MAKING THE GRADE | TRUCK REVIEW – IVECO EUROCARGO

IVECO proves its mid-range Eurocargo has great street appeal – Words by David Meredith

It was just over one year ago that one of the major global truck brands focused on and funded a new campaign to stimulate driver recruitment and training for the truck industry.

Part of the deal was an industry survey – no doubt expensive – by one of the big four accounting practices. One of the key findings from the data was that most people who could be classed as potential drivers had no idea of the technology and comfort level of today’s trucks.

Cue the entry of IVECO‘s latest ML160 Eurocargo, entering stage right.

New drivers will be struck by a truck that has been styled by stylists with an aerodynamic twist, rather than an aerodynamicist with no regard for visual impact. Like it or not, a truck driver really does care about how the world sees him or her, and, in part, regards the truck they drive as an expression of their skill set.

The Eurocargo is aimed directly at business owners and fleets that want to be set apart from the crowd, and recognised as a quality provider, even before the signwriting can be read.

Of course, ticking the right box for an attractive appearance is a bit down the list of features and qualities that operators initially look for in a new truck. But, provided the chassis and driveline meet the application requirements, a truck needs to look the part before it can impress customers and other road users, gaining valuable street cred for the business name.

Eurocargo has long had a name as a premium ride, with price the major reason more of them aren’t populating metropolitan medium-duty delivery runs. A consequence of that is a relatively low resale value compared to the popular Japanese market leaders.

The current ML160 is a truck that could convince almost anyone seriously thinking of hitting the road, that a day’s work in this rig would be comfortable, safe, and rewarding. In my view, it could also prompt drivers to imagine owning one, and kicking off their own enterprise.

The specs of trucks sold into the medium-duty market are as closely tied to application necessities as those of the heavy-duty segment. A rigid 16-tonne GVM distributor needs to be agile as well as robust. Building a bulletproof chassis is pointless if the truck hasn’t got the agility to manoeuvre around delivery points dozens of time a day, without exasperating the driver.

IVECO engineers have built strength and durability into the Eurocargo by clever design and extensive component analysis, rather than simply adding more metal, which just increases tare weight and reduces payload.

The ML160 I drove offers a low tare weight of no more than 5.34 tonnes, depending on the cab style. Importantly, IVECO sales people are quick to claim it has the lowest chassis height for ease of cargo handling, a typically European trait.

The latest Tector 6.7-litre engine has been developed to deliver Euro VI emissions without EGR. Instead, a passive DPF and AdBlue additive is used, eliminating the constant threat of an automated regeneration interrupting progress, which inevitably happens at the worst possible time. WA Fire and Emergency executives take note.

The 280 hp and 1000 Nm of torque are generated with high-pressure common-rail electronic injection, turbocharging and 24 valves to deliver a high level of efficiency.
AV Truck Services in Perth handed me the keys to one of IVECO Truck Australia’s own Eurocargo demos. It’s doing service throughout the country as a provocateur to established fleets, attempting to get drivers hooked on a better quality experience.

The truck featured Allison’s rock-solid S3000 five-speed automatic. IVECO offers a silky-smooth ZF nine-speed all-synchro manual box as standard; however, there’s no substitute for a full auto box if constant torque’s what you want, especially when operating around the city centre and faced with rapid changing traffic light junctions and steep, sharp hills.

A characteristic of a high-torque engine matched to an Allison is that each gear change happens with a surge of progress as the torque bites into the next ratio. If a driver has only ever driven an AMT, he or she will be used to a hesitation and drop off in speed each time a gearshift occurs. The Allison is quite the opposite.

Operators in hilly areas will find trip times and component wear all reducing as this feature is exploited.

Eurocargo’s three-stage exhaust brake is closely matched to the gearbox ECU and pulls back strongly until it drops out when speed nudges below 20 km/h. Under braking the Allison kicks down, boosting the revs up above 2000 rpm to increase the braking effect.

My drive was across various road surfaces and included freeway, suburban and traffic congestion. However, I hardly used the all-wheel disc brakes, only hitting the pedal to come to a complete stop.

Two components of the fuel efficiency story are the reduction of internal friction and the elimination of parasitic power loss. IVECO has combined low-viscosity engine oil and an electronically-controlled two-speed electromagnetic fan clutch to minimise power drain.

I didn’t do any long distance runs in this truck as it is really aimed at the local distribution market. But, buzzing around the Perth airport environs allowed me to get a feel for how Eurocargo drivers are likely to react after a day or so on the road and managing their customers.

It’s worth noting here that the Eurocargo was made Truck of the Year in Europe last year and recognised by PowerTorque as the recipient of the 2017 Technology and Innovation Award. These awards are not given lightly, and there’s little doubt it was deserved. No matter what your configuration, I suspect you’d find the Eurocargo comfortable, fast, and efficient. The good looks are a bonus.

The Tector 6.7-litre engine has a feel about it that says, “torque is always there.” My feeling is that drivers used to rolling a truck along and exploiting the whole torque band will either modify their driving style or allow the Allison box to make the changes at the optimum time.

Plenty of infotainment features are at the driver’s fingertips, and the truck’s suite of safety software will keep all but the most determined in the lane and on the road.
For some reason that I don’t understand, IVECO doesn’t offer a towing capacity for Eurocargo. I’m told by IVECO people that it’s available on request, so clearly the chassis and driveline are up to it. In fact, the flexibility of the engine demands it. IVECO should really do better than list the GCM as “N/A.”

Perhaps, as never before, service costs and intervals play a big role in a truck purchase decision. And so they should. Manufacturers are more likely now to highlight the service intervals and warranty support, and put a ceiling on future costs with fixed prices on regular maintenance plans.

So IVECO has bumped the service intervals in Eurocargo up to 80,000 km – depending on application. There’s also a three-year/250,000 km warranty, with extensions available up to five-years or 500,000 km.

There’s no way of avoiding this bit – price. History says operators favour the Japanese mid-range truck solutions because they cost a lot less up front. I pressed the guys at the dealership about this, and asked them how the Eurocargo compares to the current market leader.

Here’s where the current market environment helps them significantly. Because more buyers are now looking at whole-of-life costs when buying a new truck, the price premium – of around five percent according to AV’s – is of less importance than previously.

The Eurocargo is a truck I could comfortably own, and look forward to heading off with each day. An ergonomic cab, with controls designed and placed by specialists, makes a big difference to the job.

If IVECO can focus their potential buyers on whole-of-life costs, and get them into a Eurocargo for an hour or so, the suggestion of them returning to their previous brand will be a lot more difficult than they anticipated.

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