The relaunched Volvo VNX is the third new product introduction from Volvo in North America in the space of less than a year. It’s a model series for extra heavy and heavy-haul up to 125,000lb (57 tonnes) or, with specific application approvals, to as much as 225,000lb (102 tonnes) GCWR. For this it features high horsepower from Volvo’s D13 or Cummins X15 Performance Series up to 605hp and 2,050 ft lb peak torque.
Launched mid-March at Volvo Trucks North America Customer Centre adjacent to the manufacturing plant in New Dublin, Virginia, the VNX is a series of three models. These include: the VNX 300 which is a day cab configuration, the VNX 400 with features a flat-top 42 inch sleeper and the VNX 740 with the mid-rise, big 70inch sleeper introduced on the VNL long-haul model shortly before the end of last year.
On the VNX, the I-Shift is available behind the D13 engine which is rated 500hp and 1,850 ft lb. The Cummins X15 Performance is the other available power, available rated 565hp and 1,850 ft lb and 605hp and 2,050 ft lb, and gets the Eaton Advantage transmission combo which is an integrated powertrain with the Ultrashift Plus 18-speed.
For manual transmission diehards, there are two Eaton Fuller manuals, a 13-speed with an A ratio set and an 18 speed with B ratios. Drive axles are Meritor with Hendrickson tandem suspension.
The interiors are the same as the highway models with a comprehensive dash with controls all located in the steering wheel or within easy, and easily comprehended, reach. As with the other models, the cabs are impressively quiet with excellent sealing for the doors as we discovered at the track. Side glass is generous and the slope of the unique hood for the VNX creates very good forward visibility – important for a truck that will be working jobsites. The mirrors are also excellent, complemented by hockey-stick mirrors to the front of the hood.
Volvo says the total North American market for a heavy haul truck like the VNX is around 2,500 units annually but it is a market the company wants to play in as it is less price sensitive than other segments.
Volvo used to cover it with its previous VNX models with the D16, 16 litre Volvo engine, but that was put on hold around 18 months ago because Volvo’s share didn’t make the big engine a worthwhile proposition. However, the company is back and fully committed to the heavy segment in North America, taking orders now for a production start in the second quarter of 2018.
Several new features in the VHD construction chassis, not least of which are the crawler gear(s) in the I-Shift, meant a refresher over the off-highway course at the Customer Centre was well worth taking the wheel of a couple of examples. Most impressive was the combination of the D13 engine’s retarder and the deep reduction in the crawler going down a 21 percent grade. The engine held the dump-truck back perfectly. Climbing the grade was child’s play too, especially when the right technique is used.
On other “obstacles” like the high articulation course, the generally rough switchbacks and the off-highway roadways, the VHD impressed with a super-tight cab, no rattles and, considering one truck had a 20,000 pound front axle, a surprisingly good ride, thanks in part to the unique Volvo T-Ride tandem suspension. One great feature we found was the ability to have the engine propel the truck forward at idle speed, then accelerate it not with the foot pedal, but by progressively selecting higher gears. This is a feature that was developed for driving in stop-and-go traffic, but it works wonders on the rough and tumble of the construction site.