Bring Back the Clutch

On one of the new models from Scania, the Swedish truck maker has decided to bring back the clutch. Man cannot live on prime mover sales alone – even if they do represent a massive chunk of the new truck market up here. As part of it whole range change, Scania have filled in the remaining gaps in its New Generation line-up.

Bring Back the Clutch

One new set of models is the new construction range badged as the ‘XT’, which broke cover last September. The initials apparently stand for ‘extra tough’, and the models undoubtedly look the part, being a mixture of mission-matched drive-train components underneath new cabs, with an exterior and interior makeover that emphasises their off-road role.

At the XT’s launch, Scania declared it wanted to win more construction industry business. It now has the truck to do that with. The most obvious clue to the XT’s off-road heritage is its all-new steel bumper assembly, which sticks out 15cm from the front of the cab, shielding the lights and radiator behind it. Improved approach angles offer further under-run protection, while the reinforced ribbed housing around the rear-view mirrors should minimise the damage caused by those annoying ‘mirror-on-mirror’ encounters with a truck coming the other way on narrow roads.

Meanwhile, for all those drivers who still demand a clutch pedal, even on an auto box, the XT’s Opticruise automated gearbox can be ordered with the optional ‘Clutch on Demand’ function, which allows drivers to manually operate the clutch. Scania says that this if for those conditions where “it is beneficial to ‘feel’ the traction being laid down, for example, when manoeuvring on loose surfaces in demanding off-road situations.”

To use Clutch on Demand, you simply press down on the reinstated third pedal. Once you’ve done using it, Opticruise reverts back to full-auto mode, working as a ‘two-pedal’ box, including when stopping and moving off. Clutch on Demand can be ordered on any New Generation heavy, but XT’s off-road operating environment makes it the obvious candidate for fitment.

Interestingly, rival manufacturers seem perfectly happy fitting (only) two-pedal autos in their construction chassis, albeit with specific off-road programs, including a ‘rocking’ function. But then, unlike ZF’s AS-Tronic, Volvo’s I-Shift or Mercedes-Benz’s Powershift 3, Opticruise isn’t actually a ‘fully dedicated’ auto transmission. Rather, it’s a regular Scania manual synchromesh box that’s been automated. And although its competitors dispensed with a separate clutch pedal on their autos ages ago, Scania clung on to theirs until 2009 before finally creating a two-pedal version.

So bringing back a clutch pedal on Opticruise, particularly as an option on XT construction models, is somewhat intriguing. According to Scania, the decision follows customer requests. I’ll be interested to see how many UK operators specify it.

Bring Back the Clutch

At the same time as it launched the XT, Scania also rolled out the P-Series, its urban distribution range. Sporting the smallest cab in Scania’s ‘modular’ system, the P-Series is intended for high-street delivery work – in the UK, that means with those operators running two-axle 18-tonners or 26-tonne 6x2s. Likewise, a day-cabbed P-Series prime mover with a 300+hp engine under the hood is your archetypal 4×2 ‘supermarket trolley’. P-Series shares the same exterior and interior styling cues as its bigger siblings, only in a smaller package. An eight-seater crew cab completes the P-Series line-up.

Finally, just before Christmas, Scania finished the job, unveiling a low-entry chassis cab called the ‘L-Series’, which will compete head on with the Mercedes Benz Econic, Dennis Eagle and Volvo LEC. Although Scania previously offered a low-entry cab model (based on the old P-cab) it never made a song and dance about it. Clearly that’s all changed.

The L-Series is the logical response to calls from within Europe, and especially the UK, for safer urban trucks that can provide their drivers with a better view of what’s going on around them, in order to avoid collisions with cyclists and pedestrians. Furthermore, the low-entry chassis gives Scania the perfect answer to Transport for London’s forthcoming Direct Vision Standard for heavy trucks working in the city, due to come into effect around 2020. (And it’s also being considered for those tendering for major infrastructure projects in Australia – Ed.)

As well as being an obvious platform for refuse-collection operations, the L-Series will also be offered to distribution, construction and waste-handling buyers. Its cab comes with a choice of three roof heights and, thanks to its standard front air suspension, the ability to kneel by 10cm at the kerbside, thereby reducing the cab floor height to just 80cm and the first step to only 44cm off the ground. The kneeling function operates when the park brake is applied.