Iveco Stralis truck review

By: Tim Giles


The Iveco Stralis is a radical new all European model, writes ATN’s Tim Giles after its first full Australian road test

Iveco Stralis truck review
Iveco Stralis.

 

It has been three years since Iveco launched their new Stralis range onto the European market. Since then it has been a long wait for Iveco buyers to see what the Australianisation of the Stralis would yield.

Now the wraps are off and what is revealed is, undoubtedly, a good-looking truck fitted with a second-generation Cursor engine and no manual gearbox option. The styling is definitely modern and European but also gives the truck a really strong presence.

At first glance, a casual observer could write off the changes.

Many of the body panels look unchanged; it is exactly the same chassis and running gear and the market knows the Eurotronic gearbox and Cursor engine combination well.

One of the strengths of this new range is the way it has been put together and combined existing tried and trusted components. Iveco’s General Manager Sales and Marketing, Peter Langworthy explains that Stralis takes the company to a new level.

"This product is a lot more complex than anything we’ve ever had before," he says.

There are few surprises in the basic specs of the range as presented. The flagship Stralis is the Active Space (AS) as it is in Europe. This is a medium height cab with a large and spacious cab interior fitted

with the higher horsepower ratings of the 13-litre Cursor up to 550 hp.

This is the linehaul interstate prime mover and supersedes both the 4500 and 4700 from the current range. There is no direct replacement for the 4700 — Iveco has decided to bite the bullet and drop the set forward air suspended axle that got them inside the difficult B-Double envelope.

Another decision has been to go with a full width cab at 2.5 metres. For a global company like Iveco there would be little point in developing a different-sized long distance cab just for Australia.

On the road this is an impressive cab.

It has been restyled and modernised with large lateral deflectors controlling the air flowing down the side of the cab.

The shape of the front end really stands out.

Evidence of this comes from the many comments and questions coming over the UHF as this driver drove the new trucks out on the road.

Active Time (AT) is the designation for the intrastate prime mover and a large rigid sleeper cab due for release at a later date. This has a narrower 2.3 metre wide cab plus two heights, low roof and medium roof.

Iveco in Australia decided to go against the global flow on this model and redesigned the dash as a wraparound style, similar to that in the AS.

In Europe, the design included a flat simple dash but Iveco found that they could adapt the dash from the larger truck to suit Australian tastes.

The cab is still quite roomy and features similar good-looking utilitarian interior design to its bigger brother.

Comments about all of the new range are going to emphasise the look of the Stralis — it looks so much better in the metal than it does in photos we have seen coming from Europe in the past three years.

Smallest in the fleet is the Active Day (AD), which, as its name suggests, is the day cabbed local distribution prime mover that will be handling the transport industry’s donkeywork. AD is, essentially, the day cab version of the AT model.

This marks a change for Iveco’s model classification and — although there are now fewer models and limited spec options — they still have a version of each model to suit the market’s needs.

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Engine

Iveco has launched the whole range with only one engine option, for now. The Cursor 13 and 10 are available straight away with the eight-litre unit to follow.

Although there has been some ‘issues’ with Cursor since its launch, mainly at higher horsepower-ratings, Iveco is confident the relaunched ‘new generation’ engine will deliver the goods.

"We had a lot of variation in fuel economy with the Cursor engines. We were operating very close to the top of our VGT’s (variable geometry turbo) capability and we need to be at a lower level," explains Iveco Managing Director Alain Gajnik.

Horsepower ratings have been upgraded and engine mapping radically altered to get better performance and improve fuel economy. One of the most notable changes out on the road is how low revving the engine is.

Normal running works best with rpm levels between 1000 and 1500 and at 100 km/h the engine is running at 1450 rpm in top gear. There appears to be a sweet spot around 1350 rpm where torque and power levels pulled the B-Double along well during the road test.

Gajnik claims one of the fleets, which tested the new driveline, achieved a 20 percent reduction in fuel consumption by going with faster diffs.

Transmission

When it comes to gearboxes the option list has also shrunk. Iveco has dropped the manual ZF box and now only offer the Eurotronic automated gearbox.

This could be seen as sheer folly if it wasn’t for the fact that the Eurotronic is the best automated constant mesh box on the market. Its software is superior to that fitted on other incarnations of the ZF AS-Tronic — namely on the DAF and MAN trucks from Europe.

At this point Iveco are not talking about launching these models with a US engine option with its obvious companion, a Roadranger gearbox.

Development work on an American driveline has been done and it would seem that the initial launch with only European driveline is a way for Iveco to test the waters to see how much demand there may be for solely European product.

Iveco Australia’s masters in Turin, Italy, would be encouraging this type of European product offering.

The fitting of so many US engines in the past probably rankles with the Italians, who have spent so many millions of development dollars to design a global engine.

"This is the first model that has left the Dandenong factory with the Iveco brand on it from day one," Langworthy points out, emphasising the importance of the Iveco branding to the company.

Sitting in the driving seat of the new range and seeing how well the trucks perform makes this writer think that Iveco may have it right and that they should back themselves in only offering Cursor and Eurotronic.

And then reality sinks in and the Australian market’s long association with the big three US engine makers and our love affair with the Roadranger hits home.

Fitted with C15, ISX or Series 60 and a 13 or 18 speed Roadranger with a solid responsive linkage this truck would have great appeal.

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Cab and Controls

Multiplexing and the long development time allowed for the new truck has given Iveco time and space to work on the cable and pipe work routing on board.

The left hand chassis member carries all of the electrical cabling while the right handles all of the air pipes.

Most of the air valving can be found outside of the chassis and easily accessible just in front of the fuel tanks on the right hand side.

The point at which the driver meets the multiplexed electronics is the LCD screen that sits centrally on the very modern and stylish new dash. Australia got a taste of the new styling with the launch of Eurocargo last year.

The amount of information available is limited while the truck is out on the road to basic trip information, vital signs like oil and water plus and warning messages that the truck needs to communicate to the driver.

Top left, on the default screen, are the speed settings for the cruise control and the adjustable speed limiter.

Top right shows whether the gearbox is in auto or semi-auto mode and the gear selected plus the gears available up or down in auto mode.

Below this are a bar scales showing oil and brake pressure and below that any warning indicators, like open doors or overheating.

The screen can also show radio controls and serves as a display when making mirror adjustments using the controls on the armrest. Incidentally the armrest on the AS models forms a single long curve on the door and symbolises the strong design content in the cab interior.

When stationary the amount of information is much increased and it will take some time for any driver or operator time to really evaluate the level and value of the information available.

The screen is brightly coloured and relatively simple to navigate around using the — now obligatory — buttons on the steering wheel.

One disadvantage that becomes quite obvious in bright sunshine is the lack of a substantial hood over the screen to protect it from ambient light.

The result all of this very useful information is it’s awkward and sometimes virtually impossible to see in some light conditions.

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Performance

Travelling north on the Hume Highway out of Melbourne the 550 hp Cursor pulling 60 tonnes on a B-Double handles the rises and falls on the highway with consummate ease.

Most of the time the cruise control can be activated and the multiplexed system will sense the climb or descent in good time and react accordingly.

It is probably a matter of learning to trust the instincts of the machine.

If the driver thinks that the truck needs to drop a cog or two just before the foot of a climb then it is a simple as pushing the accelerator past the detent on the pedal into kickdown.

The gearbox instantly gets the message, drops a gear or two and gets the revs up going into the climb.

Once over the top the story is the same — the system knows what’s going on when the truck starts to overrun.

At two km/h over the set speed the engine brake is engaged and then at four km/h over the gearbox starts to change up to increase the level of engine braking.

Ride is another important factor out on the road and the combination of well-damped cab suspension is matched by the strong anti-roll capabilities of the Hendrickson Primaax suspension.

Primaax is standard in the heavier models and available as an option along with Meritor six-rod steel springs on the smaller and lighter models. The standard rear suspension on offer at the lighter end of the scale is the Hendrickson HAS 460.

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Verdict

The impact of light on the LCD screen is probably the one disappointment in what is, generally, a very well-built and designed truck that has got a lot going for it. It is a shame that the designers couldn’t have come up with a fix before the launch.

This just about sums the truck up.

Iveco has just about got everything right with the design and production constraints they were given; particularly if the improvements promised by the new Cursor engine come to fruition.

There are no such doubts about the Eurotronic. It seems virtually bullet proof even if not to everyone’s taste. Iveco has backed their gearbox and have put it and Cursor out there as the only option.

If there is question that still remains it is probably, how long can Iveco resist the pressure — and it is bound to come — to offer a US engine?

 

 

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