COST SAVER | Truck Review – Freightliner Cascadia

 Lower operating costs will drive Cascadia’s hopes Down Under, says Warren Caves after a test of the new 116 Day Cab

Freightliner Australia has a lot riding on the success of North America’s best-selling truck, the Cascadia, as it starts to hit dealerships Down Under.

A common sight on the highways of North America, the Freightliner Cascadia was launched there in 2016 and now boasts a 40 percent market share to become the best-selling truck in the US.

The result of continued global investment in research and development to the tune of $2 billion dollars annually, Freightliner expects the Cascadia to achieve similar greatness here in Australia.

It plans to encourage Australian fleets to the brand by offering lower total cost of ownership (TCO) through superior fuel efficiencies from the DD13 and DD16 engines, integrated Detroit Diesel drivelines, extended service intervals, advanced telematics, improved safety and flexible service agreements.

A preliminary home-soil drive programme was offered to PowerTorque to sample a Cascadia 116, day cab model in B-double configuration from Daimler’s head office in Sydney’s west.

The truck was powered by a DD13 Detroit Diesel engine rated at 505 hp (377 kW) producing 1850 lb-ft of torque, with Detroit’s own DT12, 12-speed automated manual transmission (AMT) and a 3.42:1 final drive ratio. The truck rode on Freightliner Airliner four-bag suspension at the rear with Michelin X-Multi 11r 22.5 tyres. Front suspension used a two-leaf parabolic spring suspension system.

Disc brakes were fitted all round on the truck (drums are optional).

To provide, real world operating conditions, the combination was loaded to a 60-tonne gross weight.

Immediately noticeable upon entering the cab are the well-positioned grab handles on the A- and B-pillars, which line up perfectly with the steps to make entry and exit secure and safe. The door doesn’t quite open out to 90-degrees but it doesn’t hinder entry or egress.

The leather and cloth ISRI seat for the driver is a familiar fitment to many Australian truck brands and provides that comfortable platform with ample adjustment to which many drivers have become accustomed.

Forward vision from the driver’s seat is excellent, with optional fish-eye blind-spot mirrors on the bonnet sides providing added range of vision to cab blind spots.

The dash layout seems quite simple and uncluttered, with the wrap-around design bringing controls and switching to within easy reach of the driver. The park-brake controls for the truck and trailer are fitted with a collar-type lock which can be a bit fiddly to operate, requiring either two hands or quite dexterous fingers on one hand.

The centre dash panel above the park brake contains two slots which can be removed to allow for a cradle to be fitted that accepts popular tablets, enabling individual company hardware preferences for electronic delivery systems and the like to be housed. These are pre-wired from factory behind the removable panels.

Three drink holders are positioned for easy access while driving and three 12-volt sockets are located on the far left of the dash. Overhead shelves and lockers provide handy stowage for everyday items.

The leather-wrapped steering wheel was a nice touch and it contains switching and menu buttons for the cruise control, autonomous cruise control, telephone operation and various menu options viewed in the multi-information display screen in between the speedo and tacho.

This particular truck was optioned with the sealed, gel batteries located beneath the passenger seat which is why the semi-bench type seat (which didn’t look too comfortable to be honest) is fitted on the passenger side. ISRI seats are installed where the batteries are fitted to the chassis.

The test route would eventually take in a westerly run on the M4 Motorway to the Northern Road, then south to Narellan Road before turning back to the east and joining the Hume Highway for a run down to Sutton Forest, then returning to Daimler’s Huntingwood office.

Immediately noticeable was the low level of noise within the cabin. There was no engine roar or wind noise at highway speed showing noise suppression had obviously been high on the engineers “to do list”. The only noise – and it was noticeable – was a loud hum from the tyres on various road surfaces.

I have run on Michelin X-Multi tyres in numerous trucks for thousands of kilometres without noticing any excessive noise, so I can only assume that the reduced noise from the driveline and/or engine serves to highlight tyre hum.

The Cascadia brought itself up to road speed without much fuss on the flat, spurred on by the predictable shift sequences of the DT12 transmission. A manual shift setting is available, but I didn’t feel the need to intervene throughout the day. A “detent” throttle pedal is used and can be pushed that bit further for a quick, kick-down of gears if needed.

Ride comfort was great with no bucking or pitching. Steering response and road feel complimented the ride to offer a relaxed drive. The chassis on the Cascadia is flared out in the front section from the rear of the engine forward which has allowed the engine to be mounted 38 mm lower. In turn, this lowers the centre of gravity and increases vision over a lower bonnet height and pushes steering hardware and suspension further to the outward extremity of the truck. This then gives a wider suspension base and a straighter steering shaft to improve steering feel and ride quality. Freightliner has reverted back to a single steering box for the Cascadia.

At 505 hp, this particular truck would have to be at the lower limit of power for B-double applications. The truck performed well on the slow gradual climbs from the outer limits of Sydney the top of “Skyline Hill” at which point road speed had dropped to 37 km/h with the engine pulling comfortably at 1800 rpm. In my opinion this truck would be best suited to single trailer work or lighter B-double applications.

As part of the fuel-saving strategies employed by the DD13, a progressive viscous engine fan is used. The fan deploys only enough fan drive as is necessary in a continually adjusting process aimed at reducing engine fan load. Even while climbing steep grades I could not hear nor determine when the fan was operating.

The Detroit Assurance 5.0 package included on all Cascadia models provides a suite of safety systems, such as lane-departure warning (LDW), active brake assist (ABA) and adaptive cruise control (ACC).

The LDW system worked well when clear line markings were available but as with most systems it is reliant on road maintenance providers to keep markings fresh.

Side Guard Assist functioned well and works by detecting vehicles on the nearside of the truck and trailer sensed by a radar unit mounted on the near side of the truck. The system alerts the driver to a vehicle present via an orange light in the passenger side A-pillar.

The DD13 is fitted with a three-stage engine brake, actioned by the right steering column stalk which also contains the gear selector.

Service intervals for trucks operating at below 62.5-tonne weights are 40,000 km with oil drain periods of 80,000 km dropping to 30,000 km and 60,000 km for weights above 62.5-tonne.

According to Adam Harradine, Field Service Manager for Freightliner NSW, a Cascadia following these service frequencies (under 62.5-tonne) will spend close to half the time off the road for servicing when compared to the previous Coronado model, greatly reducing downtime and increasing fleet utilisation.

At the end of the 268 km drive, the Cascadia recorded an average fuel consumption figure of 57.5 l/100 km for a four-hour, 12-minute drive time at an average speed of 64 km/h.

All in all, the Cascadia is a pleasant, well-rounded package. Comfortable to drive, quiet and pleasing to the eye with its sleek low bonnet and cat-like headlights.

Freightliner is offering a standard warranty of four-years or 800,000 km with options available to upgrade to more flexible warranty/service packages.

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