Featuring a smooth Euro 6–compliant engine and the option of a high-roof cab, Iveco’s ‘Big Little’ Truck, the new Eurocargo ML180 ups the ante considerably over its predecessor. That’s the opinion of Paul Matthei after driving a loaded example from Brisbane to Warwick and back.
Workplace health and safety (WHS) is a huge deal nowadays. And, as a person who has driven a variety of brands – both North American and European, throughout my 22-year driving career, I can vouch for the massive gains in driver comfort and safety that have been made over this period. With the Europeans typically leading the charge, trucks have evolved into increasingly sophisticated and safe pieces of machinery giving every responsible driver the utmost ability to do their job with the highest degree of professionalism – day in, day out.
There is a need for versatility and high utilisation in today’s truck and trailer combinations to cater for various applications. For example, 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 line haul 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.
With two wide steps and well-placed grab handles, entering the cab is easy and, settling into the top shelf Isri suspension seat with integrated seatbelt, I immediately sensed the ‘big truck’ feel. The impression was heightened (sorry!) considerably by the sense of space created by the cavernous high-roof cab – complete with sunroof – which, again, is quite unexpected in this type of vehicle. I must point out that the high-roof sleeper cab is an optional extra, but as a truckie who regularly spends long hours in the cab of a low-roof day-cab prime mover, I reckon it’d be worth every cent.
With bunk dimensions of 1,900 x 605 x 95mm, there’s a reasonable amount of space for sleeping, although it’s obviously more suited to those built for speed rather than comfort.
The dash layout and semi-circular instrument cluster are very similar to those of the Stralis and PowerStar heavies in the Iveco range, adding further impetus to the large lorry theme. All vehicle information is easily accessed via a column-mounted wand – yet, moving the eyes to the left – what’s this? A ‘pudding stirrer’ sprouting from the dash – what a novelty! I hadn’t driven a manual truck in years and actually really enjoyed the experience; it was in fact a touch nostalgic.
As far as manual boxes go, this one’s a pearler. The shift action is pleasingly direct, nicely weighted and super smooth, with no slop in the lever at all. It’s a ZF nine-speed synchromesh with an H-over-H shift pattern and well-spaced ratios ranging from a 9.48:1 first to an overdrive 0.75:1. Curiously, at 8.97:1 the reverse ratio is substantially taller than first.
It runs a four-bag air-suspended Meritor MS13-165 rear axle rated at 11,500kg with a ratio of 4.1:1, offering 100km/h cruising at 1,900rpm. For those doing mainly metropolitan trips, running an Allison S3000 five-speed automatic coupled with a 4.3:1 diff ratio is available as an option. The 7,100kg-rated Iveco proprietary front axle features parabolic leaf springs and stabiliser bar. Huge 432 x 45mm ventilated discs with floating calipers on both axles take care of braking.
As you would expect, there’s a raft of safety features, including anti-lock, anti-skid, stability control, hill hold, lane-departure warning and advanced emergency braking system. Tyres are 295/80R22.5 tubeless radials.
At the business end resides the sweet ‘Tector 7’ 6.7-litre six-cylinder mill turning out 280hp (206kW) at 2,500rpm in concert with torque of 1,000Nm (738 lb ft) at 1,250rpm. It uses selective catalytic reduction (SCR) to mitigate emissions to the miniscule levels demanded by Euro 6 regulations. The plastic AdBlue tank holds 30 litres, while beside it the oblong, polished-aluminium fuel tank has a capacity of 280 litres.