Wanting for… not a lot

In Tests, June 202212 MinutesBy Dave McCoidJuly 24, 2022

Surely it was a stroke of sheer genius when someone, in the distant past, deep in Volvo’s loins, suggested ‘Globetrotter’ as the name for the new supreme cab option? No other moniker could better describe everything the cab stands for.

It’s the model-name versus model-number argument. Numbers ‘shmumbers’. It’s words that play on the heartstrings. Aerodyne, Super- Liner, Brute – they all conjure up an image, a narrative. You instantly see the OEMs intent in your mind’s eye. As kids, from the moment we all saw the first pictures of an F series Volvo cab with the word Globetrotter emblazoned high on the front of its huge sleeper, we were all transported for a split second into something like an Astran truck enroute to the Middle East, or Cave-Wood machine on a cross-continent bash.

And now, here we are in 2022, in the bottom of little old Godzone, standing in front of the Viking brand’s latest incarnation of its most famous child. The Globey’s size and majesty has kept pace with the times. Even by today’s standards, it’s a behemoth, a two-storey building on wheels. Like Lindsay’s Foden, a dear old F series Globetrotter at an overall height of 3.48m as tested by Commercial Motor in 1980, would look downright diminutive against the Swedish Stag’s towering 3.77m. Don’t forget the FH is not on 11Rs and would sit lower in the front end. Believe us, the visual would be impactful.

The new dash is certainly an improvement – it looks like a dash again.

The launch of Volvo’s Series 5 FH and FM cabs coincided in 2020 with the launch of Covid-19, and as was the case with other OEM new releases, the plague tended to steal the limelight.

In terms of overhaul, the FM is by far the biggest recipient of expenditure, with a whole new cab that transforms the machine and brings it bang up to date with big FH bro, for whom the story is more cosmetic in nature … until you’re sitting at the controls. That said, even the snazzier adaptive beam headlights – Volvo’s the first cab off the rank with these – and vertical grille bars deliver a sleeker, stauncher look. It’s a better- looking machine, no question.

The big change for the FH is in the cockpit, with the new dash set-up that’s a significant improvement aesthetically. To say its predecessor was polarising is an understatement; you either liked the Buck Rodgers thing or not. Obviously, it’s more a tech-fest than ever, but looks- wise, Buck’s at least come back to the 21st century.

There’s a 12” main screen inside a binnacle with definitive borders, i.e. it looks like a dash should. There are four base-display configurations; Rowdy’s was set up with the same big single odometer as the prior model, but now it only illuminates the immediate speed range you’re in. It must be an anti-distraction, energy-saving, less-reflected light thing. Encompassed low in the central gauge is the tachometer in horizontal ribbon-gauge format – big breath, grit teeth, we’re good… we’re good, move along.

Plonking your info-screen on the dash like this is currently very ‘Mary Quant’ in the world of vehicle OEMs. But all is forgiven when you can see the cab’s front corner and left side.

Flanking the left of the main gauge’s lower circumference is a fuel display, and on the right, DEF. Immediately left of that central gauge arrangement are telematics, trip, climate info, and vehicle information; and on the right, infotainment and additional vehicle information, e.g. axle- lock configuration. Step out from both sides again, and it’s warning lights. Outside of the binnacle proper to the right is the headlight light controls and to the left, USB sockets.

The wrap houses switchgear, traction management, climate, infotainment controls, park brake, and a vent. It’s set up under a design line that runs from the top right of the main dash housing, down and below the binnacle, and out. It’s a sweet, Swedish, uber- efficient, cool looking set-up.

Then there’s the tablet. It’s a bit of the thing in the automotive world now, so let’s not ‘get up’ poor old Volvo. Car and truck OEMs think it’s ‘OMG, way cooler’ to have your infotainment tablet looking like it’s been glued on the dash as an afterthought. Such is the case here with the swish 9” screen ‘plonked’ atop the wrap. Really? It goes without saying it does a lot; infotainment, navigation, transport information, and camera monitoring and its functions can be controlled via the smart wheel, voice, dash buttons, or the screen itself.

Above the driver are slots for comms radios and mood lighting.

The left steering column wand is home to direction and dip/full beam, and the right two, auxiliary brake (upper) and wipers (lower).

1 & 2) Scads of room in one of the world’s most famous cabs. The I-Shift controller is so cool just sitting there at the driver’s side. Pity it doesn’t see ‘I-to-eye’ with the fridge in the background.

The smart wheel functions comprise cruise and descend on the left, and dash display/ infotainment on the right.

Unlike their Swedish counterparts, Volvo has pulled off the miracle of being able to put all but door and mirror controls on the driver’s door sill. (See, there is room.)

The driving possie is superb, with the wee seat-mounted I-Shifter on the left, and the slim-line mirrors are easy to see past with minimal effort. As we’ve always said, once you’re used to their severe top-line rake – intended to improve sightlines of what’s beyond even further – the mirrors themselves are fine.

Of course, FH16 means it’s Volvo’s closest thing to a flat floor, with a mere 90mm blip in the central tunnel to help accommodate the beast beneath. Four steps in, you can carry a coffee up easily, able to ascend bearing your weight on your feet, merely finessing your balance with the A-pillar grab handle.

3) You could carry your coffee and Jimmy’s pie up into here without any hassle.

Once in, two words come to mind: space and storage. Like all other trucks in its market corner, you could live happily in here. It is a staggering 2.11m from the tunnel to the roof way up there beyond the skylight- come escape hatch. There are huge lockers right along the front overhead, along the top back wall of the sleeper, and four external ones, of which two are accessible via the inside. In addition, there are door, pelmet and rear wall pockets, plus a plethora of pull-out draws, trays, and cup holders in and around the centre console. And, yay! The birdbath is still here complete with footprints. Long live the birdbath. So portable. So handy. So cool. If some accountant at Volvo ever wants to save a penny by ditching the bird-bath, the rest of the staff has our permission to slap them.

The TSL machine is set up as a single-bunk sleeper, with driver and passenger air-ride seats. There’s more storage and the fridge underneath the bed. You might wonder why an Aussie assembled premium truck would still have the fridge on the left. No, it’s not a tie-over from its homeland origins, it is in fact that super ‘cool’ seat mounted I-Shift controller. The lid on the fridge won’t open when it’s pulled out. Bugger.

4) The boys at Palmy put the second steer in the Super-Liner. I’m sure they’d whip up a plastic cover for this if you asked them.

With one glaring exception, the fit and finish in the Globetrotter cab is everything you’d expect. Vinyl, hard compound plastics and rubber line the show, with a leather steering wheel and I-Shift controller, and even a splash of fawn here and there. We love colour in cabs. It’s all classy, cleanable and impeccably put together. The exception is the exposed TV sockets on the driver’s pelmet. Because those who don’t get a tele in their ‘Globester’ are the exception, their punishment is living with exposed plugs. Really? What the hell is a plastic moulded blank worth in the context of this truck? (Surely a bit of Anzac can-do can fix this.)

Daily checks are under the front flap, and for all the Globetrotter’s party tricks, the most startling one is when it bares its innards.

“Don’t get a fright,” says Rowdy as he tilts the cab. “Everyone craps themselves.”

“Na, mate, we’ll be right,” we replied. But we weren’t. Just when you think it can’t go any further, it gives a final lurch to a full and impressive 90°. When it did that, we gasped and yelled, “Shit!” … and Rowdy laughed. Engine bay access is absurd for such an enormous house, and eliminates any other manufacturer’s excuse for not providing total access.

“Yeah, the boys in the workshop love it, eh?” says Rowdy.