The latest Eurocargo can also be regarded as a highway hauling Iveco, according to Diesel Correspondent Paul Matthei.
Due to access issues and tight loading docks, rigid trucks are often needed for deliveries in metropolitan areas. However, these same trucks – connected to a pig or dog trailer – could feasibly be used for linehaul work hauling high-cube, low-weight freight, thus maximising truck utilisation without compromising driver comfort and safety.
This is the conclusion I came to after testing the ML180 on a run along the Cunningham Highway between Brisbane and Warwick. In a nutshell, it felt equally at home cruising the highway as when negotiating suburban streets.
The test unit was grossing 13.7 tonnes, just over four tonnes shy of its 18 tonne gross vehicle mass (GVM) as I pulled out of Iveco’s Brisbane dealership and pointed the nose westward on the Ipswich motorway. It was immediately obvious with the relatively light payload that skip-shifting in the bottom box was the order of the day. With this in mind, it was easy to conclude that performance would be sufficient if a trailer were attached. Iveco doesn’t currently specify a gross combination mass rating for this vehicle, however, instead preferring to advise customers about towing applications on a case-by-case basis.
The whole duration of the drive I couldn’t stop being impressed by the buttery smooth, short-throw gearshift which made swapping cogs a real joy. Once up to highway speed, I found the ‘sweet spot’ of 95km/h at 1,800rpm optimum for cruising.
It was at this point, however, when overtaking a slower vehicle and looking to pull back into the left lane that I realised the worst of two gripes I have with this truck – the mirrors. For some reason, both main and spotter mirrors are convex, which makes it impossible to judge how far you are past the vehicle you’re overtaking. So unless you’re passing a courteous driver who gives you a flash of the high beams when you’re past, you have to go well beyond the vehicle before it seems safe to pull back in.
It’s also bad news when backing onto docks because the depth of field in the mirror is distorted by the convex lens, meaning you’re likely to hit the dock buffers harder than you should.
In short, the combination of flat main mirrors and convex spotters is essential to cover all bases, and having two convex mirrors each side is plain wrong. Hopefully, since it should be dead easy to change mirror lenses, Iveco will sort out this problem pronto.
While on the negatives, it was also disappointing to find no sun visor or roller shade on the driver’s side window. And the main sun visor doesn’t pivot around to the side either. Having deep side windows with no protection from the wicked Aussie summer sun is a good recipe for a hot-under-the-collar driver.
It’s been suggested that both the mirror and visor issues stem from the European origin of the vehicle but for me this just doesn’t cut it. Iveco has vast experience in this country and knows well the unique demands of our market. It’s a shame that such easily rectified issues have been allowed to slip through the cracks.
Anyhow, suitably pacified with dummy back in gob, it was easy to enjoy the many positive attributes of this truck, not least of which are the amazingly comfortable and quiet ride and outstanding all-round vision due to the aforementioned deep front and side glass. The Cunningham Highway is notoriously lumpy in certain sections and the Eurocargo, with its well-damped, four-point coil-over-shock cab suspension, simply soaked up the undulations with aplomb. Kudos also to the Isri chair, which worked in perfect synch with the cab suspension. In my estimation, the ride was at least the equal of a few different brands of European prime movers I’ve driven over this stretch recently.
Coming up the climb to Cunningham’s Gap, a couple of downchanges saw progress hold steady at 50km/h in sixth gear and 1,750rpm until a slower truck on the steepest section close to the summit forced a downchange to fifth. On the return journey, where there’s a lesser grade up to the Gap, I was quite surprised to see the Eurocargo charge up the ascent in top gear, topping the rise at 55km/h with the engine still pulling keenly at little more than 1,000rpm – yet another example of prime mover–like performance from this heavy rigid.
I was eager to see how the engine brake would perform on the steep decline east of the Gap and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. After selecting fifth, with the tacho needle rising to just shy of the redline at 2,500rpm, it held 50km/h all the way down – without so much as a touch on the foot brake. Impressive! Interestingly, it did this without making any undue noise, which could actually be the reason some believe engine brakes on small trucks are marginal at best.
On fuel consumption, according to the trip computer readout, over the previous 4,400km with a number of different drivers the truck had averaged 3.83km/l (26.1 l/100km or 10.8mpg).
Alighting from the truck after the five-hour journey, I felt as fresh as if I’d just driven down the road – testament to the fatigue-reducing qualities of a supremely quiet, comfortable and spacious driving environment. It’s a feeling I’ve not experienced before when driving trucks of this size.
At the end of the day, it adds up to a truck with the ability to multitask rather than be confined to a single role. With today’s transport industry demanding optimum efficiency and productivity from equipment, there’s the potential for Iveco to steal a march on its competitors with this truck. Whether this is realised or not could depend on the market’s ability to see the value-added attributes as tangible benefits to business that are worth paying a bit extra for. As always though, optimum after-sales support is paramount in providing customers with the peace of mind that their significant capital investment will consistently keep earning them money over its lifespan.
To sum up, during this test the new Eurocargo ML180 exceeded my expectations for a truck of this class. In this role it consistently left me feeling it was a man doing a boy’s job and therefore capable of greater things if utilised to its potential. In short, ‘the truck the city likes’ was equally at home in the country.