Custom Harley Davidson Freightliner Coronado truck review

By: Matt Wood


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Harley Davidson aficionados may have spotted two customised Freightliner Coronado 114s as they’ve travelled the country. Matt Wood goes looking for a wild ride

 

The distinctive rumble of a Harley Davidson V-twin may not at first seem to have a lot in common with the turbocharged whine of a 15.0-litre Detroit engine.

For a start, one is more often associated with beards, blokes, bandannas and funny face masks containing skulls … the other is a motorcycle.

But the link between spending the working week staring through bug guts on the wide open road and spending the weekend pulling bugs out of your teeth after a two-wheeled blast down a back road is a strong one.

It was only a matter of time before someone in Australia clued up to the potential marketing power of linking two American heavy metal brands. After all, the concept has been a hit for Ford with its Harley Davidson F-series pick-ups back in the States.

International even capitalised on the idea with a Harley Davidson edition Lone Star prime mover.

A couple of years ago, Freightliner Oz decided to build a couple of Harley Davidson-themed trucks.

The Coronado 114 is arguably the company’s ‘blingiest’ model, so when Harley needed some flash-looking haulers for its merch and show trailers, this model was the pick of the bunch.

The bold, bonneted and brash B-double hauler ticks the bling boxes with its big shiny radiator grille and squared-off nose.

The two trucks that were built for Harley Davidson feature some custom stainless work, Harley logos stitched into the custom leather interior, a few extra lights and some custom paint.

And, of course, they are black.

So I recently had the opportunity to climb behind the wheel of a Harley 114 and take it for a spin around Western Sydney.

As I turned up to grab the keys, the 114 sat parked outside the Huntingwood dealership looking every bit as mean as a frustrated accountant in traffic … which is pretty mean.

 

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Engine and Transmission

The 114 is an interesting truck.

The engine in the 114 is a 14.8-litre Detroit DD15 with EGR, which pumps out a nice 560hp and 2,508Nm of torque.

Taking control of all that power is the manual 18-speed Eaton Road Ranger transmission.

While the 114’s longer-nosed set-back steer-axle sibling, the Coronado 122, has the option of either Cummins or Detroit for motorvation, the 114 is available with the green powerplant only.

The set forward steer axle Coronado is unique to the Aussie region and was designed and engineered specifically for the Australian market.

And by touting a light tare weight and short BBC measurement, the Coronado 114 also nicely slots in to the gap left by the death of the Sterling brand a few years back.

For those who are interested, the numbers refer to the prime mover’s Bumper to Back of Cab (BBC) measurement, hence 114 stands for 114-inches BBC, which means it’s short enough for roles where overall combination length is an issue.

The set forward steer axle comes into play to satisfy bridge engineers who like heavy vehicles to have as big a footprint as possible.

So the 114 is ideal for tipper and dog, 19.0-metre B-double and 26-metre B-double applications. 

It also helps in PBS roles where concessional weights are at play.

I have done a few kilometres behind the wheel of both the 114 and the 122, and the 114 is the better pick out of the Freightliner stable.

While they may all come with that distinctively Freightliner interior squeak, it’s an exceptionally nice prime mover to steer.

This is mainly down to the twin-steering box set-up.

The DD15 engine and radiator are mounted together as one unit, which doesn’t leave a lot of space for a conventional steering set-up.

To deal with this, the Coronado has a steering box mounted on each chassis rail.

The result from behind the wheel is a well-dampened feel through the wheel with very little kick back through the chrome-spoked tiller, even on rough black-top.

The close-coupled 1700 square inch radiator, fan and engine increases cooling efficiency, as does the slightly raised cab.

Those shiny gills either side of the stubby bonnet aren’t just for show either, as they funnel air into the engine.

 

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Cab and Controls

It’s an easy climb into the wheel house of the Freightliner, one of the big advantages of a conventional prime mover.

Once I’d nestled into the embroidered captain’s chair I paused to have a look around.

This truck was equipped with 34.0-inch sleeper and a mid-rise roof.

While that dimension may sound a little cosy, it’s quite a roomy little package that enables the driver to still get up and walk around.

There’s even quite a bit of storage.

The downside of the Coronado interior is that there’s little to differentiate it from the rest of the Freightliner family.

The distinctive, tough styling of the exterior is let down by the same acres of grey plastic that can be found in most American-built trucks these days.

The Coronado could’ve been a great opportunity for Freightliner to launch a premium interior and make a point of difference from its other models.

But in the case of this 114, there’s plenty of custom-stitched dead cow skin lining the walls and doors to give things a lift, as do the white gauges and woodgrain instrument panels.

 

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Performance

My main objective was to get reacquainted with the 114.

I was also originally hoping to look as badass as the truck itself.

I even considered wearing leather, but I don’t like to squeak when I walk.

Plus the last time I did wear leather I was set upon by a bunch of rabid vegans; maybe I shouldn’t have worn shorts.

So I was hoping the blinged-up Coronado would speak for itself and that it would make me look cool.

To find out, I rumbled onto the M4 and headed west towards the M7.

With an empty bogie axle trailer on behind there wasn’t any chance the 560hp (418kW) DD15 was going to be working very much at all.

The DD15 can feel a bit lazy at times under load, but it is an engine that rewards a relaxed driving style.

At such a modest weight I only needed a couple of gears in bottom ’box before jumping into high range — I certainly didn’t need to split any cogs.

I glanced around at my fellow road users and it was pretty clear that no one was thinking I looked either cool or badass.

I tried letting the air out of the driver’s seat for that low rider look, but that just made it hard to see.

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I even turned on the UHF hoping that someone would comment on the shiny Harley.

Instead, I only got a couple of mud carters arguing about the NRL.

So I decided to head to Uncle Leo’s for a coffee and see whether anyone would think I was suitably tough and menacing with my big black truck.

It turned out that a few passers-by were interested in the black beast, but no matter how hard I tried to lurk menacingly, nobody thought I was particularly tough or cool.

Maybe hanging around truck stops wearing a polo shirt and drinking a latte sends the wrong message.

I did have a nice gentleman try and sell me a raffle ticket, though.

Idling down the Hume for a bit let me settle in to the Coronado and collect my thoughts. The 114 steers as good as ever.

Sure, there was a little bit of chirp and squeak from the interior, but that’s what the volume dial on the radio is for.

It’s also worth mentioning that this wasn’t a brand new truck. However, a tight premium spec interior would give this truck a real lift and would help in the fight against perceptions of durability and build quality.

Clearly a squeaky dash and inferior quality door trims have no effect on the reliability of a drive train, but it does give the haters ammunition when it comes to brand perception.

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Verdict

There’s a lot to like about the stubby-nosed Freightliner. It handles better than its cab-over sibling, the Argosy, for a start.

The Argosy steer axle is set back further from the front bumper, which admittedly gives it an excellent turning circle, but it can seem a bit twitchy on country roads.

The 114 also rides well, a characteristic of any well-specced conventional.

The set-forward steer axle only adds to this.

Like many cabs of left-hand drive origin, the driver’s footwell can be a little cosy for those with longer legs, though I’ve never had any issue.

By the end of the day nobody thought I was either badass or cool.

But the Harley 114 was still an eye catcher.

It’s a good looking truck.

The launch of some very nicely pimped Coronado 114s to celebrate Freightliner’s 25th Anniversary in Australia 18 months ago showed that the company is capable of putting together some special trucks.

Maybe Freightliner could take the Harley Davidson concept a little further in Australia with a limited run of up-spec Coronados?

One thing is clear, though: it takes more than just bling and a nice paint job to make me look cool.

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Specifications

Make/model: Freightliner Coronado 114

Engine: 14.8-litre Detroit DD15 with EGR

Power: 560hp (418kW), 1850ft-lb (2508Nm)

Transmission: 18-speed Eaton Road Ranger (manual)

Final Drive: 4.30

Wheel base: 5150mm

 

 

 

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