More than a name change
With Iveco taking on the Australian distribution rights of the International branded ProStar from the American Navistar manufacturer a familiar name is returning to Australian roads. Just as the vehicles that were sold here as Cat Trucks had some differentiation from the Navistar product upon which they were based, the International ProStar is a different animal altogether.
The advantage of Iveco’s appointment as an Australian distributor is that the trucks, regardless of what the badges are, are now sold, serviced and supported by specialised truck dealers rather than construction machinery outlets that may have more focussed on equipment rather than trucks. Thanks to the use of major components from OE suppliers such as Cummins, Hendrickson, Eaton and Meritor, parts and servicing will be familiar to the Iveco dealerships as many are common to other Iveco models. All International dealers will also be authorised Cummins Dealers.
Adrian Wright, who oversaw the production aspects of Cat’s foray into on-highway trucks in Australia, has moved over to Iveco as International’s Engineering Manager and continues to head up the local engineering team, some of whom travelled to the US to re-evaluate virtually every important component and their suitability to the Australian market.
Just as the Cat Trucks sold here were more than a rebadged International ProStar, this latest incarnation is definitely more than a rebadged Cat. For starters, its 15-litre big bore Cummins engine is housed between the front rails rather than the Navistar Maxxforce or Cat ACERT engines.
Navistar designed the truck from the outset with the capabilities to be produced in either right or left hand drive configuration, so that fundamental architecture was already in place.
There was some early criticism towards the decision by Iveco to put together a tipper and dog trailer combination for media and fleet assessments rather than the usual B-double spec prime mover. The demand for tipping bodies and indeed trailers is at a peak thanks to the infrastructure boom Australia is currently enjoying and means that it takes some time to get the truck set up with the new Hercules Engineering tipping body and as the wait for new trailers stretches out for many months, a refurbished quad dog does the work of providing the realistic weights this type of truck can be expected to haul. But the wait was worthwhile as this is a typical application that really suits the ProStar day cab.
The ProStar is also available in an extended day cab form as well as the integrated sleeper cab model. The ProStar cab minimises aerodynamic drag due to its swept-back design with swooping nose, wrap around windshield, set-back A pillars and streamlined bumper and guards, which allow the truck to more easily, push through the air and therefore use less fuel. A wind deflector, integrated into rear top edge of bonnet, directs air over the windscreen and cab. The rear surface is covered with a flat black anti-glare coating. A light-weight person is quite capable of tilting the bonnet thanks to gas strut assistance. Aside from the aerodynamic benefits provided by the ProStar’s short, sloping hood and other cabin features, the design also provides for excellent forward visibility for improved safety.
The Australian ProStar cab is mounted 50mm higher on the chassis then the US counterparts, which provides a flat cab floor and only a slight intrusion from the engine cover. Although we tested a two pedal version there appears plenty of room for a clutch pedal and a relaxed location for the driver’s left leg. To achieve the critical 112 inch BBC (bumper to back of cab) measurement the cab is mounted in the most forward cab position available for the ProStar worldwide and is 250mm (almost ten inches) further forward than a typical US long-haul ProStar.
The doors are fitted with front quarter windows that can be adjusted to deliver plenty of fresh air or to deflect wind if the windows are wound down.
The Cummins X15 is an evolution of the ISXe5 engine and is available in 550hp and 600hp in the ProStar. The engine features an XPI (Extreme Pressure Injection) common rail fuel system, which operates independently of engine speed.
Our test truck is a 600hp version with the Eaton UltraShift-Plus 18 speed automated manual transmission with selection via a push button console mounted to the dash. The combination of the AMT and the X15 Cummins is enhanced by the ‘ADEPT’ package, which is a suite of electronic systems aimed at reducing fuel consumption by up to six per cent. The system utilises load, speed and grade sensing software, making minor adjustments to speed, power and transmission gear selection to take advantage of vehicle momentum for better fuel economy. Vehicles operating on undulating terrain will see the greatest benefit of ADEPT technology.
One of the technology systems is labelled ‘SmartTorque2’ which senses both the selected gear and overall engine load as a result of the gross vehicle weight, aerodynamic drag and road grade. As these conditions vary, SmartTorque2 determines the exact amount of torque needed to maintain road speed and eliminate unnecessary downshifts which results in steadier engine operation with more time spent in the fuel economy ‘sweet spot’ of the rpm range.
‘SmartCoast’ operates when the cruise control is enabled and the vehicle is coasting on moderate downhill grades. In this situation the engine returns to idle, leveraging the kinetic energy of the vehicle to maintain road speed, reducing the engine-fuelling state to improve fuel economy. When coming to a stop the transmission neutralises during the final few seconds to take load off the driveline and also help squeeze even better fuel economy.
Emission control on the X15 engine is achieved with a fully integrated Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) system. To assist with engine maintenance and diagnostics, the X15 also benefits from Cummins Connected Diagnostics, a telematics system that automatically processes fault code data, sending instant notifications from Cummins detailing probable root cause and providing recommended actions. The expert advice, delivered by email, app or web portal, enables the fleet manager or operator to make an informed decision about continuing truck operation and when to schedule a service visit for the most convenient time, thus maximising uptime.
Local expertise during the development has been provided by Cummins South Pacific in Melbourne, which was heavily involved in the installation and testing of the engine in the ProStar chassis. Cummins and International also worked closely on the vehicle’s cooling package to meet the demands of Australian operating conditions.
The rest of the driveline consists of familiar and dependable names including Dana driveshafts, Meritor axles and Hendrickson Primaax-EX air suspension.
The X15 has a three-stage engine brake, which, when active, emits a nostalgic rumble from the dual exhaust stacks. More importantly, the compression brake performs an excellent job of maintaining a downhill speed on the middle setting and providing excellent speed retardation when switched to the maximum setting.
The cab’s interior features quite classy air suspended leather seats for both driver and passenger, and a leather-rimmed steering wheel. The various buttons that control the operations of the truck and trailer hoists and tailgates are integrated into the dash and share the same backlighting as the other standard switches including the power divider and differential cross lock. The hoist controls are deactivated above 30 kph and the Power Take Off (PTO) is deactivated when the truck reaches 50 kph. Both of these settings can be customised to suit individual applications.
The combination of the latest engine technology from Cummins working in conjunction with the Eaton UltraShift and obvious aerodynamic benefits of the ProStar cab should quickly earn International a reputation for good fuel economy
The ProStar may not as seem as sophisticated as some others on the market but as a driver you quickly feel right at home and there is a genuine perception that this would be a hard truck to break.
“Aerodynamics makes a big difference to truck fuel efficiency,” says International’s local Engineering Manager, Adrian Wright. “About half of the fuel that the truck uses goes towards pushing it through the air, so if you achieve a 10 per cent improvement in aerodynamics this translates to about a five per cent improvement in terms of fuel economy. Compared to some more traditionally styled, flat fronted vehicles, the ProStar is as much as 10 per cent more aerodynamic. Even running some basic numbers, the fuel savings – and therefore cost savings – that can be made over the life of the truck are enormous.”
Iveco’s adoption of the International ProStar for the Australian market raises a question about the future of its own local bonneted truck, the Iveco PowerStar. Using a European Stralis cab set back on the chassis and a locally produced fiberglass bonnet the local Iveco operation has a conventional truck with a light tare weight that can hold its own in its intended categories. The result has been a good bonus for the driver with a European style interior and comfort even if the overall look is a bit Frankenstein-ish.