LONG TERM STRATEGIES | Truck Review -Living the life with the Actros 2663

Living the life with the Actros 2663 – Words and Images Ed Higginson

To really appreciate a new truck, you need to spend time in the vehicle over an extended period. That particular problem was solved after I acquired an ex-demo Euro 6 Mercedes-Benz Actros 2663, ready to put to work and at the same time providing an ideal opportunity to see why so many fleets in Australia are starting to choose the German brand.

The first long-term test I conducted was with the Euro 6-compliant MAN TGX D38 that was purchased earlier in 2018, rated to 560 hp (418 kW) with 2700 Nm of torque, which was reported in the April/May 2018 issue of PowerTorque. At the time, I was impressed with the truck and after running with it for nearly a year now, it has been trouble-free.

However, when it was time to find a second truck at short notice, it was a chance to try something different. For our work, it needed to be a cabover linehaul truck with around 550 hp and most importantly, have a base cost in the low $200Ks.

The choice came down to an ex-demo Volvo Globetrotter, Scania Highline, Mercedes-Benz Actros or another MAN TGX. After a lot of research there were not many Volvos or Scanias available, but luckily the guys at Daimler Trucks in Melbourne’s Somerton had a demo Actros for sale. Coincidentally, it was the same demo Actros 2663 that  Brenton O’Connor reviewed in the February/March 2018 issue of PowerTorque.

The truck is a 2017 model with just 90,000 km on the clock. Being the flagship model, it has Daimler’s HDEP 15.6-litre engine that is Euro 6 compliant, rated at 625 hp (460 kW) and a whopping 3000 Nm of torque. Also, as a demo truck it is fitted with the “Style Line Pack” to add an extra level of luxury features, including chrome cab trim, leather trim on the steering wheel and park brake levers, cream leather seats, and aluminum dash trim.

The first impression upon seeing the truck is just how striking it looks, especially with the extra chrome trim around the grille, mirror surrounds and the modern sharp-angled bulbar. Its height is also imposing over other trucks on the road, but it’s also one of the Mercedes’ negatives, too.

The cab’s flat floor is roughly 1650 mm above the ground, requiring a climb up five steps and subsequently making it hard for local work. It also makes it difficult to load your gear for a trip, as you need to lift everything above head height to get it inside. The toolboxes seem even higher, so even for myself at six foot (183 cm), I have to use a step to access the rear of the lockers on both sides!

Once inside, the quality finish and styling are superb, especially with the added luxury of the Style Line Pack. The area around the driver is well set out and ultra-modern with everything at your fingertips.

There are a few tweaks that would improve the current cab we have in Australia and these should be coming here in the newly updated Actros launched late last year in Europe. I was fortunate to score a brief drive when visiting Germany for the IAA in Hanover, with the corresponding report also appearing in the December/January issue of PowerTorque.

These upgrades for our market should hopefully include the extra-high GigaSpace cab, which offers extra storage above the windscreen, useful for a microwave and other long-distance comforts. This is where the current cab misses out, with very little locker space above the windscreen or over the bunk.

I’ve heard rear lockers can be fitted  as with the Volvo Globetrotter or NGT Scania; but with the rear cab cooler fitted to this truck, it wouldn’t be possible and so room is limited.

Many fleets are reporting impressive fuel figures with the new Euro 6 engines from Mercedes-Benz, and Brenton reported a 2.0 km/L figure at a gross weight of 68.5 tonnes and running with B-double tippers, which was truly impressive.

I also saw great figures, with around a 5 percent improvement over the Euro 6 MAN TGX 560 on similar routes, which itself gives great fuel consumption. But what is most impressive is the performance, with 3000 Nm of torque available at just 1100 rpm, matched to the G330-12 over-drive 12-speed AMT.

With the AMT, Mercedes-Benz claims improved economy as the result of its fuel saving drive programmes, optimised rear axle ratios and the enhanced predictive powertrain control system, which features as standard on the Actros.

The truck changes gears smoothly to give an effortless drive, even in the hills with heavy loads. You just have to be careful when coming up behind slow-moving trucks on slopes because you often crest the hills near to the speed limiter. On the downward slope, the cruise can be set to control downhill speed, which is useful when you sometimes don’t notice the change in gradient, especially with the Mercedes cab being so quiet.

Mercedes-Benz offers four engine displacement classes from 7.7-litre to 15.6-litre, and a total of 18 power outputs from 238 hp (175 kW) up to the 625 hp (460 kW) which we have in the flagship 2663. When on the road, you begin to notice a lot of the Actros trucks wearing the 2663 badge. It must be a favourite with owner-drivers who see the small increase in cost worth the extra horses, whilst also gaining improved fuel economy.

When parked up for an evening at the BP truck stop on the M7 in Sydney, there was a line of around 12 prime movers parked waiting for their trailers to be loaded at nearby parcel freight depots. Of the 12, the most common was the Mercedes, with five Actros cabs including our own. The remaining mix of makes included Volvo, Scania, Iveco and Kenworth cabovers. It just shows the impact the new truck has had over the past couple of years.

Thankfully, this truck was fitted with a proper inner-sprung mattress, so it was very comfortable to sleep in, while levers on the back of the seats allow you to easily fold them forwards for a little extra room. The only annoyance was hard plastic shelves at both ends of the bed, so you couldn’t comfortably prop yourself up to read.

All the buttons are in convenient locations, so they can easily be located and used in the dark when waking up. The curtains work well and fit around the dash with decent seals if you want to sleep during the day. The extra-quiet cab helps with this, too.

Under the bed, you get a slide-out fridge which can be left out whilst driving to act as an extra table, plus you can add a full slide-out freezer next to it. There are plenty of charge points on the dash and driver’s footwell for appliances, so you could really set up your truck if it is your own.

The Mercedes-Benz Actros is an impressive truck, both in style and performance. Combined with the highest level of emission control and outstanding fuel economy, it is easy to see why so many buyers are moving to the flagship Merc.

With the newly updated Mercedes hitting the roads in Europe with some fantastic new features, this trend will likely continue. Fingers crossed that the GigaSpace cab comes here, too, for the extra living space. it’s just a shame that Australian laws don’t allow the same axle weights as Europe for the bigger cabovers, or the cab lengths of America.

Good:

  • Fuel economy coupled to strong performance
  • Modern styling inside and out, with quality finish

Bad:

  • Lack of storage, especially for living-away-from-home comforts like a microwave
  • Height of access to the flat floor cab and external lockers

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