Scania R730 truck review

By: Matt Wood


The Scania R730 is the most powerful road-going truck on our market and the time has come to head to Western Australia and finally get some pudding on the back of the big V8

 

It’s a typically Australian rural idyll, rolling hills wear the golden mantle of harvest and stretch to the horizon, hordes of blow flies flit through the air looking to settle on anything with a pulse.

A coastal breeze ruffles the trees as the sound of a big diesel engine steadily grows in volume, birds chirp and twitter nervously, their belly’s full of scavenged grain.

In the distance, a prime mover towing multiple trailers rumbles down a red dirt track.

You may expect that truck to be sporting a towering radiator grille, a massive bonnet.

All bullbar, exhaust stacks, air cleaners and attitude.

However, it’s a European cab-over that steadily rumbles closer.

Engine and Transmission

A twin-steer Scania R730 hauling a Western Australian C-train combination.

Sixteen litres, 730hp (544kW), 3,500Nm of torque, 16 axles, 60 tyres, 80 tonnes of grain and a grinning bald headed nuffy (that’d be me), behind the wheel.

It won’t be long until Scania is the last man standing to offer a big bent eight on the truck market.

While emissions technology may have dulled its aural drama over the last decade or so, the big Scania donk has a character all of its own when it’s working hard.

The trouble is, I don’t think I’ve ever really heard that big eight-iron work hard at all.

The 730, with a 12-speed Opticruise automatic manual transmission (AMT) covering the gear changes, barely raises a sweat as a B-double and even an 80-tonne gross B-triple is a walk in the park for the Scania flagship.

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Cab and Payload

This 730 was sporting an air-suspended twin-steer set-up, so I was very curious to see how it handled the variety of road surfaces especially with a dolly hanging off the back. 

The 8x4 Scania rides on air bags from front to back and this would also be the time that I’d driven a heavy-duty truck with load sharing air-suspended steer axles.

Behind the big Scania was a three trailer C-train tipper combination, the WA interpretation of an AB-triple with the B-double set at the front and a tri-axle dolly and dog trailer at the back.

With concessional loading for harvest this whole combination is good for an 80-tonne legal payload.

This makes a gross weight of 121 tonnes, which would no doubt be a good test of the 730’s 16-litre V8.

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Esperance Freight Lines

For a while now, I’ve wanted to take the big banger for a drive in an application that really makes all 730 ponies and 3,500 of Newton’s metres actually take a deep breath and pull.

That application turned out to be with Esperance Freight Lines (EFL) in WA’s south.

The Esperance-based company has grown from a five truck, 20 trailer operation to a 73 prime mover, 300 trailer fleet company that, in the words of owner and manager Michael Harding (above), transport’s anything and everything "bar stuff that shits". 

Half of that fleet is now made up of Scanias and Harding says, "Comfort and reliability have been a key part of the purchasing decision."

Six are R730s.

The first Scania in the fleet actually came as part of a buy-out of another business.

The company uses the Scania V8 engine in all of its horsepower ratings depending on application.

I’ve arrived while harvest is in full swing.

Local tippers and out of town subbies are working hard to keep up with what was predicted to be a bumper harvest for the Esperance zone.

A bit of rain and a cold south westerly had momentarily slowed the usually frantic pace of harvest time in the South West.

For bulk tipper work, EFL uses the 35.5m long C-train combination.

This is essentially made up of an 8x4 prime mover, a B-double combination and a dolly and dog trailer.

With concessional loading the whole rig can gross up to 121.5 tonnes, which, in the case of the Scania, means a payload of up to 82-tonne.

Harding is still shy on the fuel economy figures between the 620hp (460kW) and 730hp (544kW) versions of the 16-litre engine, but it’s fair to say that he’ll be taking notice.

Harding is also no stranger to the driver’s seat either and he’ll spend quite a bit of time behind the wheel himself during peak season.

This is why he’s quite emphatic when he says that quiet operation, comfort and reliability are big selling points when it comes to the big Scanias.

The company buys all of its rolling stock outright.

However, all bar one of the Scania prime movers in the fleet are on repair and maintenance contracts.

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Performance

For a while now, I’ve wanted to take the big banger for a drive in an application that really makes all 730 ponies and 3,500 of Newton’s metres actually take a deep breath and pull.

I’ve driven the big Scania flagship in a number of guises, single trailer, B-double and even B-triple but I’d never heard the big V8 actually work for a living.

It’s always seemed to be seamless in its performance.

I wanted to see just how the jigger would handle a decent load on its back.

We headed out to the Wittenoom Hills some 70km from Esperance.

The latest addition to the EFL fleet sat waiting under a field bin auger as we rolled to a stop beside the two-week-old R730.

Harvest waits for nothing and no one and in that period the Scania had already notched up 4,400 km.

Rob Mellor is the full-time driver of the 730 and has just stepped up from an R620.

When the boss rang to ask him how he liked the new truck after its maiden voyage, Mellor replied by asking whether Harding had a tube of Super Glue.

When asked why, Mellor answered: "Coz I want to glue my arse to the driver’s seat."

I may not have been so keen to araldite my posterior to the upholstery but I was still very keen to get into the big chook badged heavy hauler and do some work.

By the time grain had finished trickling out of the auger, we were tipping the scales at 115.5 tonnes, which meant a payload of 78-tonne.

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Giddy up

I then fired up the big V8 and pointed the triple toward the gate and beyond to the road into town.

This year’s harvest was a bumper one for the Esperance grain growing region with 3.3 million tonnes of grain expected to be stripped.

EFL has 26 trucks dedicated to harvest work as well as using subbies over the season.

Most of this grain gets trucked back to the CBH terminal at Esperance before being shipped from the port.

The truck and trailer combination was just two weeks old with the odometer showing just over 4,400km on the clock.

Outside of harvest time these trucks spend their time hauling bulk product such as fertiliser.

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Heading to town

Now with the load on board and the tarps rolled over, I rumbled through the paddock towards the road to town.

The C-train combination is relatively compact at 36.5m long and tracks very nicely.

The 12-speed Opticruise automatic manual transmission (AMT) held the gear changes back as we rolled along the dirt tracks until we got some momentum up.

Out on the country dirt road, I gave it some more gas and let the big donk knuckle down and work.

At this point I thought it might be interesting to play with the transmissions three different performance modes, ‘Standard’, ‘Eco’ and ‘Power’.

The Eco mode actually worked quite well even at this weight, jumping up a cog at around 1,500rpm and dropping back to 1,050rpm.

Even then the big bent V8 had enough grunt to haul the tacho needle back up for the next gear change.

Power mode held the gear changes for longer, giving about 1,900rpm before the next change.

However, the middle of the road standard setting did the job just fine using rpm where needed but letting the momentum of the combination give it a helping hand where possible.

This truck was running hub reduction axles and a final drive ratio of 3.67:1, which is taller than the previous 730s in the fleet that have traditionally run with a 3.96:1 rear end.

While this new truck may be running a taller diff ratio, Mellor wasn’t complaining about the pulling power of the big Scania at all.

I must say that from my stint in the captain’s chair there certainly didn’t seem to be any laziness in the 730 under load at all.

The stability and handling of the air-suspended twin-steer axles was superb, even on dirt and rough, broken blacktop.

Where some twin-steer set-ups can feel like you are hitting every bump twice, the Scania set-up let larger bumps roll though the front end without a double impact.

Given the short drawbar between the dog trailer and the rest of the combination, I was expecting that rear trailer to be a little jittery at highway speeds.

But, given the stability and ride provided by the front end the dog trailer tracked along nicely with very little sway on the rough stuff.

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Verdict

Getting up to speed brought out a hairy chested, if muted, exhaust note that I’d never heard from the big banger before.

It really was hauling.

However, the 3,500Nm of torque could be most felt once it was cruising on the highway at 95-100km/h.

The Scania only gives you peak torque in the top two gears of the Opticruise ’box.

This meant that the big V8 did a sensational job of highway hills, reducing tranny down changes.

It simply rolled along, lugging down where needed but maintaining a good average speed.

If the V8 was the star of the show, the Scania retarder wasn’t too far behind it.

A bit of forethought on approaching an intersection meant I could pull up the rig, keep my foot off the brake pedal and keep the 730 rolling even at such a large weight.

It really was impressive.

As sheets of torrential rain blew in from the Southern Ocean, we rolled into the CBH terminal and onto the weigh bridge.

Mellor rolled the tarps back to let the robot grain samplers do their thing.

We then headed to the grain cleaning facility around the corner to tip off.

It was here that I bid the big Scania farewell.

It had been a revealing drive indeed, and it was this drive more than any other in the 730 that had impressed me.

I’ve been guilty in the past of saying the R730 is more an exercise in vanity rather than a serious heavy hauling contender.

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Specifications

Make/model: Scania R730 8x4

Engine: 16-litre Euro 5 V8 with selective catalytic reduction

Power: 730hp/544kW

Torque: 3,500Nm

Transmission: 12-speed Opticruise AMT

Front Axles: Air-suspended load share, twin-steer

Rear Axles: Hub reduction bogie drive

 

 

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