Head to head Hinos

Due to its multitude of updates and changes there is certainly plenty to say about the new Hino 500 ‘Standard’ cab range, so called in order to differentiate it from the ‘Wide’ cab range released in Australia in 2017.

The Standard cab followed in November 2018 and is the fifth generation of the Hino 500.

Virtually every aspect of the truck has been reviewed and refined with many of the changes drawing upon Hino’s parent company Toyota’s expertise from its extensive global research and development programs.

The Standard cab line up has now grown from 33 models to 54 with more wheelbase options to allow for the fitment of bigger bodies.

Hino has the only Japanese 14 tonne GVM crew cab on Australian market with the weight distribution ideal for tilt tray work.

Hino has been achieving the dominant market share for this application with the additional benefit of a perceived brand endorsement by the high profile automobile associations which use them.

The three Standard cab models in this exercise are an FC 1124 tray back with an automatic transmission, an FD 1126 curtainsider again with an auto and a FE1426 curtainsider equipped with a seven speed manual gearbox.

Each truck is loaded to around 80 per cent of their specific GVMs and over the period of two weeks we operate them in city, suburban and highway conditions.

These latest models feature a full new interior with ‘earthy’ tones such as the coffee coloured upholstery which is complemented by some silver and faux carbon fibre trim pieces.

This is a refreshing change from the dolphin skin grey we have become so familiar with in most Japanese trucks.

Another difference is the implementation of a ‘smart’ steering wheel with integral controls for the multi-function display and the Adaptive Cruise Control.

Much obvious thought has been given to the biometrics and the pedals have been relocated to contribute to additional leg room and the ISRI NTS2 suspended seat is easier to adjust than its predecessor and has an extra 48mm of adjustment and the redesigned mounting helps achieve almost 30mm of additional head room.

With a rating of up to 150 kgs any driver will be able to operate these trucks in comfort.

The floor around the lower steering column mount has been re-engineered with additional bracing and the steering box mount to the chassis has also been reinforced which contributes to a very positive road feel for the driver.

The steering geometry incorporates extra wheel cut angles which result to excellent turning circles relative to the wheelbases.

Pursuing the engineering mantra that ‘safety is not an option’ the Hino is equipped with the most comprehensive suite of safety systems currently available in a Japanese truck in the Australian market.

These include Vehicle Stability Control, lane departure warning, a pre-collision system, Autonomous Emergency Braking, pedestrian detection and Hino’s Safety Eye system.

These integrated functions are not just gimmicks; and while some may operate unobtrusively beneath the surface such as VSC, systems such as the Adaptive Cruise Control make the driver’s task easier and contribute to reduced stress caused by other vehicles which switch into our lane and then inexplicably decrease their speed.

The ACC simply maintains the gap between vehicles as pre-set by the driver.

It’s comforting to know that the truck will automatically slow down if the driver’s attention is momentarily on the mirrors when some inconsiderate ignoramus decides that the right thing to do is slow down in front of a truck travelling on the open road.

The big deal under the cab is the new four cylinder Hino AO5 engine which at its capacity of five litres is not exactly small.

The engine is based on the architecture of Hino’s AO9 nine-litre six-cylinder which is fitted to the 700 series in Japan and the 500 Series Wide cabs in Australia.

It’s got a big crankshaft with 90mm diameter crank pins and a short crank throw of 130mm that keeps the piston speeds down and, combined with the twin turbochargers (one wastegate type, the other a Variable Geometry Turbo), a maximum torque is delivered at relatively lower rpm.

For the FC 1124 and the FD 1124 models the engine is rated at 240hp but the crucial peak torque of 794Nm is at 1,400 rpm.

The FD 1126 and FE 1426 have the slightly higher power rating of 260hp at 2,300rpm and a maximum torque rating of 882Nm at 1,400rpm. A check of the engine graphs shows more than 750Nm of torque is still available at maximum power at 2,300rpm.

When we drive the seven speed manual in the 14 tonne FE model for the first few kilometres it takes some concentration to shift up at 1,500 rpm or even lower rather than at 1,700 or 1,800.

To assess the hill climbing abilities of each truck we pull into the Hawkesbury River rest stop on the M1 Motorway in order to begin the northbound ascent up over Joll’s Bridge from a standstill.

All three models have no difficulty accelerating all the way to achieve the 100 k/hr speed limit before the summit. The same torque features also make the trucks extremely driveable at lower speeds in traffic.

Models equipped with the Allison 2500 six speed are accounting for around 70 per cent of 500 Standard cab sales to date.

The transmission selector is a T bar unit unique to Hino and is much more intuitive to use than the keypads often used to control Allison transmissions.

The selector lever is fitted with a power/economy switch that changes the shift parameters, and a lock out button to isolate top gear in circumstances where the transmission may be shuttling between fifth and sixth due to a combination of load and terrain.

Transmission technology developments have brought about a significant change in the perception of what is required to contribute the best fuel economy in a medium duty truck.

For decades it was generally accepted that a driver-controlled manual gearbox will deliver the best economy but today the expectation and reality are that the automatics provide the most fuel efficiency.

The torque convertor ‘locks up’ from third gear and higher and the overdrive 0.6:1 top gear in conjunction with the various final drive ratios available exploit the torque of the engine in a beneficial way.

The manual 14 pallet FE we drive has the Hino Stop-Start system which automatically stops the engine when the truck is stationary and restarts when the driver takes their foot off the brake.

This feature is also fitted to Hino Standard Cabs equipped with the two pedal six-speed automated manual transmission.

Switching from model to model underscores the many similarities and highlights the differences.

All use the same parking brake lever and on the full air braked FE1426 the lever operates an air valve which controls the maxi brakes, while in the lighter specified units it operates a cable connect to a parking brake assembly at the rear of the gearbox.

The majority of media ‘drive’ events are scheduled during daytime hours to suit collective schedules and to enhance photo opportunities so it’s refreshing to spend some time in medium duty trucks during the night.

The FD and FE models have LED headlights which provide a patch of crisp pure white light directly in front on low beam, and high beam delivers distant and broad illumination of the road ahead as well as the shoulders.

Cornering and fog lamps complete the package.

After a couple of weeks of driving three quite differently spec’d examples we can conclude that there is nothing ‘standard’ at all about this range and if anything, Hino has set a completely new standard for medium duty trucks which should appeal to the market and cause potential buyers to question their loyalty to other brands.

The category-leading safety and driver support systems are important but in the final analysis the trucks have to perform their intended functions as well.

There is no point in having the ‘safest’ truck if it’s not fit-for-purpose and the Hino Standard cab range is able to over-deliver on the practical operational criteria in addition to the safety and environmental considerations.

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