Further evidence of the globalisation of truck manufacturing comes with the launch of the new heavy duty range from Fuso. New engines, new transmissions and new technology are all included in the new package derived from other parts of the global Daimler Group. These new trucks can be seen as a stepping stone to further integration in the truck ranges available from different parts of the global organisation.
In a single stroke, Fuso has brought its heavy duty range bang up-to-date. By using a Japanese tuned version of well performing European engine and a smart automated manual transmission, Fuso has introduced a new model that is a match for any competitor in the marketplace, not just the Japanese.
On a recent trip to Japan, Prime Mover had the opportunity to take the new models for a test drive on the Fuso testing grounds at Kitsuregawa, 250km north west of Tokyo. Although this kind of trial is far removed from the reality of driving on the roads of Australia, it was an opportunity to get a feel for the new driveline being introduced on these new models and see how differently it performs to its predecessor.
The new engine is completely new to Fuso. It is the OM 457 engine used by Mercedes-Benz in a number of applications around the world. In Australia, it is currently available in a number of Benz buses and, at lower horsepower, in the Mercedes-Benz Axor. The power ratings to be used by Fuso are similar to those used by Mercedes-Benz in Europe in the Axor, where the model is used in a number of heavy-duty applications unlike those at which it is aimed here in Australia.
The OM 457 takes Fuso to a much higher horsepower level than has been available in the past with a top power rating of 455hp (335kW) taking it up to a position where it is in direct competition with the other three Japanese truck manufacturers in the heavy duty sector. The torque available also takes it into uncharted territory with the top power version of the engine putting out 2200Nm (1623 ft lb) of torque. This kind of torque rating puts the new Fuso Heavy ahead of the top torque available from some Japanese competitors and in the same range as other Japanese trucks.
There are two other power ratings available from this engine. One is the 360hp (265kW) which puts out 1850Nm (1364 ft lb) of torque at 1100rpm. The second is the 400hp rating (295kW) which is capable of 2000Nm (1475 ft lb – a class leading torque rating at this kind of power level. The introduction of these new engines has given Fuso a much more flexible and powerful engine range at the heavier end of the market.
The in-line six cylinder engine has been part of the Mercedes-Benz offering for around 10 years and has proven to be a reliable performer around the world. The version on offer here has been remapped by Fuso to suit its power and torque requirements and the kind of applications we use here in Australia. The engine does not need an EGR or a diesel particulate filter and instead uses SCR to meet the emission requirements of ADR 80/03.
The other newcomer into the driveline is the Fuso G 230-12 transmission, sold in Japan as the INOMAT-11. This is the 12 speed automated manual transmission based on the Powershift AMT sold around the globe by Mercedes-Benz. The ratios and shift points used in the constant mesh automated gearbox have been set up to suit the tastes of our market and others in our region like New Zealand, Singapore etc.
The changes to the driveline and the need to include the bigger cooling package for the new engine mean the look of the Fuso heavy range has changed. The cab is now set higher to allow room for more cooling and all of the new cab's front panels have been redesigned and modernised. Inside the cabin has a more modern look and also includes an information screen powered by the more sophisticated electronics of the new driveline.
All of this new technology is coupled with the reliable and workmanlike Fuso Heavy chassis which has served the company well for many years. For those Fuso customers for whom this level of driveline sophistication is a step too far, there is also a version of the FV model available with a 13 speed Eaton gearbox and a mechanical suspension.
Models tested by Prime Mover all used the new transmission and performed well in the limited testing available.
Climbing into the cab, it is clear this is a new truck, the new interior has a much more modern feel and turning the key and hearing the new engine simply reinforces this modernisation. The smoothness of the automated gearbox is as good as anything available from any of the Japanese manufacturers and better than most. Mercedes-Benz automated gearboxes have not been the most user-friendly over the years but Fuso has come on board at the point where Mercedes-Benz has finally got AMTs just right. The gearbox is both smooth and responsive.
All of these changes take Fuso out of the part of the market in which it was previously confined and opens up new possibilities for the brand. Before, power output and torque available meant the FV model could be a good functioning tipper but underpowered as a tipper and dog. Now, tipper and dog applications as well as intrastate highway work are well within the range of possibilities. This gives Fuso in Australia a chance to explore new markets for their revamped heavy range.
“This engine has been sold by the Daimler group in Europe, South America, around the world since 2001,” says Fuso Product Planning Manager, Kevin Johnston. “So the engine itself has 10 years history and a pretty good history too. We are very confident we will have, what we call, Japanese type reliability.”
The new Fuso Heavy range will cover the same configurations as was available on the previous models with a 4×2, 6×4 and 8×4 offering. All of these models will be available with the new engine and AMT transmission but only the FV 6×4 will have the Eaton 13 speed manual gearbox option. Other options are likely to appear over time including an Allison fully automatic transmission, especially in the 8×4, which is preferred by the waste disposal industry and also often used in mining applications.
Prime movers are all fitted with a FUPS and the cab design is compliant to the ECE 29 cabin strength testing standard. This means all of the prime movers are capable of being B-double rated. The 400hp version of the engine is available in the 4×2 prime mover whereas the 6×4 prime mover uses the 455hp engine. The longest wheelbase, 6×4, only requires the 400hp rating but the medium wheelbase for the FV 6×4 has a full choice of engines from 360hp to 455hp.
In the 8×4 models, there is an engine choice between the 400 and 455hp variants. The 8×4 also has the high roof option available as does the 6×4 prime mover. This option is a first for Fuso here in Australia, giving the company a more spacious cabin in comparison to the more functional cabin to which we have become accustomed from Fuso.
The initial impression of the new trucks is of a revamp of the old model. Approaching the truck, it clearly looks different and the clean cut lines of the new front panels give it a much more modern feel. Fuso now includes the transom window in the passenger door, similar to that introduced in the Fighter range last time around, this gives much improved visibility on the near side at the front of the truck. This visibility improvement compensates for the fact the cab is set higher to cool the more powerful engine.
Sitting in the driver's seat, a modernised appearance continues the impression of a revamped model. The driver information screen is well organised and gives the driver plenty of useful information. The controller for the AMT is a clue to the kind of changes which have been made under the hood and out of sight. It is simple and straightforward, pull back for drive or push forward for reverse. Flick it to the left and the gear changing can be controlled manually.
Turning the key confirms the existence of the new driveline. The engine note is smooth and quiet, clearly going about its work with ease. Pull the stick back into drive, release the brake and press on the accelerator and the new driveline comes into its own. Changing is smooth and precise as the power takes the truck quickly up through the ratios to the overdrive top gear. Unfortunately, for the purposes of this test, Prime Mover was unable to test the driveline with a load, but the kind of power and precise gearchanging available is quite obvious.
These new models appear to be a game changer for Fuso. In the past, the company was hamstrung by its lack of power and its basic offering. Now the Fuso customer has a choice between a highly developed driveline with a decent history and modern transmission or to continue with a simple manual to suit other applications.
This is the first real result of the integration with the rest of the Daimler Group we have seen here in Australia. It would appear the introduction of this new driveline for the Fuso Heavy is going to be nothing but a positive for a brand which has a well earned reputation and can now offer the kind of power and torque the modern operator expects from this kind of truck.