Diesel News took a trip up to Cairns the day after the new Mercedes Benz Actros models had been unveiled to a large audience of 260 potential buyers, against a dramatic background of burning cane fields with shiny new trucks emerging from the sugar cane to a musical fanfare.
This was a first chance to look at the new trucks as they would appear in truck showrooms. The evaluation models driven in a couple of tests, reported earlier in Diesel News, had matt black wraps to disguise the trucks’ true shape and lessen the overall effect of the all new cabin design.
The opportunity to drive the new trucks confirms the impressions gained in earlier trials. The new engines have transformed the feel of an Actros from the driver’s point of view. Where the response from the V6 and V8 engines of the past could feel ponderous, the direct response to the right foot from the new engine represents a dramatic change.
Couple this with a smarter AMT, the third generation 12 speed Powershift, and the driving experience is much improved. The torque available from the new engine makes the choice of shift points less critical and enables more flexible gear changing strategies to be employed by the system. It can be a bit unnerving, when driving a fully loaded semi through a small town in North Queensland, to see the AMT stay in 12th gear and let the revs die down to around 800 rpm to hold 60 km/h through the town.
All of the electronic controls and safety systems have become more integrated into the driving style needed to get the best out of the new trucks. It is possible to keep all of the control for the driver, but activating active cruise control does take a lot of stress out of driving.
The roads of North Queensland are not the best, far from it, but the ride in the new trucks smooths it out as much as possible. In the biggest cabin option, with its flat floor and four step climb to the driver’s seat, there is none of the slop and sway which could be felt in earlier Actros models of over ten years ago.
It has been said before and will, no doubt be said again, the Mercedes Benz brand has under-performed in the Australian truck market over a long period since the 1418 Benz had its heyday. With these new models the German truck maker has its best opportunity for many years to show us just what it’s made of.