Scania R560 Highline truck review

By: Gary Worrall


Like all good vehicle ranges, Scania has created a ‘hero’ version — in this case it is the range-topping R-Series prime mover with a 560-hp V8. Gary Worrall goes for a spin

Scania R560 Highline truck review
Scania's R560 Highline truck.

 

Much has been said about Scania’s R-Series range of prime movers and most of the word has been good, recognising the R-Series is one of the best ‘premium’ trucks available in Australia.

Scania is fond of pointing out its R-Series is the current ‘Truck of the Year’ in Europe. It hasn’t won that award lightly, the R-Series has plenty to offer the long-distance driver.

Already it is making significant inroads into the Australian market, with "about 50" units in service with fleets around the country, according to a Scania spokesman.

With the six-cylinder version already proving itself capable of hauling trailers on interstate routes, it was time for ATN to take its more powerful brethren, the R560 V8-powered version, for a short jaunt along the interstate highways of this great country.

Unlike the route taken by most line-haul operators who run Brisbane to Melbourne along the Warrego and Newell Highways, our trip was a little different: heading from Brisbane, out to Warwick, climbing through the famed Cunningham’s Gap, before joining up with the New England Highway and following it south to Tamworth in New South Wales, then turning right, heading to Gunnedah, then turning left ‘down’ the Newell to Wagga and eventually the Hume Highway to complete the run to Fästning (fortress) Scania in Campbellfield.

As well as the V8-powered R560, keeping us company on the ‘long way down’ was a 58-tonne R480 B-Double and a P280 rigid, with a full load of fuel for the Australian gliding championships.

The test truck was another of the Highline models, meaning it had a decent level of goodies but without going the whole hog of the Topline version.

Engine

Interestingly, Scania chose to follow the Rolls-Royce route when comes to the badging, with a so-discreet-as-to-be-almost-invisible V8 badge low on the grille.

With the body mounted on top of a 16-litre V8, generating plenty of heat as it punches out 553hp (412kW) and 2,700Nm (1,991ftlb), good airflow is critical to keeping the engine cool.

Helping in this are the six horizontal grille slats, guiding cooling air by the cubic metre across the radiators and charge air cooler, before it is vented via the transmission tunnel.

Transmission

Being fitted with the OptiCruise automated manual transmission (AMT), the R560 does away with a conventional gearshift. Instead it uses a stalk on the steering column, that allows the driver to choose between ‘Reverse’ or ‘Drive’. A ‘hill’ function tells the computer to hold the gears longer for better acceleration.

There is also a switch to engage ‘manual’ mode. This lets the driver have all the fun of swapping cogs without the fuss of matching revs or balancing the clutch.

Scania ,R560,Highline ,truck ,review ,ATN7

 

Cab and Controls

The cab’s low entry point is a definite plus.

Regardless of how many times a day it is used, climbing in and out of the R-Series is an easy task, with no undue stress on knees or shoulders.

Back in the early days, when it was known as Saab-Scania, the company had an aerospace division that designed a range of jet fighters for the Swedish, and other, airforces with a fair degree of success.

Fast forward to the 21st Century and a lot of those aerospace links are still visible in the design of the R-Series. With more scoops than a Baskin-Robbins outlet, the design channels air over, under, around and through the body.

Without needing to revisit the whole description of the R-Series cab, it is a low-slung, aerodynamic (for a cabover) piece of equipment. Plenty of work has gone into making it a safe and comfortable place to spend a day’s driving.

Scania ,R560,Highline ,truck ,review ,ATN5Other deep swage lines pressed into the bodywork guide air along the flanks and away from critical areas such as windows and mirrors, ensuring they stay as clean as possible for maximum visibility.

The aero efficiency extends all the way to the roof line, or roof lines actually, with a sun-stopper and roof aerofoil working together to shape the flow of air for maximum penetration, and therefore maximum fuel economy.

There is even a pair of vertical side wings at the rear of the cab to reduce the impact of the airflow hitting the front of the trailer, rumoured to reduce fuel consumption by 2 per cent.

The light clusters are also new for the R-Series, with LED daytime running lamps and fog lamps sitting underneath the headlamps (xenon lights are an option), while the outboard indicators leave no doubt about which direction the truck is headed.

Above the windscreen are more LED clearance lights, flanking a pair of down-facing spotlights that offer a good pool of light without dazzling the driver.

With the same interior as the R480, a brief reminder of the standout points is all that is required. The highlights start the moment you ascend to the driving position, made all the easier by the tilt-away steering and dump valve in the air-suspension driver’s seat.

The steering wheel contains a driver’s airbag, while the seat has a full pre-tensioner three-point seatbelt.

The sleeper cab offers plenty of space to relax during rest breaks. It is comfortable but nothing beats sleeping in your own bed. Still, there are much worse places to spend an hour after a few hundred kays.

The beauty of pneumatic seating and steering is the infinite range of adjustments available, allowing the driver to find the optimum setup and lock it into position.

The only thing missing — it is probably on Scania’s drawing board — is a memory for the seat and wheel positions to allow for fast readjustments when it is time to get back on the road.

Scania ,R560,Highline ,truck ,review ,ATN6The leather and timber steering wheel is a ‘smart’ unit, with three sets of fingertip controls: one for audio, one for the multifunction dash, and a third set for the downhill descent and cruise controls.

In front of the driver is a minimalist’s dream come true: a simple information panel fitted with a speedo, tacho, fuel and temperature gauges. A multi-function screen takes care of everything else.

The advantage to this system is the driver only sees the key driving information. There is no need to track extra dials or gauges, yet if anything moves out of pre-set parameters it is automatically brought up on the display screen.

Drivers are also able to choose the default screen, so they can have the extra details such as axle weights or air-brake pressures, if they want.

Scania recommends using the Driver Support System screen. It provides a variety of driving tips and rates driving performance, building a score out of 100 per cent.

The trick is to not compete with the computer but work with it — even experienced drivers report improving their driving after a few sessions with the electronic trainer.

Besides the clever electronics there is plenty to like inside the R-Series. It sports leather trim and wood accents, non-slip acoustic carpeting that helps to keep the noise out of the cabin, plus a nearly flat floor that is easy to navigate when traversing from seat to bunk.

Despite the padding, there is plenty of shoulder room. At various times ATN chauffeured Scania Managing Director Roger McCarthy and Public Relations Manager Alexander Corne and there was plenty of elbow room for all.

The test truck also had the optional underbunk refrigerator. It was put to good use chilling bottles of water, fruit and the odd ‘emergency’ chocolate bar.

There were also cup holders aplenty. That was a handy thing as every stop meant the purchase of at least six takeaway lattes.

The shelf under the main console has plenty of room for iPods, iPhones and other necessities, such as work diaries.

The other handy touch for our trip was the lockable ‘toolbox’ under the bunk. It was a perfect size for suitcases, so keeping them out of the cabin area.

Scania ,R560,Highline ,truck ,review ,ATN4

 

Performance

There is a joke about a truck driver who was asked what he wanted for Christmas, his response was ‘The same as everyone else … more power!’.

The relevance to Scania in this regard is that while the R560 is certainly not lacking in horsepower, for some reason enough is never quite enough, especially when you know there is a 730hp (544kW) version waiting in the wings.

Nevertheless, the R560 is a polished performer. It can cope with a variety of situations, from heavy traffic to hill climbing with a full house behind you (as well as coming down the other side).

Despite making massive power, the R560 is a driver’s delight. It is docile and gentle at low revs, with no gruntiness or other antisocial traits while negotiating traffic. Yet, give it a sniff of the open road and there is ample torque to get you up to speed, and then ample power to keep the needle firmly planted at the 100km/h speed limit.

Helping in this regard is a set of ratios that are spread just far enough apart to allow the engine to flex its muscle, without requiring long periods at peak revs before a shift can be made.

As with all AMTs, the Scania is programmed to go for economy over everything else. It is a secret to the remarkable fuel figures of 2km per litre and beyond, even with a 70-tonne GCM.

With plenty of soundproofing between the driver and the engine compartment, the biggest disappointment is the lack of a V8 bellow under acceleration. Instead it is a muffled roar as the tacho needs heads north and the truck launches forward.

Thanks to some clever programming of the engine control unit, the R560 does not deliver peak torque in the early gears. This provides the driver, and the cargo, with a smooth take-off. It also helps to eliminate driveline ‘snatching’ and protects the gearbox and diff from sharing their innermost secrets with the bitumen.

Another advantage to computer-controlled gearshifts is accuracy, with the gear slotting home faster and more accurately than all but the very best gear jammers. And remember, the computer will do it all day every day, something even the best human driver cannot guarantee.

Scania ,R560,Highline ,truck ,review ,ATN2

 

Courtesy of a full air-bag suspension, the R560 rides as if on a carpet. The air-bags just soak up the big hits, and there were plenty of them on our chosen route. The whole combination felt completely under control and well tied down.

The steering is another highlight. Although power-assisted, there is plenty of feedback.

While it is possible to steer with a fingertip, the best results come from a two-handed style, while making full use of the excellent field of view offered by the large glasshouse.

The R560 has an excellent turning circle. That’s a lucky thing too, as the test route included some 180-degree turns at roundabouts.

The power assistance took the effort out of reversing direction while even more run-of-the-mill turns did not require much more than a half turn of lock.

Thanks to Scania wisely choosing to make the hydraulic retarder standard fit, the R560 is blessed with outstanding braking.

If anyone questions the worth of a computer-controlled gearbox, take them out to the Moonbi hills on the New England Highway and ask them if they would prefer a smooth and steady descent or a trip into the gravel trap.

So good is the R560’s combined braking efforts that it came to a dead stop on the way down, with McCarthy sitting astounded in the passenger seat.

To see just how well the brakes work, the retarder was set to maximum and the hill descent system programmed to 30km/h before we crested the top, with the computers taking full control of the gearshift, retarder and service brakes.

With my feet planted firmly to the floor of the cab, McCarthy looked on in surprise as the truck not only did not exceed its programmed speed but actually slowed to a crawl on the flatter intermediate section before stopping momentarily.

Fortunately, it was not necessary to test the suite of emergency braking systems.

But Scania PR man Corne assures me the R-Series comes complete with an electronic braking system, as well as electronic stability program, which between them work to reduce or eliminate the chance of an accident.

Scania ,R560,Highline ,truck ,review ,ATN8

 

Most remarkable in all of this was the absence of noise, with the retarder an audible hiss and the engine hardly any louder.

McCarthy was even able to continue making phone calls as we descended the hill, although why he was calling his insurance agent and lawyer from regional Australia was beyond me.

On the flatter sections of road, the Scania virtually drives itself. With the cruise control and the retarder handling minor speed variations, the driver is there to keep the whole thing on the black stuff between the white bits and right side up.

This relaxed driving role allows the driver to plan ahead to do things like engage hill mode on the approach to a climb, letting the computers know to hold a gear rather than shift up for the sake of fuel economy.

If the driver ever feels like assuming full control, it is as simple as flicking the gear switch from ‘auto’ to ‘manual’ and all systems are placed under human control.

Down-shifts take a press down on the gear selector, upward pressure selects a higher gear. A sensor under the throttle pedal, accessed by pushing the accelerator through its full position, also induces a downshift, the computer interpreting this as the driver saying ‘full acceleration required’.

By combining this with a downshift on the gear lever, it is simple to drop two gears in a hurry, providing extra acceleration for overtaking, or simply to get down low enough for the engine to lug the load up a particularly steep hill.

Scania ,R560,Highline ,truck ,review ,ATN3

 

Verdict

As a rule, journalists do not need to own heavy trucks — there are more than enough available for us to drive to keep us happy — so it is hard to say whether you would purchase a particular model.

That point made, there are some trucks that make such an impression on you it is not so hard to see yourself driving one on a regular basis. The R560 is one of those.

The blend of comfort from leather and wood trim, effortless performance from the 16-litre V8 and the overall sense you could tackle just about any job in Australian road transport is intoxicating.

More than the comfort and performance, there is also the issue of operator safety and the reassuring feel of the hydraulic retarder kicking in after just a quick dab on the brake pedal.

While some operators question the relatively small fuel capacity (970 litres), the truth is it is more than enough to handle most line-haul applications. And line-haul is what this truck has been designed for.

Without a doubt it faces some stiff competition, particularly in its chosen ‘premium’ truck category. But the fight is a fair one, with the Scania R560 more than capable of holding its own against any other top-shelf prime mover available locally.

Should you buy one? That is up to the individual, so maybe it is more like, as Mitsubishi once put it so eloquently, ‘Please Consider’.

 

Likes:

  • Comfort level very high
  • Excellent soundproofing
  • Opticruise makes light work of gear shifts

Dislikes:

  • No driver’s side spotter mirror
  • Excessive mirror cluster on passenger side blocks view at T-intersections

 

Specifications

Make/Model: Scania R560 Highline prime mover

Configuration: B-Double

GCM: 70 tonnes

Tank Capacity: 970 litres; 75 litre AdBlue tank

Engine: Scania 16-litre V8 with electronic fuel injection

Power/Torque: 553hp (412kW) @ 1,800rpm/2,700Nm (1991ft-lb) @ 1,000-1,400rpm

Transmission: Scania Opticruise 14-speed with Scania Retarder

Emission Standard/Control: Euro 5 via SCR

Features: Leather trim, Bluetooth, AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary input, airconditioning, upper and lower bunks (lower bunk extendable to 900mm), cruise control, hill descent control, hill holder

 

You can also follow our updates by liking us on Facebook