The new FM now has the Euro 6 version of the 13 litre engine and puts out 460 hp, from 900 rpm all the way past 1400 rpm. Truck design takes all or most of the worry out of pushing a truck too hard, these vehicles have been engineered and tested to be able to handle a heavy load, while maintaining considerable durability.
PowerTorque drove this latest FM as part of a comparison test drive, putting this model up against a 1968 Volvo F86. While driving the F86 was a lot of fun, it was also an opportunity to see just how far we have come in the last 50 years.
Sitting in the driver’s seat of the new FM, shows us it has a number of familiar features from its predecessor. The basic dashboard layout is about the same as it has been in the past with most of the controls in familiar positions. The adoption of a more upright cab design does mean that visibility has been improved. There is also a higher roof and more headroom for the driver.
This is a 2021 truck and turning the key fires up the quiet rumble of the engine and it’s simply a matter of hitting the button on the controller for the I-Shift AMT and releasing the park brake. Then we start off by pushing the foot down on the throttle, and there’s a smooth take off across the road train breakdown pad at Gatton in Queensland.
Manoeuvring out onto the highway delivers a present surprise. This particular model has the optional Volvo Dynamic Steering fitted and, as a result, the lightness of the steering is instantly noticeable.
The VDS has been available on Volvo trucks for some time, but has certainly not been universally accepted as necessary. The normal power steering is effective, but theVDS does bring a few things to the driving experience which lead to an improvement.
Firstly, there is the smoothness of the steering and its ability to return to a central straight-line position when the driver takes their hand off the wheel. Secondly, there is the more nuanced control system on this latest model which adjusts the level of assistance the VDS will use, depending upon road speed or driver preference. For example, it does all of the work when manoeuvring slowly, but puts in much less effort at 100 km/h out on the highway.
In PowerTorque’s experience, the real strength of the VDS comes into play when reversing a truck, especially something with multiple trailers. The quick response of the VDS to the driver input means it is possible to catch up with any any error in steering much quicker than it would be using normal power steering.
There is little need to comment much more on the Volvo AMT. It is a very smooth transmission which does its job extremely well. Meanwhile, the F 86 eight speed manual gearbox was a much more unforgiving proposition. Luckily, it is a synchromesh gearbox and there was no need to brush up on our rusty double declutching technique. In fact, after a few hesitant gear changes moving towards the highway, the muscle memory from back in the 1970s came into play and made changing quick and quite smooth. The gearbox layout and slack in the gearstick linkage did mean that there was the occasional wrong ratio selected, however.