Mid America, trucks on show

The Mid America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky took place last week and, as usual, had plenty of bling as well as new product on display. Reports from the show floor tell us there is optimism in the air among the trucking folk who attended. It would seem the industry over there is finally getting out of its post-2007 slump.

Here’s a beauty on its way to the Show and Shine at the MATS venue. It’s a 1980 Kenworth fitted with a Caterpillar 3408 V8, looking good!

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115% efficiency improvement

At the opening of the Mid America Trucking Show in Louisville, Kentucky, Freightliner is claiming its SuperTruck project has achieved a 115 per cent freight-efficiency improvement. The announcement was made as the SuperTruck was unveiled as the centrepiece of the Daimler stand at the show. Read more

New Freightliner boss

A new appointment to fill the vacancy left when Kristi Walker had to return to the US, for personal reasons, earlier this year, has been announced. Daimler has unveiled the appointment of Stephen Downes as General Manager, Freightliner Trucks, Australia and New Zealand. Read more

Penske buys major stake in truck dealer group

Amid speculation the Penske Automotive Group is planning to extend its reach in the commercial vehicle sector in Australia, by acquiring a number of truck dealers here, the company has made a major acquisition in the US.

The announcement was made this week Penske increased its stake in the Around the Clock Freightliner Group (ATC) to 91 per cent, taking over control of the operation. ATC is a heavy and medium duty truck dealership group located in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. Read more

Cutting costs with Kenworth

In the USA, all the truck buyers are talking about is fuel economy. At the same time, the Obama Government has laid out regulations ensuring truck manufacturers reach specified fuel economy targets by a series of set dates. It’s all about fuel economy, and truck and trailer makers are going all out to offer genuine fuel consumption changes in their current product, with more fuel saving technologies to come. Read more

Truck sales still soft

After a period in which truck sales figures have been depressed, the latest sales numbers for May, published by the Truck Industry Council, are not giving us signs of recovery, and are still down on last year’s figures. After a period where heavy duty showed signs of recovery while medium and light duty remained in the doldrums, the situation now sees all segments staying around the same levels and slightly below where they were 12 months ago. Read more

Shake-up for Daimler in Australia

Daimler Trucks here in Australia has gone through a change at the top as a part of global management restructure, throughout the group. The various brands and functions within the group will now be overseen by a series of General Managers. The Daimler Truck and Bus Australia/Pacific is now included in the remit of Daimler Trucks North America, based in Portland Oregon and controlling Freightliner and Western Star across North America. Read more

Freightliner concept truck for the ITTES

What’s a truck show without a concept truck? This year’s International Truck, Trailer and Equipment Show in Melbourne on April 3-6 will have the Revolution Innovation concept vehicle from Freightliner taking pride of place in the Daimler pavilion. The truck will be part of the festivities to celebrate 25 years of Freightliner in Australia.

The concept truck was first displayed at the Mid America Truck Show in Louisville, Kentucky a couple of years ago. It was build to show what could be done to the standard conventional cab in the future. It features a rear access door in the rear wall of the cabin and does away with the passenger seat, substituting with auxiliary seating along the back wall of the cab, able to turn into a bunk.

 

One of the key elements of the design is aerodynamics, the drooping bonnet provides a clean airflow over the front of the truck and side rearview cameras do away with the need for mirrors. The wraparound windscreen and clean cabin sides further improve aerodynamic performance.

 

The cabin interior is designed as a roomy day cab with provision for sleeping if required. Of course, the truck comes with full connectivity. There is an integrated tablet device in the cabin to control a number of functions and internet and entertainment connections included in the package. A full diagnostics, navigation and communication system is accessible in the cabin.

 

One of the fuel saving devices included in the design is a second drive axle which disconnects from the driveline at cruising speeds. This serves to reduce fuel consumption by reducing drag on the driveline when a second drive axle is not required. The system automatically changes the truck over from 6×4 to 6×2 as and when required.

 

With no major new models on display from the truck manufacturers a display like the Revolution will have the kind of ‘wow’ factor show visitors will be looking for when they come in through the gates in the first week of April at the Melbourne Showground.

The Coronado 114 … a new dimension – driven by Steve Brooks

New Dimension - Lead 4WEBDeveloped exclusively for the Australian market, the importance of Coronado 114 to Freightliner’s local ambitions can’t be underestimated. But while it looks great on paper, one of the big questions is how it performs in the flesh. After a long wait, STEVE BROOKS finally gets to find out.

From first look at the specs and a ‘touchy feely’ preview of the truck in August last year at Freightliner’s truck plant in Charlotte, North Carolina, Coronado 114 not only had my complete attention, but also a big swag of optimism.

This is, after all, the first Freightliner since the launch here in the late ’80s of the original and remarkably durable FLC 112 model to be purposefully configured for the Australian (and New Zealand) market. Sure, the 114’s fundamental cues obviously come from the Coronado 122 flagship but unlike its longer sibling, the shortened version comes in righthand-drive form only and as senior Freightliner operatives in the US were quick to point out, there are no current plans to offer it anywhere beyond our part of the world.

Emphasising the point further, Freightliner executives both here and in the US denied even the slightest suggestion of the 114 being simply a cut down clone of its bigger brother. Indeed, Freightliner insists there were four distinct design goals for this truck, all determined by the specific needs of the Australian market: a set-forward front axle to facilitate weight distribution compliant with Australia’s unique bridge formulas; a shortened 114 inch (2896 mm) bumper to back-of-cab (BBC) dimension to maximise trailer length; a cab and hood arrangement to accommodate a big bore engine within the shortened BBC; and an overall design package catering for a wide range of configurations and applications.

In short, a model that filled a gaping hole in Freightliner’s local line-up. Or more precisely, a model that filled the void in Daimler’s Australian stable created by the corporate assassination five years ago of the Sterling brand, specifically the 113 inch (2870 mm) BBC of the under-rated HX 9500 model.

Yet achieving these design goals obviously demanded a series of critical engineering tasks. For starters, the front axle was moved to a position just 756 mm (less than 30 inches) behind the front bumper which provides a frontal overhang substantially less than even the Argosy cab-over.

Meantime, shortening the BBC meant raising the aluminium cab about 50 mm (two inches) – a move which also provided significant cab and engine cooling advantages – and pushing it forward by around 200 mm (eight inches), thus allowing a big bore engine under a significantly shorter, steeper, one-piece fibreglass hood.

At this point it’s also worth noting that while both 114 and 122 Coronados carry a standard gross combination mass (GCM) rating of 106 tonnes, the 122 is available in ‘Severe Duty’ form and subsequently specified for GCMs up to 140 tonnes. However, as it stands at the moment, maximum GCM of the 114 will remain at 106 tonnes.

Parental power

It surprised no one, of course, that the first engine chosen for installation in the 114 was the 14.8 litre DD15 from corporate partner Detroit, rated up to 560 hp. What did surprise though was the announcement that the EGR-equipped DD15 would be the only engine available in the new model and unlike its Argosy and Coronado 122 colleagues, there would be no 15 litre Cummins ISX or Signature option in the stumpy conventional.

At the unveiling of 114 in the US last year, Freightliner’s local leaders – namely Daimler Trucks commercial vehicle managing director Kolja Rebstock and national sales boss Gary Wheatley – insisted that strong operator demand would be the only motivation for even considering the introduction of a Cummins option. More recently, both say there has been next to no call for the red engine so the likelihood of a Cummins implant now appears more remote than ever.

Of course, the Cummins absence precludes the availability of a 600 hp rating in the shorter Coronado but that may prove to be temporary with Detroit’s 15.6 litre DD16 SCR engine lurking in the shadows. In fact, we’ve already driven a trial DD16 at 600 hp in a Coronado 122 and with the engine sharing the same external dimensions as the DD15, it’s probably not a major engineering feat to fit the ’16 under the 114 snout. What’s more, engines with SCR emissions systems run cooler than their EGR counterparts, so cooling a 600 hp DD16 in the shorter Coronado for GCMs up to 106 tonnes probably wouldn’t be an issue.

And on the subject of cooling, a completely redesigned cooling package was developed for the 114. As we reported early this year, ‘Whereas the Coronado 122 runs a 1900 square inch radiator to meet the cooling requirements of a truck with up to 600 hp (Cummins) hauling gross weights to 140 tonnes, the 114 is fitted with a new 1700 square inch core which comfortably surpasses the model’s cooling needs and importantly retains Freightliner’s clever engine-mounted assembly for the radiator. Also retained are a nine-blade fan and one-piece shroud, with an air-to-oil transmission cooler forming part of the frontal cooling package.’

Development also included dual steering boxes mounted outboard of the chassis rails, revised mounts for the repositioned cab, and dual exhaust stacks mounted to the cab on slimline versions and on the leading edges of the bunk structure on sleeper models. There’s also an optional under-chassis single exhaust for specific applications but whether underneath or external, Freightliner’s exhaust design delivers a remarkably clear area at the back of the cab.

Importantly, plenty of attention was given to the routing and fixing of all hoses and electrical lines in a concerted effort to enhance reliability.

Additionally, the stylish chrome grilles on each side of the hood provide twin air intakes to the engine while up front the headlight and turn indicator are encased in the same housing rather than separate fittings. It’s understood the same light arrangement is now also being introduced on the 122 model.

At the pointy end, a front under-run bar sits behind a flat 400 mm (16 inch) deep chrome bumper, with Freightliner emphasising that both bar and bumper were developed to allow the front axle to be positioned as far forward as possible.

Likewise, fuel capacity was high on the agenda with a new underslung chassis crossmember purposefully designed to enhance tank combinations. Recent information from Freightliner shows tank arrangements totalling over 1800 litres on a long wheelbase 114 equipped with the premium 58 inch XT sleeper, and more than 1300 litres on a 5.15 wheelbase with the 34 inch mid-roof bunk. While we’re on the subject, 114 wheelbases run from 4.6 to 5.15, 5.3 and 5.6 metres.

Yet the 34 and 58 inch sleepers are the only two lengths offered on the model and it might surprise some that the 48 inch bunk available on the 122 is not carried over to the 114. Explaining the decision, Freightliner contends the 48 inch sleeper simply isn’t needed, with the shorter BBC of the 114 allowing the spacious 58 inch bunk to be used without detriment to trailer length in equivalent applications with the 122. Importantly, there’s said to be only a slight increase in tare weight with the bigger bunk on the 114 compared to a 122 with the 48 inch sleeper.

Meanwhile, on first impressions it can easily appear that 34 pallet B-double roles were Freightliner’s sole reason for development of the 114. But it obviously hadn’t escaped the brand’s attention that trucks such as Kenworth’s reborn SAR have achieved great success in applications requiring a conventional truck with a front axle pushed as far forward as possible. Consequently, while 34 pallet B-doubles are certainly on Freightliner’s hit list with the 114, company sources are keen to emphasise the new model’s suitability for everything from long single trailers out to 14.6 and even 14.9 metres (48 ft and 49 ft respectively), to 19 metre ‘pocket’ B-doubles, and truck and quad-dog applications where a set-forward front axle offers maximised weight distribution. And again on first impressions, it appears Freightliner has done its work well in developing a truck that fills and exceeds the void left by Sterling’s HX 9500.

According to the sales pitch, 114 also comes with significant advantages over cab-overs (including Argosy) specified for similar roles. Not least are better entry/exit to the cab than a ‘typical’ cab-over and perhaps most surprising of all, Freightliner’s contention that 114 is ‘safer in a head-on collision.’ Meanwhile, several sources have confirmed the new conventional also comes with a substantially sharper price over an Argosy equivalent, to the tune of more than $50,000 in one example.

By comparison though, development work on the interior appears to have been minimal. Still, there are at least new seats with integrated seatbelts and better adjustment controls, and in non-sleeper models there’s an optional ‘in cab’ battery storage arrangement under a wide, flat passenger seat which is said to save around 20 kg in tare weight over the standard battery cradle mounted outboard on the passenger side chassis rail. Obviously, the in-cab battery layout also frees chassis space for other items … maybe an AdBlue tank for an SCR engine!

Apart from these features though, along with effective cup holder ‘implants’ and a sporty white face on gauges, the 114’s interior layout remains largely derived from Freightliner’s Century Class.

Roadwork

Given that our first look at Coronado 114 was in August last year and repeated requests for a test drive on home soil were met with endless assurances of “soon”, the wait of almost nine months was a tad frustrating after so much early interest in the model. It’s to be hoped delivery times to customers will be somewhat shorter.

Still, at long last a well presented Coronado 114 with 15,000 km under its belt recently stood ready and waiting at Daimler Trucks’ Huntingwood dealership in Sydney’s western outskirts. Hooked to a Vawdrey curtain-sided B-double set, the complete outfit stretched just inside the 26 metre length limit and after contending with Sydney’s suburban chaos, the combination was run a few hundred kilometres down the Hume, then turned around and headed back to Huntingwood.

But even before turning the key, there are a couple of things about the truck that are undeniably confounding. For instance, the big, deep chrome bumper looks great and will certainly appease those with a liking for all things ‘Americana’, but from a more fiscal perspective it offers all the aerodynamic efficiency of a house brick. Consequently, the bumper’s impact on fuel economy surely must be negative, particularly at highway speeds. Meantime, comments about the slab bumper made last year at the US unveiling of the model obviously fell on either deaf or indifferent ears.

Freightliner, of course, isn’t alone in offering such a blunt bumper but when the brand’s ownership and promotion of North America’s only full-scale wind tunnel at headquarters in Portland, Oregon, is taken into account, it seems remarkable that a more efficient design wasn’t created. Go figure!

Moving on, it’s an easy climb into the cab and with a wide array of seat adjustments and an air adjustable tilt and telescopic steering column, it doesn’t take long to find a comfortable perch behind the wheel. But seriously, in an otherwise well appointed and relatively upmarket cab, the fitting of a budget plastic steering wheel hub is completely out of sync with the general standard of cab appointments. It is, in fact, beyond comprehension.

A cynic might suggest that because Coronado 114 was developed for Australia only, the classy chrome and leather-wrapped wheel fitted standard in the 122 model – which is sold in both Australia and the US – simply wasn’t warranted in the 114. But not being a cynic, I’ll suggest it’s just an unfortunate oversight and with a little encouragement Freightliner will soon be fitting the premium wheel to its newest model.

Fortunately, that’s largely where the gripes end and from here on it’s a report of a truck that this driver found a delight to drive.

It starts with a 5150 mm (203 in.) wheelbase, a cab attached to a 34 inch mid-roof sleeper, and a Detroit DD15 fuelled to deliver maximum outputs of 560 hp and 1850 lb ft into an Eaton RTLO-20918 18-speed overdrive manual shifter. Performance goes to the ground through a Meritor RT46-160GP tandem running a 4.3:1 final drive ratio, riding on Freightliner’s popular AirLiner airbag rear suspensioin.

Up front, a Meritor FG941 steer axle rides on taper leaf springs while fuel is contained in three cylindrical tanks – twin 378 litres on the driver’s side and a single 567 litre on the passenger side just rearward of the battery box. Alcoa rims shod with Michelin rubber were fitted all-round.

According to a helpful attendant at Marulan weighbridge, the combination grossed 57.84 tonnes with splits of 5.66 tonnes over the steer, 16.22 tonnes on the drive and 18.08 and 17.88 tonnes respectively on first and second tri-axle sets.

In overall performance terms, the truck rates extremely well and hauling along the Hume with 100 km/h ticking over at a tad under 1650 rpm, steering quality was one of the stand-out attractions. Direct and precise, there’s absolutely no inkling of kick-back through the wheel and overall road handling earns top marks.

Likewise, ride quality rates well while forward vision over the drooping snout is appreciably improved over its longer nosed sibling, with electrically adjustable mirrors including spotters providing a good view rearward. Gratefully, there was no vibration of the mirror heads.

Again, it’s easy to find a good driving position and seats provide firm support without being so hard to cause a numb bum, while line of sight to gauges and switchgear is clear and uncluttered. Critically, the integrated seatbelt is comfortable even when the seat’s going through its motions on rough roads.

However, rougher concrete sections of the Hume extracted an occasional banging of something on the underside of the passenger floor which to my mind was probably due more to a service or maintenance oversight than an intrinsic flaw.

As for stick work, gearshifts are sharp and direct with the lever ideally placed, at least for this driver. Also from a personal perspective, space and features in the 34 inch mid-roof sleeper appear more than adequate for one-up linehaul work. There’s ample storage space above and below the bunk and while anyone shorter than six foot will have no trouble standing upright, I’d be surprised if even the lofty types will get the feeling of being jammed into a tin.

Noise levels were, however, perhaps greater than expected, particularly considering Freightliner’s claims for high levels of sound and heat insulation under the 114. The thing is though, the engine in this truck sounded and performed noticeably ‘different’ to previous stints behind a DD15.

And as later discussions would divulge, this engine had in fact received Detroit’s newest electronic calibration, apparently refining performance and efficiency standards to new levels. The result is a deeper rumble and a bolder energy than those recalled from earlier experiences, leading to a performance which on the long southbound drag up Catherine Hill near Mittagong saw the truck briefly drop to 13th gear at 1400 rpm on the steepest pinch before picking up the pace with a split up to 14th.

Given the overall standard of performance, I’d be happy to keep the rumble.

Meanwhile, at the end of more than 400 km up and down the Hume, fuel economy of 1.57 km/litre (4.4 mpg) was probably reasonable, particularly with such a large flat plank of bumper bulldozing its way through the air.

So in conclusion, Freightliner’s Coronado 114 is a truck I found easy to like from the driver’s chair. Sure, there are undoubtedly a few features that could (and should) be improved and a few tweaks to detail that wouldn’t go astray, but the design goals have been largely met and with the right levels of support, this is a model with the inherent fundamentals to fill a big blank in the brand’s book.

From here on, the ball is squarely in Freightliner’s court.

 

New Generation Argosy Dressed for Success

Freightliner’s new generation Argosy is finally out of the box and with a striking new appearance, new engine and driveline options, a stack of new and improved features, all wrapped in a swag of newfound confidence by the folks at Freightliner, this Argosy is already being hailed ‘the best yet’. And on first impressions, it appears to be exactly that. STEVE BROOKS reports.

JAWS Strikes

Make no mistake, the importance of the new Argosy to Freightliner’s Australian performance cannot be overstated. Sure, new conventional models led by the premium Coronado are the spearhead of a rejuvenated Freightliner assault on the Australian market and executives within Mercedes-Benz Australia/Pacific admit they’ll be going all out to increase the brand’s coverage in conventional classes.

But again, make no mistake, it’ll be Argosy which will continue to forge the foundation for Freightliner’s Australian presence. In fact, Argosy already accounts for around 50 percent of all Freightliner sales in this country and the likelihood is that even with an increase in conventional conquests, this vastly reinvented version will maintain the momentum by accounting for at least half of Freightliner’s business.

So what exactly makes Argosy so critical to Freightliner’s local fortunes and perhaps more to the point, so successful given its well documented periods of disappointing durability dilemmas?

When it’s all boiled down, the simple answer is B-doubles. Whereas its bonneted brothers vie for business in a heavy-duty market congested with a motza of models from fierce competitors like Kenworth, Mack, Western Star and Iveco, Argosy is one of just two US-sourced cab-overs battling primarily for domination of the linehaul B-double business. The other contender is, of course, Kenworth’s K-series and collectively their grip on B-double roles remains unrelenting despite the best efforts of European brands.

Likewise though, competition between Kenworth and Freightliner has been brutally intense almost from the moment Argosy first set rubber on Australian soil in the late ‘90s, effectively ending Kenworth’s monopoly as the only all-American cab-over on the market.

And to be blunt, Kenworth had plenty to worry about! Argosy, after all, was an American cab-over with an unusually high regard for driver comfort and convenience, and most important of all, provided proponents of US equipment with a long overdue alternative to the long-serving K-series.

However, Freightliner’s local euphoria was short-lived and unfortunately for both the brand and those who eagerly jumped at the newcomer, a litany of durability issues quickly subdued the early excitement. Worse, America was snail slow in delivering the necessary modifications and the model’s reputation took a severe hit, sending many Argosy buyers back to the Kenworth showrooms from whence they had come.

Quietly, Kenworth’s local executives wiped the nervous sweat from furrowed brows.

Yet despite Argosy’s problems, several evolutionary versions over the past decade have done much to build reassurance and keep the classy cab-over firmly in the minds of operators. Consequently, the contest for B-double domination between Argosy and K-series has for the most part remained a neck ‘n’ neck struggle, with Freightliner claiming an occasional sales edge over its arch rival. It’s fair to point out though that Kenworth also enjoys considerable B-double success with a couple of purposefully designed conventional models.

That aside, there’s no question the arrival of the latest and by far most radical version of Argosy has come at exactly the right time for Freightliner. For starters, Kenworth’s launch late last year of the hugely refashioned K200 was a major achievement, finally bringing K-series into the modern world from a driver comfort and convenience perspective, and subsequently narrowing the ergonomic chasm between the two cab-overs.

Yet possibly the most beneficial factor of the new Argosy’s release is that it ends the life of its immediate predecessor, a model which some sources say has been one of the most troublesome and damaging in Argosy’s local history. The trouble, however, arose not from any particular problem with the truck itself but rather, the Detroit Diesel Series 60 EGR engine under the cab.

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To state a complex issue simply, Freightliner initially offered two engines in the previous Argosy – Caterpillar and Detroit Diesel, but following Cat’s callous departure from the truck engine business, Detroit’s 525 hp Series 60 EGR engine was left alone to do the hard yards. However, Series 60 and exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) were never made for each other and the Series 60 developed to meet the 2008 ADR 80/02 emissions standard was simply one durability step too far for an engine which for more than three decades had faithfully served a massive army of Detroit Diesel customers. Sadly, the final version of the iconic engine which had originally created an entirely new chapter in diesel engine design and efficiency, was probably the worst.

But out of those ashes, and tailored to comply with current and future emissions regulations, has come the new Argosy with not only Detroit Diesel’s new DD15 engine but also the 15 litre Cummins ISX and Signature ratings. For its part, the DD15 produces up to 560 hp and 1850 lb ft of torque while in Signature form the Cummins can be specified to 600 hp and 2050 lb ft.

And therein is the new Argosy’s greatest asset over K200: The ability to offer the choice of two engines whereas Kenworth offers Cummins only.

What’s more, in an obvious bid to capitalise on the corporate kinship of Detroit Diesel and Freightliner in the Daimler empire, Freightliner’s local principals make no secret of the intention to offer Detroit-powered Argosys at a sharper price than their Cummins counterparts. Not only that, but the Detroit engine comes with a standard warranty package extending to five years or one million kilometres, and that includes injectors and turbocharger.

Behind the grille

Yet the all pervading feature of the new Argosy is of course the striking chromed grille. It’s huge, heralding a dramatic redesign driven by a clever combination of new initiatives and lessons learned. This truck is much, much more than simply a model makeover.

But apart from an aggressive, even intimidating design which has already led to nicknames like ‘Jaws’, ‘the cheese grater’ and ‘Transformer’, the prime role of such a gaping grin is obviously to allow massive volumes of air to flow through the radiator and charge-air cooler, and similarly, an easy exit for heat and noise from the engine cavity.

As for the radiator itself, at 1650 square inches it’s the biggest in Argosy’s history and substantially larger than the 1300 square inch radiator in the superseded model. However, it’s worth remembering that to meet the increased cooling requirements of EGR engines, the previous Argosy also employed a 500 square inch secondary core mounted inside the passenger side mudguard. By any estimation it was an ad hoc fix to a cooling constraint created by the previous model’s inability to house a larger single radiator. To overcome the problem, Freightliner engineers raised the cab of the new Argosy by 50 mm, thus providing adequate space for the bigger cooler.

Importantly, the radiator assembly is mounted directly to the engine which, according to Freightliner, allows it to flex in sync with the engine rather than endure the contortions of a chassis-mounted design. Also in the revised cooling package is an 11-blade fan with a reduced fan tip-to-shroud clearance and a larger header tank, all amounting to a system which is said to have easily met the high cooling standards of Cummins and Detroit Diesel, and providing ample reserve cooling capacity for engines to meet future emissions requirements.

Meanwhile, the chassis has been also bolstered with frame depth now out to 283 mm, giving the new Argosy a standard gross combination mass (GCM) rating up to 106 tonnes compared to its predecessor’s 90 tonnes. Additionally, chassis rails are now powder coated for better paint adhesion.

In the driveline department, Eaton’s 18-speed transmission in both manual and automated form is the standard stirrer but gratefully, automated options now include the substantially smarter Ultrashift-Plus version controlled through Freightliner’s clever Smartshift wand mounted on the steering column. The other automated option remains Eaton’s Autoshift which retains a clutch pedal for starting and stopping, but it’ll be interesting to see how long it stays on the books given the far superior performance of Ultrashift-Plus.

Also on clutches, the new Argosy uses a cable actuated clutch linkage instead of the previous model’s mechanical system.

At the front end, a FUPS under-run bar is now standard to achieve a 6.5 tonne front axle allowance. Accordingly, a Meritor MFS-16 front axle is the standard offering complete with heavier capacity wheel bearings while further back, Meritor’s ‘Permalube’ drivelines have also become part of the standard package.

Behind the cab, the diesel particulate filter/muffler assembly is mounted vertically on a stout gantry behind the cab, freeing space on the chassis for plentiful fuel capacity in either square or round tanks, with quad square tanks available for maximum fuel storage. Square tanks can be further optioned with step inserts for easy access onto the chassis.

Again according to Freightliner, a great deal of work has also gone into strengthening and streamlining Argosy’s electrical components and systems. Starting with new dash gauges and a 185 amp Leece Neville alternator, Argosy’s reworked electrical architecture includes a new centralised ‘PowerNet Distribution Box’ to manage all electrical functions between the chassis and cab, an isolation switch fitted as standard equipment, a temperature sealed battery carrier behind the cab, and extensive use of conduit to seal and protect major power cables.

As for the Argosy cab, it still tilts through a generous 75 degree angle, contains copious storage cavities, and has lost none of its qualities for space and function, remaining available as a comfortable 90 or 101 inch mid-roof sleeper, or as a roomy 110 inch mid-roof or high-roof layout, the latter intended largely for two-up driving roles. Of course, entry and exit are second to none thanks to the remarkable swing-out staircase which, although problematic in early stages of Argosy’s life, has become the benchmark for workplace safety when it comes to cab-over entry and exit. It is optionally available for the passenger side.

Similarly, doors have been improved with a firmer detente to minimise accidental closure while there are also twin seals for better insulation from noise and dust. Further inside, Freightliner’s EasyRider driver’s chair is now finished in a durable black cloth trim, dash components are injection moulded from virgin (rather than recycled) materials for far better fit and finish, while cosmetically, faux timber furnishings and ivory gauges promote a premium image.

However, on the outside there’s far more to the Argosy cab than an aggressive new grille design. In fact, facial features of the vehicle are new in almost every area, with US engineers making extensive use of Freightliner’s full-scale wind tunnel in Portland, Oregon, to optimise aerodynamic efficiency. ‘The Argosy is designed to be more aerodynamic than a square-fronted conventional, as its frontal surface is shaped to push airflow around the sides and over the top,’ states Freightliner’s promotional material. The shape and style of the sun visor, for example, were finalised only after extensive wind tunnel trials defined the design which worked best with the 24 degree rake of the windscreen.

Likewise, aerodynamics are also said to have played a significant role in the shape and style of the new headlights, bumper and corner cowlings. Similarly, large deflectors on the front quarters are designed ‘… to provide a blanket of air above the front wheels, blowing spray and grime away from mirrors.’

On much the same tack, Freightliner says the flared bodywork above the front wheels reduces road spray to the extent that it meets B-double requirements and negates the need for spray suppression whiskers.

For now, that largely sums up the major elements of the new Argosy, except to add Freightliner’s assertion that since early 2010 all aspects of the truck’s design were subjected to rigorous testing in the US including brutal cab shaker tests, severe hot weather trials on long grades at high weights, all equating to the equivalent of around 2.5 million kilometres of durability testing. 

But is it enough? Well, Australian conditions will let us know soon enough but on first impressions this bold new Argosy appears to have a lot to recommend it, not least a history where critical lessons have been endured, absorbed and now enacted.

Here, it seems, is an Argosy fully and finally capable of realising its true potential.