Pete Cochrane

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R450 Next Generation

Scania R450 Next Generation Test

Tested 04/02/2017 – 07/02/2017

As a confirmed Scania fan, I have been looking forward to trying one of the ‘Next Generation’ models since the first spy shots and test vehicles appeared. The hype and PR for these vehicles has been exceptional and my expectations were high. The morning of the 4th of February was the first time I had even seen one close up, but I have read a considerable amount of documentation on them and since finding out that I would be trying one, I downloaded the ‘Next Gen’ app for my iPhone to learn as much as I could about it.

First external visual impression is that it has some interesting lines and needs creative graphics to enhance a plain colour. You can see the it is a quality product with close joints and well fitting doors that have a quality sound when closing.

First internal visual impression was a bit of a mixed bag really. I was impressed with the space on the passenger side of the vehicle compared to the Volvo, but the raised engine tunnel and cross cab access was a bit of a disappointment compared with the Volvo, although the centre console functionality was better than the Volvo. The ‘R’ cab still feels narrow and it doesn’t seem to be as high internally as the Volvo does. The driving position is nicer than the outgoing model and the visibility is excellent considering the size of the mirrors. The mirrors and for that matter the cab and chassis stay a lot cleaner than the Volvo does on the same run. When driving in spray you can see that the airflow around the vehicle is very efficient (The Streamline was good as well.) and seems to push it away from the cab and chassis, in contrast to the Volvo FH04 that is a very dirty cab with mirrors that get dirty very quickly.

Setting the vehicle up to drive was not as easy as the Volvo was initially and it will take a little while to get used to. Some of the functions and switches are either too complicated for the task or not as easy as they could be to find. However, by the end of the first day, it was becoming easier to negotiate the menu’s. One of the most annoying things is the hill hold defaulting to on when the ignition has been turned off. This cost me a significant penalty on the driver scoring system within the first mile until I realised what the problem was. A penalty that I didn’t fully recover from all day. I am a big fan of the driver scoring system ever since I used it on the previous generation of Scania trucks. I believe that it doesn’t matter how much experience you have, the scoring system will help get rid of or at least highlight bad habits that we all acquire over time. It can be very frustrating when the slightest mistake when braking or the unexpected action of another road user affects otherwise very good scores though.

The first day of testing involved pulling a fully loaded double deck trailer to Cumbernauld and then on to Livingston before returning back to base at Penrith. Conditions were wet and windy with occasional hail showers. On returning to Penrith, I moved the sliding fifth wheel closer to the cab as I believe it was too bigger gap. Before departing Penrith in the morning, I did raise the roof spoiler to try and compensate for the gap, but I think the gap between the trailer and the cab may have impacted on the fuel slightly.

On the journey North, I did have a couple of overspeeds due to letting the vehicle run as far as it could for economy. Later in the journey I began to use the downhill speed regulator a bit more efficiently on the upper part of long hills before letting it run out lower down. The retarder is also very good and I did notice that its use does help the braking score on the driver scoring system. The adaptive cruise control is superb in its effectiveness but I think it could be easier to find and engage! It is something you don’t need all the time and could have a detrimental effect on fuel if used incorrectly. That said on my journey fully freighted from Penrith junction 40 until coming off the M80 for Cumbernauld, I had very few reasons to touch the brakes, even through the notorious Raith interchange roadworks and down the steepest of hills on the M74, quite impressive.

Overall, day one was a familiarisation day to try and understand how it worked a bit better, mainly because this morning was the first time I had seen a ‘Next Generation’ Scania close up never mind sit in one and drive it.

Day 2

I was very impressed with the Scania today. My run started of in freezing conditions in Penrith. I had a single deck round edge Gray & Adams fridge fully loaded for Livingston. Just before Beattock on the M74, I ran into snow that was enough to close the outside lane of the motorway. The Scania feels more ‘planted’ on ice and snow than the Volvo. It does feel that your on the edge of adhesion with the Volvo in slippery conditions sometimes, but I didn’t have that feeling with the Scania. At Abington I decided to turn off the M74 and head for Lanark before turning off for Carstairs, Forth and Whitburn, then back onto the M8 for Livingston. The Scania felt surefooted on the whole route, which was very good considering the conditions. There is a particular bad bit I was concerned about where you turn right up a short steep hill. The Volvo sometimes needs its first stage diff lock engaged to stop wheel spin and as the Scania doesn’t have that, I was concerned it might struggle, but it took it in its stride and never slipped at all.
This route is single carriageway and of mixed terrain. The Scania coped really well and achieved 10.6 MPG at the delivery point, which is probably the best I have ever achieved with any truck using that route.
After tipping at Livingston, I used a cross country route toward Linlithgow and the M9. This route is all minor roads and incorporates the Avonbridge Gorge which is a tricky piece of road with steep descent and accents with a hairpin bend. It did climb this hill slower than the Volvo would, but I am beginning to think that the Scania is like the Mercedes Actros and performs better climbing hills on cruise control than by manually pressing the accelerator. Reaching my destination in Bridge of Allan, the Scania was sitting at 11.1 mpg, again a good figure. After loading 9 big pallets of Milk, I set off back for base at Penrith and had a solid 11.9 mpg when I arrived at the Golden Fleece for fuel. After fueling up, I only lost 0.1 of a mpg by the time I arrived back at Penrith. Most trucks lose at least 0.2 of a mpg, so to finish with a roundtrip figure of 11.8 mpg was very good as far as I am concerned.

Day 3

Today my trip was a full load in a square edged Grey and Adams single deck fridge, with drops at Cumbernauld and Livingston, then reloading out of Bridge of Allan with Milk. Traffic was very bad today with congestion everywhere, especially the Raith interchange road works that had a stop go delay for quite a number of miles. My scores weren’t as high as I had hoped by the end of the day. This was mainly due to very unexpected actions by other road users causing me to react in a less than smooth response to avoid a collision. Such is a truck drivers lot. My intention every day is to achieve 100% in every sector and I have achieved it many times with the ‘R’ series Streamline 450 that I drove a couple of years ago. In Eco mode, the slightest mistake is scored very harshly and as I stated earlier in the document, the driver scoring system is brilliant for sharpening your driving style no matter what experience you have.
During the day the weather deteriorated, with the wind blowing sometimes as a cross wind and sometimes head on and quite heavy rain and sleet at times. Also, my back load was 11 pallets of milk today, so a bit heavier. It must be noted that this truck is very new, so still very tight I think. Taking all this into consideration I think 11 mpg was reasonable result.

Day 4

The day could not have been worse for the final day of testing. While managing to maintain 100% in all driver scoring categories from Penrith right up to junction 6 of the M74 at Hamilton, it all went downhill from there on with heavy stop go traffic due to roadworks and accidents at various locations around my route in the central belt of Scotland. Apart from everything I have learned about the new Scania this last few days, I have also learned two major things via the driver scoring system. The first is as I have always known, that it doesn’t matter how much experience you have you can always improve your driving and that we all fall into bad habits that need rectifying. The second is how much bad driving by other road users impact on your driving scores, by not using indicators when changing lanes and taking out your safe braking distance by cutting in front of you without warning. Furthermore, that it is impossible to maintain the recommended safe distances between vehicles without someone cutting in and reducing it. My route was the same as yesterday but my back load was 15 pallets of milk, so considerably heavier, and yet the truck still returned 11 mpg even though most of the day was wet.

Conclusion

1) Without doubt, Scania and Volvo are the best trucks on the road and being a life long Scania fan, I have tried to be as objective as possible, mainly because the current Volvo FH04’s are very good fleet trucks. Both marques have pro’s and cons, but if I was to buy one for tramping operations it would be an ’S’ cab 500 with Eco and Std mode activated.

2) As I have stated in previous test’s, I consider Eco mode quite dangerous in busy traffic and believe it could catch a following driver out if not careful. I have noticed on a couple of occasions at different locations it cuts the power too soon and then accelerates again to take it closer to the descent. In these instances I don’t believe any fuel was saved because of the vehicle having to accelerate again after losing momentum. I also believe that a lot of drivers will just override the Eco mode and use the throttle to accelerate closer to the edge. To this end I think if I was to buy a new Scania, I would specify both Eco and Std mode. The Streamline I used to drive performed better when we added Std mode to the eco mode it originally had. Without doubt it does behave like the Mercedes Actros and does not pull when using the accelerator on even the slightest of hills. Yet engage cruise control and it transforms into a completely different truck and pulls brilliantly. Unfortunately this option is not always possible due to the type of road or traffic conditions you are in. I don’t remember the Streamline being like this in ECO mode. Maybe it would behave differently if it had standard mode activated. In the handbook it does describe Std mode as being suitable for most situations.

3) I think that a lower fifth wheel will let the truck ride better and because the gap between the top of the mudguards and trailer will be reduced and may benefit fuel figures. As I said earlier, I moved the sliding fifth wheel forward a considerable way, but believe it could possibly be moved a bit more further forward, again helping fuel. One thing I did notice is that the Scania has very good airflow around it, directing spray and dirt away from the cab keeping the mirrors and cab clean. This is in direct contrast to the Volvo that is a very dirty truck and is very difficult to keep the mirrors and cab clean.

4) While having a driver adjustable roof spoiler is a good idea, I think it would be prudent to find the optimum setting for the majority of a trailer fleet and then take the handles off, because otherwise you will have deflectors set at all angles and this could lead to a detrimental impact on fuel consumption.

5) One thing the Volvo does far better than the Scania is its ability to maintain progress in such as roadworks with average speed cameras for example. With the Volvo you can set the speed at 49mph and reduce the eco button to 1mph overrun and it will not deviate. The Scania does not allow that fine tuning between cruise control and descent control and even when you split the average will fall out of range and power.

6) While adaptive cruise is useful in some situations, it is not economical or practical to use it in all situations especially really heavy and unpredictable traffic. To select or deselect adaptive cruise control takes 5 button presses that briefly require you to take your eye off the road. To that end, I preferred not to use it in heavy traffic in case of some other road user making an unpredictable move that would endanger the vehicle.

7) Some of the switches are located in blind areas of the dash and are not logically grouped. Quite why you need 5 different rocker switches for interior lights I don’t know. Some of the switches hidden by the steering wheel are quite important and should be more visible. Particularly the Hill start switch that annoyingly defaults to on every time you stop the engine!!!

8) It should also be noted that I am not totally convinced at least without more testing, that there is a considerable fuel saving or that journey times haven’t taken slightly longer. I arrived at this conclusion by using my database that I record each days driving in. This database records fuel, mileage, time, weather, truck, trailer, pallets, deliveries and collections and is something I have done for many years to monitor what I do as a driver, but it does highlight patterns and it does show an increase in elapsed time without much of a decrease in fuel drawn at the Fleece. In fairness to Scania the driving conditions and the severity of congestion has not been good, but it does stand out from the majority of other days recorded especially as my runs are always the same, and certainly more days of consistent testing would need to be done to confirm it.

Wherever I have been with this truck it has generated a lot of interest, and while both Volvo and Scania trucks are prestige vehicles usually found in blue chip fleets, I do think Scania has the edge. As the saying goes: There are only two types of truck driver. Those that drive a Scania and those that wish they drove a Scania. I’ve been both!




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