Once out on the road, the build quality of the new Hyundai Xcient prime mover comes into its own. There are no creaks and rattles in a loaded truck over rough roads and all of the controls are positive and well adjusted. There is a reassuring reaction to any action by the driver. The steering feels precise, the ZF AS Tronic AMT is set up to make the right gear changes at the right time.
The installation of the ZF transmission adds a quality feel to this product, as it does to the Hino 700 Series. It makes the truck work hard when it needs to and to take it easy when it can. It gets the required response from the 520 hp Hyundai engine which burbles away quietly under the cab in a very European style.
The engine is a 12.7 L in line six cylinder which is intercooled and turbocharged. The version on offer here puts out 520 hp (382 kW) at 1700 rpm. It achieves maximum torque of 2550 Nm at 1200 rpm. The engine is compliant with Euro 5 and uses SCR to achieve its emission control objectives.
The ZF AS Tronic gearbox comes with a very simple steering column control lever to allow the driver to intervene if necessary. On this test drive, out of Warwick in Queensland, down Cunninghams Gap towards Brisbane, before climbing back up the grade into Warwick, this driver hardly felt the need to intervene manually. In the main, the changes were made at the right time and in the right order.
Included in the transmission is the ZF transmission retarder which feels very effective and was fully tested in a fully loaded condition on the way down the Gap. At the start of the descent a low gear was selected in manual and the four stage retarder set to maximum. This proved to be too much retardation, although you can never really have too much.
Descending the grade, it was possible to run down a couple of ratios higher than expected and to toggle between position two and three on the retarder control, which sits handily on the right hand side of the steering column. To say this truck was comfortable coming down the Gap would be an understatement.
Clearly, this truck could run down a grade like this with a B-double on behind and be able to cope with the workload. There is enough here to make a driver feel secure at quite high masses.
The climb back up the Gap poses a different challenge to this South Korean product. The spec sheet tells us we have 520 hp and 2550 Nm of torque in our back pocket. The climb shows us it does include what it says on the box.
The combination of enough torque and a sure footed AMT like the ZF does a pretty good job of completing the climb. This is not the best performer Diesel has ever climbed the Gap with, but it is certainly not the worst either. Unfortunately, it was not possible to make a definitive judgement on the climbing performance as the truck was baulked by a slow moving heavy load before the final kick over the top of the climb.
At the end of the day, this engine and transmission combination proved to be in the same ballpark as its competition, which is where a new entrant needs to be to show it is competitive. The Xcient certainly seems to be that.
The truck uses disc brakes all round and includes ABS, ASR, hill start assist and something called vehicle dynamic control, a feature which is something we need to find a little bit more about in the future.