ON A ROLL: The new model is a big step up from its predecessor in safety, engine, transmission, comfort and equipment.
ON A ROLL: The new model is a big step up from its predecessor in safety, engine, transmission, comfort and equipment. Contributed

New-look Hino 500 a 'winner on just about every front'

I WANTED to call this article, "Hino 500 - a lay-down misere”, until my wife reminded me that when playing the game of 500, a misere means losing every trick - although the term in everyday usage indicates an easy win.

So let's just go to the fact that this range of trucks is a winner on just about every front.

Hino invited the trucking press to Canberra to experience at first hand their totally revised entrant into the rigid truck market.

Hino's manager of product strategy Dan Petrovski's enthusiasm for this new range of trucks was such that I reckon he would have talked underwater - and it would have been worth diving under with him to listen to the massive changes that have taken place.

Design, safety, powertrain, transmissions and a world first in telematics have changed the Hino 500 dramatically.

Cutting to the chase, Hino is offering no less than 54 different vehicle specifications across the 500 range of FC, FD and FE models.

The FC is a short cab with the other variants offering either a rest cab with ADR42 sleeper compliance (for skinny folk only), or a crew cab.

Wheelbase options have also been expanded with a mind to the towing industry, in which Hino is a serious player.

Design-wise, the 500 is a good looking truck with chrome grilles on all but the base models. FD and FE variants pick up LED low beam lights with halogen highs, fog lamps and daytime running lights - an area in which some other manufacturers are lagging.

The interior is a big advance on the previous range.

The company has moved away from bland grey and come up with a nice mix of earthy and silver with pseudo carbon fibre inserts to make for a classy and inviting cab.

The plastics are hard, but should wear well given the life they will lead.

There is plenty of storage and oddments trays for log books and so on but I'd advise going to your local $2 shop and buying a strip of non-slip matting to lay in them.

This would be the only gripe I have.

Steering is adjustable for both rake and reach and everyone will be able to find a comfortable driving possie.

The big news here is that the 500 comes standard with an Isri NTS2 driver's seat.

These have more adjustments than my chiropractor makes to my back - and if I had one of these I wouldn't need him!

They are, quite simply, superb. If you care about your passenger you can order one for them as well.

To make life even more comfortable, you can now have air suspension if you want - and having driven both I'd opt for air over springs.

Instruments are clear and legible - the main dials having increased in diameter - with a large LCD multi information display screen (operated from the steering wheel) nestled between them.

Adaptive cruise control is also operated from the steering wheel. All other switches and dials have been thoughtfully and ergonomically laid out.

The dash features a 6.5” LCD that is ground-breaking and to which we'll return a little later.

Safety, both active and passive, is high on Hino's agenda with the new 500: adaptive cruise, lane departure warning (which is pleasant, rather than sounding like an air-raid warning), vehicle stability control, reversing cameras (in addition to the main, there is one each side activated by the indicator and are a great aid).

ABS, a pre-collision system which includes safety eye, traction control, autonomous emergency braking and pedestrian detection.

You'd have to be a real mug to get into any serious trouble with this suite of safety features.

Throw in a driver's SRS airbag, front underrun protection and improved cab strength and we have a truck that is top of the class in its safety features.

Powering the new models is a brand new engine - the AO5. And here is where four is more, folks.

This five litre, four cylinder has been developed off the larger - and very highly regarded - AO9 six cylinder heavy duty engine, a derivative of which powered Hino's Dakar Rally vehicles. The AO5 thrashes every output of the old model, from power to torque to fuel consumption.

It has a torque curve so flat across the rev range that Paul Keating would be inclined to repeat "what a beautiful set of numbers”.

It tugs strongly from way, way down in the rev range allowing cruising - and consequently improved fuel consumption - at lower revs.

The engine comes in a range of outputs which I won't list here for fear of reader brain fade. Suffice it to say that no-one would know it's a four-pot unless they looked under the cab. It also meets Euro 6 emission standards.

The AO5 is mated to either a 6 or 7 speed manual, an automated manual transmission (both with stop/start function), or a six-speed Allison 2500 series full auto.

Hino expects about 75 per cent of customers to opt for the Allison. I didn't try the AMT but the manuals were a breeze with a light, progressive clutch and distinct gates to slot into.

But really, the auto is the way to go.

The Allison is well mated to the engine, keeping the revs low in the band and on top of max torque.

Gear changes were smooth - not quite best in class but damn close. And it's an Allison, so it's going to serve you well.

On the Test Track

Day 1 was spent playing around with the truck(s).

First up we traversed a truck gymkhana, using the cameras to back through chicanes and around corners to a cardboard cut-out of Mark Winterbottom.

Thankfully the camera saved me from running Frosty down.

A series of witches' hats gave us a sense of turning circles and steering input and the side cameras allowed me to put the rear axle dead on top of the finish line.

Next we tried out the pre-collision safety function. Coming at a solid body at 50km/h without touching the brake pedal is a daunting experience.

The system warns you in advance with an audible beep and a quick jab on the brakes. If you don't respond, it then silently calls you an idiot and stops for you.

Hino says that, at this speed the truck will pull up in time with a full load aboard. Given this truck will spend much of its life in urban settings, it will be a life and/or insurance saviour.

Then we came to the (very wet) skid track where we played with vehicle stability control off, and then on.

Hanging the back out coming around the corners and drifting sideways halfway up the straight was a heap of fun, but we don't want to do it in real life conditions.

A tight S-bend had me run off the track more than once. On the open road, that could be a fence, a tree or a pedestrian.

Turn on the VSC and the difference in handling was astounding - the inbuilt systems bringing the truck under control quickly and safely.

They had to pry me from the truck afterwards to let someone else have a go.

The following day we headed out on the open roads through and around Canberra for some real life experience.

With nine trucks of varying size, weight and power, we gained a feel for the 500 across the range. Seating and steering adjustments cater for any girth and height.

Vision of controls and dash is excellent.

The mirrors are heated and electrically adjustable. Steering input is great; there is adequate feel to know where the tyres are pointing with just the right amount of power assist.

The Isri seat is brilliant.

With the trucks loaded to about 80 per cent they all performed admirably up hill and down - thanks to the standard exhaust brake.

Braking was progressive and fade free through some fairly tortuous country roads.

The Allison box is mated well to the engine, keeping the donk at fuel saving revs.

This motor is a ripper! You can feel its pulling power from the get-go.

You know it's there, underneath you but it's never intrusive. NVH is great.

No wind noise, no rattles, no squeaks. Looking around, you can see the cab has been well stitched together.

I'd happily drive this truck around all day.

Lastly, but certainly not least is the world-first of its type, multimedia screen in the centre of the dash. Most of us have cars with inbuilt sat-navs these days but this is way, way ahead of anything seen in a car, much less a truck.

Designed in Australia for Hino this intelligent device is virtually future proof - and we know how quickly things can change in the tech world. So, what can it do?

Firstly it is a sat-nav with trucking route maps.

No more running into South Melbourne's Montague St Bridge unless you're... well, let's not go there. Live traffic updates are included. Free quarterly upgrades come with it and, importantly they are downloaded wirelessly so no having to book into the dealer.

Spoken warnings when going over the speed limit beat a chime every time. Plug your UHF in and you can talk to any other driver in the fleet even if they're on the other side of the country. The screen map can also show you where your work compatriots are. You'll be able to use it as your driver log book, the list goes on and on.

The designers tell us that this little magic box will be able to do things that haven't been thought of yet and I believe them.

The Bottom Line

This is a great entrant into the medium duty truck world. Well built, following parent, Toyota's high standards.

Much improved power and torque, fuel savings, seating and ergonomics.

An easy and comfortable drive with a range of product to cover the medium duty truck market.

The highest priority on active and passive safety, a totally new level of multimedia, catering not only for today, but into the future.

Hino 500 series standard cab really is a lay-down misere in the best sense of the term.

Big Rigs

No dull moments for driver

No dull moments for driver

This truckie shares his stories from the good old days

Training needed to understand diaries

Training needed to understand diaries

Big Rigs readers have their say