THE market has spoken, and Volvo Trucks has obliged. Topping the model range of the trucking giant is the FH series, finally introduced in Malaysia. Positioned as a premium flagship product, the FH is imposing and a grand statement for any workhorse fleet. But the commercial vehicle scene is an unforgiving one, which does not simply reward the winner of the beauty contest, so the FH comes with it a comprehensive host of innovation and technology to lead Volvo Trucks’ local charge in the full-size prime mover segment.
In the cabin, much has been done to improve ergonomics and overall driver comfort. At the controls, the driver is able to maintain good posture due to 20∞ of neck-tilt angle from the steering wheel. The dashboard sports two sections of displays, one directly ahead of the driver - behind the steering wheel - which is the Driver Information Display (DID), and one to the left known as Secondary Information Display (SID). Volvo Trucks proprietary telematics solution, Dynafleet, is integrated here along with the audio system. The result is an attractive workspace for the driver, with buttons, instruments and most storage areas within easy and convenient reach; not to mention intuitively user friendly.
On safety, Volvo Trucks never falls short. An advanced back up monitor is equipped with electronic light compensation and integrated heating to stay free of condensation, while an electrically operated visor protects the lens from the elements typical of dirty trucking activities. An Additional Road Speed Limiter ensures FH trucks travel within safe limits - in Malaysia, heavy duty vehicles are not permitted from exceeding 80kph.
Visibility is a two-fold area for a truck, namely lighting and the presence of blind spots. For the former, dynamic headlights which swivel slightly in the direction of steering angle assist in lighting up a bend while static cornering lights activate on the same side the driver uses a turn signal - illuminating pedestrians or objects that might be hidden in the dark. As far as what the driver sees, redesigned A-pillars are slimmer and allow a larger field of view at the fore corners of the truck.
When you need to bring all that weight to a halt from its top speed, Volvo’s stopping pride comes to the fore in the form of Volvo Engine Brake (VEB). The VEB+ system is claimed by the brand to be world’s most powerful engine brake, working on the interaction between the exhaust pressure governor and the compression brake. Not only does this swiftly and safely slow the big FH down, it also alleviates unnecessary wear on the conventional brakes.
For the range-topping FH16, there are extra features and improvements to be found throughout. Even in the dimensions; there’s a scarcely believable 220cm of full standing height and 300 litres of storage in the cavernous cabin, the latter including various small and convenient compartments for pesky loose items.
For those on the long haul, the integrated parking cooler that Volvo Trucks calls I-Park Cool creates a comfortable sleeping environment when stopping for the night. The system is so efficient that it is able to provide up to 1000W of all-night cooling power without draining the battery. As I-Park Cool is built into the truck’s climate control, there is no external air-conditioning unit taking up space in the truck with an external section mounted on the roof. While this approach may be common, it adversely affects aerodynamics and hence, fuel consumption. A sleeper panel allows control over interior lights, alarm clock, parking cooler, audio system, windows and locks - all from the bunk.
But the improvements run a lot deeper than they initially appear. Volvo’s I-Shift automatic transmission, for one, can now be optioned with one or two crawler gears and additional reverse gears. The benefits of specifying an additional crawler gear is well known, allowing the prime mover to lug its heavy load up steeper inclines than without it - especially from a standing start, for which the trucking term is start-ability. One party trick noticeable in such a situation i.e. moving off from a dead stop is the automatic disengagement of the parking brake via the Electronic Brake System. The parking brake also engages automatically when the truck is switched off.
And yet, the crawler gear module adds a paltry 48kg to the weight of the gearbox and an even more insignificant 120mm to its length. The strain reduction on the clutch however is a massive 75 per cent, which will go a long way to avoiding downtime.
Volvo’s improved I-Shift also allows a transmission ratio of up to 32:1 moving forward, allowing a minimum speed of movement half that of a regular I-Shift - as low as 0.5 - 2kph. This eases low speed manoeuvres, in reverse even more so as the transmission ratio goes up to 37:1 in this direction. Hooked up to I-Shift is a hugely torquey yet frugal 16-litre mill, churning out 610hp with 2,800Nm of twist.
So, the next time you pass a FH series truck on the highway, don’t let the aerodynamic and sleek side mirrors or LED tail lamps fool you; there is much more than meets the eye in every Volvo commercial vehicle.
The Volvo FH series is available in three versions, the VOLVO FH440 I 6x2 T RSS Prime Mover, the VOLVO FH 440 I 6X2 T RAS Prime Mover (Petroleum) and the powerful Volvo FH16. The trucks can be viewed at the upcoming Malaysia Commercial Vehicle Expo (MCVE) from 18-20 May 2017 at the MIECC in Kuala Lumpur.