Adding ZF’s TraXon transmission to the Hino 700 changes the game for the Japanese manufacturer – Words and images by Chris Mullett. 

The heavy-duty range of Japanese trucks has never managed to excite buyers in any form approximating the enthusiasm attached to buying North American or European products. But through the years, Asian manufacturers have steadily improved and enhanced their contenders in this market segment, adding technology and innovation together with improved safety standards to the point where they provide a genuine cost-effective alternative.

One such heavy-duty truck option is the Hino 700 Series. It’s been seen performing well around the container terminals in prime-mover mode, but, thanks to some up-specing by the manufacturer, it now sports the latest ZF Automated Manual Transmission (AMT), in the form of the TraXon 16-speed, which is progressively now replacing its predecessor, the AS-tronic. 

PowerTorque recently spent a day in the latest version of the Hino 700, with a new longer wheelbase of 6267 mm, extending out from the 4005 mm and 4300 mm FS 2848 6×4 models.

“We have developed this truck at the specific request of our customers – it is suitable for any number of applications from general farm duties or cattle trucks to a 14-pallet rigid freight truck or a flat tray with a rear-mounted crane,” said Daniel Petrovski, Hino Australia’s Manager of Product Strategy.

The version we drove was kitted out with a steel tray by BRS Welding of Wagga and was suitable for locking on a cattle or horse crate. For our purposes it was loaded with 12 large bales of hay to tare off at 21,040 kg, well within its GVM of 28,000 kg and keeping within its front axle loading of 6500 kg. For those conscious of front-axle loadings, it’s relatively easy thanks to the pre-drilled chassis to move toolbox and spare tyre positions to counterbalance weight profiles.

Despite its GVM rating of 28,300 kg and GCM rating of 72,000 kg, this 20 tonnes-plus weight range makes the Hino 700 ideally suited for farm work, as well as 14-pallet around town and intrastate delivery. It’s never going to be a serious rival for long-haul work, but in the application as tested it proved to be expert in tackling the job and completing the work task effectively and efficiently.

The cab environment is adaptable for drivers of all sizes, and with wide-opening doors and clearly visible and accessible step treads, access and egress are a safe three points of contact step into space.  All gauges are easy to view, the ISRI 6860/870 air-suspended seat is very comfortable and the steering wheel and column with its adjustable reach and rake gives plenty of stomach space. Recognised as a sleeper cab, standard fare doesn’t include a mattress but as an optional addition the bunk space (plus mattress) is sufficient for an occasional nap, rather than a regular overnight necessity.

With its official title of the FS 2848 AMT AIR 6267, the new variant rides on a combination of long taper-leaf suspension on the steer axle and Hendrickson HAS 460 air suspension on the drive axles.

Ride comfort is exceptionally good and the truck tracks along the highway with positive steering while offering a low noise intervention that certainly doesn’t intrude into the cabin and run the risk of adding to fatigue.

But what makes this new model significantly interesting is the immediate benefit of the latest transmission technology from ZF, with its replacement AMT for the AS-tronic being the TraXon 2441 TO. This mates to the Hino E13C 12.9-litre six-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine, which produces 480 hp (353 kW) of power and 2157 Nm of torque.

The resultant driveline is compliant with ADR80/03 using Euro5 emission standards featuring a combination of Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) and Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system. A Euro6 version will be available if and when the Australia Government shows some interest in mandating tighter exhaust emissions to reduce pollution and acknowledges climate change.

With its maximum power output of 480 hp (353 kW) coming in at 1800 rpm and peak torque of 2157 Nm rated at 1100 rpm, the 12.9-litre Hino diesel is turbocharged and intercooled and perfectly matched to the TraXon transmission, with its direct-drive 15th gear ratio and overdriven top-gear of 0.820. At 100 km/h the engine speed is 1668 rpm with a final drive ratio of 3.9:1.

If, as a driver, you appreciated the ZF AS-tronic you’ll be finding the TraXon is just better in every way, with swifter ratio swaps, seamless changes and a demand on the engine that is well supported by its ability to lug back to 1100 rpm and hold that thought until you manually click up a ratio as you approach the top of a climb. This is not GPS-linked for gradient assessment, relying on driver input to view changing topography such as the crests of hills.

Once over the crest of the hill the Jacobs brake provides the first lever click of retardation, which then leads into three further grades where the intarder comes into play. Capable of generating more retarding power than the engine can produce at full song, the intarder and Jacobs brake combination is superb in holding the truck speed and then reducing it, even on the steepest of slopes.

PowerTorque’s drive route took in a couple of local landmarks to the South of Sydney, with a run down the Hume Freeway to Mittagong providing the pleasure ahead of grinding up Catherine Hill.

This usually splits the big block motors from the would-be hopefuls, but in the case of the Hino it powered up the first third of the gradient in 16th gear, dropped back to 15th gear with a low of 1200 rpm for the second 30 percent of the grade and then slotted back up to 16th for the remainder.  At 20 tonnes gross this was impressive.

Turning around at the Hill Top exit we trotted back up to Picton Road, headed for Wollongong and the challenge of Mount Ousley, both for the climb and descent.

The descent of Mount Ousley was handled by the combination of the Jacobs brake and intarder, without any suggestion of the intervention of the service brakes. The result was an effortless descent and one that certainly didn’t provide any concerns for the driver.

An about turn at Wollongong for the climb back up Mount Ousley northbound saw the rev counter showing a steady 1400 rpm as the gearbox dropped back to its lowest ratio of 13th gear, then flicking back up to 14th, 15th and then 16th with the engine peaking at 1800 rpm. Again, a very effortless and extremely safe manoeuvre.

When it comes to safety, the intarder is the big plus and with its ability to generate 400 kW it’s well in advance of what the engine can demand. The Hendrickson HAS 460 air suspension has reliability as its DNA and the cab has an impact resistance that conforms to ECE R29 for cab strength.  ABS is standard with drum brakes all round and spring park brakes on both drive axles.

The multi-media system can accommodate up to three different camera images of blind spots, while offering an optional satellite navigation system and telematics from Hino that provide accessible data for fuel use and average speed. There will be safety upgrades when this model is due for replacement, but currently there’s no availability of adaptive cruise control or autonomous emergency braking.

Despite the truck being extremely new, with only 3000 km on the dial, fuel economy for the day’s route, complete with its  well-known hilly section came in at 2.88 km/litre, suggesting that for a standard run in flat terrain the fuel economy figures of high 3.0’s and even 4.0 should be possible.

Overall, the Hino 700 showed its potential for handling workloads while competing on equal terms with the flashier (and more expensive) European alternatives.

It’s a sign of the times that 90 percent of orders for the 700 Series in the past 12 months have included an AMT transmission. Notwithstanding the ZF AS-tronic has an exceptional record, the TraXon is the next evolution, transitioning from an excellent transmission to an even better solution, and with the Intarder it wins hands down for efficiency and safety. The Hino standard warranty is three years, 500,000 km distance including roadside assistance.

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