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The Mercedes-Benz Arocs looks great but what's it like on

30th May 2013, Page 21
30th May 2013
Page 21
Page 22
Page 21, 30th May 2013 — The Mercedes-Benz Arocs looks great but what's it like on
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the road? CM finds out during a test drive in Germany Words: Will Shiers Over the years we've been fortunate enough to drive a huge variety of weird and wonderful CVs, but it's hard to think of anything with the same head-turning capability as the Arocs.

Mercedes-Benz has done a fantastic job with the styling, and the bucket-tooth grilles that adorn its new range of construction trucks give them a tough, aggressive stance, ensuring they stand out from the crowd. So much so that when we pulled into a busy quarry on the outskirts of Dusseldorf to collect 17 tonnes of limestone, all eyes were firmly on us. Heidi Klum could have been doing naked cartwheels up the shingle track and nobody would have noticed or cared. The only thing on the minds of the other tipper drivers was our 8x4 Arocs.

However, if they'd known what was under the cab perhaps they wouldn't have been quite so excited. Although Mercedes is offering the Arocs with four Euro-6 engines and 16 power ratings (see CM7 February for full details), we'd drawn the short straw, and our vehicle for this 80km on-road test was powered by the 354hp 7.7-litre 0M936. Presumably this particular engine is destined for Holland, where the steepest incline drivers are likely to encounter is a canal bridge. It certainly won't be the engine of choice for UK operators, who will no doubt mostly opt for either the 10.7-litre 0M470 or the 12.8-litre 0M471. That said, it does offer a 340kg weight advantage over the 0M470.

Fully freighted and we're ready to roll, or rather climb, up a 25% dirt track. It's a daunting prospect, because we know from experience that the Powershift transmission isn't the fastest two-pedal gearbox on the market and may well struggle to change quickly enough at this weight. The last thing we want to do is grind to an embarrassing halt with an audience. But we needn't have worried, because this is Powershift 3, and it's 20% quicker than its predecessor. What's more, there's an off-road mode, which is engaged by simply pressing a button on the end of the transmission stalk.

A clever piece of software alters the transmission's characteristics, changing the shift patterns, and allowing the truck to hold gears for longer. This has the effect of cutting the number of shifts, allowing for fewer interruptions in traction. We make it to the tarmac with ease.

Smooth, precise and quick Out on the open road we engage the full-auto on-road mode, and continue to be impressed with the 12-speed transmission. Gear changes are smooth, precise and incredibly quick, and it certainly puts Powershift 2 to shame. It makes us wonder why anyone would consider paying the additional money for the optional 16-speed manual gearbox. We decide to leave it in full-auto for the duration of our test drive, making the occasional manual shift on the approach to particularly steep hill climbs. At the moment Predictive Powertrain Control isn't available in the Arocs, but we are assured it's only a matter of time.

The truck pulls well, at least better than we expect from 11hp per tonne and 1,400Nm. That said, it's a bit of a struggle on the steepest of inclines and if we were buying an 8x4 Arocs, our preference would be for the 10.7-litre 0M470. It has power and torque ratings of up to 422hp and 2,100Nm, making it ideal for most 8x4 operations.

The Arocs's 2.3m-wide cab is well appointed, and noticeably quieter than its predecessor. It gets quieter still when the EcoRoll kicks-in. This is a standard feature in the Arocs, and contributes towards the claimed 5% improvement in fuel economy over the outgoing Euro-5 models. Further savings come from the new driveline, smarter management of auxiliaries and improved aerodynamics.

We've already had a play off-road in an Arocs (CM 25 April) and were impressed with the 0M470 three-stage engine brake. Working together with the crawler mode and in-built inclinometer, it tackled 40% descents with complete composure. It's the same story on-road with the 0M936, with the engine brake providing a level of retardation that you would expect from a considerably larger engine.

Suspension of steel The suspension set-up for this, and all on-road Arocs units, consists of steel at the front and air at the rear. The resulting on-road ride and handling are excellent. And not only does the suspension do a great job of ironing out the bumps, but the new adaptive power steering successfully isolates the driver from road shock.

We were impressed with the way in which it automatically self-centres, completely eliminating any kick-back, but wonder whether it might be just a little bit too light. The multifunction steering wheel is new, and includes the controls for the speed limiter and cruise control. Like the rest of the switchgear, it's sensibly positioned and couldn't be easier to use.

All too soon we find ourselves at the builder's yard we're delivering to, and once again we are the centre of attention. A driver jumps out of the cab of an Actros tipper and wanders over, signalling for us to open the window. He is clearly impressed with the appearance of the Arocs and asks a question in German. But as our knowledge of the language consists of no more than "zwei bier bine we haven't got a clue what he's asking.

Fortunately, our Mercedes-employed co-driver does, and is soon engaged in conversation. The driver looks disappointed and walks away. When I ask for a translation I discover that he's enquired about the price, and clearly isn't impressed to learn that it's 12% dearer than the outgoing Euro-5 equivalent.

Maybe if he'd driven it, and discovered for himself just how much better than the old model it is, he would have found the price hike more palatable. •

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