Hino 500 FE

It’s safe to say that Hino is a leading force in the manual 14-tonne market, but that doesn’t mean there is no room for improvement. Up to 60 per cent of all units purchased in this segment are sold with a fully automatic or automated manual transmission, so the recent addition of an auto version could hold a lot of potential for the Japanese brand. But can it fill the gap from the outset?

For our road test, we’re taking the Hino 500 FE out in and around Sydney. There are just 1,000 km on the clock when we set out with our seven tonnes of payload, so everything – including the engine – is almost brand-new. The unit is rated at 14 tonnes, which would require the use of a driver’s work diary if venturing more than 100 kilometres out of town. If you don’t mind sacrificing a couple of tonnes of payload, Hino is also offering a 12-tonne spec to avoid the need for a logbook. But that’s not what we’re here for today anyway.

Today, it’s all about the gearbox. With a manual, stop-start and low-speed heavy traffic situations can often discourage shifting gears, which throws fuel efficiency out the window. Yet the auto will always make the right decision whether to shift or remain in a particular gear – so Hino did well adding it to spec sheet.

The standard unit for the FE is a six-speed all synchromesh, but it’s soon becoming obvious that the new option of a 2500 series Allison full automatic – equipped with a lock up clutch torque convertor – will appeal to a wider range of applications from construction to street sweeping.

The transmission has power and economy modes and we give both a good workout during our drive. In ‘Eco’ mode, the transmission will always keep the engine revs in the green band and upshift within that range even if the accelerator is held flat to the floor. Interestingly, the ‘Pwr/Eco’ switch is located to the left of the shifter – perhaps a deliberate play to place it out of the way and discourage drivers from using it too often.

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