Scania launches its Next Generation attack: Ed Higginson takes the wheel of the new G500 – Images by Mark Bean.
With autonomy being the buzzword for future truck design, the launch of the Next Generation Scania truck range poses the question of could we be seeing the last time that truck cabs are launched that still focus on the driver?
Whatever the answer, Scania has thrown everything at its totally new truck to ensure it’s the ultimate in design, with $3 billion in development over 10 years and with 12 million km of testing.
That answer is also why I had been excitedly counting down the days until I got to drive the all-new Scania from Melbourne to Sydney, prior to the official national Australian launch.
Scania’s outgoing cab design dates back to 2004 and has served it well, but the new generation takes the brand to a whole new level.
Dean Dal Santo, Scania’s national sales manager, explains: “With the new generation of trucks, we are focusing on providing our customers with the best total operating economy. The new trucks are much more fuel-efficient and we are also placing greater emphasis on aftersales solutions, such as our flexible maintenance plans to reduce costs. The trucks also have a lot of safety features that make them amongst the safest trucks in Australia, including a full rollover side airbag curtain”.
Scania’s model numbering is about the only thing remaining from the previous models. The range starts with the S-series, with the largest cab in the range and with a fully flat floor. Then, moving down in size, it’s the R-series and then the G-series, all focused on the long and medium haul markets. The smallest cab, the P-series, focuses on the urban distribution market. Australia will also see the launch of the new XT bulk construction range, and the new four-door, six-seater crew-cab, with which Scania has seen a lot of success here with the fire authorities.
As well as the striking new cabs, Scania has also spent a lot on development of its engines to reduce running costs and will offer its well-established 9.0-litre five-cylinder, 13-litre six-cylinder and 16-litre V8 engines in both Euro 6 and Euro 5 compliance.
The Euro 5 engines are rated from 280 hp with torque of 1400 Nm, up to 620 hp with 3000 Nm of torque. For those wanting to take the jump to Euro 6, the range of power is much wider, starting with 220 hp and 1000 Nm of torque with a new 7.0-litre six-cylinder engine, up to a whopping 730 hp and 3500 Nm of torque in the V8, while also claiming substantial fuel savings of 7-10 percent.
PowerTorque’s first Australian drive included two Australian specced trucks available at Scania’s head office in Campbellfield, on the outskirts of Melbourne, ready to hit the Hume Highway towards the company’s Sydney dealership in Prestons.
Prior to our departure, PowerTorque’s Brenton O’Connor and I joined Scania’s in-house driver trainers, Lindsay Pollock and Alan McDonald, for an introduction to a brand-new R620 and G500. Both evaluation units were Euro 5, as these had been ordered soon after the launch late in 2016, so the only difference we’d expect to see with their Euro 6 engines is a few extra horses for the R-series from 620 to 650, and improvements in fuel economy.
Brenton and I would swap between trucks around the half way mark to compare our impressions, but, as Brenton had reviewed the outgoing previous model of the R620 in the February issue of PowerTorque, he would focus on the big V8. I would then be able to compare the new G500 against the older G500 that I’d taken for a run earlier in the year.
Although the G-series is a smaller cab than the R, the new generation feels much roomier than the older model and a lot larger than many other trucks. The dash feels flatter and nearer to the windscreen than before, with the seat positioned 65 mm nearer to the front and 20 mm closer to the door. This, along with larger windows, no external sunvisor (to reduce drag), better visibility with smaller pillars and a glazed sunroof to lighten the interior, all adds to the sense of space.
The design throughout is first class and bang up to date. In the G, the engine cover is raised from the floor to about shin height, which I actually like because it was high enough to use as a bench whilst driving, but still low enough to step over when heading to or from the bed.
Immediately noticeable are the number of buttons you have at your fingertips, with all controls positioned to be seen and reached easily while driving. Scania has moved the lighting controls onto the door, joining the mirror adjustments (all six are electronic), plus the window and the central locking buttons, and the result makes a lot more sense.
The steering wheel remains familiar in layout, with the spokes containing switching for the cruise control, downhill speed control, adaptive cruise, radio, DAB, phone, horn, and truck information system control buttons. There is even a voice recognition option if you don’t want to look down! This just leaves the indicators/wipers and retarder/Opticruise controls on the steering column stalks. While some truck designs have similar switch functions, they are not always that easy to use. But, as far as those on the Scania are concerned, everything was simple and worked effectively.
The dash has a range of other features that are well laid out and provide a quality feel, such as the climate control, diff locks, suspension adjustment, and options to deactivate the lane departure warning, traction control or the advanced emergency braking system, which is useful on twisty country roads. There is also an impressive Scania infotainment system with a 5” or 7” LCD screen including sat/nav as an option. In line with what drivers expect today for connectivity, the new truck gets plenty of charger points for USB, AUX, two 12 V sockets and a 24 V socket.
The layout has some familiar features to the outgoing model, so if you currently drive a Scania you will feel happy to head straight out of the depot, but for your first drive you will definitely benefit from using the Scania driver training programme.
In terms of driver comfort, Scania has looked at all areas and has based its decisions and designs as the result of considerable customer feedback. The G-series gets a decent sized inbuilt fridge tray that slides under the bunk, plenty of dash storage, above-window cabinets, drawers and even a neat table that folds out in front of the passenger seat if you want somewhere to eat your lunch or work on the laptop. Overseas models also get a swivel passenger seat so you can relax and stretch your legs when on a break, but, unfortunately, our Australian Design Rules (ADR) don’t allow this at the moment.
I found the bunk comfortable, so would happily use it for a night away. It is a little narrow behind the driver’s seat, so if you are away for days at a time you may want the R or S-series. When standing on the engine cover, as a six-footer I only had to lower my head slightly, but with the passenger seat folded upright you have the option to stand to get changed, which was another neat touch.
For our evaluation, the G-series was loaded to a GCM of 55.6-tonne with B-double curtainsiders, whilst the R620 had a slightly bigger load of 61.5 tonnes. Surprisingly, the speed performance was comparable with just a 6.0-tonne difference – the big V8 with an extra 120 hp and 450 Nm of torque couldn’t pull away from the G500. I was expecting a much bigger difference, but this is where the computers come in to focus on fuel consumption so all of the power is kept under control.
For our drive experience the power mode had been deactivated, and on the G500 we couldn’t use the manual shift on the auto in 12th and 11th gear to knock the box down coming into hills. The engine’s computer likes to let the engine lug low into the torque band before changing gear at around 950-1000 rpm, so you tend to lose momentum quickly. This is a good option for fleet operators because it forces the driver to drive with fuel in mind, but it does take away some of the driving enjoyment, especially when much smaller trucks fly past. With the driver trainer by your side, you quickly change your driving style to focus on keeping the truck rolling, and using the unique Scania Driver Support system to score your driving behaviour in the dash display.
Throughout a full week of heading back and forth between Melbourne and Sydney in the hands of several different drivers, the G500, which weighed in at 55.6 tonnes, covered 3677 km with an average speed of 79 km/h to achieve an average fuel consumption of 47.3 litres per 100 km (or 2.11 l/km). In comparison, the R620 at 61.5 tonnes covered 3752 km with an average speed of 77 km/h and averaged 54.7 litres per 100 km (or 1.83 l/km). These are decent figures considering they were loaded 100 percent of the time and had multiple drivers, but we would expect the Euro 6 versions to be even better.
If you aren’t running at high B-double weights, the G500 could be the ideal pick for fleets looking for the balance between price and fuel economy, while making sure the drivers are kept happy. One of the disadvantages of cabs with flat floors is the height and the safety implications when climbing up four or five steps with all you gear and a coffee. For that reason, if you run multiple drops on your daily round my pick would be to choose the new G-series.
Alternative Viewpoint – Brenton O’Connor provides his comment on the G500
The G500 was both the surprise and winner of the day during our test of the next-generation G500 and R620 Scanias.
Despite having a lower power to weight ratio and also a lower torque to weight ratio than the bigger R620 V8, the G500 managed to achieve a 2.0 kilometre per hour higher speed, as well as a very impressive fuel consumption figure of 2.11 km litre (at a gross weight of 55.5 tonnes) towing tri-tri B-double curtainsiders.
Scania had locked out both manual modes, restricting the option for the driver to override the transmission in automatic mode above ninth gear, meaning the truck was lugging back as a low as 950 rpm on some of the long, steep pulls endured on the Hume Highway. The cabin on the G, with its higher engine tunnel, didn’t feel as spacious or as comfortable as the R cabin, with reduced footwell room, and also the ride between the air-sprung R cabin and the steel-sprung G cabin was immediately noticeable.
With its lower overall height, and easier cabin access, the G would be ideal for local B-double work around city and intrastate applications where Scania will be targeting this model.