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11th October 1990
Page 34
Page 35
Page 34, 11th October 1990 — ROADTEST VOLVO F16.485
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matched to the SR2000 gearbox. Running with 315/80R 22.5 rubber at 96km/h (60mph) the F16 ticks over happily at about 1,600rpm which is well within the engine's green economy band that stretches between 1,100 and 1,700rpm.

As the lowest point on the TD162FL's specific fuel curve is at 1,200rpm, it would not hurt for Volvo to consider an overdrive top gear on the SR2000 box to bring the revs down even further for greater fuel economy on motorway and dual carriageway work.

While such a move might effect overall

driveability, the trade off would be worth it. There's no doubting the gradeability of the F16,485, however. It literally strolled up the 25% test hill at MIRA helped by its deep 14.98:1 crawler ratio.

The SR2000's three-position shift pattern appears unusual at first, but the dash-mounted hi/lo splitter indicator light helps remind the driver which ratio he is using.

So long as you do not force the short lever, gear selection is smooth and light. A built-in electronic blocker prevents a low-range gear being accidentally engaged when the road speed is too fast.

Under normal conditions the F16 has the power to pull away in 1H, skip to 3H and then take whole gears at a time, As with most high-powered tractors you rarely need the splitter except when it comes to fine tuning on hills.

With so much torque available the F16.485 offers a lazy drive. The TD162FL pulls strongly down to 1,000rpm and the revs can be allowed to fall further back on roundabouts as there is always enough grunt left in reserve to recover.

The air-assisted splitter is pre-selected by the switch in the lever head and it is activated by dipping the light clutch. Volvo claims it is the quickest in the world and we would not argue with that.

The steering is certainly good, and probably needs to be as the F16 driver

will have to get used to arriving at bends and corners just that little bit quicker than with lower-powered machines.

Anything we can say about the F16.485's dash is redundant as Volvo has now restyled it, and not before time too, as the old F cab layout was certainly showing its age. Following the example of the smaller FL10, the F cab dash gets a curved fascia with instruments and controls which should be easier to read and reach (see Paris Show report page 36).

We certainly hope so, for the instrumentation layout in the F16 could only be described as uninspiring. The rev counter could be bigger and the windscreen wiper stalk needs relocating as it gets in the way when opening the tachograph head.

Access to the F16 cab is not bad, although the steps could be wider to make the descent easier a point we raised on the F12.

Once inside, the cab finish is practical, rather than luxurious, with a muted colour scheme which hides the dirt.

Although the F16.485 normally comes with the high-roof Globetrotter cab as standard, thrifty hauliers can save £1,500 by going for the cheaper raised roof sleeper cab shared by the F10 and F12.

What the raised roof cab does not have is the Globetrotter's 1.97m of standing room and for some long-distance drivers that's quite a sacrifice.

Going for the cheaper sleeper cab also means that you will have to forego the Globetrotter's more sophisticated selflevelling cab suspension in favour of the conventional coil-spring and damper set up on the lower sleeper cab.

The overall ride in the F16.485, however, was more than adequate even without the benefit of drive axle air suspension which increasingly is being fitted as standard on premium tractors.

We've no complaints over the F16's brakes either which were always positive. Volvo fits its own design of ABS (supplied by Wabco) as standard on its flagship tractor. On full-pressure stops it proved extremely effective preventing axle lock-up and ensuring that the rig stayed in a straight line. The F16's stopping distances are better than most, as are its peak deceleration readings.

Unlike the park brake on the F12 the F16 had no trouble 'holding steady on a 25% gradient.

Most daily checks on the F16 are easy to accomplish. The dipstick hides behind a swingout flap on the nearside stepwell and the washer bottle is filled by a spout on the offside.

Lift up the front panel and you will get to the clutch reservoir. The TD162FL engine certainly takes up a fair amount of space under the bonnet but should not prove a problem to work on. The fuel pump, however, is rather obscured by the charge-cooler trunking and could be easier to reach.

Given all the truck manufacturer hype about power, it's difficult not to get swept along by the superlatives.

But the real question that the prospective F16 buyer must ask is: "Can I really justify that extra power?" Based on fuel costs alone, the results of the previously tested F12 make it difficult to say yes. On dual carriageways the F16's mighty TD162FL certainly can be sparing on derv, but it requires a conscientious driver not to put the pedal down to the floor and take advantage of all those horses.

As our comparison charts show all that muscle did not make it any faster than its rivals.

It also has to be said that the latest interior changes on the Volvo F cab have not come a moment too soon as the F16's dash was clearly losing out in driver appeal.

So much for the cons what about the pros? For long-distance haulage the F16.485 is undoubtedly a joy to drive. With so much power and, more importantly, torque under the right foot it turns most journeys into a Sunday afternoon's stroll.

Where the F16 will come into its own, however, is not on a day's trunk up the M6, but on a tough slog over the Alps from Newcastle to Naples where its ability to maintain good average speeds will shine through.

It's also nice to know that while the pressure may have been on Volvo to build a high-powered truck, it has not forgotten that stopping such beasts is equally as important.

For a high-powered tractor it does not have an excessive kerbweight at 7.66 tonnes fully fuelled it looks pretty good, although that would obviously go up with the Globetrotter cab.

If the F16 has one outstanding asset, however, it must be its price.

Set against other high-powered premium tractors its £58,500 price tag (including the £1,500 delete option of the non-Globetrotter cab) looks pretty competitive alongside the Mercedes-Benz 1748 (260,395) as well as the Scania 143.470 (£60,850), Iveco Ford TurboStar 190.48 (65,120) and the recently launched, and more impressively specced, Renault AE500 (£65,750).

Despite all that we cannot help but be drawn back to our original conclusion about whether the F12 would not be a better option, especially as it costs close to £9,000 less. It may be slower, but its fuel consumption is much better, and with diesel prices the way they are it must be worth sacrificing the F16's power.


Locations: Naples, Newcastle

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