A presentation in Melbourne this week has confirmed the Freightliner Cascadia is in Australia to commence a comprehensive testing and evaluation program in the lead up to its launch in Australia in early 2020.
Ever since the introduction of the Cascadia on the US market, back in 2009, there has been a lot of speculation about if and when the model would be introduced to Australia. There was talk of the truck being unsuitable for Australia. In North America it is sold as a mass-produced highway truck used as a generic prime mover to haul the standard trailers on smooth interstate highways at masses below 40 tonnes.
Freightliner in Australia had persisted with the older model designs like the Argosy, Coronado and Columbia. These are based on a vehicle platform which predates the development of the Cascadia, a design which integrates elements which are common across the Daimler truck family.
The success of the Cascadia in North America has seen Freightliner regain number one status right across the heavier end of the market, as it continues to grow market share to over 40 per cent in the heavy duty prime mover market. US interstates are populated with processions of Cascadias with a few competitor brands sprinkled into the mix.
Initially, the Cascadia is to be tested in its left hand drive form. This is an opportunity to test aspects like driveline and running gear while the right hand drive aspect can be developed and refined. The second wave of evaluation trucks will be right hand drive as Freightliner gets closer to the final specifications required to suit Aussie conditions.
As we are so early in the process, Freightliner are unwilling to be tied down to the specifics of what will be offered to the Australian truck buyer in 2020. However, there are some concrete factors which the company is willing to divulge.
The engines on offer will be the Detroit DD13 and DD16. Top power on the 16 litre is going to be over 600 hp, but how far over is yet to be decided. These engine choices match those available in the heavy end of the Mercedes Benz, which uses the 13 and 16 litre engines based on the same engine blocks.
Gearboxes on the initial test models are the Detroit DT 12, the North American version. of the AMT used in the Benz models sold here. This will be supplemented by an Eaton option both in the form of the 13 and 18 speed Roadranger, but also the Ultrashift Plus AMT.
One of the major selling points for the Cascadia in the US has been its frugal fuel consumption, something which Freightliner here hope to emulate in Australia. Its slippery streamlined shape is one of the factors, but this is complemented by the matching of the Detroit engine and AMT with a sophisticated electronic architecture, designed to wring out the maximum kilometres from each litre of fuel.
These electronics also mean the truck will have the capability to be optioned with the latest in safety technologies, either fitted as standard or available as an optional; extra.This increased level of on board electronics means the Australian arm of the Freightliner business will be able to capitalise on the latest technologies as they are released across the global Daimler truck range. Current Freightliner ,models miss out on some innovations as their electronic architecture cannot support them.
Talking to the Daimler executives at the recent unveiling it is clear the company is invigorated following the success of the release of the latest Mercedes Benz models and are hoping to get a corresponding lift in the fortunes of the flagging Freightliner brand at the point where the Argosy is phased out, also in early 2020.