The 2015 Mack Trucks Heartland Tour

By: Matt Wood


The Super-Liner and MP10 engine are a sweet performing combination. The Super-Liner and MP10 engine are a sweet performing combination. The Super-Liner and MP10 engine are a sweet performing combination.
The Heartland convoy rolls north out of Townsville. The Heartland convoy rolls north out of Townsville. The Heartland convoy rolls north out of Townsville.
The Trident isn’t really my cup of tea for B-double roles, but the MP8 loves a single trailer application. The Trident isn’t really my cup of tea for B-double roles, but the MP8 loves a single trailer application. The Trident isn’t really my cup of tea for B-double roles, but the MP8 loves a single trailer application.
A Kenworth tries to photo bomb the Mack Trident and Granite. A Kenworth tries to photo bomb the Mack Trident and Granite. A Kenworth tries to photo bomb the Mack Trident and Granite.
Mack Trucks Heartland Tour TradeTrucks6 Mack Trucks Heartland Tour TradeTrucks6
This 500hp Granite was a neat little truck to steer. This 500hp Granite was a neat little truck to steer. This 500hp Granite was a neat little truck to steer.
Which is nowhere near Tarcutta … Which is nowhere near Tarcutta … Which is nowhere near Tarcutta …
Encouraging. Encouraging. Encouraging.
Just the right terrain for a 16-litre donk. Just the right terrain for a 16-litre donk. Just the right terrain for a 16-litre donk.
It’s hard to believe that terry toweling hats were ever cool, just sayin’. It’s hard to believe that terry toweling hats were ever cool, just sayin’. It’s hard to believe that terry toweling hats were ever cool, just sayin’.

The Mack Trucks Heartland Tour has been rolling from dealer to dealer nationally opening up a chance to drive the range to a special destination.

 

Apparently we have the Scots to thank for the term ‘hair of the dog’. Back in the times, when it was fashionable to burn women for practising natural medicine, it was widely believed that placing a few dog hairs over a dog bite wound would prevent rabies.

I’m not sure how this translates to dealing with the self-loathing that follows a big night on the turps but it became very clear to me recently that a dog can indeed have a bite that exceeds its bark.

With the north Queensland sun burning into my addled cranium I considered the can of XXXX in my hand shrugged and thought maybe I’d put this theory to the test.

I must’ve been feeling ordinary indeed, because normally I wouldn’t be caught dead anywhere near such a noxious and foul brew.

Cavalcade

Mack has kicked off its Heartland Tour, a round-Australia cavalcade from dealer to dealer to showcase the heavy-duty Super-Liner, Trident and Granite models.

The previous day I’d had a chance to climb behind the wheel of all these trucks on a drive from Townsville to Ravenshoe on the Atherton Tableland.

The Mack line-up included a 685hp (510kW), MP10 powered Super-Liner hauling a loaded B-double combination on its back.

An MP8 motorvated Granite prime mover, a Trident prime mover and a couple of tippers rounded out the convoy.

Also tagging along for the ride was Mack the Transporter which never failed to be a hit with kids and adults alike when it rolled through town during the drive.

The Super-Liner certainly made a visual impact parked out front of the Townsville dealership. The big black beast sat glistening in the sun as we pulled in.

The Super-Liner has found favour with more and more B-double operators in recent times who are taking advantage of the extra grunt on tap from the 16-litre engine.

The 535hp (399kW) Trident is capable of the same job but in my past experience I’ve found the MP8 a little light on power wise for heavy double work.

 

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Big dog

As luck would have it, the big dog was going to be my first drive of the day.

This was the first time I’d driven the Super-Liner as a double. Before this I’d only driven it in double road train and single trailer guise.

The common cab superstructure of the Mack line-up means there’s little difference inside all of these trucks.

The lack of an integrated sleeper also means the sleeper-equipped prime movers still have a day cab feel from the driver’s seat.

But a twist of the ignition key fired the big dog into life and it was only a matter of hitting the right button on the mDrive gear selector to convince the 16-litre donk to get the drive wheels turning.

The Mack mDrive automated tranny has been quickly gaining acceptance among Australian operators.

Its Volvo I-Shift heritage means it’s a smooth shifting and decisive ’box.

As I rolled out of Townsville it behaved exactly as I’d expect it to, especially with a load on its back.

Heartland

The Mack brand does indeed have a heartland in the Australian interior.

The dog on the bonnet resonates with those operators that work in places where blowflies and bulldust proliferate and civilisation is a satellite phone call away.

But for a brand that also has its roots in the vocational sector models such as the Granite and Metro-Liner also feature highly on the Aussie market.

Both models can regularly be seen carving through the hurly-burly of capital city traffic on any given day of the week.

This would be the first time I’d taken the Granite model for a spin. But with the big maroon power plant idling away under that distinctive bonnet mascot, it was time to head north on the Bruce Highway and get reacquainted with the Super-Liner’s integrated driveline.

There’s less aural drama with the Mack product these days, the Volvo Group driveline has taken some of the growl out of the beast.

But the driving experience for the most part manages to straddle the line between an engaging drive while still cosseting the driver.

There are plenty who’ll throw rocks from the sidelines calling the modern day Mack a ‘Molvo’ while pining for the old days of a thundering V8; the defining bark of a dog on heat that echoes though the brand’s history books.

 

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Integrated driveline

Time has marched on for all truck makers, emissions regulations and the pursuit of fuel economy has forced massive changes in truck engines over the past 15 years. And ADR80/03 emissions have changed the characteristics of truck engines for ever.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a current engine that drives anything like some of its predecessors.

Around the globe some of the biggest names in truck manufacturing have been moving further down the vertical integration track when it comes to their drivelines.

Technology sharing across the big OEMs will see that trend continue. Those days of a set of twin choofers blowing fuel smoke into the sky are gone and will never return.

That said the MP10 emitted a satisfying rumble as I got up to speed on the open road.

There’s a faint torque thrum through the cab when the engine is digging its claws into the asphalt.

The Super-Liner remains a comfortable and relatively quiet steed even when it is working hard.

The Mack team reckon this rig was grossing in the vicinity of 60 tonnes. Once cruising I was able to assume the time-honoured driving position of elbow on the door sill and lean into the camber of the road with ease.

Granite time

Our first stop saw me ejected from the flagship in favour of a day cab Granite prime mover.

Jumping between trucks across the Mack range is an easy ask as they’re all pretty much the same to operate.

The 500hp (373kW) MP8 may be a step down from the 16-litre Super-Liner but with a partially loaded display trailer on its back the round town runner had no performance issues as we got rolling again.

I’m sure the guys at Mack get sick of me saying this but my real beef with the line-up is the cab.

There’s no shortage of high-rise integrated sleeper-equipped conventionals on the Aussie market and Mack is severely hamstrung in this regard. However, the performance of the integrated driveline does compensate for this to a certain extent.

 

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Grabbing a Grade

Of all the Mack range the Trident is the model that I’ve spent the most time with. To my mind it makes a much civilised single trailer hauler.

Though the Trident prime mover I found myself behind the wheel of didn’t like me very much at all.

A fault with the rather well named Grade Grabber function (hill hold) saw a very annoying alarm go off at times, which was kind of like driving with someone sticking a knitting needle in your ear.

The Trident and Granite tippers that were along for the ride were empty so needless to say that without dog trailers on the back both trucks performed and handled like sports cars.

The cane fields that had been rolling past the window for most of the trip eventually gave way to rolling hills as we started to climb the tableland.

The road narrowed and wound its way to the highest town in Queensland, Ravenshoe.

A grieving town

In June, the little country town of less than 1,000 people made news across Australia when an out of control ute slammed into a popular local cafe causing a massive gas explosion.

The accident left two people dead and 20 people hospitalised with burns and triggered the largest evacuation of burns victims in Queensland history.

The collective grief among the small farming community is hard to quantify, everybody knew someone who was affected.

For many in the area the healing process had just begun. So, while Ravenshoe doesn’t lay claim to a Mack dealership, it was considered a worthwhile stop during the Heartland Tour.

Truck sales and customer engagement was put aside to bring some much needed joy into the town.

A free concert was organised at the local pony club with country act Amber Lawrence and the Girls of Country set to belt out some healing vibes supported by some local musical acts.

As we rolled into the little town it seemed as if almost everyone within cooee had turned out in the main street to watch the parade of shiny Mack trucks arrive.

I swung the Granite prime mover around at the top of the main street and pulled to a stop in the best parking spot in town; outside the Ravenshoe Hotel.

With a hiss of maxi brakes we had arrived at a very worthwhile destination, the highest pub in Queensland.

 

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Party time

It had been a worthwhile drive, the first time I’d had the chance to drive the majority of the Mack range in quick succession.

The stunning north Queensland scenery had provided a lush backdrop as the blacktop had rolled under the bulldog’s nose.

Locals were quick to say G’day and it wasn’t long before someone had placed a beer in my hand.

It was very clear Ravenshoe was keen to party on this mild Saturday night as the last of the sun’s rays glistened on the heavy metal chrome and glitter of the Heartland convoy.

The country bass beat kept time with the pounding of my head the next day as locals, tourists and other from further afield swarmed into the grounds of the local pony club to listen to the music and even dance, laugh and chat.

I may have resorted to the hair of the dog, the canine legacy of my big night in Ravenshoe with the bulldog brand, but it could have been worse, at least nobody fell out of a pub.

 

 

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