Scania P-Series Review

By: Matt Wood

The P440 has been given a shot in the arm with the availability of a 440hp SCR power plant
The P series cab provides a similar layout to the rest of the Scania range. The engine hump inside the cab is a side effect of the low height P cab
Both trucks were specced with an under bunk fridge
The low height cab makes entry and exit a safe and easy proposition for drivers who are in and out of the cab all day

With a choice of engines available throughout Scania’s new range, the Swedish manufacturer is offering prospective buyers greater flexibility. Matt Wood takes two contrasting P series models for a run around Melbourne

Scania P-Series Review
The Scania P440


The introduction of Scania's new range of five and six cylinder selective catalytic reduction (SCR) engines released earlier this year highlighted a major issue from my view point. No, the major issue wasn't a glaring engineering oversight by Scania nor was it a misguided marketing blunder. The major issue was quite simply my short attention span.

Not only did Scania introduce new engines, they also decided to put those engines under different cabs while still offering the original exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) engines alongside the new engines. So now a P cab can get a 440 SCR engine, a G cab can get a 480 EGR or SCR, but an R cab can also get a 480 SCR as well. So in the past you may only have been able to get G but now you can get a P or a G, and now you may not have to fork out for an R because you may be able to get a G.

To make matters worse the P has been restyled to look more like the G. So this means the P is available in horsepower ratings from 280hp to 440hp (208-328kW), and looks more like the G which looks more like the R. So now the entire five and six cylinder Scania engine range has been shuffled around under the cab range. As this was being explained, the hamster wheel in my cranium soon squeaked to a halt and it wasn't long before I was looking longingly at the sandwiches on a table in the corner.

In all seriousness, however, the P series Scania is an amazingly flexible platform, and the P badge can be found adorning a huge variety of vehicles from off-road mining industry roles, construction and urban distribution. Not only can the flexible P series cover a range of rigid roles, it also handles prime mover duties as well and availability of the 440hp engine only builds upon the potential for that role to increase. 

Range bookends 

Having been briefed on the re-jigged Scania line-up earlier in the year, I was able to take both the new P440 SCR prime mover and the new ready built P320 6x2 rigid for a drive around Melbourne recently. The P440 and the P320 bookend the range nicely with the higher displacement SCR six at the top end and the five cylinder EGR engine providing power for the rigid.

First cabover off the rank was the P440 6x4 prime mover with the new 12.7-litre SCR power plant hiding underneath its silver cab. You may be wondering why Scania is offering both EGR and SCR in its engine range at all. From a global perspective, fuel quality has a lot to do with it. SCR engines need good quality low sulphur diesel to function properly whereas EGR engines aren't quite so fussy about their diet.

Scania isn't alone in this approach; other global manufacturers also use both EGR and SCR in other markets. But at this point in time it's uncommon to see a manufacturer offer both engines in the Australian market at the same time. The idea is that Scania is still a contender for fleets that run only EGR vehicles and have no diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) infrastructure in place, or vice versa.

The strength of the P cab lies in its low-entry and low overall height, making it perfect for around town deliveries where the driver is climbing in and out of the truck frequently. The low overall height also makes the cab ideal for tanker work where trucks need to clear overhead gantries, and the new horsepower rating will only make the P more attractive for those in this part of the market. You may expect this configuration of cab to be more of a base spec proposition, but this particular truck has been decked out with all the bells and whistles. This includes a built-in fridge, climate control, and even adaptive cruise control. I think it's fair to say the market that Scania is aiming for with the P series prime mover will be looking at a more base level spec than this one, but it's nice to know it's there if you want it.

I'm sure no one will be too surprised if I say the prime mover was manoeuvrable with great visibility. This is one of the strengths of the P series for urban delivery work. The windscreen cuts way lower than the dash, giving excellent left-hand corner visibility, and the mirrors give a nice wide view of what's going on beside the vehicle on both sides.

It seems there's no simple solution when it comes to truck mirrors - they either provide good visibility but occupy too much space within the side window, affecting the view out the windows, or are too small to be effective. To be fair, the mirrors on the Scania are about as good as it gets on a cabover truck these days.

The more subtle features of the cab are apparent in the sculpted aerodynamics of the P series cab. This serves to keep the both the aforementioned mirrors and the side windows clear of spray and road grime, quite a neat feature on a low height cabover where the steer tyres are closer to these surfaces. The improved air flow also helps engine heat escape from under the cab. So, as I battled it out with all of the other happy commuters on Melbourne's Western Ring Road, I made a point of doing what I do best - I fiddled with stuff.

Right ratio

The 12-speed Opticruise self-shifting transmission works beautifully behind the 13-litre six with a single trailer on board, and in everyday urban situations I suspect there would be little need for a driver to intervene manually. The transmission just found the right ratio for all occasions. As with the P's big brother, the R series, the gearbox mounted retarder is operated via a steering column mounted lever and is backed up by an exhaust brake button on the floor. Both work well in combination and, as in any other Scania I've driven to date, the retarder is top notch.

The only gripe I have about the exhaust brake button is its location, on the floor directly behind the steering column. If you just want to bleed off some road speed without hitting the brake pedal or using the retarder, it's actually easier to use your left foot to operate the exhaust brake rather than the usual brake foot. This ends up being a bit counter-intuitive and to be honest I just didn't bother using the button at all but opted to use the easier-to-access-and-use retarder instead.

Without wanting to sound too picky, there wasn't much in the way of a cup holder in the cab. Anyone wanting a bucket of coffee rather than a standard takeaway cup would do well to go for a wide-bottomed mug that will sit on the engine cover. That engine cover, like the rest of the surfaces in the P cab, does come in handy as a place to leave paper work, street directories etc. Due to the superb ride and the rubberised surfaces, nothing drifts around the cab, not even the usually flighty ballpoint pen.

After punting the 440 around on the open road, I also mixed it with the professional s at a local distribution centre (DC) in an effort to see how the truck felt about going backward around corners and onto loading docks. Again this is where the P cab shines. I was able to easily put the trailer on a dock without craning my neck to see the back of the trailer or working up a sweat spinning the steering wheel frantically; it was that easy.

A closed environment like a DC is fairly predictable test, but an operator backing into a suburban supermarket dock needs all the help they can get in terms of visibility. You just never know when someone is going to decide to park their hatchback underneath your trailer while you are going backwards, no matter how many flashing lights you have going.

Euro 6 preparation 

The P series prime mover has had more than just a superficial facelift; it also now shares the same wider chassis rails of the G series with a wider cooling package. While that in itself doesn't necessarily translate into any noticeable gain from behind the wheel, it is more of a pre-emptive move in preparation for Euro 6 (ADR 80/04) engine and cooling packages.

Along with the grille update is a front underrun protection system (FUPS) bar, and the new grille has also made the installation of the adaptive cruise control possible. Scania has now made the P440 in essence quite a big little truck, and the 12.7-litre engine is a cracker in P series guise. With a delicate push on the accelerator the mid-range six comes to life, albeit with barely a murmur, making the most of the 2,300Nm of torque on tap between 1,000 to 1,300rpm.

Where the higher gross combination mass (GCM) R series seemed lacklustre with the same power plant at 480hp, the P series at 440hp provided a positive and lively performance and, in true Scania fashion, with just that little bit of a prestige feel.

After piloting the P440 prime mover I had a chance to slip behind the wheel of the P320 6x2 rigid. The Europeans brands tend to have a battle on their hands in this country when it comes to smaller GCM rigid trucks. European operators often use rigid trucks sometimes in conjunction with a pig or dog trailer for long distance work where the driver will be away for a night or two, and as such demand a high level of refinement and equipment. However, in Australia there are few roles where a company will use a rigid vehicle for interstate freight, the obvious exception being furniture removalists.

The fierce competition provided by the Japanese manufacturers in this part of the market make it a tough environment for a premium level rigid vehicle to survive. Scania has moved to tackle this in an interesting way, by starting a complete vehicle program and marketing themselves as a one-stop shop for business solutions. This is where Scania's ready built range of vehicles comes in.

Scania already offers the ready built P series Hyva hook lift bin truck and now they are offering the P series as a ready built 14-pallet curtainsider body. The curtainsider body features C-section steel construction and also uses resin-topped composite flooring in an effort to keep overall tare weight down. The 6x2 axle configuration also contributes to keeping the kilos down on the Scandinavian rigid, giving it a potential tare weight of under 9 tonnes depending on spec.

For an out of the box 14-pallet rigid, the P320 is well-appointed and only mildly scaled down compared to the 440-powered prime mover. Given Scania's policy of making as many parts as interchangeable as possible across the entire range, this shouldn't come as a surprise. While there are quite a few trucks at this part of the market that claim to have an Australian Design Rule (ADR) compliant sleeper, most are only really suitable as storage or for losing things in. However, you could sleep comfortably in the P320 if required. You can even stow your supplies in the under bunk fridge.

Underneath the cab is Scania's five cylinder 9-litre EGR engine, and as with its larger stable mate, the engine is backed by a 12-speed Opticruise transmission.

High pressure

 The 9-litre engine relies on the XPI injection system that uses extremely high pressure to help with emissions control as well as fuel economy. The engine also uses a Variable Geometry Turbo (VGT) as a part of the induction process. But how does that translate into driving the vehicle? The overall feeling I got from driving the P320 was that it drove, and rode, like a bus. I mean that in a good way. The EGR power plant was quiet and smooth in operation yet it got the truck up to highway speed without any huffing and puffing.

The 1,600Nm of torque peaking between 1,100 and 1,200rpm helped things along nicely while the little five cylinder murmured away under the cab unobtrusively. The ride was magnificent; I even drove up and down the Hume Highway at Kalkallo, where many an unsuspecting driver has bounced off the roof of their truck a couple of times due to the wicked undulations in the road. The 320 rode the bumps easily, of course most long wheel base rigids ride reasonably well on air bags, but the P series was above and beyond my expectations in ride.

My earlier criticism of the awkward floor-mounted exhaust brake button was compounded in the case of the 320, however as there was no retarder to back up the exhaust brake, I had to use it. For a 14-pallet rigid, the little Scania also turned quite well as I backed up a couple driveways and, as with the 440, visibility was excellent.

Both vehicles provide a good snapshot of the P series range of trucks. The ready built P320 brings a high level of refinement as a rigid while the P440 has been given a shot in the arm with the extra horsepower from the new SCR engine. While both trucks are at opposite ends of the P series spectrum, they are both equally at home either slogging their way through city traffic or rolling along out on the open road. 

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Click here to see a video review of the Scania P 320


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