Scania’s game-changing new trucks
As the crow flies, the Swedish city of Södertälje is barely 35 kilometres southwest of Stockholm. But unlike the country’s capital city, it’s not a magnet for tourists.
What it does have, however, is industry, with truck maker Scania one of the most prominent names around town.
In fact, Scania buildings and signage is everywhere. A typical Södertälje resident either works for Scania, or they have a friend, relative or next door neighbour who does. It’s a little like Canberra’s ratio of public servants.
So it goes without saying that a trip to Södertälje was the obvious destination to find out what all the fuss was about in regards to Scania’s ‘Next Generation’ range.
With statements from Scania CEO and president Henrik Henriksson that the new models were the company’s “most important launch ever”, it simply had to be a big deal.
Certainly it’s the biggest new release for the Swedish truck manufacturer in 20 years.
For Scania, it means a completely overhauled range, first with an updated R Series and a brand new S Series. Already the S Series, notable for its flat floor, has struck a chord in Europe, taking out the 2017 International Truck of the Year award at the recent IAA Commercial Vehicle Show in Hannover, Germany.
The Hannover appearance was part of a travelling showcase for Scania, although the trucks received their initial unveiling at the Grand Palais des Champs-Élysées in Paris, coinciding with a Sustainable Transport Forum with guest speaker Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the United Nations no less.
In Södertälje, however, international media and European customers had the opportunity to not only view the new trucks up close, but take them for a spin around Scania’s Demo Centre’s test track on the city’s outskirts, as well as a few predetermined undulating and winding routes outside the track’s security gates.
DESIGN OF A DECADE
However, let’s go back a bit. Scania began planning for the Next Generation range 10 years ago. According to Scania project director Helene
Sjöblom, the aim was to design and shape a new truck that was not only going to be world leading in 2016, but for many years to come.
“Designing the new truck has given us a unique opportunity to improve many things like fuel economy, driveability, safety and also creating the best possible work environment for drivers,” Sjöblom said during the Paris launch.
It’s been a long and involved process, including 10 million kilometres of test driving. The cost along the way has been estimated at around 2 billion Euros ($3 billion).
Importantly, it appears drivers will be the first to appreciate the benefits of the new Scanias in terms of space and safety. The ultra-high strength tensile steel used in the new monocoque cab is said to be up to eight times stronger than the current model, according to Christofer Karlsson, head of crash safety systems at Scania.
Hence, the new cab’s structure has enabled the driver’s seat to be moved closer – 65mm to be exact – to the windscreen, offering greater forward and side visibility.
This is more pronounced with the designed dashboard, which is now slightly lower than previous models.
Karlsson, however, says the major safety initiative for the driver is the rollover airbag.
“It’s unique to the trucking industry, and we’re the first to offer one,” he says.
“It will dramatically change the number of fatalities in these kinds of accidents.”
To be more precise, Scania is estimating that the figure for drivers fatally injured in rollovers could be cut by 25 per cent.
Karlsson also points out that braking performance has been improved by adjusting brake callipers and the ABS software.
“We now have a higher braking force on the front axle,” he continues. “This gives us a 5 per cent reduction in stopping distance.
“As an example, if you have a 40-tonne truck driving 80km an hour in dry conditions, you would reduce the stopping distance by two metres. And that ends up at approximately 40 metres.”
Back inside the cab, further consideration is given to taller drivers between 150cm and 200cm in height with more legroom.
In addition, the space saved with the driver’s seat moving forward is used to good effect for long-haul variables.
There’s a lot more storage space, with an abundance of nooks and crannies, while sleeping arrangements can be made available based on requirements.
There’s even more room with the S cab’s flat floor, especially for two-up operations. Bed options in that model can include two 80cm bunks, with the possibility of extending the lower bed to 100cm. As an optional extra, passengers can enjoy a seat that swivels and reclines.
For the integrated infotainment system options, there’s a choice between a 5- or 7-inch screen.
The integrated steering wheel controls are standard. Voice activation is through a hidden microphone in the ceiling.
The units have four loudspeakers, although there are options to add further speakers. There are inputs for both AUX and USB.
For drivers who prefer to keep their business and personal lives separate, there are slots for two separate mobile phones.
Expect further amendments to the entertainment package, as well as Scania’s Advanced Driver Assistance Systems.
The new driver-controlled climate systems further add to the comfort of those in control of the vehicle. It’s even possible to order a truck with a heated windscreen.
While this is all exciting news for the driver, it’s the truck’s owner who is looking to benefit from the new Scania’s credentials. While the wellbeing of the person behind the wheel is vitally important, fleet owners want to know their bottom line will be on the way up.
Firstly, Scania is promising fuel savings of 5 per cent compared to the current Streamline range, with 3 per cent of that figure coming from the updated powertrains, including the new version of its 13-litre 500hp engine.
Importantly, Scania is concentrating on selective catalytic reduction (SCR) for its exhaust emissions. It says it views SCR as being superior in terms of reduced fuel consumption and greater reliability.
The Next Generation trucks’ Euro 6 engines have all received new engine management systems, the new cab’s cooling capacity aiding in the quest to save on fuel. An updated combustion chamber, new injectors and a tough turbocharger with fixed geometry is said to lift both performance and economy.
A new automated Scania Opticruise ’box adds to the performance update, its gear changes now up to 45 per cent faster with a ratio of 2.35. The introduction of a layshaft brake system as standard – instead of using synchro rings to synchronise the different speeds of the countershaft and main shaft in the gearbox during gearshifts – means almost immediate gear changes when upshifting.
“This technique is hassle-free, and it makes a big difference when it comes to driving experience and performance,” Scania head of transmission development Magnus Mackaldener says. “Thanks to the layshaft brake, our most popular gearbox for long-haul trucks – the GRS905 – shifts up a gear in 0.4 seconds, which means that gearshift time has been almost halved. It is so fast in practice that it renders other types of complicated, energy-consuming and heavy gearshift time-cutting solutions superfluous.”
In a godsend for drivers sitting in queues, Scania has also overhauled its adaptive cruise control
The major safety initiative for the driver is the rollover airbag
system, which has now been designed to handle speeds down to standstill.
The other major fuel-saving initiative is through aerodynamics, thanks to ongoing research and development in Scania’s wind tunnels. Subtle changes to the new models’ appearance are not just for cosmetic purposes.
“We’re definitely setting a new standard when it comes to aerodynamics,” Scania long haulage trucks sales and marketing head Martin Sylvén says. “The new cab shape, the clean cab corners, all the flush mounted components and the tight panel gaps … everything to reduce air drag.
“The designers have even improved air flow under the vehicle.”
Scania had 16 variants of its new range available for a few hours of driving in and around its test track facility. These ranged from a R410 4x2 up to the new S cab 730 6x2, all carrying significant loads with a variety of trailers. Included among these were a number of variants showcasing the new 500hp engine in both R and S cabs.
It is Europe of course, so no sign of a 6x4. Still, these trucks with a variety of trailers and cargo offered a good insight into the capabilities of Scania’s Next Generation.
The advantage of the new cab design hit home instantly when first climbing in behind the wheel. With the improved visibility, the view is panoramic, to say the least.
The test track had a number of interesting grades and curves, a fairly steep grade offering the chance to try out Scania’s three-second hill hold feature.
Corners in quick succession also tested the truck’s manoeuvrability, the most challenging being a car transport-carrying R450 4x2 and an R500 6x2 with a couple of log-laden trailers.
Performance-wise, these new Scanias are a superb drive; engine noise is barely noticeable.
Even if you’re not into European trucks, it’s difficult not to be impressed with the power, the handling and the comfort.
Who needs driverless trucks when you’re behind the wheel of one of these gentle giants?
However, the question remains: when they will make their way to Australia?
And what model variants are we likely to see on our roads?
It seems unlikely that the flat-floor S cab will land here anytime soon. Also, it’s odds-on that South Americans will be driving these Next Generation trucks before we do.
Scania Australia managing director Roger McCarthy politely dodges our questions, remaining tight-lipped about the timing of the Next Generation trucks’ arrival down under, hinting only that it could be around two or three years’ time.
Admirers of fine machinery, Scania customers, and other curious truck buyers will be waiting with bated breath.
The car carrier was a true test of the new Scania’s manoeuvrability
At hand: Scania’s improved dash design
No head banging in this unit