Safe, comfy, clean, frugal, and chatty – swipe right

13 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineJune 2, 2020

Volvo‘s entered the new decade with an update across a swathe of models … and they have dashboards!

Volvo Group beamed its new FM, FMX, FH, and FH16 trucks to the world in early March. The original intention was to have the world‘s media and special guests right there in Gothenburg, but alas the pesky microbe currently touring the planet put paid to that. Thankfully, it failed to spoil a significant launch in the OEM world. When Volvo murmurs the whole dinner table falls silent and everyone looks up to see what it‘s doing. Like MAN last month, it was a review across a significant breadth of the company‘s offerings; in fact models that account for around two-thirds of the giant‘s annual sales, so, like their German counterpart, it needed to be right. For the FH and FH16, Volvo has followed a similar path to the Munich lion, spending money only where it was deemed necessary. When speaking of the FH, chief designer for user experience and human machine interaction for Volvo Trucks Carin Larsson said, “The new generation FH combines the most successful elements from the previous FH series with smart technologies and a functional, human centric design,” … read, it looks the same but inside and under the skin it‘s way cooler.

The FM and FMX on the other hand get a whole new cab. Front on it‘s a little different although clearly follows foundation design cues, that‘s to say ‘it‘s a Volvo‘. The side profile, though, is really different, with new sill and door lines that make it look every bit the FH‘s vertically challenged sibling. Raised A pillars give the truck a cubic metre more room in the cab and that also contributes significantly to the look. So, the big hits other than the FM‘s shed? Comfort, efficiency, environment, safety, and connectivity. No surprises with those buzz-words you say? Just stay with us, there is a bit to talk about, including beefier ratings on some. The cab interior has had a broad redesign with huge emphasis on driver comfort and appeal. Visibility is up by 10%, available space is improved, and noise is down. (In a Volvo? Yep, apparently.) There‘s also more storage, increased by 50% in the FH, which is again hard to fathom in a truck that pretty much sets the bar in that area.

Photo: New FM. No more ‘Are you my Mother?‘ Family ties to latest FH are clear. FMX looks staunch.

But the big thing for us was the dash. The Vikings head back toward a far more orthodox-looking and, we have to say, appealing dashboard. A genuine, big, 12” high resolution digital binnacle in four viewing options, and a proper wrap – it looks great! They‘ve opted for touch, voice, and steering wheel to control the infotainment, which has a 9” screen option. It was clear from the presentations that managing the infotainment screen was agonising for Volvo and we can only imagine how many hours of robust debate went into it. This is the company we all genuinely believe when it says safety is in its DNA, and they were at pains to communicate the infotainment screen housed the functions that belong to tier two and three attention requirements. Tier 1a is the really big ginormous screen directly in front, and 1b the small one low and in front conveying the truck‘s health and compliance status. Volvo has made it abundantly clear that all cards are still very much on the table when it comes to propulsion as well.

The press material refreshingly emphasises combustion‘s efficiency and flexibility, and the more you read it, the more it says: “Both the environment and economics are important factors for haulage companies. As there will not be one singular New FM. No more ‘Are you my Mother?‘ Family ties to latest FH are clear. FMX looks staunch. energy source that addresses all climate change issues, and since different transport segments and assignments will require a variety of solutions, several types of drivelines will continue to exist in parallel for the foreseeable future.” The new range sports Euro-6d power and Volvo says with the I-Save package (tuned, down-speed high-torque motors and matched rear-ends, I-Shift, I-Roll, I-See) a 7% fuel saving, and in some instances more, is possible.

Photo: Big gear with headlights that look-after the oncoming.

(Bear in mind once again this is Europe talking … about European roads, loads, and emissions.) Not surprisingly, the main engine pitch was around the 13-litre D13TC engine, but in defending the case for combustion against the ideological global circus around alternative powertrains, Volvo also pointed to LNG. ‘Climate-Wise‘ trucks are planet-friendly and extend from the most efficient oil burners to the Full Monty, a truck built in a CO2-neutral factory, then fuelled by full bio-LNG, and then recycled responsibly at end of life, making it climate neutral from beginning to end. Suffice to say it was a refreshing change seeing the bathwater go, and the baby remain. Continuing the alternative power thing, Volvo is pretty much aligned with everyone else: EV for urban and short middleweight; diesel, LNG, and further down the road – maybe – hydrogen for linehaul. All the usual challenges were cited in terms of legislation, infrastructure, and engineering standards.

Bigger bums. Yes, if you want a bigger caboose on your Swedish dream, wait no longer. As part of the release the FH16 and FMX get heavier front-end options and the ability to choose a 38-tonne rear bogie. That means you can now get an FMX with a 150 tonne GCM. What commentary on a new Volvo range would be complete without a mention of safety? The company has had a few attackers to the throne in recent years and you‘d have to say it‘s now game on to keep ahead. Having said that, we loved the quip from senior VP International Per-Erik Lindström in the midst of it all about the 750, reminding us that you can have it all with a Volvo if you want.

Photo: The new ‘driver interface‘ … aka, dash. Yes, that looks a lot better. Revamped I-Shifter looks too young to leave the nest.

The FH and FH16 come with new LED headlights in a V shape that adapt the full beam pattern in relation to oncoming traffic, keeping dazzle and glare to a minimum and visibility to a maximum. Adaptive Cruise is jazzed up and now accommodates deceleration to zero, and there‘s descending control. EBS is standard throughout due to its implications in collision warning and emergency braking. Dynamic steering, lane keeping, and Stability Assist are optional. There‘s also road sign recognition, the information displayed on the dash. A real snazzy bit is the camera built into the bottom mirror mounts that show cycle and pedestrian danger zones as clear as day. And, yes, the fact they‘re located in the mirror mounts answers the next question … yes, they still have mirrors. Connectivity, was a real biggie and Volvo is in boots and all on this one, with information between truck, owner, and Mother V driving many of the efficiency gains.

And we‘re not just talking predictive servicing, but tailored predictive servicing as per the client‘s work profile and behaviours. All this sharing leads to great efficiencies, things like longer uptime and oil drain intervals (50% longer in some cases). Of course, the grand connectivity offerings from OEMs tend to peter out the closer you get to the farthest flung corners of the globe. There‘s a golden opportunity looming for someone. Summing up we‘ll leave to Roger Alm, president of Volvo Trucks. “With the new Volvo FH we are continuing our clear focus on designing trucks and offering services that can help drivers do a world-class job.”

Photo: Our purest child, Climate Wise. Combustion that‘s flexible, efficient, and potentially 100% percent clean. ‘In your face batteries!‘

So, when‘s it here?
A press release from Volvo Trucks Australia said: “These four new trucks will be ‘Australian Made‘ at our local factory in Wacol Brisbane, supported by local engineers, ensuring they are built for the unique, harsh Australian and New Zealand conditions, with intensive onsite testing so they can withstand the toughest of conditions.” It went on to say they‘re planning to take orders in Q4 this year, with the first examples popping up in Q2 2021. But, as we all know, a lot of water has passed under the bridge since that was sent, so we‘d guess all bets are off; suffice to say, when they come we‘ll rejoice aloud because it will be a sign something‘s back to normal.

…and how much will Mother Planet
love our ones? These words from general manager, Volvo Trucks New Zealand, Clive Jones. “The new model will remain with Euro 5 as standard at the time we introduce it into New Zealand but with some models available optionally at Euro 6, as we can currently. “This additionally means we retain the reliable and trusted driveline we currently offer, which is extremely well accepted here, including our I-Shift transmission, while still moving to the fresh cab platform and additional connected type services aimed at driving fuel efficiency and uptime.” Hmmm. We‘ll take one of the ‘some models‘ in Euro 6 thanks.