BEST INTENTIONS | Truck Review – Mercedes-Benz has reignited its enthusiasm for the Actros

Keen to get back in the sales race, Mercedes-Benz has reignited its enthusiasm for the Actros

When the current version of the Mercedes-Benz Actros hit the Australian highways in late 2016, a lot of the comment made by operators was based on fuel efficiency. Companies adopting the new technologies were impressed with how the reduction of fuel costs paid for the vehicle’s insurance while others just enjoyed the additional cashflow benefits backed by a generous 500,000 km/ five-year free servicing offer.

Mercedes-Benz claimed at the time of launching the new 11-litre, 13-litre and 16-litre engine family that savings of up to seven percent better fuel economy could be expected from the Euro6 engines.

Along with the fuel consumption savings, the new six-cylinder engines offered an AdBlue consumption reduction of up to 40 percent, while the latest generation of automated transmissions changed gears 20 percent faster and incorporated a clever new crawler function for low-speed work.

All these claims certainly seem to have held up with the trucks in service but after three years it’s time to say, what next? And this is where we rejoin the Actros story for the latest update.

When launched into the Australian market in October 2016, the Actros became the first truck range made available with Euro6 engines for all applications and output levels and that remains the case for the new Actros.

The new Actros model line-up for 2020 is largely unchanged and includes 4×2 and 6×4 prime movers, 4×2, 6×2, and 6×4 rigids and AWD rigids in 4×4, 6×6 and 8×8 variants.

Power options start off with the 8-litre OM 936, which features one or two turbochargers depending on the model (using asymmetrical turbo technology) and high-pressure fuel injection. This engine is available with 300 hp to 350 hp depending on the application.

It then goes to the OM 470 11-litre, which uses a single asymmetrical turbocharger and X-Pulse variable high-pressure injection. This engine uses a higher compression ratio and delivers higher torque at lower engine revs. Maximum power outputs range from 400 hp to 460 hp.

Move on higher up the weight range and you come into the territory of the 13-litre OM 471 and the 16-litre OM 473.  Maximum power of the 13-litre ranges from 510 hp to 530 hp, while the 16-litre is rated between 580 hp and 630 hp. All engines use one-piece steel pistons instead of aluminium and have reinforced conrods.

The Mercedes-Benz asymmetric turbocharger improves performance at low engine speeds. With its fixed turbine geometry, the asymmetric turbocharger features fewer moving parts than a variable geometry turbocharger and varies the intake flow with a simple valve.

The new Actros continues to use the PowerShift 3 automated manual transmission (AMT) units that were introduced locally in 2016. These include 8-speed, 12-speed and 16-speed options and as mentioned, provide gear changes 20 per cent faster than the previous generation unit. A low-speed crawl function allows the vehicle to start easing forward when the transmission is in Drive and when the accelerator pedal is not being pressed. The gear lever control is mounted on the right-hand stalk, along with controls for the engine brake function.

In typical long-distance transport operations, continuing development work by Mercedes-Benz engineers has produced savings of up to 15 percent, achieved between 2011 and the introduction of the new Actros into Europe from 2019.

Mercedes-Benz claims the latest Actros is even more economical than its predecessor on freeways by up to as much as three percent, and in inter-city traffic by up to five percent. In addition to the optimised Predictive Powertrain Control (PPC) intelligent cruise control and transmission management system, new rear axle ratios and aerodynamic improvements to the truck’s cab make a major contribution to this reduction in consumption.

In the view of PowerTorque Magazine, the incorporation of autonomous emergency braking (which Mercedes-Benz calls Active Brake Assist or ABA 5) is one of the most significant single safety benefits for trucking available today, ranking alongside ESP and roll stability.

Mercedes-Benz has included the ABA system as standard specification in Australia for 10 years and with ABA 5 technology it can avoid or reduce the impact of collisions with either pedestrians or vehicles.

The system uses a radar and camera that work together to try and prevent avoidable collisions. The sophistication of ABA 5 enables the system to bring the truck to a complete halt when it detects moving pedestrians. It can also stop completely for moving or stationary vehicles when the driver may be distracted, something that is proven to save lives and reduce road trauma.

When it comes to conserving fuel, Predictive Powertrain Control (PPC) improves the way the engines and the fully-automated transmissions are controlled in order to reduce fuel consumption by adding anticipation technology to the fuel saving mix.

PPC uses topographical information, including pre-mapped three-dimensional GPS data, to enable the truck to make the best, and most economical, choice of throttle application and gear selection.

On steep hills, ahead of a hilltop, coasting down a hill, in dips or on the flat, PPC recognises impending driving situations in good time and takes anticipatory action. This could mean holding on to a gear, rather than changing up, just before the crest of the hill, or briefly selecting neutral to save fuel in the appropriate conditions.

The system already contains data for Australia’s A and B roads and many more. Additionally, the system learns the routes on which the truck travels. PPC can be used in conjunction with cruise control at speeds between 25 km/h and 100 km/h.

The third aspect of driver assistance is Proximity Control Assist. Also called adaptive cruise control, this function can modulate the speed of the truck in heavy traffic, even when the traffic grinds to a halt, maintaining a safe and suitable distance from vehicles ahead in the same road lane.

One of the more instantly noticeable developments within the cabin of the Actros is the new MultiMedia display, which features two large flat panel screens on the dashboard.

Available in 254 mm and 304 mm sizes, the twin high-resolution screens display information in a clear and easy-to-read format. One screen sits beyond the steering wheel and replaces a traditional instrument cluster with a clearly arranged presentation of vehicle data and operating status. It can be controlled by the new steering wheel-mounted touch control buttons.

The left display is a touchscreen unit that can be used to control more features and examine more information. In addition to using the touch screen, certain functions can be controlled by a row of dedicated traditional buttons below the screen to control high-use functions including volume and temperature.

Additionally, this centre screen has been designed to run third-party apps that customers may wish to use, such as non-manufacturer telemetry systems, which would be certified through MB Trucks App Portal. Local validation for this function is currently underway.

The new Actros also comes driver-alert assistance systems such as lane-keeping assist and attention assist. The former alerts the driver if the truck drifts out the lane without activating the indicator, while the latter alerts the driver when the system identifies the onset of the effect of fatigue.

Driver comfort options include the new SoloStar restful cabin concept, which can be configured to provide more useable space in the cab layout during the day.

SoloStar represents a new way for the driver to rest in the cab. By moving to a fold-down bed instead of a permanent bed, there is ample space for a driver to spread out during rest breaks or before bed using the café-style lounge seat which is positioned at the back of the cab on the passenger side.

When it is time to sleep, the driver’s seat is pushed forward and the passenger seat back folded forward to allow for the drop-down bed, which features an 850 mm-wide mattress.

Other changes for the 2020 Actros include new LED daytime-running lights within the headlight cluster, the addition of keyless start and a new electronic parking brake which automatically engages when the engine is switched off.

Mercedes-Benz is backing the new Actros with a complimentary Best Basic service plan that applies for 500,000 km or five years, whichever comes first.  While this offer is available, customers have the option of upgrading to the Complete Service Plan at a reduced rate.

“The current Actros has impressed customers with its long service intervals and low running costs. We believe the improvements introduced with the new model will generate even greater savings and our free Best Basic servicing offer further consolidates the Actros as the choice for smart transport business operators in Australia,” said Andrew Assimo, director of Mercedes-Benz Trucks Australia Pacific.

Even the world’s best vehicle features and technology will suffer in the hands of an untrained driver or operator. Mercedes-Benz is offering complimentary training to enable drivers to reduce driver-related inefficiencies in order to achieve optimum performance and maximum safety.

Mercedes-Benz will continue to offer its locally-developed telematics service for the new Actros.

This system enables the owner to view information such as vehicle location, driver behaviour, engine status, service alerts and accident alerts in real time. It can be set-up with “geo fencing” to set “go and no-go” zones or to send an alert when the truck has reached a certain distance from its location, such as a depot.

In addition to detailed automated reporting, the system is also able to retain three months of data when not in GSM coverage and provide instant alerts via email or SMS in the case of collisions or if the vehicle is moved without ignition.

Service plans, which were introduced in Australia by Mercedes-Benz Trucks back in 1979, give customers the assurance that their vehicles are serviced by factory-trained technicians using genuine parts and lubricants in order to remain in top condition.

Mercedes-Benz Financial is also able to offer customers a range of financial truck ownership solutions including a popular program called Agility Guaranteed Buy-Back. It guarantees the future value of the truck based on the selected term and distance allowance so that when the agreement comes to an end the customer has the option to trade-in, retain or return the truck to Mercedes-Benz Finance at the guaranteed future value amount.

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