­ing the model is a 12.8l straight-six en­gine putting out 330kW and 2,200Nm, paired to a 12-speed au­to­matic gear­box. The en­gines are said to of­fer a 6% and 7% fuel ef­fi­ciency im­prove­ment over the pre­vi­ous re­spec­tive mod­els, which con­trib­utes con­sid­er­ably to­wards the to­tal cost of own­er­ship (TCO) given that fuel can ac­count for up to 60% of the TCO fig­ure.

Con­sid­er­ing that diesel has risen by 42% from Jan­uary 2016 to April 2018, a truck trac­tor 4x2 can save an op­er­a­tor up to R270,000 over four years, which can ex­po­nen­tially in­crease with a larger fleet.

The cab of­fers the driver a fairly er­gonom­i­cal lay­out with easy to reach switchgear, while the view of the road ahead and sur­round­ings from the driver’s seat is par­tic­u­larly good, thanks to the large glass ex­panses.

In ad­di­tion, the Ac­tros now comes with a num­ber of safety items that in­clude lane keep as­sist and At­ten­tion As­sist, both of which are more as­so­ci­ated with pas­sen­ger cars, but the model also takes things fur­ther with Ac­tive Brake As­sist 4, which will bring the ve­hi­cle to a com­plete stop (from speeds of up to 50km/h) should it sense a pedes­trian cross­ing its path.

We man­aged to drive the model around a com­pact gymkhana track to ex­pe­ri­ence how it ma­noeu­vres through tight spa­ces, in­clud­ing re­vers­ing through a slalom. There was no load in this in­stance, but the ease of use of the con­trols and over­all vis­i­bil­ity were high­lights of the ex­er­cise. We also rode shot­gun in an un­laden truck trac­tor and I was quite im­pressed by the level of com­fort on of­fer, thanks to stan­dard air sus­pen­sion, not to men­tion the smooth op­er­a­tion of both en­gine and gear­box.

Ac­cord­ing to Jasper Hafkamp, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor Daim­ler Truck and Bus South­ern Africa, the Ac­tros con­tin­ues to be the mar­ket leader hav­ing sold more than 25,000 units lo­cally, which he at­tributes to long­stand­ing re­li­a­bil­ity as the back­bone of its pop­u­lar­ity.

Even big­ger news is that the Ac­tros will now be as­sem­bled here at the com­pany’s East Lon­don plant on a CKD pro­gramme with pro­duc­tion hav­ing started in March this year, with deal­ers and cus­tomers tak­ing de­liv­er­ies from this month.

Ac­cord­ing to Glad­stone Mtyoko, di­vi­sional man­ager, Mercedes-Bens Com­mer­cials, the to­tal in­vest­ment was about R11.5m, which has re­sulted in 15 direct po­si­tions be­ing cre­ated and he says he ex­pects the fig­ures to grow con­sid­er­ably be­tween the fourth quar­ter of 2018 and the first quar­ter of 2019 as vol­umes could in­crease over that pe­riod.

Ac­cord­ing to Hafkamp, the Axor will also be fac­tored into the Ac­tros range, while a new Arocs range will also join the fray in Septem­ber.

The Ac­tros range will of­fer flex­i­ble ser­vice in­ter­vals for max­i­mum up­time — 50,000km for Euro 3 and 80,000km for Euro 5 — as well as a com­pre­hen­sive range of stan­dard safety equip­ment across the range.

The model seems to have all the right in­gre­di­ents to keep it at the fore­front of its seg­ment in spite of hav­ing taken such a long time to ar­rive on South African shores and long-haul busi­ness own­ers will surely be clam­our­ing for this one.

The new Mercedes Ac­tros has fi­nally ar­rived in SA af­ter a de­lay of five years due to poor fuel qual­ity.

The dashboard, above, fea­tures plenty of tech­nol­ogy and a good driv­ing po­si­tion. Right: The in­te­rior puts driver com­fort first.

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