Canter makes smart switch
THE AMT is dead. Long live the Duonic!
Well, not quite yet anyway, but Fuso dealers could be excused for yelling this from the rooftops and indiscriminately shooting rubber bands in the air after driving the new Duonic automated transmission in the Canter.
I spent a day or two with one a few months ago but I was converted within the first 400m.
In iPhone/iPad parlance, the Duonic is the killer app.
AMTs (automated manual transmissions) are the auto you have when you're not having an auto.
But why have a quasi- automatic that misses the most important performance feature of a torque converter, and that is zero torque loss on the change?
Other than dumbing down the driving process that is.
On light trucks especially, the delay between AMT gearshifts can be frustrating and certainly costs fuel when fully-loaded and heading up a hill.
Having said that, market leader Isuzu sells a huge portion of its trucks now with the AMT transmission, so obviously fleets have got the message about preservation of drive train and clutch longevity that can slash maintenance costs.
But all that is available with a full automatic, plus you get constant torque and (according to Allison Transmissions), zero downtime.
Fuso has gone a different route, and if the pricing is right, the functionality of the Duonic transmission beats every other AMT on the market stone-dead.
Duonic does its thing by using a twin-clutch set-up, similar to some of the more expensive performance cars and European imports.
As you accelerate, Duonic preselects the next gear so that when the change point arrives the next gear is in and is all ready to accept power.
There is a very slight difference in the change compared to an Allison box, but you have to listen and feel very carefully to recognise it.
The box has two modes, and the economy mode drops a heavy hand on shifting points and engine rpm.
Without some training, I think most drivers will avoid the economy toggle switch and have the truck performing with a lot more verve. In standard mode the engine revs freely but still keeps the change points close to the top of the torque curve, unless you have the throttle flat to the floor.
It did get confusing a couple of times though, especially if if you're accelerating and just before a change point you have to back off.
Then it juggles ratios for a second or two before deciding which is the best gear to be in.
But overall, Fuso have a winner with this feature. In fact I suspect the technology will work its way up the tree at Daimler Trucks and may even be seen in future editions of Daimler's heavier-duty marques.
Of course the new Canter enjoys feature developments in style, comfort and safety as well as the new gearbox.
Most importantly, the truck has been re-engineered for a super-low tare weight.
A smaller, lighter engine, and a chassis that is drilled like a colander means the Canter weighs under two-tonne naked, more than 430kg lighter than its closest competitor.
Dual airbags, ABS and EBD plus disc brakes all round complete the safety package.
However, if I were a fleet buyer looking at a range of trucks from either Japan, China or Korea, it's the Duonic transmission that would swing the deal for me.