Iveco EuroCargo ML160E28P 4x2 truck review

By: Gary Worrall


With a product range that includes Australia’s most popular vocational truck, Iveco can afford to bring some style to the local delivery truck market, writes Gary Worrall

Iveco EuroCargo ML160E28P 4x2 truck review
Iveco EuroCargo ML160E28P 4x2.

 

The EuroCargo has enjoyed success in Australia, mainly with fleet operators, but it is nothing like the market penetration that it has achieved in Europe, where it is one of the most popular trucks.

In an attempt to replicate this success here, Iveco is overhauling the EuroCargo range, from cabin cosmetics to a redesign of the cooling system to allow higher power outputs.

With the EuroCargo arriving at Iveco’s factory in Dandenong, on Melbourne’s outskirts as a ‘CBU’, or completely built up, product, Australian models will be identical to their European counterparts, although the 6x2 ML225 version will have a locally engineered and fitted rear lazy axle.

To make the EuroCargo more attractive to local operators, it will be offered in a choice of three different gross weights, 12 tonne, 16 tonne and 23 tonne.

While there is no doubt about the EuroCargo’s intended function, there is something special about the way it sits, hunkered down, almost squatting, that tells you this is something out of the ordinary.

Even dressed in a plain-Jane white paint job, the first impression is you are looking at something that belongs on the set of the next Transformers movie – there’s curves, bulges and cut-outs aplenty.

Such an array of design cues ought to be distracting, but on the EuroCargo there is not a line out of place, even the wrap-around plastic bumper shroud, which also mounts the quad headlights, driving lights and indicators, separated by a deep chin step for climbing up to wash the windscreen.

Sitting above the light assemblies, which also have an integrated pop-up washer each side, are a pair of ears designed to draw air around the corner of the cab, smoothing out the airflow for better economy, as well as directing the slipstream down the truck’s side, helping to disperse grit and grime and helping to keep the cab clean.

Even the placement of the Iveco badge in the top space on the engine cover is a mix of form and function; it undoubtedly looks good, but by moving it lower, the inspection panel becomes a full-width blank canvas for the operator’s name and logo.

The cover panel is top-hinged and has gas struts, so it can be easily opened for the checking of coolant, oil, air-conditioning, pollen filter and other pre-trip routines.

The most impressive features on this truck, designed to be used on local operations with lots of mounts and dismounts every day, is the door opening and side-steps.

Not only are the hinges big, chunky cast-metal units, to prevent sagging and maintain cab integrity over years of operations, the opening itself is huge, as if the whole side of the truck moves ease of entry and exit.

The door opens well beyond the 90-degree mark, it is more like 110 degrees, so there is no chance of getting hung up when climbing in or out. The steps themselves look and feel as if they have been bored into the side of the truck, such is the size and support levels for even the biggest boot.

The door opening features two sturdy grab handles, making sure the driver has three solid contact points at all times, helping to prevent workplace slips and falls.

Versions fitted with a sleeper cab, which is fully ADR-approved, also gain a full-width storage compartment under the sleeper, which can be accessed from either side.

Even packaging the ancillaries, like the catalytic converter for the SCR system, the AdBlue and fuel tanks and the exhaust outlet, show plenty of forethought, with everything grouped tightly down the driver’s side for ease of access as well as looking good.

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Engine

There will be a choice of power outputs, with the 12 tonne receiving a 185kW (250hp) version of the Tector F4A six-cylinder engine, while the heavier versions will get a handy 205kW (277hp) from the same engine, with a 223kW (300hp) waiting in the wings, all using SCR technology.

Marco Quaranta, Iveco’s Senior Product Planning Manager, says 223kW is already possible, however, engineers are developing a bigger cooling package to cope with the extra heat generated at the higher power level.

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Cab and Controls

Inside, the EuroCargo is as eye-catching as the external view, with a seat trim featuring a cross between geometric patterns and the isobar display used on weather maps.

Most importantly, though, the Isri air-suspension seat is wide and comfortable, offering good support across the shoulders, in the all-important lumbar region and also with a long base for under-thigh support.

Once in the seat, the driver faces a tilt-and-reach adjustable steering wheel, with a thick, padded rim for easy grip.

Unlike some of its competitors, Iveco uses a ‘dumb’ wheel, with all of the controls on stalks protruding from the steering column, rather than being integrated into the wheel itself. This is not a bad thing, and certainly reduces the cost of the wheel to manufacture, with no electronics to worry about.

The left stalk looks after wipers and high-beam switches for the headlights, while the right stalk takes care of cruise control, gear changing and the two-stage engine brake.

The instrument panel is a mix of analogue dials for speedo and tacho, with smaller dials for water temperature and fuel levels, all surrounding an LCD-screen for the engine management system.

Controlled by a set of dash switches on the driver’s left, the display runs a number of screens, including AdBlue levels, air-brake pressure and other information including total engine hours, fuel burn calculations, plus options to switch between metric and imperial measures and plenty more.

This is a handy way to give the driver all of the information needed, without cluttering the instrument panel, but it can be frustrating scrolling through multiple pages trying to check the setting for the road speed limiter.

The rest of the dash has been kept as clean as possible with three rotary dials and a couple of buttons for the air-conditioning, a hazard light switch, and three rocker switches for the ZF EuroTronic gearbox.

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To the right of the steering wheel is a rotary switch for the headlights, which automatically turns off with the ignition, while the power window and mirror controls are placed on the driver’s door, right where they are needed.

Rounding out the interior is the stubby park brake, a spare power socket for running accessories, and a fold-down centre seat, that converts into a table with three cup holders.

Access to the sleeper is reasonably simple: fold down the passenger seats, and then just climb in from the driver’s seat. There is plenty of space, even for a big body like mine.

Standard fit for the EuroCargo also includes a tachograph – apparently it is harder to remove them than it is to leave them in place, as well as an AM/FM/CD stereo plus a couple of speakers, plus a pair of standard DIN spaces for two-way and UHF radios.

The view out from the driver’s seat is generally good, although the Iveco suffers from the same problem as most European trucks: thanks to domestic market regulations, the mirrors are thicker than Arnie Schwarzenegger’s accent. Add that to the placement just behind the left A-pillar and you get a blind spot that can hide a bus.

Unfortunately, more trucks are built for Europe than Australia, which means drivers need to develop flexible neck muscles to rotate their heads when stopped at T-intersections.

This niggle aside, the EuroCargo provides a decent workspace for the professional driver, with good acoustic insulation to keep out the unwanted noises, plenty of space, and a feeling of welcoming you into the truck.

Performance

Unlike most trucks of its size, the EuroCargo uses a relatively small-capacity, six-cylinder engine, just 5.9 litres, but the payback is an exhaust note almost unheard of in the truck industry.

With each piston less than a litre in capacity, the Tector F4A engine is also a free-revving design, which can catch drivers out with the speed of its power delivery.

The test truck pushed out 205 kW at 2,700rpm, the torque, or getaway power, peaked at 950Nm (700ft-lb) at a delightfully low 1,250rpm, virtually just off-idle.

More importantly, it did it with a deliciously rorty exhaust note, so that just cracking the throttle open provided a wonderful sound as the engine let a deep growl, indicating there was plenty of power just waiting to be unleashed.

While the transmission rocker switches looked out of place in a 16-tonne truck, it quickly became apparent how well-suited the switches are to the task of activating the gears.

Iveco ,-Euro Cargo -ML160E28P-4x 2,-truck -review ,-ATN6Selecting drive was a simple case of putting one foot on the brake and pushing the button, followed by a quick ‘lift and push’ to release the park brake, and the truck is off.

Throttle response is exceptional, even with a GVM (gross vehicle mass) of 14.5 tonnes, pushing down on the throttle results in a surge forward as the rev counter races around to its redline, and another gear is selected by one of the numerous on-board computers.

Gear changes, even under load, are swift and painless, and require no backing off from the accelerator. The engine computer cuts engine power for a fraction of a second to allow the shift to complete before returning to full output, but without any jerking or neck-snapping histrionics.

Down-shifts, if anything, are handled even more smoothly, with the computer doing a great job of matching road speed to the lower gear, then it automatically blips the throttle to ensure the gears mesh, all with no input from the driver.

The only thing lacking in this scenario is a hill-holder, however, Quaranta says one is under development, and is expected to arrive in Australia early in 2011, as part of an upgrade to the roll stability program (ESP).

With virtually no free play in the steering, the EuroCargo is one of the more responsive trucks on the market, allowing the driver to make quick and accurate alterations if needed, as well as generally reducing the amount of effort required to encourage the EuroCargo to change lines in general driving.

Although the mirrors can be a pain at T-intersections, they come into their own when reversing, giving the driver a clear view of not just behind but to the side, while the down mirror is ideal for navigating a tight line into cramped docks.

With just six gears in the Eurotronic transmission the in-gear acceleration is more than adequate, particularly when matched to the free-revving engine, which allows the computer to hold higher gears for better fuel economy, with the motor quite happy to dig its way out of a low speed, courtesy of its broad torque curve.

Iveco follows common European practice and offers disc brakes as standard on the EuroCargo. In this case the 377-mm diameter rotors not only offer a broad surface for the pad to grip onto, but they are also ventilated, which allows cooling air to reduce rotor temperature, improving their performance in high demand situations, such as driving down steep hills, which can otherwise cause brakes to overheat and potentially fail.

On top of the brakes, there is also a two-stage engine brake which takes a lot of the effort away from the air-brake system, and although it does get loud during periods of maximum effort, it never over-rode our conversations, instead providing a delightful bass note that mimics a Jacob brake-type system, without drowning out everyone within a 50-metre radius.

The ride of the truck is also praiseworthy, with four bellow air-bags on the rear and parabolic spring suspension under the front end soaking up the bumps and potholes that eat into our roadways.

Our test loop took in much of the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, which offered a mix of road surfaces to try out the suspension, including a selection of single-lane rural roads with dirt shoulders, yet the EuroCargo felt composed and in control at all times.

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Verdict

Quaranta says Iveco expects to sell between 150 and 200 EuroCargo models per year, and after this drive, it is easy to see where the confidence is coming from.

Admittedly, gone are the days where manufacturers would roll out a genuinely bad truck, however, the EuroCargo sets the bar high for its competition, with a simple layout that will endear it to fleet operators, while drivers are likely to be impressed by the on-road dynamics, not to mention that stunning exhaust note.

 

Likes:

  • Great looks
  • Exhaust note
  • Instinctive steering response

Dislikes:

  • No hill holder on Eurotronic transmission (yet)
  • Blind spot at left front pillar

 

Specifications

Make/Model: Iveco EuroCargo ML160E28P 4x2 Rigid

Engine: Tector F4A E28 5.88-litre turbocharged and intercooled six-cylinder with four valves per cylinder, common rail fuel injection

Power/Torque: 205kW (280hp) / 950Nm (700ft/lb)

Emission Control: SCR / Euro 5

Brakes: Full air-brakes, front and rear ventilated discs, with four channel ABS; spring actuated parking brake

Tyres: 305/70R 19.5 tubeless

GVM: 16 tonne

 

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