Top Power From Sweden

There’s a lot of talk about trucks with top power from Sweden. However, the arrival of a new Scania V8 diesel gives Diesel News’ European Correspondent, Brian Weatherley, an excuse to examine the real-world demand for high-horsepower super-trucks in Europe. “Just don’t take it personally down-under,” says Brian.

I’m going let you in on a secret. I’m struggling to stay enthusiastic about high-horsepower, big-displacement diesels. There, I’ve said it. Considering how many words I’ve written about them in the past (including such clunking adjectives as ‘fire-breathing’ and ‘stump-pulling’) it’s all rather embarrassing. It dawned on me after having recently learned of Scania’s new V8 engine, launched at the same time as its G-Series, the latest in its ‘Next Generation’ of heavies.

‘A new Scania V8?’ I hear you cry. ‘What is it? 750hp? 780hp? Don’t say they’ve finally cracked the 800hp barrier?’ Sorry to pour cold water on the proceedings, it’s actually ‘only’ 650hp. For the record, it joins the Swedes’ existing V8 range sitting between the previous 520 and 580 ratings and the most-powerful 730hp version.

That new 650 ‘big-banger’ (sorry, old habits die hard) pushes out an impressive 3,300Nm of torque and, like the 520 and 580 ratings, uses the same SCR-only exhaust clean-up system as Scania’s 13-litre range. The top-rated 730 engine, meanwhile, retains both EGR and SCR to keep it clean and green.

Along with the arrival of the 650, which closes an obvious (and noticeable) gap in the V8 line-up, thanks to improved thermal management, better turbos and revised combustion and injection technology all of Scania’s Euro 6 V8s promise further improvements in fuel economy, something that will doubtless be welcomed by buyers. What they won’t be getting, however, is any more power.

Right now Scania is happy to stick at 730hp, and as for all those rumours (helpfully disseminated by us kite-flying journos) that the Swedes would use the launch of their S and R Next Generation models as an excuse to take the 16.4-litre V8 up to 800hp or more…well it didn’t happen. It won’t happen either, and that’s official.

In a recent interview with leading UK magazine Transport News, Bjorn Westman, Scania’s Senior Vice President Powertrain Development, dismissed all the speculation by saying: “We’ve no plans to go to 850hp. It wouldn’t make any sense.” He’s right of course. Sales of an 800hp plus chassis would be tiny compared with all the bread-and-butter fleet machines Scania sells throughout Europe, never mind the World. Certainly not enough to recoup all the engineering time and effort needed to strengthen the rest of the drive-train just to accommodate all those extra horses.

Nevertheless! There’s still an undeniable buzz to having ‘The World’s Most Powerful Series Production Truck’ in your stable, as Volvo does with its FH16 750. Only, while high-horsepower prime movers have big ‘visibility’ and big driver-appeal, they don’t sell in big numbers. That’s probably why I’ve started to look beyond all the hype, a fair bit of which has come from the keyboard of yours truly.

Chatting to a highly-respected market-watcher mate of mine the other day he reminded me that the UK market for prime movers with more than 600hp was around 0.5 per cent, while those sold with engines between 500 and 600hp amounted to little more than 14 per cent. The biggest volume by far of prime movers sold in the UK, almost 60 per cent, is still between 440 and 500hp. So if you were a British operator looking to buy a three-axle tractor for 44 tonne work tomorrow you’d likely be telling the salesman ‘I want it with 460…or 480hp.’ The story is much the same across the Channel where around 65 per cent of all the trucks (that’s both rigids and prime movers) sold in the EU fall within the 400 to 520hp engine range, while interest in anything above 530hp is equally limited.