Mitsubishi Fuso Canter 715 truck review

By: Gary Worrall


The Mitsubishi Fuso trucks canter range was first revealed at the 2011 Brisbane Truck Show. Gary Worrall tested a 715 Canter to see if the much-vaunted Duonic transmission lives up to the hype.

 

As part of a quest to recapture lost ground, Fuso has reintroduced the narrow cab with the new Duonic-equipped Canter models, offering operators a choice, especially those working in areas with space restrictions.

There are seven narrow cab models in total, including 3,500kg gross vehicle mass (GVM) models that bridge the gap between full-size truck models and 1-tonne light commercials without needing a truck licence.

Kevin Johnston, Fuso’s Product Planning Manager, says the narrow cabs use independent front suspension, except for factory-built tippers, offering a car-like ride.

In common with the wide-cab models, the narrow cab is available with Fuso’s new Duonic dual-clutch transmission, while all Canters are fitted with the all-new 3-litre engine.

Engine

Designed to meet the forthcoming Japanese emission regulations that require not just lower emissions but reduced fuel consumption, the new engine offers 110kW and 370Nm and peak torque is available between 1,500 and 3,000rpm for excellent driveability.

The engine uses a variable geometry turbo with air-to-air intercooling, multiple stage EGR and a DPF as well as electronically controlled common rail injection with Piezo injectors.

Despite the engine redlining at 4,000rpm, it remains smooth right through the rev range and is remarkably muted, allowing the driver and passengers to hold conversations without shouting at each other.

Also impressive was the engine’s willingness to work hard. Despite being virtually brand new, it would run easily and quickly to peak torque at 3,000rpm, particularly in the lower gears when acceleration was needed.

With some more hours on the engine, it should only get better as components bed in, which bodes well for a long and happy service life.

Unfortunately, a combination of a new engine and numerous short trips, as well as time spent idling while the PTO did its thing, meant it was not possible to generate any accurate fuel consumption figures.

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Transmission

The Duonic transmission is an all-new unit designed in-house at Fuso, utilising dual clutches, one for 1-3-5 and the other operating 2-4-6, while the gears are non-synchro for strength and durability.

The result is virtually a pre-selector transmission, where the next available gear is selected while the current gear is still engaged, so that when the clutch operates, the gear is already in place.

The one weak point of automated manual transmissions tends to be clutch wear, with drivers attempting to hold the truck on the brakes while building engine revs for a quick getaway, under the mistaken belief it is a torque converter rather than a clutch because there is no pedal.

As a result, the clutch and the brakes often engage in a tug of war, with the computer telling the clutch to engage as the revs rise while the brakes attempt to hold it back. This results in premature wear on the clutch facings.

Fuso have solved that problem by fitting a wet clutch so that if the driver does mistake it for an automatic transmission, the fluid clutch allows partial engagement without damage to the friction plate.

The end result is a predicted clutch life of around 300,000km.

The transmission is similar, if heavier, than the gearboxes used in F1 racing, where computers control the clutches for rapid and accurate shifts, with the Canter enjoying the same accuracy and speed of shifts.

The result is a fast and smooth shift so that it feels almost like an automatic but with the higher towing capacity and ease of maintenance of a traditional manual.

While the on-board computer can be left to run the whole show, the manual mode allows the driver to select or hold a specific gear, for instance if the truck is about to climb or descend a hill.

There is also an ECO mode that tells the computer to select the highest gear as quickly as possible, for maximum fuel economy.

Although a little disconcerting at first as the transmission literally races through the gears, the result is reduced fuel consumption, and the flat torque curve allows the engine to lug even in high gear, as we discovered driving up a steep hill with more than 1,200kg of gravel on board.

Despite our predictions the transmission would drop back at least one gear when it reached the top still in sixth gear, although road speed did drop as low as 40km/h.

While there was always the option to manually override the transmission it was not necessary as the engine just pulled the truck to the top of the hill and then chugged its way back to 60km/h.

Although the initial trucks in Australia do not feature cruise control, Johnston says it will be here in early 2012.

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Cab and Controls

Squeezing two 180cm plus journalists, as well as camera bags, drinks and other necessities into a narrow cab proved an interesting exercise. And while it all fitted, things got more comfortable with some of the equipment relegated to the dropside tray.

With the narrow cab also shorter, there is no space behind the seats to store personal belongings, meaning lunchboxes, paperwork and other personal items are competing for space inside the cab.

The other option is to go for the traditional wide cab, which really does fit Fuso’s longstanding tagline of ‘Not So Squeezy’.

Not only do three full-sized people fit across the seats, the driver scores a suspension seat with lumbar support. There is also a left-side arm rest, and the longer cab length also creates storage behind the seats.

There is plenty of head, leg and shoulder room, even with three people in the cab, while the Duonic transmission removes the clutch pedal, creating plenty of space for the driver’s left foot.

The instrument panel is clear and easy to read, while the height and reach adjustable steering wheel provides plenty of options for getting comfortable, especially with the extra travel on the suspension seat.

The speedo and tacho flank a central multi-function screen that includes a gear position readout, temperature gauge and DPF indicator, which shows when the DPF is getting full prompting the driver to begin a manual regeneration when it reaches 70 per cent capacity.

While there is an automatic regeneration function, it is possible manual regenerations of the DPF will be needed.

The switch is tucked under the steering wheel on the left-hand side, so it cannot be accidentally triggered, but it is not so hard to find if the driver needs to start the regeneration manually.

Unlike its competitors, Fuso has stuck with a traditional single DIN AM/FM/CD stereo unit. While there is nothing wrong with keeping things simple, and the radio offers clear reception and good sound reproduction, there is no Bluetooth or satellite navigation which are necessities when your office is the truck itself.

The air-conditioning blows cold and hard through four vents and had no problem keeping the cab and its occupant cool on a humid and hot late-Spring day in Brisbane.

The PTO and tipper mechanism are both easy to reach and even easier to operate, with a single push of the button engaging the drive, while a handbrake-style lever controlled the tipping action.

Fortunately, the floor mats are solid rubber with grip dimples to stop boots from sliding around, so cleaning the cab is simple. The only real drawback, and this applies to both narrow and wide cab versions, is the loss of the split-fold seatback from the previous model.

Instead, there is a solid seatback, which means there is no fold-down work tray for holding paperwork or drinks, even if there are only two people in the truck.

While there are two big overhead storage spaces, plus a central letterbox style receptacle, none of them offer the ease of use that comes from the old work tray.

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Performance

Being given a tipper is a little like being given the keys to the toy store as a child, there is almost no end to the fun that can be had.

As a result, not only did we shoot the video featured on www.fullyloaded.com.au for Truck TV Australia, but with the blessing of Fuso and truck owner Zupps Trucks in Brisbane, the Fuso 715 helped out the local Scouts.

Although the 715 can be de-rated to 4,500kg GVM for operators wanting to drive it on a car licence, it is a 6,500kg GVM truck, with suspension settings to suit.

This means that anything less than five tonnes gross will see the back-end leaping around like an excitable Rudolf Nureyev, hopping and skipping from bump to bump.

While the driver’s suspension seat does an admirable job of preventing the driver’s filings from shaking loose under the repeated vibrations, the more weight on board, the better the whole system works.

As a measure of how much load the suspension can take, a final load saw the truck tip the scales at 6.2 tonnes, the tray only dropped about 20mm, with the whole truck sitting flat and stable.

Using a 5.8:1 drive ratio, the Fuso 715 has no shortage of acceleration, even with a heavy load; first gear is a monstrous 5.49:1, while second is not much shorter at 3.19:1.

As a result there is no issue with holding its own in traffic, the flat torque curve ensures plenty of pulling power regardless of the road speed, the only time it feels as though it is struggling is in ECO mode, and is because the computer is trying to hold high gears for economy, rather than using the lower gears for acceleration.

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Take it out of ECO mode and the truck comes alive, dropping back to around second or third, depending on the road speed, before putting its nose down and leaping away, surprising a few car drivers not expecting a truck to keep up with them.

Fortunately, while the acceleration is tremendous, Fuso engineers have imbued the 715 with equally efficient all-wheel disc brakes and an effective exhaust brake to ensure there is no shortage of stopping power.

This does not mean it can be driven sports car-style but, if driven sensibly, there is never a risk of running out of brakes.

When engaged, the exhaust brake opens as soon as the driver releases the accelerator, allowing fine adjustments to road speed as well as not allowing the truck to ‘run away’ down long inclines, without needing to use the brake pedal.

Hills and full power stops, such as for traffic lights, use a combination of exhaust and wheel brakes, while steep hills add the need for manual gear selection, limiting maximum speed and reducing the need for brake applications.

Forward vision is excellent, with a large single piece front screen. Despite the thick A-pillars there are no significant issues with blind spots, possibly helped by being able to sit back in the cabin thanks to the rearward seat travel.

The external mirrors are tall single grind units, without convex spotter mirrors, however the large mirror offers a good field of view down each side, from ground level to door height, with no blind spots.

With tippers spending a good deal of time going backwards to load or unload this is an issue, and despite numerous long reverse approaches, including between trees, there were no concerns about hitting obstacles.

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Verdict

One of the hardest questions asked of truck journalists is "But would you buy one?", which most times is answered in the negative, because unless you are constantly pulling tonnes up and down the highway, you really don’t need a B-Double rated prime mover.

In this case though, the 715 is so good at what it does and offers so many possibilities, it is easy to picture one in the shed, especially if you have a few hectares, plus, who wouldn’t want a tipper to play with?

A blend of simplicity and capability, Fuso have done a good job in sorting the new Duonic transmission, now if they could just fit Bluetooth as standard and bring back the split fold backrest for the bench seat.

Likes:

  • Duonic transmission is outstanding
  • Smooth running 3-litre engine
  • Driver’s suspension seat
  • Space in wide cab

Dislikes:

  • No Bluetooth
  • No cruise control until 2012
  • Please bring back split fold bench seat backrest

 

Specifications

Make/Model: Fuso Canter 715 Short Wheelbase Tipper

Engine: 3-litre four cylinder engine, four valves per cylinder, Bosch electronically controlled common rail fuel injection with variable geometry turbocharger

Output: 110kW@2,840-3,500rpm/370Nm@1,350-2,840rpm

Emission Control: Euro 5 with EGR and DPF

Transmission: Duonic 6-speed automated manual dual clutch transmission with wet clutch

PTO: Transmission on left-hand side

GVM/GCM: 6,500kg/8,000kg — can be derated to 4,500kg GVM

 

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