Truck News tests Volvo’s new D16C engine

by James Menzies

HOGA KUSTEN, Sweden – When visiting Sweden for the launch of Volvo’s new 16.1-litre D16C engine and FH16 truck, Truck News had the chance to test drive several configurations to evaluate the new engine first-hand.

Volvo officials mapped out a scenic route along Sweden’s High Coast, which combined long uphill grades and shorter, steeper hills interspersed along relatively smooth sections of highway. The hills are the result of a three-kilometre thick ice blanket that covered the region some 20,000 years ago. Now, the hilly terrain is notorious among European truckers for its tough climbs, making it an ideal testing ground for the FH16 truck and D16C engine.

Volvo says the FH16 is the safest, most comfortable and most powerful truck it has ever built.

Even though the FH16 truck won’t be introduced in North America (it’s a cab-over design with limited applications in Canada and the U.S.), it was an excellent opportunity to test the new D16C engine, which will eventually be sold in Canada. Cab-overs remain the truck of choice in Europe, largely because length rather than weight restrictions remain the favored enforcement method there.

Five FH16s were made available to trade journalists from around the world, and I had a chance to drive each of them. Here are the spec’s on the trucks I drove: (1) an FH16-610 Globetrotter featuring the 610-hp D16C engine in a 6×4 rigid configuration hauling 60 tonnes of timber with an overall truck and trailer length of 24 metres; (2) an FH16-550 Globetrotter equipped with the 550-hp D16C, 6×2 rigid, hauling 60 tonnes; (3) an FH16-610 Globetrotter XL, 610-hp engine, 6×2 rigid configuration hauling 60 tonnes of cement blocks with an overall length of 25.25 metres; (4) an FH16-550 Globetrotter XL, 6×2 tractor with 40 tonnes of weight and an overall length of 16.5 metres; and (5) an FH16-610, 610 hp Globetrotter XL 4×2 tractor pulling 40 tonnes with an overall length of 16.5 metres.

One of the most interesting spec’s on each of the trucks was Volvo’s own 12-speed synchronized transmission, which isn’t available in North America. Although it’s questionable whether the tranny would catch on with North American drivers, it is a very user-friendly transmission, and virtually anyone adept at operating a manual transmission passenger car could shift gears on the FH16 with relative ease.

Missing a gear is difficult, which is especially handy for truckers who are inexperienced in driving on large hills.

As promised by Volvo designers, one of the most noticeable attributes of the new engine is its quietness – both in and out of the cab.

The sound of the tires on the pavement practically drowned out the sound of the engine, even though it was sitting just inches below my feet. The patented Volvo Engine Brake (VEB) was also extremely quiet when activated. It was also extremely effective in slowing the truck down, even with 60-tonnes behind us.

Even while pulling 60-tonnes with the 550-hp D16C, there was never any trouble getting up the longest and steepest hills we encountered on our route, as long as the engine was operated in its optimum range. The engine didn’t overheat during uphill climbs, but the extra 60 hp offered by the D16C-610 was a welcomed addition on the hills.

In Europe, all trucks are governed to 90 km-h, and this speed was easy to maintain on all but the steeper hill climbs.

Volvo engineers designed the engine to allow it to work within its optimum RPM range at this speed, delivering improved fuel mileage as well.

The powerful VEB, which delivers 510 hp of stopping power, made it unnecessary to use the service brakes most of the time, but when I did use them the increased efficiency of air disc brakes (standard equipment on European trucks) was evident.

The truck itself handled well, despite the gusty winds that swept across the coastal highway. The 60-tonne loads were practically immune to any wind gusts while they were more noticeable in the 40-tonne configurations.

When it comes to North America, Volvo’s most powerful engine will likely be a popular choice for Canadian fleets and owner/operators hauling through hilly parts of the country.

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