MERCEDES-Benz launched the all new Actros range in Far North Queensland recently, following an 18-month local evaluation program involving 35 customers, 20 trucks, and more than one million kilometres.
The event saw hundreds of customers, dealers and media come together in Cairns, where the Actros range was displayed and later put through its paces.
What's most noticeable when you see these new trucks in the flesh, is their aggressive on-road presence and powerful stance, with the range topper coming in at nearly four metres high and two-and-a-half metres wide. Significant technological advances have been made within the range, centred around the efficient, high-performance engines and heightened safety features that come as standard.
The new range of in-line six-cylinder engines includes a high-performance 11-litre, 13-litre and the range-topping 16-litre that boasts 625HP and 3000Nm of torque. Mercedes-Benz claims fuel economy savings of up to seven per cent and an AdBlue consumption reduction of up to 40 per cent, and on-road testing of these trucks did show that the new engines are indeed efficient units.
A combination of the manufacturer's X-Pulse variable high pressure injection, and asymmetric turbo-charging system improves engine response and feeds in up to 30% more torque nice and low in the rev range.
Engine braking on the new line-up is extremely effective, offering up to 457kW of braking power, and you definitely feel it when the three-stage engine brake is used in phase three with all cylinders, the EGR and wastegate used together.
A focus on longevity was adopted with these engines, bringing in a bigger cooling system, one-piece steel pistons, stronger rods and a more rigid crank case.
The transmissions offered across the range are the 8-speed, 12-speed and 16-speed PowerShift 3 units, which shift 20% faster and incorporate a clever new crawler function for low speed work.
This gearbox proved intuitive across a day of testing, selecting gears quickly and accurately, adapting to changing gradients and road conditions.
Thanks to the low engine speeds required to keep you in the torque band, the clutch engagement zone has also been dropped, providing less wear and the potential to run higher rear axle ratios.
Safety features in the new Actros are well thought out and easy to use, with EBS, traction control and stability control assist as standard.
More advanced safety features included in the optional safety pack are Lane Keeping Assist, Proximity Control, Attention Assist and Active Brake Assist 3.
The Lane Keeping Assist worked well when tested and only kicks in above 60kmh, preventing it from becoming annoying around town.
Arguably the most thrilling safety pack feature to use in the new Actros was the Proximity Control Assist, which automatically operates the truck in stop start traffic as long as the stops are two seconds or less.
Despite being launched in Australia last month, the new Actros range was taken to market in Europe five years ago, with 200,000 now on the road so far covering an estimated 12 billion kilometres.
Following Australian testing, some local upgrades for the new Actros were introduced, including a locally-sourced inner-spring mattress, long range fuel tanks and a 6.1-inch touch screen truck sat-nav unit and sound system.
As is usually the case with European trucks, the interior is both comfortable and ergonomic, but the big Mercedes-Benz has somehow managed to take this to another level, offering one of the nicest interiors you'll find.
Mercedes-Benz Truck and Bus director Michael May said the brand is excited to bring the new range down under.
"We are excited to introduce the next generation Mercedes-Benz truck to our key Australian customers," Mr May said.
"We actually decided, not to release the product in line with the European product, we decided that we needed to test it locally.
"We've actually spent a lot of effort and time making sure that what we've done here locally meets out operators' demands.
"They have helped us put together a fantastic line-up of trucks that will deliver new standards of efficiency, reliability and comfort."
A big draw card is the 500,000km or five years free scheduled servicing on all new Actros prime movers (4x2 and 6x4), an offer that will be available for the next 12 months, including the best basic service plan which excludes wheels, rims and tyres.
Mercedes-Benz has launched with prime mover models focusing on metro, regional, B-double and road train work and will introduce rigid models in the second quarter of 2017, while all-wheel drive models will follow later that year.