Off Road Action | TRUCK REVIEW -Mercedes-Benz trucks with all-terrain ability

Brenton O’Connor heads off the bitumen in a selection of Mercedes-Benz trucks with all-terrain ability. 

For the third year running, Mercedes-Benz Trucks Australia has added a seemingly ongoing series of models to its portfolio, this time relating to the company’s all-new heavy-duty truck platform.

Initially launched in 2016, the first of the models was the on-highway prime mover range, and, then last year, a range of rigid vehicles in 4×2, 6×2, 6×4 and 8×4 configuration joined them in the marketplace.

The key indicators of the success of a new product comes down to the sales numbers being recorded, and, it’s here, with a related market share of 7.3 percent as at May 2018, that Mercedes-Benz has proved its appeal in the over 16 tonnes GVM segment.

Bear in mind that market share figure is primarily made up of prime movers, as rigid truck sales remain dominated by the Japanese brands, and the segment statistics includes all trucks of a GVM of 16,000 kg and above.

In June 2018, Mercedes-Benz Trucks Australia launched its all-wheel drive (AWD) models to a media contingent at the 4WD Off Road Centre just out of Werribee in Melbourne’s west.

On hand to present the new range to the transport media was director of Mercedes-Benz Trucks Australia Michael May, and national sales manager Andrew Assimo, both of whom are hugely enthusiastic about the new range of products, and the results and feedback being encountered from operators since launch. Also, on hand on the day was a range of key personnel from the MB Truck team including product managers, driver trainers, aftersales personnel and also Peter Nunn, national sales manager for Mercedes-Benz Financial Services commercial vehicle and fleet finance sales.

The AWD range launched includes two 4×4 models (a 16-tonne GVM and a 18-tonne GVM model), stepping up into 6×6 models, all with a 33-tonne GVM and available in three different horsepower ratings, then onto the 8×8 model which has a GVM of 41 tonnes.

Mercedes-Benz 4×4 AWD

1630

Engine: OM936 7.7-litre Euro 6 six-cylinder with 299 hp and 1200 Nm

Transmission: Eight-speed Powershift AMT with 3.583:1 rear axle ratio. Transmission PTO. Transfer case VG 1000-3W/1.61-0.98 engageable.

Weights: 16,000 kg GVM with up to 24,000 GCM.

Front axle and suspension: 6.0-tonne front axle. 6.1-tonne parabolic springs.

Rear axle and suspension: 11.0-tonne front axle with diff locks. 10.5-tonne steel suspension.

Braking: Drum brakes with ABS. Parking brakes on front axle. High performance engine brake.

Cab: S-Cab Classic Space.

This model, previously known as the Atego, comes back again with major changes when compared to the previous model.

An all-new OM936 Euro 6 engine takes power from 286 hp to 299 hp in this latest range, and brings in an extremely powerful integrated engine brake, far superior to the combination exhaust brake and active engine brake valve in the previous OM926 engine.

Importantly, this is the first time an AMT has been available with the high horsepower 16-tonne truck, with Benz making standard the eight-speed PowerShift unit. Optionally available are the Allison automatic five-speed and Benz’s own nine-speed synchromesh manual gearboxes.

Traditionally, this truck has been very popular for elevated work platforms (EWPs) for power line maintenance crews, as well as off-road fire trucks for the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and also as a fertiliser spreader.

Due to its low cabin height, getting in and out of the cabin is easy, and the low overall height offers a reduced centre of gravity, making access around sites easier, particularly with low hanging trees. Another big plus of this model is its tare weight, which is particularly attractive to fertiliser spreader contractors as it allows a higher payload with less chance of getting bogged due to the lighter tare weight.

This is the only model in the Mercedes AWD range that doesn’t have hub reduction axles, but rather hypoid diffs and eight-stud wheels. However, full diff locks are included.

A very short drive of the vehicle was experienced, and, despite no weight on the tray, the vehicle handled the terrain well. The new engine brake made descending steep gradients a breeze, negating the need to use the service brake.

The model tested included the eight-speed PowerShift, which operated well; however, for those working in extreme conditions, the Allison auto or manual will have benefits, particularly as the Allison with its torque converter can downshift gears when climbing steep gradients without an interruption to the power delivery.

Mercedes-Benz 4×4 Heavy AWD

1835

Engine: OM936 7.7-litre Euro 6 six-cylinder with 354 hp and 1400 Nm.

Transmission: Eight-speed Powershift AMT with 4.833:1 rear axle ratio. Transmission PTO. Transfer case VG 3000-3W, 1.04, engageable. Optional nine-speed with two-speed transfer case with 3.174 for off-road.

Weights: 18,000kg GVM and 22,400 GCM.

Front axle and suspension: 7.5-tonne offset front axle with 7.5-tonne three-leaf springs.

Rear axle and suspension: 13.4-tonne planetary rear axle with diff locks, 11.5 rear springs.

Cab: S-Cab Classic Space.

The next model tested was the larger framed 1835, which replaces the 1833 Axor in the previous truck range. This is a heavier spec’d truck all-round with a 2.0 tonnes greater GVM than the 1630 mentioned above. Key differences include hub reduction axles front and rear with much higher load ratings and 10 stud wheels. Furthermore, the all-new cabin is not carried over from the previous range and offers increased space and driver comfort.

The same 7.7-litre engine in the 1630 is used, albeit with a higher rating of 350 hp. When it comes to transmissions, it’s the same eight-speed PowerShift or the nine-speed manual available. Disappointingly, there is no Allison automatic option available.

In previous applications this model was used in areas such as off-road expedition buses, for fertiliser spreaders and also for EWPs. This new model should increase appeal to these operators through the availability of an AMT for the first time.

On the launch day, this vehicle was the only one to be fitted with a manual, so it was a good chance to test Benz’s manual transmission. As per the previous range, it’s an air-over-hydraulic shift, which means no physical connection between the gearbox and the gearstick as the shifts are made by compressed air and hydraulic shifting cylinders. Importantly, this provides for much lighter gearshifts and also makes it easier for the cabin to tilt for service work. However, the gates are very close together and it’s easy to pick up the wrong gear.

The old Axor was known for its ride comfort off-road thanks to parabolic springs, and this truck is no exception. This was a major advantage to operators when compared to other brands that offered only multi-leaf springs.

 

Mercedes-Benz 6×6 AWD

3340, 3343 and 3346

Engine: OM470 10.7-litre Euro 6 six-cylinder with 394 hp and 1900 Nm (4140), 428 hp and 2100 Nm (4143) and 455 hp and 2200 Nm (4146)

Transmission: 16-speed PowerShift AMT with 4.833:1 rear axle ratio. Transmission PTO. Transfer case VG 2800-3W/1.45-1.04 permanent.

Weights: 33,000 kg GVM with up to 70,000 kg GCM

Front axle and suspension: 7.5-tonne planetary front axles with diff locks. 7.5-tonne three-leaf springs

Rear axle and suspension: 13.4-tonne planetary rear axle with diff locks. Two 15.0-tonne rear springs.

Braking: Drum brakes with electronic braking system with ABS, independent trailer brake and high performance engine brake.

Cab: S-Cab Classic Space.

 

Mercedes-Benz 8×8 AWD

4140, 4143 and 4146

Engine: OM470 10.7-litre Euro 6 six-cylinder with 394 hp and 1900 Nm (4140), 428 hp and 2100 Nm (4143) and 455 hp and 2200 Nm (4146)

Transmission: 16-speed Powershift AMT with 4.833:1 rear axle ratio. Transmission PTO. Transfer case VG 2800-3W/1.45-1.04 permanent.

Weights: 41,000 kg GVM and up to 70,000 kg GCM.

Front axle and suspension: 7.5-tonne planetary front axles with diff locks. Two 7.5-tonne three-leaf springs

Rear axle and suspension: 13.4-tonne planetary rear axle with diff locks. Two 15.0-tonne rear springs.

Braking: Drum brakes with electronic braking system with ABS, independent trailer brake and high performance engine brake.

Cab: S-Cab Classic Space

These 6×6 and the 8×8 models share much of the driveline and technology that is common to both. A very imposing truck indeed, with its grille design from the Arocs range that resembles a toothed monster staring at you! This particular vehicle is used for off-road drill rigs, mine service/support vehicles. An increasing number are seeing their way into fertiliser spreading.

The biggest change here is that the PowerShift transmission is now the standard choice. This differs from the previous model that offered a fully synchromesh G240-16 transmission as either a three-pedal ‘Telligent’ shift or as a two-pedal operation. Shifts with these systems were slower, a result of the lower technology level when compared to PowerShift, which includes creeper mode. Mercedes quotes that the 16-speed PowerShift fitted in the new 6×6 (and 8×8) range features 50 percent faster ratio swaps, which is outstanding, particularly when off-road, as slow gear changes mean large momentum losses that can lead to getting bogged or getting stuck on a steep gradient.

The engine changes in front of the PowerShift mean a move for the 6×6 and 8×8 to inline six-cylinders, replacing the previous V engines. The standard engine is the 11-litre OM470 engine, with power ratings from 394 hp to 455 hp available. A larger capacity 13-litre engine known as the OM471 is optional for those needing extra power.

The downside of the inline six engines, rather than the V engines, is the way they mount in the chassis. Rather than wedging down between the rails, the inline sixes stand taller on the frame, resulting in the cabins being raised substantially to allow the engine fitment. The upshot of this can easily be seen with the cabin floor being approximately two metres off the ground, making access and egress of the cabin more difficult. As a plus though, Mercedes has fitted wide non-slip steps and good grab handles to assist as much as possible.

Driving these trucks on the day was not only enjoyable, but provided substantial proof of their ruggedness and no-nonsense approach when tacking arduous terrain. The 24-inch wheels fitted provided for good traction, and the extra width allows for better flotation than standard 295/80 R22.5 truck tyres.

All diff locks are controlled by electric switches on the dash with the in-screen colour display providing a live update of the gear engaged and indicating which locks were engaged, an important factor when tackling steep hills and muddy areas. The high torque of the new engine family is a definite benefit to off-road work, enabling the vehicles to move off from stationary without large rpm requirements, maintaining traction without wheel spin.

As with the 8.0-litre engine, the new 11.0-litre engines have a much-improved engine brake. This proved its advantages off-road as it allowed the truck to descend the steep drops without needing application of the service brake, through adjusting the degree of retardation via the stalk mounted on the right-hand-side of the steering column.

The new AWD range from Mercedes-Benz not only looks impressive, it performs impressively. They’re rugged and tough, particularly those models fitted with Mercedes most famous hub reduction axles. Given the success of the on-highway models since launch, it stands to reason the off-road range will gain the same degree of success, given the lengths Mercedes-Benz Australia has gone to ensure the trucks meet the unique needs of Australian operators.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

x

Check Also

BUCKETS & BLADES | Company Profile – Cleary Bros

Warren Caves visits the Cleary Bros equipment museum. Images by Torque it Up) A familiar ...