Ten months on from the launch of the new generation Actros prime movers Mercedes Benz has unveiled its new generation rigid models which should prove stiff competition in the market.

Mercedes Benz latest rigid configuration Actros really shone during a day of testing west of the Queensland capital last week and it underlined the versatility and wide spread of potential applications for the talented new additions to the Actros line up.

Well in fact to the Actros/Arocs/Atego line up as Benz has divvied up the naming format on its rigids with three axle models falling under the Actros banner, the two axle rigids continuing the Atego nameplate and the four axle twin steer rigids bearing the Arocs badge.

Benz gave the media a thorough and testing, day long drive program in the Brisbane Hinterland, covering just a shade more than 300 kilometres with a range of roads from motorway to bumpy country tarmac, some testing climbs as mentioned earlier and of course the granddaddy of descents coming down the range from Toowoomba.

The rigid model line-up introduced in Brisbane ran from the 12-tonne rigid Atego city distribution truck through to the 32-tonne 8×4 Arocs model that can be used for palletised freight, equipment haulage or waste work.

At the launch Mercedes-Benz Trucks senior manager, Andrew Assimo told us at that the new rigid range follows on from the successful introduction of the prime mover range.

“We have had some fantastic feedback from customers of our new generation prime movers who are extremely pleased with the performance and economy they are delivering,” Assimo said.

“We are now ready for the second stage of our roll out, with our rigid distribution line-up set to deliver a new standard of efficiency, reliability and versatility for our customers, ” he added.

Mercedes-Benz said it had developed the new generation rigid range after consulting customers in varied operations including a comprehensive local testing program that has now included more than 35 customers, 20 trucks and more than 1.8 million km.

The second phase of the new generation Mercedes-Benz truck introduction includes on-road rigid models, while the third phase, set for late this year, will see the introduction of the construction and all-wheel-drive rigid models ready for off-road work.

The company reckons the wide spread of available engines will cover a huge range of applications and we can only agree.

Fully automated transmissions are standard across the rigid range with either an eight-speed or 12-speed option with both featuring faster shifting and a new creeper gear for low speed work.

The rigid line up features three cab groups, the smaller 2.3m S Classic Space for the 1630L 4×2 Atego medium duty distribution models, the 2.3m M Classic Space for the Actros 2530 and 2535L 6×2 heavy duty distribution and the largest 2.3m M Classic Space for the 6×4 Actros and 8×4 Arocs heavy duty distribution and vocational models. Sleeper cabs and rear seat options are available on various models.

Benz told us that it has developed new cabs and chassis for the rigid range, claiming they deliver better stability and roadholding as well as improved refinement and comfort, and that was certainly born out by their performance on the road

Further to that Benz said all of the cabs meet strict Swedish cab test standards and they are fitted with roof-mounted air-horns, remote locking, electric mirrors and a locally-developed touchscreen sat nav and audio unit with DVD player and Bluetooth connectivity all as standard equipment.

As we said when we drove the Actros prime movers back in October last year the driver-focused interiors deliver a big improvement in refinement levels, with controls located well within reach of the driver. Several items can now be controlled using the steering wheel controls.

Customers can also option up the cabins with interior style packs and are able to choose the wood-look/velour Home Line treatment or the metal-look chrome Style Line treatment.

A spread of four rigids on the drive program was added to with a lone prime mover/trailer combo, an intrastate distribution spec model. The line up featured three of the four Benz in line six cylinder engines including the 7.7, 11 and 13 litre versions with horsepower ranging from 299hp to 354hp in the small engine and from 394 to 428 hp in the 11 litre. There is also a 455 hp 11 litre available but this wasn’t fitted to any of the test trucks on the launch, while the 13-litre engined Actros prime mover had the 530hp version of that powerplant fitted.  Benz is saying that while the rigid line up is available with either the 8 or 11 litre units it can also offer the big 13 and 16 litre power plants for individual builds.

All of the power plants are Euro 6 compliant and feature asymmetric turbocharging as well as X-Pulse high-pressure direct injection technology, which both help more usable torque and assist with low speed drivability.  They also feature a powerful new engine brake with up to 340kW of power, although a water retarder can increase the available braking force to a total of 750kW. That got a good workout down the range at  Toowoomba, but more on that later.

It wasn’t that long ago that the trade press had been gathered to be a part of the launch of the all new Actros range of prime movers after a long and extremely thorough engineering and evaluation program. It was clear then and even more obvious now that the Australian arm of Daimler trucks has done its homework on the new Actros, delivering trucks that fit a lot of niches from 16-tonne city distribution all the way through to 100-tonne plus road train spec prime movers.  The rigid line up offers all sorts of flexibility that could see the various models slotted into numerous roles from niche to volume applications.

At the end of a long day of driving tackling a range of conditions typical for trucks in this realm, we emerged feeling fresh and unflustered. The car like comforts of the Benz rigids made it an easy day at the wheel covering just over 300 km uphill and down dale. The Benz team came to the media launch from a week of showing customers the new trucks at Mt Cotton and were apparently met with enthusiastic support. Only time will tell if Benz can parlay that enthusiasm into truck sales. We think they can.

Transport and Trucking will have a full rundown on the new Benz Rigids in the next issue.