Selected trucking media were given a first taste of the Cascadia on Australian roads this week with a chance to drive two versions of the truck around the proving grounds at Anglesea in Victoria. These trucks are the first of many evaluation trucks which will be tested on Australian roads in the run-up to the launch of the model sometime in 2020.
This process is going to see over thirty trucks brought into the country over the coming months, before final specifications and model layout are decided on, for the public launch of the truck model which has been such a success for the Freightliner brand in the USA, where it dominates the heavy duty market with over 35 per cent market share.
In approaching the introduction of the Cascadia to Australia, Daimler are taking a very similar approach to the one taken in the lead up to the new Mercedes Benz heavy duty range two years ago, with plenty of prototypes and evaluation trucks on the ground and seen by the industry before the actual formal introduction of the truck to the market.
Diesel News jumped at the chance to drive the new truck at this early stage in its development. Final horsepower and torque ratings, axle ratios etc have not been formally set in stone, but a picture is already emerging of what we can expect when they go on sale in two years time.
The first two trucks on the road are both left hand drive and allowed to run as test beds on selected roads in Victoria. The next ones through the system will be right hand drive and able to range further afield and work in more varied environments. At the same time, a parallel testing program is running Australian specification models on US roads.
The first two off the rank are a 116 inch day cab Cascadia fitted with the Detroit DD13 engine, plus the Detroit DT12 AMT, the US adaptation of the 12 speed Mercedes Benz transmission, already on sale here. The second is a 126 inch day cab using the Detroit DD16 engine, also coupled to the DT12. The Meritor and Airliner backend would be familiar to current Freightliner buyers.
The power and torque figures also have a ring of familiarity. For the 13 litre, the power rating on the first truck into the country is 505 hp with torque at 1850 ft lb and the bigger DD16 is set at 600hp coupled with 2050 ft lb of torque.
What are they like to drive?
Getting behind the wheel of these test beds is a little odd. Driving a left hand drive truck on roads designed for right hand driving is always going to be problematic. Once the driver gets over this preliminary unfamiliarity, the rest of the driving experience can be quite seamless.
These trucks are designed to be driven with everything which can be turned on to auto, turned on to auto and this is the way to drive them. The basic controls will be familiar to anyone who has had a steer of the new Benz models, but the overall experience still has a distinctly North American feel.
The 13 litre has a tendency to rumble away in the background, but the more aggressive 16 litre has a distinctly Series 60 sound, but at a much lower level. Both are responsive and have bags of torque to get the job done, hauling B-double sets around the Anglesea track.
The most noticeable difference between these new trucks and their predecessors is the relatively low rolling resistance and willingness to run on. The truck will coast for a surprisingly long way once power is taken off.
For a more detailed analysis of the Freightliner Cascadia and an evaluation program update look out for an upcoming edition of Diesel. http://www.dieselnews.com.au/subscribe/