Menu

13 litres and guts to go: Beyond Actros

13 litres and guts to go: Beyond Actros

Big Rigs

THE new line-up of Mercedes-Benz trucks in Australia lack one thing the same models have in other countries, the Actros badge.

Something to do with negative perceptions of the brand name apparently, but in Australia there is a return to numeral nomenclature.

So the Mercedes-Benz I'm about to climb into is now known as the 2653 - well it worked with the brand 30 years ago.

Hooked up to a B-double set of Vawdrey trailers and grossing 62.5 tonne, it's a bit of a twist to get out of the yard and the back tri-axle comes within a centimetre or two of wiping out 180 grand worth of Merc sport machinery so I back off and reverse around a corner. I can still back up a B-double, tick that one off!

With two security gates behind, we're away through the suburbs of Mulgrave hoping to find a legal B-double route.

 

Standing tall, the 2653 has improved aerodynamics and fuel efficiency coming from the low lugging 530hp six cylinder engine. Driver comfort and road feel in a nice balance.
Standing tall, the 2653 has improved aerodynamics and fuel efficiency coming from the low lugging 530hp six cylinder engine. Driver comfort and road feel in a nice balance.

It's a tall-riding beast this 2653, and as we weave through the streets of Melbourne it becomes evident quickly that there has been a lot of work done on this cab, no longer the swaying, sea sickness inducing cab of the previous model, rather the four point cab suspension is a hybrid of the old insulated comfort of Mercedes-Benz trucks yet with a firmness that gives good road feel.

The driving position is comfortable, a seat that can be adjusted in an infinite number of ways, a foot pedal that gives the steering column both telescopic and up-and-down adjustment and the new curved dash gives a contained feeling within the driver position, quite cosy.

But the dash is simplified over previous cockpit, with most controls now mounted either on the steering wheel or on steering column wands.

Even the old T-bar auto transmission lever has been replaced by a simple switch on the right hand wand.

Couldn't be simpler, click into D to go forward, click into R to reverse.

There is of course a manual overdrive and gears can be easily changed by upward and downward clicks of the same wand.

On the highway the big truck, and make no mistake this is a big truck, seems to take a while to build up to road speed.

I thought the 13 litre engine was labouring a little, but in retrospect we were on a long pull and I was still getting used to the jigger.

 

Riding high, the Mercedes Benz cruises the freeways through Melbourne's CBD.
Riding high, the Mercedes Benz cruises the freeways through Melbourne's CBD.

Once we got going the outfit had no problem at all maintaining road speed, keeping up with other cars and trucks so while not a 10-second miler by any means, the truck with the smaller engine compared to Mercedes-Benz's 16 litre big straight six, had more than enough guts to go the long miles in B-double distribution, intrastate and interstate work.

The German giant has done a lot of work in making the brick shape of a cab-over truck more aerodynamic, almost an impossibility you would think with this great high-rise cab.

They call it the StreamSpace cab and that is exactly what the company has tried to do, introduce streaming aerodynamics with the roof line sculpted back, an increased backwards rake to the windscreen, front air deflectors that push air around the cab, door extenders that maintain the slipperiness, and a lower front of the cab that pushes air beneath the beast.

The offset front axle brings the truck lower to the ground and chassis height is maintained at about one metre, all this gives a very slippery design and according to Mercedes-Benz the truck returns, per tonne kilometre, the best fuel efficiency on Australian roads.

 

While air flow is directed around the side, the rabbit bar affords little protection.
While air flow is directed around the side, the rabbit bar affords little protection.

This claim comes from extensive testing in selected fleets before the launch of the new product late last year.

As would be expected, the 2653 comes with a full safety package, with two cameras mounted on the dash to keep eyes on the road ahead and a bumper mounted radar transmitter/receiver.

This gives auto windscreen operation, automatic lights turning on, lane warning, brake assist for emergencies and an active cruise control with automatic stop/go function that allows the truck to travel in traffic with no input from the driver other than steering, slowing to traffic ahead, maintaining a safe distance and accelerating as traffic builds up speed.

This is a Euro VI truck, no options. Mercedes-Benz is buying into the future.

While other manufacturers hum and ha about moving out of Euro V and others use Euro VI as a marketing niche, the German truck builder has grabbed the emissions bogie by the neck, gave it a shake and said "here you are, we live in the future so take a Euro VI and its the most fuel-efficient, long life truck you'll ever get".

Of course all this has to be proved in real-world conditions, but the combo of SCR and EGR gives a nice truck to drive, and more efficiency brought to the game with the 110 litre AdBlue tank that gives a claimed running distance of more than 8000km.

 

The 26 metre B-double set and prime mover GVM 62.5 tonne.
The 26 metre B-double set and prime mover GVM 62.5 tonne.

 

BIG MOVER: Mercedes-Benz 2653, a 13 litre powered B-double prime mover, struts its stuff, and all Euro VI with 8000km AdBlue range.
BIG MOVER: Mercedes-Benz 2653, a 13 litre powered B-double prime mover, struts its stuff, and all Euro VI with 8000km AdBlue range.

The designers have attempted to create an ethos of three differing positions within the cab, the wraparound driving position as previously described, a resting position in the passenger seat with beige interior decorating to induce calmness, and the wide 750mm bunk is the third position for sleep, the bunk is without any cutaways and comes with a full innerspring mattress.

I've got in the swing of the new truck, getting a feel of its minor idiosyncrasies as we drive through the city of Melbourne, over West Gate Bridge and head towards Ballarat.

At a truck stop on the way to Ballarat, there time to take a look over the truck, and check out the vitals.

It has a bull bar, well a rabbit bar actually. The boys running west of the Divide would have a bit of a snigger, but I was quickly told that this was for East Coast running and heavier protection bars were available for those parts of the country that required them.

But the little bar did have some good points, it does not need to be dropped to open up the inspection panel where oil, coolant and washing fluid can be added at a comfortable shoulder height, all the checking now done on dash-mounted readouts coming from sensors.

More than an upgrade, the new Nercedes Benz trucks have the full package of aerodynamics and safety and the move to all straight six engines.
More than an upgrade, the new Nercedes Benz trucks have the full package of aerodynamics and safety and the move to all straight six engines.

The company is hoping that the improvements are revolutionary enough to claim significant market share from other European manufacturers, dropping the Actros branding as a means towards that end, and to be perfectly honest from a driver's point of view this truck is as good as there is in the European cab-over market.

It is up to Mercedes-Benz to battle against the other manufacturers on price and to continue and improve Australia wide service support and then the hoped-for recognition in mainstream market share could well come to pass.

Big Rigs