Isuzu twin steer FY range review

By: Matt Wood


With its eye on the heavy vocational platform segment, Isuzu has launched its long-awaited FY range onto the Australian market.

Isuzu twin steer FY range review
Members of the Isuzu twin steer FY range.

 

The new FY series of heavy-duty trucks from Isuzu not only signals the return of an 8x4 to the Aussie fold but, significantly, it heralds the introduction of a locally-developed 10x4 option. I drove the  ‘fit for purpose’  6x4 agitator model six months ago and walked away with the impression that the 6x4 was an admirable start but Isuzu needed to get more axles under their chassis if they wanted to take the fight to the big boys in a burgeoning multi-axle agitator market.

Almost on cue, Isuzu has waded into the fray with a range of twin steer models that will cover a GVM of up to 35 tonnes. Clearly these new models have Iveco’s venerable ACCO as well as Kenworth’s T359 and Mack’s Metro liner in their sights.

At the media launch of the new range, Isuzu Australia’s Director and Chief Operating Officer, Phil Taylor, admits that a twin steer "had been on their wish list for a very long time". Though Isuzu has been the biggest selling truck in Australia for over 20 years, the heavy-duty market has, as with other Japanese manufacturers, remained elusive.

However, Taylor now points to a heavy-duty market that is up by 23 percent with many transport operators returning to the market post-global financial crisis (GFC).

Isuzu Australia’s Product Planning and Engineering Support Manager, Colin White, was, possibly quite understandably, looking rather chuffed as we discussed the new twin steer axles. He went on to point out that this load sharing set-up was developed specifically for the Australian market after years of development and testing, as Isuzu engineers flogged the configuration around the test track trying to break it. Apparently the new range would have been here sooner had it not been for the Japanese tsunami disaster.

Looking at the new line up, however, Isuzu has been both cautious and smart with its targeting of these new trucks. With the now-dated heavy-duty Giga already an Isuzu offering in the prime mover market, where Japanese products have never been strong locally, Isuzu has based the new FY series on the premise of heavy-duty, vocational, multi-axle rigid roles.

In short, Isuzu is playing to its strengths and drawing on its engineering capabilities to sell a platform that will tackle agitator, concrete pumper, crane truck, tilt tray and waste roles at a heavier GVM than ever before. I would imagine that there were probably more than a couple of Isuzu dealers who snuck away to have a little happy dance in private at the news of the launch of these new trucks.

Now to take a deep breath and wade through all of the jumbly letters and numbers bit. The range consists of nine variants based on the FYJ 2000, the FYH2000, of which each has a power take-off (PTO) variant, and the FYX2500 which is the ‘Big Kahuna’ 10x4 model.

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Engine

Power is provided by Isuzu’s SiTEC Series 3 9.8-litre engine from the FX series, which puts out 350hp (265 killer wasps) at 2,000rpm and develops 1,086ft-lb (1,472Nm) of torque between 1,200 and 1,400rpm, and comes from Isuzu’s FX model.

The engine makes use of a variable nozzle turbo charger and high pressure common rail fuel injection to get the dinosaur juice to the combustion chamber in a hurry and uses cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) to keep the exhaust pipe smelling sweet as a daisy … almost.

What is interesting, however, is the use of a diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC) to trap the exhaust nasties rather than a diesel particulate diffuser (DPD) as used elsewhere the Isuzu range.

The use of a passive DOC means there’s no active regeneration of the catalyst required, and this means that there’s no afterburner firing up in the DPD to burn out and clear the diffuser element.

Which is quite handy for an engine that will potentially spend a lot of time idling and/or powering a PTO; as both of these scenarios are notorious for  ‘sooting up’ " DPDs, causing frequent regeneration cycles.

Transmission

Behind the engine is the choice of an Allison HD4430 6-speed automatic, a very serious lump of transmission indeed, or two manual boxes. These being either an Eaton 10-speed crash box, with crawler gears, or a 9-speed ZF synchro box for those with a yen for the open road.

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Suspension

Final drive duties are taken care of by Meritor with inter-axle and cross locks available, while the bouncy bits out back are handled by a choice of Hendrickson air-bag, or steel six-rod. But the more interesting bit is the twin steer axle group under the cab.

The Meritor steer axles are linked by a mechanically dampened load sharing damper that acts as a rocking equalizer between the leaf spring units and gives the axle group a capacity of 13.2 tonnes.

Isuzu has also been quite considerate, leaving a space between the steer axles for crane stabilisers to be installed if needed.

Cab and Controls

The cab is exactly what you’d expect from Isuzu, white, tidy and accessible. All of the features that are found across the Isuzu range are to be found in the FY, including a touch screen audio visual/multi-media unit that takes centre stage in the dashboard.

One of the good things about this unit is the potential to hook up two or three cameras to help with visibility when backing into a tight spot, something very handy for an agitator, especially one as long as these.

Having had the pleasure of being threatened by a red-faced, shovel wielding concreter after squashing some hoarding on a building site, I’d reckon that the extra visibility can only be a good thing.

Behind the seats is a handy space that people keep insisting is an ADR/42 compliant sleeper; however I prefer to think of it as a good place to stow hard hats, gloves, jackets and wet weather gear. It’s also a great place for old newspapers to reproduce.

If I tried to actually lie down in that space, I’d probably need the State Emergency Service (SES) to cut the cab open to get me out again.

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Performance

Of course, this is all purely academic unless you get a chance to put pedal to metal and see how these babies go. And that’s exactly what the assembled media pack got to do at the Australian Automotive Research Centre (AARC) proving ground in Anglesea, Victoria.

With the 6x4, 8x4 and 10x4 all on site and fitted with agitator barrels, I got to have a play with the new cement mixers.

On seeing the new multi axle rigids the first time, especially the FYX2500 10x4 with its 9 cubic-metre barrel, the sheer size of the new jiggers really hit home.

It’s certainly a lot of truck for something that doesn’t bend in the middle. All of the test vehicles were fitted with agitator barrels and counterweighted with gravel in an effort to emulate real world dynamics as much as possible.

That being said, you can only get so much gravel into an agitator barrel before it starts trickling out the back while in motion, so the trucks were probably a bit lighter than they would be with a churning load of cement on board.

As with the 6x4 agitator that I’d previously driven, the lack of noise was the most noticeable quality of the FY. With the live drive PTO engaged out on the highway circuit the absence of a loud engine or PTO whine made the cab a nicer place to be.

My natural instinct when driving a loud truck is to sing ’80s power ballads at the top of my lungs, even humming along to the guitar solos in falsetto. If I try that in a quiet truck like the FY however, I can actually hear just how truly awful my singing voice is, so I tend to abstain, something for which I’m sure Isuzu Product Development Manager Romesh Rodrigo, who was riding shotgun, is very grateful.

The SiTEC 350 engine worked well in conjunction with the heavy-duty Allison auto, although performance was adequate rather than earth shattering. This was again reinforced in the 10x4 which was carrying a few extra kilos.

And the pneumatically controlled exhaust brake? Pretty ordinary, the only thing it’s really any good for is telling the Allison tranny to down-change quicker at higher rpm.

As far as engine braking capabilities go, you’d be better off letting go of the wheel and flapping your arms back and forth like an obese wood duck crash landing onto a pond.

Not to say that the vehicle isn’t adequately braked, the truck does have a brake pedal which combined with gearbox down changes does do an effective job of pulling the vehicle up, just don’t depend on the exhaust brake alone unless you like the sound of asthmatic huffing.

But the FY’s forte in my opinion is handling, the new steer axle group tracks, rides and handles beautifully, in a top heavy configuration like an agitator, stability on the road and precise, predictable handling are a must and the FY proved to be all of the above.

I was even able to drop a side off the blacktop and pull it back onto the road with ease without any scary pitching and swaying, there wasn’t even any tendency to "tram-track" on uneven surfaces.

On-road engine performance is probably the Isuzu’s weakest link, especially when a couple of its main competitors use the punchy Cummins ISL powerplant with the option of its wickedly effective Jacobs’ C-brake for engine braking.

But the FY does make up for it with a clean chassis free of emissions control devices, no Ad-blue tanks and no active regeneration to take into account, and as mentioned previously the SITEC engine is also whisper quiet when compared to the Cummins.

And it must be said that the vast majority of these vehicles will probably spend their working lives shuffling through traffic, rarely leaving the metro area making engine performance less of an issue; especially when the trade-off is a quiet, well-appointed cab and excellent road manners.

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Verdict

The long awaited FY range is bound to kick some goals for Isuzu who now finally have a heavy vocational platform that’s bound to cause some waves amongst the competition.

And after some time behind the wheel, I can only conclude that it’s "a bit of all right".

Specifications

Make/Model: Isuzu FY Series 8x4 and 10x4

Engine: SiTEC Series III 9.8-litre, with direct high pressure, common rail fuel injection

Emissions Control: ADR 80/03, Cooled EGR with DOC

Power: 257kW (345hp) @ 2,000rpm

Torque: 1,422Nm @ 1,400rpm

Transmission: Option of 6-speed Allison HD 4430 automatic, Eaton constant mesh 10-speed manual, or 9-speed ZF synchromesh manual. PTO- equipped variants available

Steer Axle: 2 x Load sharing Meritor with equalising dampened suspension

Rear Axle: 2 x Meritor RT-40 with inter-axle lock and cross locks

Tag Axle (FYX 2500 10x4): Hendrickson D22 air-suspended lazy axle

GVM: up to 35 tonnes

GCM: up to 42.5 tonnes

 

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