Test Drive: Hino 700 Series
The inclusion of European driveline manufacturer ZF’s up-to-the-minute TraXon 16-speed automated manual transmission with Intarder has boosted Hino’s stalwart 700 Series variants to a standard not previously seen in Japanese heavy-duty trucks.
With the constant trickle of technology that’s been funneling into new trucks over the past decade, there’s the possibility that some trucks are now actually over-technologised for certain applications where simple practicality is often deemed more important than full-blown technical sophistication.
Consider the ubiquitous farm truck. With versatility being key, these trucks in particular can be one day carting cattle in a crate and the next day hauling hay on the tray.
While not usually clocking anywhere near the mileage of trucks in other freight tasks, farm trucks are heavily relied upon for various tasks and as such, reliability, durability and simplicity are often the most highly prized attributes.
Perhaps this is a significant reason why so many Hino trucks, some literally multiple decades old, are enduring farm-favourites right across Australia.
As such, it should come as no surprise that Hino is pitching its latest 700 Series FS 2848 AMT AIR 6267 body truck squarely at farm operations, among others.
Some still might prefer a manual gearbox, but after a recent test drive loop from Hino Australia headquarters at Caringbah in southern Sydney out over the Blue Mountains, Prime Mover would go as far as saying that the ZF TraXon AMT is the making of the Hino 700 Series.
In a nutshell, the transmission feels perfectly suited to Hino’s strong and willing E13C-VG 12.9-litre six-cylinder engine which produces 480hp (353kW) at 1,800rpm and peak torque of 1,591lbft (2,157Nm) at 1,100rpm.
It’s worth pointing out that between 1,100 and 1,800rpm the torque peak diminishes very gradually with almost 1,475lbft (2,000Nm) still on tap at the upper limit of the rev range. This bodes well for strong low- and mid-range performance, as verified during our test drive up the notorious Bellbird Hill on the eastern escarpment of the Blue Mountains.
Other features that help this Euro-5 rated engine perform well include high pressure common-rail injection, a variable nozzle turbo and selective catalytic reduction (SCR) to control emissions.
It’s also a salient point that while the 12-speed TraXon would have ostensibly been quite adequate for this application, Hino decided to go the whole hog and fit the 16-speed version, meaning the ratios are considerably closer together which comes in very handy when climbing steep hills and during other low speed operations. It also means that this truck – which doesn’t have the most prodigious torque rating for this class of vehicle – is, under suitable (read flat-ish) road conditions, capable of hauling a multi-trailer combination with a gross combination mass (GCM) of up to 72 tonnes.
With this in mind, Hino has wisely chosen a mid-range final drive ratio of 3.9:1, which delivers a gradeability factor of 32.4 per cent at maximum GCM and relatively relaxed and quiet 100km/h cruising at 1,650rpm. The gear ratios range from a 14.68:1 first to an overdriven 0.82:1.
After spending some time on Sydney’s M2 and M7 motorways (not within peak hours, by the way), Prime Mover can confirm that in our view the gearing is suitable for everything from long distance cruising to low speed work such as is required on farms. In short, the best of both worlds.
Another well thought-out feature that shows Hino is on the money with its target market is the 21,000kg-rated Hendrickson HAS 460 air suspension equipped tandem-drive assembly complete with inter-axle differential lock and cross locks on both axles.
This is in contrast to the 6x2 ‘lazy axle’ configuration – which Hino doesn’t offer with its 700 Series range – that provides advantages for mostly sealed road work. However, ambling across a muddy paddock is definitely not the forte of a 6x2.
With all diff locks engaged and eight wheels driving, the FS 2848 would power through adverse conditions that would leave a 6x2 truck wallowing in the mire – and its driver trudging back to fetch the John Deere for a tow.
While all these features are impressive in their own right, the icing on the FS 2848 cake was fully tasted on the way back down the mountain via the aforementioned Bellbird hill, which, along with its sister slope called Scenic Hill at the Lithgow end of Bells Line of Road, is among the steepest and windiest descents in Australia.
Put simply, using the word phenomenal to describe the combined braking effect of the engine compression brake and Intarder just doesn’t seem to do it justice.
Activated by a five-stage wand on the left of the column, first stage is compression brake only, while the second and subsequent stages progressively add more Intarder input.
The compression brake on its own provides a decent amount of retardation but dial in the full force of the Intarder and the effect is similar to a good shove on the brake pedal and will, in fact, slow the loaded vehicle to a crawl on a descent.
As the heavy rigid test vehicle toting a load of hay was grossing just 22.5 tonnes (well under its 28 tonne limit), for the most part stage three provided too much braking and stage two was about right to hold vehicle speed around the 40km/h mark in eighth gear at 2,000rpm.
Given this, it would seem plausible that with a trailer attached and grossing up to 42.5 tonnes, most probably a realistic maximum for this vehicle in hilly terrain, there would likely be ample retardation in the fourth stage on this type of descent.
A very useful feature of the electronically controlled TraXon transmission is the automatic downshifts – complete with throttle ‘blip’ to synchronise gear speeds – that occur as the vehicle is decelerating. In this way, approaching the crest of a downgrade the driver can apply the Intarder to slow the vehicle whereupon the AMT sequentially changes down until the desired road speed is reached and the Intarder subsequently holds the speed steady for the duration of the descent. As such, there is no need for the driver to intervene with manual shifts – the TraXon does it all without fuss, allowing the driver to concentrate fully on the road. In addition, when accelerating on a flat road, the AMT will skip shift two gears at a time.
So while this truck does not have all the bells and whistles in terms of safety features, with the standard Intarder it arguably has one of the greatest safety features of all. Provided the driver understands how to operate it correctly, the Intarder prevents potential runaway situations due to brake fade on steep descents. Another bonus is that, again with correct use, the Intarder has the ability to prolong brake lining life potentially for the life of the vehicle or at least one million kilometres. This, of course, would only be possible if the driver used the Intarder consistently to slow the vehicle which requires early anticipation and preparation. If this is done, the driver only needs to use the brake pedal for the final few metres before a stop.
Driver comfort is another strong point of this truck, with the taper-leaf front suspension and airbag rear working in harmony to provide a surprisingly smooth ride over some very ordinary country roads during the test. Also playing a big part is the ISRI 6860 multi-adjustable high-back air suspended chair complete with integrated seatbelt with pretensioner.
The steering wheel has generous reach and rake adjustments making it easy for drivers of varying statures to find a comfortable setting. Cruise control, a driver’s airbag, anti-lock brakes and front under-run protection are other features that enhance safety and convenience.
Without a doubt the most high-tech interior appointment is the multimedia unit featuring a 6.1-inch high definition touch screen. With DAB+ digital radio, AM and FM radio, CD and DVD, USB and SD card, the user is able to access digital pictures, video and audio files.
The system also features Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity with voice dialing and phone book functionality.
Optionally available are a reversing camera with a microphone and up to three separate views; and a truck-specific GPS with visual and audible notifications of prevailing speed limits and fixed speed cameras along with height and weight restricted roads.
Upon returning to base, a readout from the onboard computer showed the truck had burnt 80.2 litres of fuel to cover the 231km journey equating to 2.9km/litre (8.2mpg). Given it has a single square aluminium tank holding 390 litres, a range of around 1,000km is possible.
In sum, Hino’s FS 2848 AMT AIR 6267 has the goods to appeal to buyers who want a good performing, simple, safe, solid and reliable truck. The addition of the brilliant TraXon 16-speed AMT with Intarder has added a most welcome new dimension to its abilities, providing a much safer, more efficient and overall higher performing package, particularly when operating in mountainous terrain.