Japanese heavy-duty trucks have come of age in recent years and the new Fuso Shogun is a prime example.
Its predecessor was locally called the ‘Heavy’, in its home market in Japan it’s called the ‘Super Great’ while the pre-production model we drove early in 2019 was known as ‘Project Black Panther’, which was slightly misleading because of that particular Fuso’s harlequin camouflage wrap.
Now in its final Australian form and available through local dealers, the adoptive name for the new big Fuso is ‘Shogun’, which is unmistakably Japanese and refers to the Emperor-appointed military leaders who commanded groups of samurai warriors for around 700 years leading up to the mid-1800s. ‘Shogun’ should prove to be an excellent choice of name for Fuso’s latest contender in the heavy duty truck sector as it equates to displaying qualities for being both a strong leader and for formulating strategies for success.
The Fuso Shogun was first shown to the Australian public at the 2019 Brisbane Truck Show after it had already been subjected to extensive local testing to ensure match fitness prior to being offered to the Australian market.
During the time since the Brisbane unveiling, the Shogun has undergone even more local testing and refinement and has finally been deemed ready to be offered to Australian customers.
The influence of this latest Fuso’s Daimler heritage is evident in many areas and can be as subtle as the Mercedes-Benz Actros-style steering wheel and triple element head light clusters, or as solid as the Daimler family driveline components.
Fuso management deserve kudos for the decision to include the comprehensive safety package as standard equipment for the Shogun. One feature is Proximity Control Assist which is the term Fuso gives to this version of Adaptive Cruise Control.
It’s very easy to activate and adjust and it provides a level of safety by actively intervening if the gap to the vehicle in front decreases to less than the setting chosen by the driver.
The Fuso Active Brake Assist (ABA 4) system warns the driver of a collision risk so the driver can take timely avoidance actions by braking and/or steering.
If the situation worsens, the ABA 4 automatically applies partial braking and if a collision becomes unavoidable full braking functions are triggered to mitigate collision damage. The system is also able to detect moving pedestrians.
The Active Attention Assist feature uses multiple inputs from the Shogun’s safety systems, including the lane departure warning system, to monitor the driver’s attention. For example, the forward-facing camera at the base of the windscreen can identify inappropriate lane wandering which presents a strong indication of driver fatigue.
A facial monitoring camera is mounted very subtly above the instrument binnacle and identifies when the driver’s eyes are closed for extended periods of time as a way of alerting for micro-sleeps.
The cab’s interior is practical and comfortable without seeming overly plush. This test truck is the 455hp version which brings with it the ‘Premium’ interior which includes stylish faux carbon fibre finishes on many of the dash surfaces.
An air suspended seat for the driver comes with multiple adjustments including a cam-style dump valve which is easy to locate and enhances entering and leaving the cab. The mirrors, meanwhile, are now conventional door-mounted units rather than the extended single arm bus style mirrors used on the Black Panther assessment trucks.
Also, of note, the key fob combined with a start/stop button on the dash is a first in a Japanese truck.
Various dash switches themselves have their own IP addresses so each can be relocated so that those most often used are closer to hand.
The multifunction 7.0-inch touch screen includes a truck-specific satellite navigation system and can accommodate vision from up to five cameras as well as having a straightforward Bluetooth connection for mobile phones.
The electronic dash with its digital instruments and multiple warning lamps is clear to observe under all light conditions.
As for the air-suspended cab, we’re happy to record a quiet environment with only muted sounds from the engine and a little pavement noise disturbing the silence.
The sleeper bunk is ADR approved and the air conditioning has adjustable climate control. The high roof version of the cab provides an additional 330mm of head room compared with the standard height cab.
The Shogun’s engine is the 11-litre OM470 from the Daimler stable and is available in two specifications of 400hp/2000 Nm and 455 hp/2200 Nm. It meets Euro VI emission standards by employing EGR, a DPF and Daimler’s BlueTec SCR after-treatment technology.
This combination of three complimentary systems of emission control should benefit operators due to a reduction in AdBlue consumption when compared with engines relying only upon SCR. Operating costs are also kept low thanks to the 50,000 km service intervals.
The impressive 340kW engine brake has settings for three stages of retardation. As the engine brake and transmission selector share a control wand mounted on the steering column, it makes the manual over-riding of downshifting easier to maximise the engine brake’s effect on the truck’s speed.
The resultant reductions in wear on service brake components will be welcome by operators. Even though the Shogun is a ‘two pedal’ truck the hill hold function is a handy safety feature.
The 12-speed automated transmission is essentially the same ‘ShiftPilot’ box which was previously fitted to the Fuso Heavy. In the Shogun application, the ratios remain the same, however the shift programming has been refined considerably.
The box has a crawler mode in which speed is regulated with the brake pedal instead of the accelerator and is perfect for connecting trailers.
The ShiftPilot also features a ‘rock free’ mode which assists in extricating the truck should it become bogged, although the two limited slip diffs and the power divider lock should see the Shogun able to make its own way back to terra firma without too much trouble.
Cruising on the highway, and loaded to just under a 40 tonne gross for our test drive, the torque of the engine combined with the shifting calibrations makes the Shogun seem quite happy to almost only require two gears: top (overdrive) and neutral (eco-roll mode).
This combination forms a key component of the Shogun’s fuel saving strategies. The standard diff ratio is 4.625:1 with an option for an even taller 4.222:1.
The 4.625:1 final drive ratio in the test truck helps the Shogun move quickly off the mark and employ some skip shifting while getting up to speed.
The rear air suspension can be manually adjusted using a remote controller on a stretchable cable located next to the driver’s seat.
A rear stabiliser bar reduces body roll without compromising ride quality and a leaf spring suspension is available as an alternative to the airbags.
To widen the scope of applications the Shogun is also available as an 8x4 rigid with Fuso’s proven load-sharing front suspension.
Globalisation can be a term with sometimes negative connotations, yet the Fuso Shogun is strong evidence of the many benefits that can be realised by the application of global thinking in the design and manufacture of modern commercial vehicles.
The influence of parent company Daimler is in strong evidence in areas such as the Mercedes-Benz/Detroit Diesel inspired drive train to the leading-edge suite of incorporated safety systems.
These, and many other features result in an efficient truck which is truly great to drive and, very importantly, provides a significant mantle of safety for cab occupants, other road users and even pedestrians and cyclists.
Heavy-duty Japanese trucks are now serious contenders in suitable applications such as regional single trailer work. To refer to the Fuso Shogun as a slightly scaled down version of the Mercedes-Benz Actros, as tempting as it might be, does an injustice to both vehicles. The Shogun, above all, is an excellent truck in its own right.