On the surface it looked just like another launch of a Japanese medium duty truck, sure to be fit for purpose, a utilitarian work tool, reliable, economic to run and own and sure to give years of loyal and dependable service, just what Hino is renown for.

The surprise was that this Japanese maker had come up with a truck that not only boasted of being Game Changing but actually could be.

For you see loyal reader,  the new Hino 500 Series and in particular the new nine-litre inline six cylinder turbo diesel has shifted the goal posts for the market dominating Japanese medium duty trucks and while  Hino now says it is not actively pursuing the number one spot from perennial long time sales leader Isuzu, this new truck, we feel sure, will win some sales from Isuzu in the fiercely contested medium duty sector.

Often a glib marketing line is just that, however we firmly believe that the Hino marketing slogan for the new 500, ‘It’s a Game Changer’ actually has a degree of validity.

It’s been more than a decade since Hino totally overhauled the 500 range and it is clear their engineers have not been idle in that time.

The New Wide Body 500 as Hino has labelled it is however exactly the same width as the 500 it replaces, but there will be some narrow body 500s later in the year we understand .

However nothing takes away from the fact that the new Hino AO9C nine-litre engine is the new benchmark in the medium sector offering great power, quietness, torque and flexibility.

We preface that statement by saying that while Hino says the trucks we tested on the launch were loaded to 90 per cent of GCM, and we don’t doubt that, we would like to test it with a weighbridge ticket in our hands.

While the traditional JO8E Hino eight-litre has been improved and given an overhaul the new nine litre is so good that it makes the still excellent older engine look and sound dated. There will be applications that will suit the eight litre better, around town in shorter delivery routes and other tasks where its 280 hp would be more than ample. However the new engine with either 320 hp when coupled to an Allison automatic or 350 hp when paired with the excellent new Hino designed nine speed synchromesh manual is just a delight to drive.

The AO9C offers excellent flexibility, is very quiet, has a long flat torque curve with 1275 Nm in the 320 version and 1422Nm in the 350 variant and will eat kilometres with ease and comfort.

During our drive from Sydney via the Central Coast to the Hunter Valley, a brief stint in a GH 1835 with Hendrickson air bag suspension on the rear, a taut liner body, the 350 hp engine and nine speed manual really showed the class of this new Hino medium duty range. As my co-driving partner, editor Allan Whiting proffered, “If it had a European brand badge on it you would not be surprised!”

As we mentioned Hinos have always been functional, purposeful and reliable, like all of the Japanese brands, but this new truck is so much more refined and enjoyable to drive.

Hino has also done a terrific job in a number of other areas, including the introduction of a Wabco developed VSC stability control across the range

It is fair to say that Hino has also taken a very European stance with the suite of safety features on the new 500 delivering ABS anti-lock brakes, ASR skid control, driver’s SRS airbag, ‘Easy Start’ hill-start on manuals, reversing camera, and Euro crash test standard cab, It is an impressive package of features.

The new range boasts either two axle or three axle variants and a range of three GVM capabilities including 16, 18 and 26 tonnes with GCM offerings from 32 to 45 tonnes.

Underlining the importance of the new 500 in Australia, where Hino has lacked the arsenal to challenge Isuzu and in fact has conceded ground in the medium duty sector in recent years, the company brought its managing officer, Kenji Nagakubo down under for the launch. He was previously the chief engineer on 500 so his presence was a big vote of confidence in the new model.

Hino Australia boss officer Steve Lotter had a smile on his face at the launch with good reason, he has been waiting on this truck for some time and its arrival has given the company a much broader and more competitive line up in the tough medium duty market.

“These trucks are a game-changer for us and now gives us the broadest range in the segments that straddle Australia’s competitive medium and heavy-duty markets,” said Steve Lotter,

“By increasing the model range, it provides us with an opportunity to engage in different applications which previously hasn’t been possible.”

With new styling that includes a very Euro-style grille and front treatment it is easy to recognize the new truck and tell it apart from the model it replaces. Trucks equipped with the JO8E boast a two bar grille while the AO9C equipped models have a bigger three bar grille.

Inside the cab changes are more subtle, with a redesigned dash, new audio and mutti-media unit that also boasts a big screen coupled to the reversing camera and a range of practical office on the road’ features that make a driver’s life more comfortable and easy.

Allison automatics are now available as a factory fit across the range as the push to self shifters continues apace in the Australian truck marke,  while the traditional Hino six-speed manual is joined by an Eaton nine-speed manual as well as that previously mentioned new Hino nine-speed overdrive synchro manual, as the offerings for those who prefer to select their own gears.

The revised JO8E has been uprated to 280hp, as we mentioned, while all the engines no use SCR for emission control, rather than the previous EGR, allowing them to run cooler and more efficiently and no doubt contributing to the performance boost and strong power and torque they deliver. Both engines meet Euro 5, and while Hino did not state it, one gets the impression that swinging to SCR will help Hino easily meet Euro 6 standard when it is mandated.

Another great bonus feature on both GH and FM is the standard fitment of cross diff locks which will be a boost in many applications where traction might be challenged such as tipper, agitator, stock crates to mention a few.

Hino has clearly done a very thorough job in speccing the new 500 and engineering it to a new standard in medium duty. If the Euros thought they ever stood a chance of selling decent numbers in the medium duty market then the new 500 would dispel those thoughts or at least make them seriously depressed at the thought. While the continuing threat of cheaper Chinese trucks looms on the horizon and the upcoming launch of Korean Hyundais will add more competition to the market, a truck like the 500 Hino is so far ahead of the game any price advantage the newcomers might bring will be blown away by the Hinos clear advantages we believe.

Now the market will decide if the new 500 is truly a Game Changer, we think it is and will watch the sales performance with interest. We will have a full report on the new trucks in upcoming issues of Transport & Trucking Australia.

The new Hino 500 series range

FG 1628 4×2 – 280 hp. 6-sp Hino man or 6-sp Allison auto.

                        GVM 16 tonnes. GCM 32 tonnes.\

FL 2628 6×2 – 280 hp. 6-sp Allison auto.

                       GVM 26 tonnes. GCM 38 tonnes.       

FM 2628 6×4 – 280 hp. Eaton 9-sp man or 6-sp Allison auto.

                       GVM 26 tonnes. GCM 33 tonnes (auto) 38 tonnes (man).

FM 2632 6×4 – 320 hp. 6-sp Allison auto.

                       GVM 26 tonnes. GCM 36.5 tonnes.

FM 2635 6×4 – 350 hp. Hino 9-sp man.

                       GVM 26 tonnes. GCM 45 tonnes.

GH 1828 4×2 – 280 hp. Eaton 9-sp man or 6-sp Allison auto.

                       GVM 16 tonnes (std) (optional 18 tonnes). GCM 38 tonnes.

GH 1832 4×2 – 320 hp. 6-sp Allison auto.

                        GVM 16 tonnes (std) (optional 18 tonnes). GCM 38 tonnes.

GH 1835 4×2 – 350 hp. Hino 9-speed man.

                        GVM 16 tonnes (std) (optional18 tonnes). GCM 38 tonnes.

View Hino truck listings on Only Trucks” going to this page –