Volvo Tour De Force 2011

As reported in last month’s Prime Mover, Volvo has a line-up for 2011 that offers a range of models for all trucking applications, delivering clean and green machines with a wide ranging complement of safety systems and fuel economy.

But the big drawcard is the FH16 700, the most powerful truck on Australian roads. Released in January, the 700 has created a huge amount of interest from the heavy haulage and road train sectors, proven by the fact Volvo has received firm orders for 19 units, particularly from Northern Territory operators.

This market segment is not huge however the introduction of the FH16 700 has enabled Volvo to make successful inroads into what was previously the stronghold of American makes. When you’ve got 3150Nm (2323lb/ft) of torque on tap between 1000 and 1450rpm, right in the economy band, it is no wonder the heavy hauliers are sitting up and taking notice.

Tour De Force 2011 is the ideal manner in which to take the big banger to customers, and while it is too much truck for most there are those who can see how high horsepower and torque can be of benefit to their operation.

The tour will cover all Australian states, visiting a wide range of dealerships where existing and potential customers can get up close and personal, with the opportunity to take the model range for test drives, examine fuel efficiency and experience first-hand Volvo’s renowned comfort and safety features.

Accompanying the 700hp Globetrotter on the tour circuit are the FH540, FM13 and FM11, with other Volvo models made available by dealers visited. At each location there are a range of activities and drives on offer delivering the Volvo experience.

The tour commenced at Volvo’s Chullora branch on Sunday, February 13, with the first port of call CMV in Albury. Naturally the route was down the Hume Highway and the trucks involved were the FH16 700 loaded to 60 tonnes, the second FH pulling the company’s display trailer, the FM 13 rated at 500hp coupled to a Lusty EMS Stag trailer combination and grossing just over 40 tonnes, and the FM 11 covered the journey bobtail.

The run from Sydney to the Hume was uneventful owing to the light traffic conditions and inside the FM13 low noise levels from the 500hp engine made conversation simple, even under full power up some of the testing gradual climbs along the highway.

I-Shift, fitted to all units, makes life on the road simple and certainly lessens fatigue and, after all, this was to be an easy Sunday drive much like that undertaken in a motor car, but it gave ample time to evaluate performance of the FM compared to the 700hp truck along the route.

The FM Globetrotter’s 13-litre engine delivers 2500Nm of torque between 1050 and 1400rpm, definitely significant and very versatile on the highway, but the long climbs, particularly those nearing the Mittagong turnoff, showed what the extra 650Nm of the big truck can deliver. The FH16 700 drew away, creating a sizeable distance between the two vehicles, but nevertheless the FM did a magnificent job in the hills.

The D13 engine is extremely flexible in hill country and the 500 version, with its flat torque curve, will hang on with tenacity on the steepest uphill gradients. The I-Shift transmission delivers smooth changes and reacts accordingly despite the driver having a tendency to want to go to a lower gear – it is all about letting engine and driveline deliver best performance which in turn offers fuel efficiency.

Inside the cab there is little for the driver to do apart from concentrate on the road ahead in an environment that is comfort plus. The Globetrotter cab on the FM is finding increasing acceptance from operators who appreciate the spaciousness and comfort surrounds.

Inside the cab of the big FH it was apparent it is ready for hard work and by the way it pulls away it is immediately obvious torque is available as soon as it hits the highway, yet again noise levels and comfort are features those behind the wheel appreciate. The FH Globetrotter cab is a home-away-from-home with spaciousness, great creature comforts and a host of features for the long haul.

But people are interested in performance of the big truck and there is no shortage of that. The B-double combination and a gross weight of 60 tonnes is a piece of cake for the enormous power and torque, but despite it being a big mover it offers a huge range of vision and excellent road manners. Ride and stability across the FH range is far removed from earlier models. Today the cab does not exhibit sway, yet its on-road manners and ride have in no way been compromised delivering one of the most comfortable journeys in the business.

The FH16 was fitted with the Volvo safety package including Active Cruise Control, put to the test with slower vehicles in front as kilometres of the Hume passed beneath the wheels of the B-double combination. It seems Sunday drives by motorists are still undertaken, and in a number of instances cars passed to pull in ahead where they slowed, the bane of every truck driver’s life.

Active Cruise Control reacted as it should, maintaining a safe distance and on some of these occasions the truck actually applied the service brakes, upping the safety ante and responding to motorist misdemeanours.

These are standout features of the Volvo range and those who have not experienced what a Volvo can offer will have the chance to try it for themselves as the tour makes its way to all states, capitals and a host of regional centres.

Tour De Force 2011 will travel extensively in Tasmania, through Melbourne to Adelaide and Perth. Each dealership is responsible for moving the trucks onto the next centre and indications are there is strong interest, with a large number of persons invited to each venue.

Along the route from Sydney to Albury there was much comment on the radio about the four trucks and two stops along the route saw drivers keen to take a close look at the 2011 models. There are significant numbers of Volvo trucks plying the nation’s highways and radio discussion with some reveal they are extremely impressed with power, performance and ease of operation.

The I-Shift transmission raises a lot of comment, particularly from drivers who report they were previously not interested in piloting a truck with an automated transmission. One driver said while he cut his teeth on a multi-speed manual “there is no way I’d ever go back to a manual, it’s too much hard work” over the UHF.

Volvo has the package for all applications and is giving everybody the opportunity to take a look and test drive to see first-hand what is on offer. Dealers across the country are taking advantage of tour visits to show off credentials of the truck range and trucking people are eagerly awaiting the tour’s arrival. Interested parties are encouraged to contact dealerships to learn details and secure a place in the festivities.


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