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Engines: New kid on the block

REGINA, Sask. - When people talk about medium-duty equipment, the Canadian experience is often over-trumped by that of our neighbors to the south.The volumes are so much larger because the population ...


REGINA, Sask. – When people talk about medium-duty equipment, the Canadian experience is often over-trumped by that of our neighbors to the south.

The volumes are so much larger because the population is arranged in such a way that there are more opportunities for these local delivery units.

Even Canadian dealers occasionally fall into the trap of assuming these less-than-largest of offerings only apply to the Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal markets.

For these reasons, when DaimlerChrysler decided to bring its Mercedes-Benz engines to this side of the pond, it didn’t really raise many eyebrows north of the 49th.

So it’s understandable if you haven’t heard about the MBE900 – despite the fact that this is its third winter on Canadian soil – but that’s about to change because this lil’workhorse certainly has its share of fans here in the Great White North. Just ask Jack Creighton, a driver with East Penn/Power Battery, how he feels about the MBE900 six-cylinder 230hp engine under the hood of the new Freightliner FL60 he now uses.

Employed for battery deliveries on regional hauls, the vehicle will rack up about 100,000km per year, even though it presently has only about 18,000 km on the odometre. Creighton’s rig is spec’d with a six-speed transmission – the top gear being a direct 1.0 ratio, with a 3.42, 17,500-lb rear axle – teamed up with an air ride suspension and 245 70R 19.5 inch rubber. Ideally the unit runs at about 2,200rpm when gliding along at 100km/h.

When asked how he feels about the ride, handling and performance of his new truck, Creighton rates the overall chassis quality, comfort, ride and handling as, “Great.”

While he’s careful to choose his words wisely, the ones he does use seem to speak volumes. Creighton describes overall fit and finish as, “Excellent.” Overall engine performance, including acceleration, responsiveness, fuel economy, ability to pull under load or on demand, plus in-cab engine noise, was a truly glowing, “Terrific.”

Extremely satisfied with the power he gets from his 900, he stresses the unit is “very quiet, and has excellent city maneuverability.”

People often wonder about performance of a new engine, and how it stacks up against the competition. Fair questions indeed given some previous initial offerings. However, in the case of the MBE900, this product is only new in North America.

Built in Manheim, Germany, the MBE900 has actually been in full production since 1996, with more than 250,000 units already in service in Europe and Mexico. Detroit Diesel has been given North American responsibility for the MBE line-up, including marketing, service support, parts distribution, training, and warranty. This seems to reassure a lot of people that support and service will be readily available when needed.

In fact, with the addition of DDC distributor locations, there are now more than 750 authorized service centers in North America for the Mercedes-Benz-badged product.

According to Mike Johnson, of Midwest Detroit Diesel-Allison, it’s no wonder things have worked out well for East Penn/Power Battery’s Regina operation. He explains the torque curves for all of the MBE900 ratings are very flat – ideal for stop-and-go-type pickup and delivery operations. Horsepower options running from 150 to 300 can cover vehicles as large as fire trucks.

Depending on the rating, peak torque is developed between 1,200 and 1,400 rpm, with torque ratings from 380 to 860lb-ft.

He stresses many customers love the fact that the engine offers a B50 life of 500,000 miles.

“How can we do this? Things like induction hardened cylinders with stress-honed cylinder bores, making for a perfect fit of piston packs within the cylinders,” says Johnson. “This reduces things like piston slap and cylinder scuffing.”

In fact the pistons and top rings are also ceramic coated to better handle heat rejection, reducing thermal expansion and contraction.

The name Mercedes-Benz is obviously synonymous with quality, but in North America it also conjures images of luxury pricing.

“Don’t let the name fool you into thinking that you’re going to have to pay higher prices for parts in exchange for higher quality,” insists Johnson. “You will be pleasantly surprised.”


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