Test Drive

New Mack is impressive

READY TO HAUL: The new Mack engin is the most powerful available in Australia and is aimed squarely at the road train market.
READY TO HAUL: The new Mack engin is the most powerful available in Australia and is aimed squarely at the road train market.

MACK addicts will be able to get their fix on 685hp versions of the Super-Liner and Titan models, specifically designed for Australian road train work mid-year.

The new MP10 16.1-litre six-cylinder will be delivered with SCR emissions systems, which will provide excess cooling capacity for the worst the outback can throw at it.

In the US, the engine is sold with an EGR emissions system that doesn't require the driver to top up with AdBlue, which limits power to a max 605hp.

Last week I drove a development Super-Liner pulling a double road train from Adelaide to Port Augusta, where we added a third for the run to Coober Pedy. The trailers were full of supplies for Woolworths' Darwin stores.

Recent storms knocked out the rail link, so if it's going to Darwin, it goes by truck.

The new Mack engine is the most powerful engine available in Australia in a conventional prime mover, and is aimed squarely at the Aussie road train market. Mack expects it to replace the Cummins Signature as the big power and torque option for multiple-trailer users, apart from fleets that already have Cummins of course.

So far, every operator I have spoken to has lifted an eyebrow at the news, so there may be a waiting list for the new engine soon.

The beast develops 685hp and 3118Nm of torque - too much for even the renowned Eaton Roadranger manuals. The only box you can order is Mack's own mDRIVE 12-speed Automated Manual.

Although the engine architecture originated from Volvo's global powertrain design team, the Mack 16-litre is vastly different in characteristics and power delivery to the engine in the FH16 Globetrotter.

Twin air stacks and dual vertical exhausts replace the single air intake and ground level exhaust system on the Volvo.

Inside the cab the engine is remarkably quiet, but if you wind the window down and give it some throttle, you can't miss the heavy-duty Mack diesel clatter, followed by a turbo whistle that underlines how much power the engine is churning out.

We had around 90-tonne on the first leg, and a total nudging 110-tonne when the third trailer was added. Between Adelaide and Pt Augusta, road trains are limited to 90kmh. Beyond, the 100kmh limit applies to all trucks. The Big Mack had little trouble getting up to speed, no matter what it was pulling.

Mack has programmed the gearbox to start in first, or crawler gear on the road-train models, because the extraordinary torque of the engine plays hell with the clutch if it starts in the usual third.

As I wheeled the 53m rig out of the assembly yard and headed north, the gearbox selected the highest possible gear at each change, keeping the engine at the peak of the broad torque curve. I watched the gear display counter with some disbelief - 1, 3, 6, and then with the rig still accelerating steadily, the box jumped to tenth, dropping the revs to around 1150 and working up to a smooth shift to twelfth, where we got to a comfortable 100kmh cruising speed. Very impressive for a full load.

Mack's Gary Richards told me this engine gearbox combination was designed to use the widest possible rev range by always selecting the lowest possible engine revs. That alone should save a lot of fuel. Early results of comparison drives with a Cummins-powered Super-Liner indicate an average 1.1km per litre versus .9 for the Cummins. That's big dollars on the 6200km Darwin-return run every week.

No complaints about the Super-Liner cab either, it was very comfortable. But I missed a left side armrest, which I think is important to minimise steering wheel movement and cut the sway on the back trailer. Gary said it would be included on production models.

Late at night, in the middle of an empty starlit plain, we pulled over just north of Lake Beviss, to hand over to Malcolm, Paterson Bulk Transport's regular driver.

I left the Super-Liner super impressed with the truck's credentials for this uniquely Australian transport task. If I were looking for a new road train truck, the MP10/MDRIVE package would be at the top of my list.

Topics:  test drive

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