Up, up and away Part 2

In June 2023, Tests16 MinutesBy Dave McCoidJuly 10, 2023

Back to Taihape. The S-Way’s a banging- looking gig. The limitations imposed on European cab designers in terms of dimension envelopes does curb their inner artist, resulting in a ‘flavour’. Having said that, each OEM does a great job of making its trucks its own. S-Way was a real step away from X-Way, something bold and new. Some negative Nellies argue it’s too close to others, but it’s not really. If I were going poke a pin anywhere, I would have liked the middle of the bumper to be slightly thicker to balance the visual weight of the overall frontal look, top to bottom. Interestingly, that bumper is multi-piece so if you ding it, you’re not up for a full replacement. In that case, maybe I’d leave it just as it is – LOL.

S-Way’s a truly global machine. There are very few big trucks nowadays that you can assign to a single country. As the good geographers will have picked up, the big Iveco is assembled in Spain, and with one exception, the engines are made in France; that exception is sourced ex China.

Royans Total Fleet Imaging did all the prep and paint on this S-Way – a full strip and recolour in Titus’ classy silver/grey plus the uber cool, double T logo. Sitting under the streetlights, the whole thing really did pop.

Driver Scotty Parker was ready to roll south on his regular trip to the Bluebridge ferry terminal in Wellington to exchange trailers heading south to Christchurch, for ones heading north to Auckland. As big Euros do superbly well, the S-Way moved off with barely a whisper, and a few clicks coming from behind the cab as the Hi-Tronix AMT swapped some gears. In a second or two the whole rig swished silently into the foggy darkness, not a slumbering soul in the beds of the surrounding bungalows aware anything had happened … unlike the train earlier that roared, shook and squealed its way through town. When the train comes through Taihape at stupid o’clock, I bet half the town gets up for a pee.

Portside at 8.30am or thereabouts, Scotty got more than the regulation 10 hours R&R; his northbound trollies were not going to emerge from the MS Strait Feronia until 11pm.

Watching the ship being unloaded late that night helps you appreciate life from the other side. All we witnessed was a slick operation of disembarking trailers and late-night bleary-eyed travellers, followed by the reloading process, all under the watchful eye of the Feronia’s crew.

Our trailers off, we saw the lights on the roof of the S-Way flick into life and Scotty rolled over to the hook-up area.

Okay, not exactly apples with apples in terms of latest models, but a great Euro line-up portside and shows clearly S-Way’s presence.

The right cab faring turns out of the way, exposing the access steps to the chassis deck for the connections. Canny! As it turns out, Royans also rigged the tractor. All the slick deck plating is down to them too. A one-stop shop!

Paperwork and trailers checked, fifth-wheel secure and triple checked, all roads lead north on a much clearer night.

The enigma that is Transmission Gully: less hassle for sure, but from those we talk to, the jury’s mixed on improved efficiency, clearly split on the speed and fuel-saving front especially when you’re heavy. The S-Way tipped the scales at about 43 tonne all up, and so at 9.9kW (13.25hp)/tonne we had the feeling Auckland would be just up the road.

Scotty dispatched the Gully’s gnarliest grind in eighth, at 1700rpm and 48km/h. It’s a long time since we’ve been in a truck this new, and Scotty and I kept looking at each other on the way up at places like the first step on the Taihape ‘divvy’, saying, “Yeah there’s more there. Another few months and she’ll hold that gear.”

The adaptive cruise in the S-Way is topographically linked, so as time goes on, and as familiarity and training bed in, there’ll be less for Scotty to do.

With the long, maniac-riddled emptiness that is SH1 between Levin and Sanson over, we rolled up through the North Island’s lower central expanses. The steepest pinch heading north – the top of Carters Hill – had its ticket clipped in seventh gear at 1700rpm and 33km/h.

Scotty had been on the fleet side of Titus Transport for about three weeks at the time we were with him, and the S-Way will be his truck 95% of the time. Occasionally, he might need to hand it off when rest breaks and ferry timetables don’t align.

In the glow of the anti-fatigue lights, the big cab looked downright huge. “It’s great,” he says. “I came off a Mercedes-Benz Actros with a low roof, so I’m really enjoying this.”

The three-stage engine brake kept things generally in check descending the Mangaweka Deviation. Down through the cutting, Scotty doesn’t let the truck go until the bridge is well in sight. God bless that man. On stage three, the transmission will kick down a gear to boost the revs, but in saying that, if you’re running in the 54 tonne HPMV club or higher you’d have to set it up well to remain service-break-free on a decent drop. Iveco heavy and medium truck sales excutive for Auckland Pieter Theron says for weights in the upper echelons, the optional retarder would be the recommendation.

S-Way is not the quietest Euro we’ve encountered. Don’t take that as a negative; it’s a Euro, so it’s bloody quiet, and anyway, I’m not a huge groupie when it comes to trucks that keep you out of the conversation. The Cursor-13 certainly didn’t do that; it had personality in the same ilk as Paccar’s MX-13. Harking back to Will Gunderson’s XF105 story in July 2018, we commented on MX-13’s throaty tones of richness, an endearing factor that had received some counselling by the time we got to Graham Redington’s XF530 in Sept 2020. It was there, but certainly gagged to a degree. The Cursor-13 has picked up the baton, its deep-seated grumble providing its own form of companionship and letting those serving the nation’s freight needs at night know they are not alone. It’s so much easier to bond with a truck when it has a personality and isn’t just a lifeless, sterile ‘thing’.

Ready to roll from Bluebridge.

“I love that,” says Scotty, as we negotiate the S-bends at the northern end of Taihape’s main street, and powered away up and out of town. It triggered high 60s on the ‘soundometer’.

The Taihape Deviation saw the truck dip to 8th gear, 1520rpm, and 38km/h. The 12-speed Hi-Tronix AMT – IVECO’s tuned ZF-TraXon – really is a sublime match with its engine buddy. In an application like this, and certainly at weights like this, there is little need to ever select manual. ECO-FLEET mode keeps the transmission in automatic mode and in the optimal driving range, and ECO-SWITCH allows the driver to swap between ECO-FLEET and normal operation. Being a TraXon at heart, there’s Eco Roll of course, helping keep coins in the kitty, and Hill Holder etc.

A characteristic of the modern engines and their clever AMT sidekicks is often an on-road performance that exceeds what pure numbers on paper might suggest. The Cursor-13 hits its torque peak of 2500Nm (1850lb/ft) at 1000rpm and holds through to 1600rpm where it actually hands off to peak power of 425kW (570hp), and that’s impressive because not all 13-litre horses can make the switch at the respective peaks. The trick with Cursor is the power peak tails off rapidly at 1900rpm, so if you’re a rev-head, best you train a new habit.

Out back Meritor MT23- 150/D axles sit on IVECO 8-bag air suspension. Scotty had pulled a quad semi through to Mt Maunganui a couple of days before our trip and he said the truck certainly felt that; however it doesn’t know the B-train is even there. Aside from the fact that’s to be expected to a degree, it would be interesting to know how the quad was loaded.

The interior (see sidebar) was a lovely place to be and chat in, and although festooned with roof-mounted ‘spotties’ as is the trend in this era – when OEM-fitted lights have never been better – Scotty never really let them loose. Aside from the fact the standard LED lights are superb, the roofies are a fraction out and need an alignment tweak. New trucks, it’s always a journey to get them bedded in, isn’t it all part of the thrill and excitement of a brand ‘newy’?

What the lights in the S-Way really did illuminate was the incredible, selfless, others-first, guy who drives it. The sidebar further on in the story will tell you who Scotty Parker is, but for now… “I probably drive a bit too much on dip,” he laughs. “Na, I hate dazzling people eh, I really do. I’m really cautious with high beam and the spotlights.”

We passed through Waiouru just after 2am, the town abuzz with the nation’s needs in transit. Across the summit of the desert the temp got down to one degree and the ice light lit up on the S-Way’s dash, but this wasn’t ‘that night’.

Competition is a good thing, and it’s patently evident Europe’s seven high-end big truck offerings keep each other on point. All credit must go to May’s Musketeers for tuning this machine to our end of the world. S-Way evaluation units have been down here quite a while getting hammered, bashed about, and thrashed in order for us to be enjoying this trip so much. Like its counterparts, the cab mass versus handling characteristics make you think the tuning engineers are magicians.

One set of trailers being readied, and another set backed in for unloading. Keeping the good folk in both islands, happy.

It was ‘Euro-firm’, a phrase I’ve coined, and still defining in all honestly. Euro firm probably means it’s no K220, but you never ever lose track of the chassis from inside the fully air-suspended cab isolating you from Waka Kotahi’s near-death experience below.

I’d have to say it’s a firmer ride than X-Way, which was a tad soft for my liking. S-Way and its peers are precisely where we always dreamed the big Euros might get to all those years ago, when a bottle of seasickness tablets was almost a necessity in the day bag. You barely knew where you were, much less the chassis. Through the early bends just north of the desert summit toward the first sister, we simply sat, and it simply cornered.

Fuel and coffee at the Mobil Taupo, it was on towards the dawn. As the first lumens sliced the South Waikato night into pieces, few of the commuters thinking they were experiencing a new day would have noticed the truck trundling north. For Scotty and his brethren, the day was well worn already.

To date the S-Way is returning 1.72kpl. When you consider ‘to date’ actually means about a week, we will indeed take that for the grain of salt it is. The S-Way’s 13% slipperier than the X-Way, and Iveco claim a 3% improvement in fuel consumption as a result. Clint should rightly expect 2.0kpl or better sometime down the road.

Although I signed off at Hamilton, Capt. K (Carl Kirkbeck) carried on up and saw Scotty off at Titus’s East Tamaki depot, and trip’s end. A lovely bloke and a truly lovely truck. A great run up the island. I could do that again … and again … and again.