Trucks flying under the radar
MOST Aussie truckies don't get to experience the way Iveco's Eurocargo does its job, and that's a big reason the model sells well below potential in Australia.
Pricing aside - it isn't the cheapest option on the market - the Eurocargo looks after its driver as much as it looks after the load.
Four-airbag rear suspension is standard for the freight, and the cab and front-end suspension is so well-tuned that you'll be comfortable on the worst roads possible.
I spoke to an owner who carts cubic loads between Brisbane and Maroochydore.
His ML120 is a home away from home for him and he paid premium dollars for the Eurocargo to make sure he was comfortable in the "office".
His only regret was not buying the auto box option.
After driving the new Eurotronic box in the latest version, we can see that he'd be a happy man with this new and super-slick transmission.
Iveco has rationalised the components on Eurocargo to more closely match the task.
The Tector F4A six-cylinder engine is available in two ratings across the five models.
The Tector Euro 5 compliance was achieved with nothing more than a software change, as the basic engine was mechanically clean to start with.
Both models retain the highest level of primary safety in front and rear ventilated disc brakes and three-channel ABS (four on the ML160 and ML225).
On release the light versions had front airbags as standard but all models have now moved to parabolic springs for the front end.
The cabs are packed with comfort features including power windows, air-conditioning, Blaupunkt radio/CD, remote locking and an excellent ISRI air-suspension seat.
The mirror set is outstanding and includes convex, a spotter and an over the kerb mirror on the left hand side.
The main mirrors are powered and electrically heated.
I drove an ML120 loaded to a sandbag over 11-tonne, which featured the optional 9-speed ZF 9S-110 overdrive synchro gearbox.
This model was probably the most manoeuvrable truck I've driven in a long while.
As an urban delivery rig it is superb.
Power steering balance is set-up to give lots of assistance while still retaining road-feel.
Iveco have mastered the art of synchronising front suspension, cab suspension and seat, so you don't get the feeling that the three systems are fighting each other.
No matter what the road surface the Iveco tracked dead straight with almost no steering correction required.
Gearbox ratios made sure the Tector engine was always churning out the full 850Nm so hills were barely an interruption.
The ML160 at 14.5-tonne I drove next had the ZF 6AS-1000 six-speed auto box, operated by three simple buttons on the dash.
One click on the D button and you're on your way.
Holding the click locks the transmission in low as a crawler gear and two clicks allows skip-shifting if that's your thing.
A longer wheelbase, wider section tyres and a beefier front-end took care of the extra 3.5-tonne payload, so the truck actually felt pretty similar to the lighter version.
The transmission again kept the engine in the torque band although obviously with less gears the rev range was wider.
The only negative for me was that the brakes on both models needed quite a hefty push to really slow the trucks down.
No fade, but more effort.
The Eurocargo is suited to the professional operator or fleet that is making a long-term commitment to safety and overall efficiency of use.
A larger capital commitment at the beginning of ownership isn't the biggest obstacle on that basis.