Freightliner Coronado 6x4 Truck Review

By: Matt Wood


The recent arrival of the Coronado has given Freightliner a shot at having a hero in Australia. Matt Wood takes a ride to find out which of its voices sounds best, a drawl or a bark.

 

At long last, it seems Freightliner may finally have the hero model that they have always been missing in Australia - the new long-wheelbase Coronado.

I actually got to drive two Coronados: one powered by a Cummins ISX EGR and the other by Detroit's new exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) DD15. Both prime movers featured a 5,450mm wheelbase, a 48-inch mid-roof sleeper and a GCM of 106 tonnes.

On this occasion, I drove both from Melbourne to Adelaide and back with both units hooked up to one trailer at a gross weight of 41 tonnes.

You might say that using a 106-tonne GCM prime mover to pull one trailer is a bit of overkill, sort of like using a canister of napalm to mow your lawn. But it still gave me the opportunity to familiarise myself with the big flagship as well as comparing the tried and true ISX powerplant with the new 15-litre EGR Detroit.

It's not often that I get the chance to hop straight from one identical truck to the other to get a better chance to appreciate the different characteristics of the two powerplants.

Engine

As I said, there was going to be little that was going to challenge either vehicle horsepower-wise.

The Cummins was developing 550hp and 1,850ft-lb of torque and the Detroit 418 kW(560hp) and 2,508 Nm (1,850ft-lb) also, at 41-tonne gross neither truck was going to be raising much of a sweat.

Transmission

As you would expect in a conventional prime mover, the long gear stick affixed to the floor made stirring the 18 Eaton-branded cogs just as easy.

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Cab and Controls

The Scania P320 has a cavernous interior. The dashboard and instrument cluster has a family look shared with the new Argosy.

However, the retro-look white analogue gauges do differentiate between the other models in the range.

The miles per hour indications set inside the speedo were a neat touch emphasising the heritage theme of the Coronado.

I'm still not sure about the metal cup holder inserts; they kind of looked like a couple of jam tins set into the dash panel and I was wondering if it was taking the whole retro thing a bit far.

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Performance

Leaving Melbourne in the pre-dawn dark to beat the traffic, I got mobile in the Cummins-powered prime mover. I was more than familiar with the EGR ISX engine, having driven it in other brands of truck, and it made jumping behind the wheel of the Coronado an easy prospect.

Changing trucks periodically along the way highlighted the different characteristics of the two engines; though performance-wise there was little separating either engine. But it was the way that both engines behaved from a driver's perspective that provided the most interesting comparison.

The Cummins tends towards a peaky accelerator pedal response, building and losing revs quickly. The red engine responded best to early down shifts higher in the rev range, and pre-empting the road ahead.

The Detroit-powered prime mover was a slightly different beast however. The green Detroit wanted to lug down and work, with the relatively light gross weight of the single combination, the 15-litre was happy enough for me to grab whole gear changes, only usually splitting the top gear position from direct to overdrive.

The slow-to-build and slow-to-drop rev characteristics of the Detroit encouraged me to drive the Coronado like it was a 9-speed rather than an 18. But more to the point, the Detroit was quieter and smoother in operation.

The Cummins kept me looking at what I was doing gear-wise, whereas the Detroit was a lazy drive, letting the revs lug right down before I grabbed another handful of gear ratio without feeling the need to split a gear. There is little to criticise about the red Cummins; indeed it has proved its worth in many other platforms, but the direct comparison with the green Detroit made it feel almost agricultural in comparison.

There's no doubt that Detroit's global heavy-duty engine platform (HDEP) is a very civilised and easy piece of machinery to operate. It was interesting to see the Cummins launch itself at a grade before needing a gear shift, whereas the Detroit was a 'middle of the hill' engine finding its spot in the torque curve and knuckling down to work.

The road surface between Melbourne and Adelaide varies from freeway smooth to rough and pot-holed, and right down to absolutely buggered.

Funnily enough, the numerous stretches of roadwork seemed to be limited to repairing the better stretches of the highway rather than the crumbled pothole-riddled stretches further on. Not that this bothered the Coronado much at all.

Put simply, the heavy-hitting Freightliner is an absolute dream on the road, both in ride and in handling. Much of this seems to come down to the twin steering box set-up of the Coronado.

The chassis rails of the prime mover are splayed at the front allowing the massive 12,258 square-centimetre (1,900 square-inch) radiator to be affixed to the engine itself. This allows the 11-blade fan to be mounted closer to the radiator as well as closer to the edge of the radiator shroud.

When driveline torque moves the engine on its mounts within the chassis, the radiator moves with it, making it possible to reduce fan clearances dramatically and increase cooling efficiency.

To facilitate this, Freightliner has installed a steering box on either side of the chassis rails, connected by hydraulic lines. This gives amazing road feel back through the steering wheel, but without any kick back.

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Usually you can't have one without the other - road feel and kickback or a dead feeling wheel. The setback steer axle also contributes to the positive feel of the long wheelbase of the prime mover on the road.

Again, the reasonably low gross weight and winter temperatures conspired to keep the running temperatures of both engines down. Unsurprisingly, I didn't hear a peep from either engine fan at all on the trip west, which appears to be one of the strengths of Freightliner's glitzy flagship. It's been engineered to get hot and cope with it, regardless of which engine lies under the nicely squared-off hood.

However, an interesting feature of the DD15 is the twin temperature sensors that are installed on the inlet and outlet side of the cooling system.

The logic behind this is to maintain a consistent temperature right across the entire engine. By using the twin sensors, the thermostat can ensure that there is an even, clean fuel burn across all cylinders.

The DD15 still runs at an average of 90 degrees C on a cold winter's day with little load on the driveline.

Trundling down the Adelaide Hills with the engine brake of the Cummins venting its distinctive note at the winter sky, the Coronado was a piece of cake to handle.

But what's more, once in the thick of Adelaide's peak afternoon traffic (all 30 minutes of it), I was pleasantly surprised at the visibility offered by the bonneted Freightliner. Considering that the Coronado is playing in the same league as a raft of other high GCM conventional prime movers, the Freightliner has excellent visibility.

A big square bonnet out front usually provides a fantastic potential blind spot in slow moving traffic and many a 6x4 trailer or small hatchback has been crushed under the front of a conventional prime mover due to a moment's inattention by the driver in stop/start traffic.

The rather cool looking square bonnet of the Coronado still has the potential to scare the bejesus out of the unsuspecting driver of a Hyundai Getz, but it's still light years ahead of others in its class, visibility wise.

The following morning I snaffled the keys to the DD15-powered Coronado and made a break for the border before anyone could raise an argument. The heavens had opened up and the sky was lashing down upon my ride, but yet again well placed glass and heated mirrors kept my fellow commuters from becoming indistinct blobs and smudges in the morning traffic and rain.

At the foot of the Adelaide Hills, the green 15-litre power plant pushed the Coronado up the grade with relative ease. Finally I got to hear from the engine fan which only managed to come on twice during the climb, but the temp gauge needle reached 105 degrees before the engine fan engaged, sucking the coolant temp back down within 10 seconds.

The journey east only got wetter as the day progressed, but the long wheelbase and handling characteristics of the Coronado ensured that the vehicle remained sure-footed in the muck and spray of the highway.

I arrived back at Daimler's head office in Mulgrave in the evening dark, feeling as if I'd spent a few hours at the wheel of a limo rather than a truck. The big tractor's driving environment is a very comfortable place to spend some time.

I would've liked, however, to have seen a bit of differentiation between the Coronado and the rest of the Freightliner family interior and dash-wise.

On the road though, it is hard to fault the prime mover's handling and ride from behind the wheel. Both the Cummins and Detroit performed within a whisker of each other, but the Detroit gets my vote in terms of driveability, but maybe I'm just plain lazy.

Fuel figures were also a close thing with the Cummins returning 58 litres/100km heading west and 56.2 litres/100km on the return trip. The Detroit returned 57.9 on the westbound leg and 56.13 litres/100km on the trip home. Both trucks had less than 5,000km on the clock.

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Verdict

The Coronado is also available with a 58-inch raised roof sleeper, the chassis has room for up to 2,000 litres of fuel and the Cummins ISX is available with 600hp.

A bling package is also available that adds chrome highlights to the mirrors, air intakes and along the lower cab sills, complementing the factory chrome sun visor. The chrome hood ornament out front doubles as an aerodynamic handle for tilting the hood.

All this contributes to making the classic lines of the Coronado the best seen on a Freightliner in this country for 20 years.

With a GCM of up to 140 tonnes, a choice of Detroit or Cummins engines and a very impressive cooling package it seems Freightliner now has a heavy-duty hero worth singing about.

Specifications

Make/Model: Freightliner Coronado 6x4

Engine/s: 15-litre Cummins ISX EGR 410kW (550hp) or 15-litre Detroit DD15 EGR 418kW (560hp)

Power: Cummins and Detroit 2,508Nm (1,850ft-lb) of torque

Transmission: 18-speed Eaton Road Ranger manual

Emission Control: Exhaust gas recirculation (EGR)

Final Drive Ratio: 4:30

Wheelbase: 5,450mm

Tare Weight (fuelled): Cummins 10,380kg, Detroit 10,300kg

GCM: 106,000kg (Severe-duty 140,000kg)

 

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