STRALIS STEPS UP | Truck Review – Warren Caves takes the wheel of IVECO’s latest X-Way

Our drive evaluation centred on a Stralis X-Way fitted with the Cursor 13 engine rated at 510 hp (380 kW), and 2300Nm of torque available from a low 900 to 1525 rpm, coupled to a curtain-sided trailer and loaded to a GCM of 40,480 kg. The cab option was the Active Space Sleeper (sleeper and day cab options are available).

Immediately noticeable upon approaching the truck was the large, wide door opening to 90 degrees and the three generous step treads. Accessing the cab with three points of contact was simple, as was lifting bags to the seat and floor space for transfer to the bunk area.

The leather ISRI air seats (yes, the passenger also gets the full suspended seat treatment) were comfortable with ample adjustment for varying body configurations. In fact, these types of seats are rapidly becoming industry standard.

The main dash panel now features an intuitive display screen with menu options selected via the steering wheel function buttons to indicate information relating to cruise control, ACC status bars, fuel economy engine gauges, speedometer and more.

After an introduction to the vehicle by Emiliano Foieri, IVECO’s Heavy Duty Product Manager for Australia/New Zealand, I set off from IVECO’s Dandenong headquarters for the drive. Being a Sydney boy with only limited exposure to Melbourne’s environs, I immediately noticed the omission of  satnav, with just a standard single DIN radio. Touch-screen larger display units are more widely used these days, so in this case I was left to my own wits to guide the X-Way.

My route took me down to Cranbourne around some suburban light industrial streets, giving me an introduction to the HiTronix transmission. Gear selection and shift points were spot-on without any unnecessary juggling of cogs. The engine propelled the vehicle to the speed limit without fuss, and low-down torque was impressive thanks to the eVGT (Electronic Variable Geometry Turbo), as the Garrett turbo system combined with quick shifts to limit lag between ratios.

It should be noted that the transmission was left in auto mode for almost the entire 270 km test route, so I could evaluate the intelligence of the programming. It did such a good job that I never felt the urge to take over manually − apart from a few short manual shift stints, invoked mainly to try it out.

Once on the Princes Freeway and heading for my destination of Traralgon, the ability to get up to speed − even at almost full weight − was not a chore and the Stralis X-Way held speed well, cruising at 100 km/h at 1500 rpm. Upon commencing a climb, the transmission held gear ratios down to around 1100 to 1200 rpm, depending on throttle position, before instigating a downshift.

Gear selection is via the push-button switches on the centre dash panel, and manual shifting is possible via the right-side steering column stalk. Over the total distance of approximately 270 km, the indicated average fuel consumption figure on the dash display was 47.5 L/100 km (2.1 km/L), with an AdBlue use of eight percent; all fairly acceptable for a day in city traffic.

Cruising at highway speed gave me the opportunity to evaluate the Adaptive Cruise Control with its gap-setting function. The ACC monitors the distance to the vehicle in front using the radar detection unit mounted below the front number plate. The system allows the minimum distance to the vehicle in front to be selected from five options, displayed as bars in the central display screen in between the speedo and tacho. The system will then maintain a pre-set cruise speed, adjusted automatically to keep a constant, pre-selected distance to any slower vehicle directly in front.

The ACC worked well but can be problematic in a couple of areas (not limited to the IVECO system).

When driving along a dual carriageway, if a vehicle merges in front of you at an on-ramp and it’s within your set distance parameter, the truck will slow, even if the vehicle is only momentarily within the sensor’s view.

If this occurs at an on-ramp at the start of a climb, you may well lose valuable momentum that you would normally utilise to assist the vehicle in climbing the hill. Regaining that loss of momentum would obviously increase fuel consumption if it occurred repeatedly.

In similar fashion, when approaching a slower vehicle from behind, you can be disadvantaged if it’s not possible to effect an immediate lane change due to a vehicle next to you. At this point, the ACC will slow the truck down, often without the driver noticing. Once a suitable gap appears alongside and a lane change becomes available, the driver will have to compensate for the effect of the ACC and need to increase speed to complete the overtake. This can equate to having to spend more time in the right lane to complete the task, unless solved by initiating an early manual override of the system.

It’s a reminder that automated manual transmissions require driver intervention and typical forethought to ensure best performance. If the driver suffers from a brief loss of focus it’s easy to be caught off-guard and subsequently disadvantaged by a slower vehicle that has already been passed needing to be re-overtaken. These systems work well in some circumstances, but they remain reactive and not proactive, highlighting the need for skilled drivers and driver training programmes to get the most out of emerging technologies.

Manual intervention can also be required to prevent automatic and rapid deceleration if another vehicle overtakes and then cuts in within a short distance ahead of your vehicle. Unless the ACC is sufficiently savvy to judge the speed and increasing distance as the vehicle accelerates away from you, once again the initial radar signal may trigger a reduction in speed, even though safety is clearly not under threat.

The optional Lane Departure Warning system was fitted to our test truck, monitoring lane position via a mid-dash-mounted camera. The system did a good job and when deviating from the marked lanes, the audible warning via either the left or right speakers could be heard as a low rumble that was not offensive to the ears. The system can be switched off, which is what drivers tend to do when the emitted sound is too aggressive and annoying, negating any potential safety benefit.

Also fitted to the test vehicle was the optional Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), which quickly alerts the operator to any variance in tyre pressures, further reducing costs by catching flat tyres before they self-destruct.

The ride and comfort was as quiet and comfortable as we’ve come to expect from European-designed trucks. Vision is also excellent from the large windscreen, with all mirrors electronically controlled via the positional display in the main screen of the instrument panel.

The familiar Stralis cabin layout still works well, with the top bunk folded neatly up to the rear cab wall, and when dropped down it is accessed by a tuck-away ladder. The top bunk is adequate for a quick rest or a single night, but I wouldn’t like to spend much longer up there. It’s long enough, but the mattress is very stiff and the width is only just adequate. The lower main bed is better, still offering a firm yet wider mattress and definitely feeling more homely.

From the perspective of interior space, standing totally upright in the cab was possible for me at 181 cm (5’11”), with a little room to spare − so slipping into the Hi-Vis to start a new day would be a breeze. Keeping cool is easy with the climate control aircon system, and food and drinks can be kept fresh and cold within the under-bunk, slide-out fridge.

I’ve previously spent a year in an earlier Stralis, and found the cab layout very functional for overnight work and a comfortable working environment. All in all, the X-Way is quite a refined package from IVECO.

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