The new Actros from Mercedes Benz has been with us for a while, but this year it gets an upgrade with the addition of some new technologies and the mirrorcam system. Diesel takes the new Actros out on the highway to put it through its paces.
After a number of ups and downs and a long period when the truck was not particularly fashionable, this latest version of the Actros has had considerable success since its Australian arrival in 2016. There are a number of reasons for this success, not least it’s frugal fuel use and also a long-term change in the attitudes of the trucking industry in Australia, which is seeing European cabovers increasing in market share.
From the driver’s point of view, test driving a truck like the Actros, it’s simply a matter of making sure they know what all the buttons on the dashboard do and then working out how to set it up correctly before setting off down the road. It is possible to drive this model in a semi-autonomous way. Much of the time on long runs all the driver has to do is steer the truck and keep an eye out. The automated systems do the rest.
The truck on test is probably the ideal B-double prime mover in this model range. It is an Actros 2663 with the StreamSpace cabin, which includes a flat floor. In fact, this particular cabin is laid out in the SoloStar configuration, which Mercedes-Benz have introduced as an option, but not many truck buyers have shown a lot of interest.
The SoloStar seems well worked out. The bunk folds up to the rear wall of the cabin. On the passenger’s side there is a seat underneath bunk which fold up so that the seat-back is resting against the folded up bunk. The side wall of the cabin is cushioned so that there is a, sort of armchair in the corner of the cabin. This leaves the space where the passenger seat normally lives as clear open space.
This means there is a comfortable seat for the driver when resting, but a passenger has to do without a passenger door window. The space created is welcome in a European cabin, where it is always at a premium, but it will probably not spark much interest among Aussie drivers.
The engine in this truck is the OM473, rated at 625hp (460kW) and this puts out 3000 Nm (2230 ft lb) of torque. This engine is based on the same engine block and many other engine components as the Detroit DD 16 used in the Freightliner range.
Approaching the truck, the driver will see the familiar tall Actros shape, but also notice that there is something a little different about this truck. The introduction of the mirrorcam option is an Australian first. As to whether the Australian trucking industry will be willing to accept this new concept? The jury is still out. There is no doubt about the improvement in the aerodynamics and also in visibility for the driver by fitting this new system.
In fact, the introduction of the mirrorcam has been on the cards for some time, as European hauliers seek fuel economy and as safety systems becomes more important. Add in the fact that video cameras and video processing computers become smaller, lighter and cheaper, and they become inevitable. Over the next 10 years they are likely to become an option on every heavy duty truck, before becoming standard when we finally get used to them. By that time cameras, instead of mirrors, are likely to be ubiquitous on all vehicles.