The past couple of years has seen the absence of the typical extensive product launch and test drive programs at which the industry, through its manufacturers, dealers, customers and media was able to experience a variety of a brand’s vehicles with the additional benefit of back-to-back assessments.
Emerging from the forced hiatus brought about by COVID, Hino has not only assembled a comprehensive cross-section of its current models but crucially, provided group and one-on-one access to its senior executives and key suppliers.
The choice of the location in Far North Queensland was deliberate, with the Atherton Tableland presenting challenges to the hill climbing and descending abilities of the Hino models involved and the Bruce Highway following the coast delivering a mix of metropolitan and highway conditions.
A multi-day event such as this requires meticulous planning and execution at an almost military level to be considered successful. Hino have definitely achieved this through a diverse range of its trucks, not just varied wheelbases of the same model.
The line-up of demonstration trucks represents a $3million investment and includes models across the 300, 500 and 700 Series. This event is the beginning of a 130,000 kilometre around-Australia “road show” which will work its way through dealerships for the next six months providing local access for existing and potential customers to get behind the wheel.
Where possible the road show will coincide with rounds of the Supercars championship where the all-new Hino Sports Deck will host an anticipated 1,700 customers over the period.
In common with other manufacturers operating in the current global economic situation, Hino has the challenge of its orders significantly outstripping the source of supply, which has led to a number of pending strategic decisions.
The widely acknowledged shortage of semi-conductors has been exacerbated by the COVID-induced long-term lockdown of Shanghai which is the source of components including tail-lifts and fridge units.
This dilemma especially affects some Hino 300 Series models. Combine that with global shipping issues and the backlog of work facing local body builders and Hino has had to employ a realistic approach to such challenges and recognise what they can influence, and not waste time on things they can’t.
Machiavelli’s advice is to not waste a good crisis, and this is the case of Hino not trying to be all things to all people, and to maximise its opportunities where they have an advantage.
Hino’s current model line-up is relatively young. In 2017 Hino commenced the renewal of its range with the Wide Cab 500 Series which is currently the ‘oldest’ truck model at just five years. At the same time came the introduction of the Hino SmartSafe comprehensive safety package which uses technology to significantly improve safety for drivers, passengers and fellow road users.
SmartSafe uses radar and cameras and includes a Pre-Collision System (PCS) with Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), Pedestrian Detection (PD), Lane Departure Warning System (LSWS) and Vehicle Stability Control (VSC).
The Hino 300 Series was launched in 2020 and the expanded range has seen the versatile 300 creeping into bottom end of the medium duty category with some models. Incorporating Hino SmartSafe, the 300 Series has set the benchmark for safety, performance, efficiency and comfort and the use of true automatic transmissions has already proved to have been a good decision which is reflected in sales results.
The Hino 700 Series was launched using a combination of sophisticated virtual and static formats in 2021 and while a select few media members (including Prime Mover) have had the opportunity to drive several examples since, it’s good to reacquaint as a group with Hino’s Heavy Duty contenders including a tipper and dog and a prime mover.
All 700 Series meet the Euro VI emission standard using DPR and SCR. Standard auxiliary braking on the nine- and 13-litre 700 Series models is a Jacobs Engine Brake and the 13-litre models’ braking is further enhanced by the ZF Intarder fitted to the rear of the ZF TraXon 16-speed Automated Manual Transmission.
The first section of the drive involves climbing 800 metres of the Gillies Range up to the Atherton Tableland, using possibly the most convoluted main road in the country with a number of steep ascents and several 20 per cent pinches.
Our ride for this section is a 500 Series crew cab FE1424 which is fitted with an Ekebol sliding tilt tray, which is a popular combination for automobile clubs and towing services. This particular unit sees service as the official recovery vehicle for the Supercars series.
Thankfully it is not a damaged Supercar secured on the tray, but a rather sad example of why Mitsubishi no longer manufacture family cars in Australia. The tilt tray’s five-litre four cylinder engine provides ample power and torque (240hp and 833Nm) which is superbly delivered via the six-speed Allison fully automatic transmission.
The interactions between the engine and transmission have been calibrated to make the most of the engine’s wide torque band without constantly shuffling between ratios. On such a twisty route the steering gets a thorough workout and delivers just the right amount of road feel without being too heavy.
Descending from the plateau we take the wheel of a 700 Series FY3036 eight-wheeler which has been set up as a hook bin truck. Thanks to the 360hp engine’s Jacob’s Brake it only requires two brief instances of gently touching the brake pedal to hold a comfortable downhill speed because the Allison 4440 transmission self-shifted from sixth back to fifth and then to fourth in order to maximise the effect of the compression engine brake.
A finger tap on the touch panel shifter console pulled the transmission back to third when negotiating the final and steepest section of the descent, with no need for the Electronic Brake System service brakes to be used.
This particular truck is one of the last 8×4 models not to be equipped with the full Hino SmartSafe package including the unobtrusive Driver Monitor which is included in all Hino eight wheelers manufactured since August 2022.
In recognition of the often extreme environments such as demolition sites in which hook bin trucks operate, the FY 8×4 has a rugged, yet smooth riding, six rod leaf spring rear suspension and is equipped with inter axle and cross locks on the diffs and also features load sharing front suspension.
On several sections of the flatter countryside both on the Tableland and on the coast highway between Cairns and Townsville, we get to experience two quite different Hino offerings in the 14-pallet Curtainsider market.
The 26,000kg GVM 500 Series FR 2632 is powered by the nine-litre engine rated at 320hp/1,275Nm and backed by an Allison 3200 six-speed auto and is in a 4×2 configuration. The other curtainsider is a 700 Series fitted with the 13-litre 480hp/2,157Nm engine with the 16-speed TraXon AMT. With its 28,300kg GVM and 63,000kg GCM this spec is suitable for metro and regional rigid applications such as this test vehicle with it tailgate loader, as well as tipper and dog duties.
Both of the Hino curtainsiders provide exceptionally smooth ride due to their four-point air suspended cabs being complemented by the latest generation ISRI drivers’ seats. Hino customers benefit from Hino-Connect, which is the next-generation of telematics and business intelligence developed in Australia which provides real-time performance data tracking, remote diagnosis of vehicle faults and dedicated Hino-Connect specialist support.
During our time with Hino executives, we are informed that the new 700 Series is already exceeding its predecessor’s sales by 20 per cent, with more opportunities expected once production can catch up with demand.
This comes as no surprise as the Hino 700 in prime mover configuration presents a package worthy of consideration for many applications.
The 700 Series prime mover participating in this event is a 6×4 with the 13-litre engine providing 480hp/2,157Nm.
It utilises the ZF TraXon 16-speed AMT which is also equipped with the ZF Intarder and this SS2848 comes with an impressive GCM of 72,000kg.
A similar spec 4×2 version is attached to the new Hino Sports Deck trailer which is a well equipped and executed mobile hospitality facility which forms an integral component of Hino’s increasing activities based around the Supercars motorsport calendar.