Hino has packed a raft of equipment into its now almost venerable 700 Series so that operators and drivers can get on with productivity without feeling short-changed on tech and safety.
I recently drove the latest 700 Series FS 2848 with about 21-tonnes on board. This model is specced almost ideally for the farmer that needs a stock-crate truck with a hefty body and long wheelbase, and the capability of pulling a dog trailer.
But the primary reason for the drive was to test the latest ZF TraXon transmission fitted as standard equipment on this model, and in reality, without being unkind to Hino, this is the feature that turns an old faithful planted in the past into a class-leader of the present.
The run headed south from Hino’s head office, down the Pacific Highway to the bottom of Mt Ousley, then turned around and headed back up the long slow hill.
With plenty of undulation on this run, plus a healthy dose of Sydney’s glutinous traffic, the driveline got a serious workout in every department. The verdict? 10 out of 10.
Competing in this sector are a wide range of trucks with just as wide a range of transmissions. Thankfully, Hino engineers decided to bin the usual Japanese insistence on only using major components from their own parts bin, and picked one of Europe’s best transmission options – the ZF's new-spec TraXon.
TraXon is a modular system that you can specify in its home market as either a simple automated manual, or add a torque converter to make a full automatic. A range of ratings makes it suitable for a wide range of weights.
This version delivers 16 ratios and some software that exploits the biggest Hino’s new-found torque band. If I had a criticism it would be that in auto mode the mapping changes the lower gears too quickly – they only run across about 150rpm before grabbing the next cog. It could easily skip gears and use the full width of the 13-litre engine’s torque band. I’d be using manual mode from start, speeding the process and using less fuel to boot. But once under way and into the top box I had no need to go anywhere near the manual over-ride.
However downhill was where this set-up really shines. ZF’s Intarder is standard on the truck and delivers something close to 3,500Nm of braking torque at the maximum of three settings. Additionally, Hino has fitted a genuine Jake brake instead of the usual anaemic Japanese unit. I ran down the length of the Mt Ousley using only stage two of the auxiliary, and at times had to wind the braking back.
Even in traffic, the service brakes were only necessary for the last three or four metres. Brake maintenance on this truck would be rare.
Hino’s 700 needed some extra hype to make the now dated cab and controls saleable in the face of some slick competition. The cab and fittings may be old now, but TraXon takes driveability, and productivity to the top of the heap.