Isuzu FVR 1000
Isuzu’s FVR 1000 is a good solid working truck. Tim Giles sees how an Allison automatic gearbox performs on this truck in its natural environment, around the city.
With a maximum GVM of 16.5 tonnes, the Isuzu FVR 1000 is one of those models which forms the solid base of transport work in and around our cities. Using a steel suspension, both front and back, this truck is designed to handle a variety of tasks in any number of conditions and keep on coming back for more. By adding in the option of an Allison 3000 Series six speed fully automatic transmission, Isuzu is attempting to maximise the truck’s ability to take on the tougher tasks at the same time as maximising convenience, safety and comfort for the driver.
Prime Mover took the FVR out on the roads of Victoria to see just how well it stood up to the transport task without compromising the comfort of the driver. Running as a flattop loaded with heavy concrete blocks, the truck came out of the city of Melbourne down the highway to the streets of Geelong before heading across country to Bacchus Marsh and then back into the city for some more time coping with the conditions of the city’s urban roads and the never-ending traffic congestion.
Essentially, there is not much to tell about this truck. The cabin, engine and general specification are pretty much the same as they have been for the past three years, since the introduction of ADR 80/02. This is hardly a problem as when these ‘New Generation’ trucks were introduced in 2008 they were well ahead of the rest of the Japanese opposition, both in design and specification.
This particular model, the Isuzu FVR 1000, also serves to demonstrate the flexibility of the overall Isuzu strategy to cover just about every specification possibility a transport operator can come up with, in the light, medium and light-heavy duty segments of the market. Steel sprung trucks of this size are normally fitted with the most rugged manual gearbox available and probably will be for the foreseeable future. However, Isuzu knows there is an increasing demand for automatic and automated gearboxes throughout the truck market.
Climbing into the truck demonstrates just how far trucks like the Isuzu have come in the last 10 years or so. It has all the comforts of home, is easy to get in and out of and has power and specification to burn. This is a truck which will run at the maximum of 16.5 tonnes and it has 296hp (221kW) available at 2400rpm and 981Nm (724 ft lb) of torque available at 1450rpm. Even if the truck is pulling a fully loaded trailer and loaded up to its maximum GCM of 32 tonnes, it would be able to handle most transport tasks.
The 8L, six cylinder engine runs smoothly and quietly. This is due to the combination of electronically controlled variable nozzle turbo, high-pressure common rail fuel injection, fitment of cooled EGR and an exhaust diesel particulate filter. The kind of precise combustion control possible on a modern Japanese truck engine means this truck is pleasant to drive and with enough power available under the right foot to handle most situations.
Add in the new Allison 3000 Series auto gearbox, and the overall experience of the driveline is extremely smooth. The precise electronic control now possible within the electronics of the Allison means ratio changes are seamless and, coupled with a low-level engine note, often unheard. The combination of a torquey, responsive engine with a transmission, which is pulling in data from various vehicle systems, means quick changes at relatively low rpm levels are constantly being made to keep as close as possible to that maximum torque at 1450rpm.
The inclusion of an Allison auto in the Isuzu range does point up the failings of its own AMT gearbox. As an aid to comfortable driving around the city in a truck which is relatively lightly loaded, the AMT can be very effective. When the gearbox is pushed too far with consistent heavy loading in difficult country it can find it difficult to cope. The gaps in the ratios are sometimes too big and the driver has to intervene to control the gearbox manually when working the truck hard. There is no such issue with the Allison, these gearboxes are built to cope with constantly accelerating and slowing down while pulling heavy loads.
The Allison is very easy to control just by using the right foot. Travelling along at a particular speed, the driver sees the road rising ahead and they simply apply a little extra pressure to the accelerator. The transmission reacts immediately and smoothly selects the lower gear bringing up the rpm levels and avoids losing momentum when the truck hits the climb.
Conversely, when the truck is travelling along in traffic and it is clear to the driver the road speed will not be changing any time soon, it is possible to simply feather the accelerator and get the Allison to change up and bring the revs back down. This kind of ability to make subtle adjustments to the truck’s performance with small instinctive movements on the accelerator pedal creates a relaxed driving atmosphere for the driver.
Turning on cruise control and setting road speed at 100km/h can make driving even more relaxed but without such fine control as is possible with the right foot. Travelling along at 100km/h with the cruise control engaged, as the truck approaches a grade, sees it simply downshift as speed dictates, keeping the rpm levels to maintain torque and keeping the truck’s momentum going up the hill. However, after cresting the grade, when the truck wants to accelerate and start changing up through the gears, there appears to be a slight mismatch. For a split second, as the lower gear disengages and the higher gear engages, the engine is under power but the transmission is not fully engaged. At this point there is a blip in engine revs, rising and falling, as the Allison unlocks from one and then locks into the new gear.
One of the revelations resulting from the increase in electronic control of the Allison transmissions has been to turn Japanese engine brakes into something useful. Despite claims to the contrary, turning on the engine brake in most Japanese trucks provides the driver with a little retardation and a change in the noise coming from the engine. Now, the Allison picks up the cue from the engine brake control and immediately down changes to get the engine rpm levels up high enough to get the best out of the engine brake. All of a sudden, when the driver pulls on the engine brake it is genuinely effective and provides some real retardation.
This transmission is clearly set up with a transmission ratio and a rear axle ratio to suit city driving. It has been calibrated to cope with the constant stop start, traffic light to traffic light kind of driving most trucks in the city have to face everyday.
This means that at 100km/h, out on the open highway, the engine is running at well over 2000rpm.
If the application for which the truck was required included a high percentage of full speed highway driving then the manual option would probably be preferable.
As was clear from the outset, this cabin design for Isuzu does deliver in terms of comfort and, particularly, visibility. This is further enhanced in the flattop version of this truck with a rear window. Basically, the driver can see clearly all around the truck and avoid getting into sticky situations when surrounded by pedestrians or various pieces of equipment in tight loading and unloading situations.
Alongside the excellent visibility in these tight situations is the very positive response from the steering. Not only does it respond precisely and well, but it has been designed with a large enough wheel cut to get this truck in and out of badly designed loading bays and through random obstacles placed in and around loading areas with ease.
The layout inside the cab is well thought out with enough storage to keep most drivers relatively happy. In the space where the manual gearbox is normally placed, the Allison transmission controller is quite bulky. However, because of the well-designed cabin, even this obstacle does not prevent cross cab access for the driver. Moving about in many medium duty truck cabins can be problematic but this Isuzu performs particularly well in this area.
In a cabin that has been so well designed and does look modern and stylish, it is a shame Isuzu did not apply the same aesthetic to its choice of switches. Some of them appear to be more suited to fitment in a Ford Capri than in a modern, state-of-the-art, market leading truck like this.
The quality of the driver’s seat, which is fitted by Isuzu in these trucks, does make a significant difference to the driving experience. This particular truck, running on steel springs and fully loaded, handled the worst of the rural roads quite well at 100km/h. However, driving on those roads at that speed will still tend to throw the driver about. The amount of adjustment available on the Isri 6860 seat makes it possible to control this excessive movement. Adjusting the sides of the seat meant it was able to grip the driver’s back on either side and hold it in a comfortable position, even on the roughest roads.
Looking at this truck overall, it encapsulates what it is about Isuzu that has been so successful, in terms of providing vehicles to be used on the roads in Australia. Starting with a good solid platform, a basic truck design with engine, chassis and cabin proven in Australian conditions and specified at the right level for our market, Isuzu is constantly adding value.
In this case, the company is not just offering one truck for one type of application and another to suit something more robust. The FVR 1000 Auto is just a small part of what Isuzu offers at a GVM of 16 tonnes.
We are looking at a chassis and suspension design for ruggedness and coping with loads close to GVM. On the other hand we have a flexible, responsive and subtle driveline often associated with the lighter around town type of work. Isuzu has identified that there are customers who do require this mix of specification – and here it is.