Clash of the Titans: Hands-on with the Volvo FH

By: Matt Wood


Matt Wood embarks on a get-to-know-you session with Volvo's FH truck.

Clash of the Titans: Hands-on with the Volvo FH
Feature packed: There is a lot to take in when you climb aboard Volvo's technologically-advanced trucks.

 

The clock is counting down to the start of our Clash of the Titans drive. And this week we embarked on a product familiarisation drive to get up to speed with some of the newfangled systems to be found on our new Volvo FH16.

Some of these features feel a little abstract until you climb behind the wheel and are shown how to use them properly. Our FH is equipped with I-roll and I-See as well as Volvo dynamic steering (VDS).

There are nine buttons on the smart wheel of the big FH and these handle 25 different functions on two different screens.

There was a lot to take in. However, it wasn’t just me getting the Volvo treatment, my fellow journo and partner on this Clash of the Titans drive, Steve Brooks, was also on hand to absorb some Scandinavian driving wisdom.

Volvo driver trainers Per Hansen and Paul Munro came along for the ride — ostensibly to erode our egos — as we hit the road to Gatton in a couple of FH13s.

Both trucks were hooked up to Volvo’s Dynafleet telematics system so our driving performance and fuel usage could be monitored and both were hauling loaded single trailers.

I also downloaded the Volvo Dynafleet app to my smart phone which lets me keep an eye on ‘my’ trucks while they are out on the road. It even lets you see how they’re being driven and gives the driver a performance rating.

Climbing aboard the new FH again felt a bit weird at first.

There’s so much going on with this truck that it takes an hour or so on the road to really settle into it.

I’ve been critical in the past of the Volvo VDS system for highway use. It felt too dead and too twitchy and I kept over-steering the vehicle.

However, Australian Volvos now have a revised steering box ratio to accompany the electronically assisted steering system.

The box ratio is now 18:1 which I can happily say has made a huge difference to the truck’s on-road handling. Only now can I really appreciate the system and it potential.

 

The combination of the adaptive cruise control and the I-See terrain mapping function was impressive, and just a little scary in terms of tech.

The truck I was driving was able to tell that another Volvo truck with the I-See function had already travelled this route.

The GPS information on the topography of this route was already in the Volvo cloud and my truck was able to access it.

This meant that while I was in cruise the truck was reading information from the cloud and calibrating free-wheeling and engine braking to suit the route. From the cockpit this meant that the FH would neutralise near the crest of a hill, roll over the top, engine brake down the other side, free wheel near the bottom and attack the next grade without any intervention from me.

It’s not perfect; sometimes it did change gear in places where I would not. This can be over ridden in a number of ways, but my preference is to just hold the plus or minus shift button on the transmission selector to prevent a gear change.

The proof was in the pudding when we returned from our 225km round trip.

The Dynafleet system gave me a driving score of 95 per cent, while Brooksy returned a score of 85 per cent.

This was cause for much gloating and crowing on my part until we broke down the figures further.

Brooksy averaged 41.64l/100km while I averaged 45.6l/100km. I was using all of the bells and whistles while Brooksy spent more time in manual mode and less time in cruise.

Clearly Brooksy spent more time driving the vehicle, while I spent more time letting it drive itself and the fuel figures reflect that (even if I am the better driver).

With training out of the way all that’s left is to take delivery of our FH16 and our K200. It’s shaping up to be an interesting drive.

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