Jump to: Benefits of a V8, Cost, Vehicle specifications, Test drive: on the roads, Test drive: on the motorway, Test drive: in the hills, The business.
Click here to view the full range of used Scania R-Series tractor units we have in stock.
Scania V8s have obtained an almost mythical reputation. But is a used R-series worth the premium?
A slightly different used buying guide this time, as we return to West Pennine Trucks for a second visit. For those who missed our previous visit, used truck sales manager Stuart Wolstenholme has been with the Scania dealership for nearly 30 years, so we couldn’t have picked anyone better to talk to us about an iconic Scania product – the R-series V8 tractor. Today we’re meeting at the company’s Trafford Park depot, which is handily where they do all the “bling”.
He’s referring to what is really more of a prestige paint job, covering everything from straight colour changes through to full airbrush customisation by the likes of Matt the Painter and Adam Haden. “Our guys do the initial prep, the base coat and the final lacquer themselves – up to four layers in some cases – then the airbrush artist can be arranged in two ways,” we’re told. “We can accommodate what the operator has organised, or we can organise it from scratch ourselves.”
Benefits of a V8
The guys in the workshop are just as happy working on used vehicles as they are on new, and it’s amazing what customers have chosen to do with relatively old trucks in the past. “We sold a 14-year-old V8 a couple of years ago, one of a batch of three of the very last 4-series,” Wolstenholme remembers. “It was a 4x2 and the guy took it, stretched it, added an axle, moved the cab back and bought a bonnet!” But this wasn’t as insane a project as first meets the eye. “The thing is, V8s never die,” Wolstenholme explains.
It’s not just longevity and reliability that attracts operators to the Scania V8 though, nor is it purely about prestige. “The other thing is journey times, that’s what people want them for.”
Those running trucks over tough terrain in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, or across the Welsh mountains are another group of classic candidates. Driver appeal is also a draw. “There’s one logistics specialist just round the corner here in Trafford Park where it’s very rare anyone does a night out,” Wolstenholme says. “They’ve got around eight Topline V8s in there, basically just to attract drivers.”
The biggest attraction of used is, of course, the price, but used V8 tractors are still by no means cheap. “To give you an example, the one you’ll be driving would have been in excess of £100,000 brand new,” Wolstenholme says, “and it’s still worth over £70,000 today. That’s nearly four years on, so it’s held its money, but there’s still a big saving over new.”
Used V8s aren’t exactly common, but it’s that rarity that keeps the value up. “They are undoubtedly the most expensive second-hand truck because they hold their value more than anything else,” Wolstenholme tells us. “That’s across the board, from a 520 V8 all the way up to a 730 V8.”
Once upon a time, used V8s were mainly the preserve of the owner-driver and that’s still the case, despite there being far fewer of them left. “It’s still an aspirational vehicle as well,” Wolstenholme points out. “When you get a new starter they always enquire after a V8, even though they know it’s not the truck to go out with.” Owner-operators aside, it’s mainly smaller fleets looking for a bit of prestige who put in a bid.
You’re also getting a truck that has been treated well in the majority of cases, just because of what it is. Usually sold new with at least two, if not up to five, years warranty and servicing, they often come in to West Pennine without a single fault. “You’ll tend to find cosmetically they’re a little bit more... polished, as well,” Wolstenholme chuckles.
Interest in the truck we’re here to drive – which has already sold – was at “the usual level. That means as soon as you advertise it, the phone rings off the hook!” Wolstenholme says. There’s no messing around with bidding wars at West Pennine though. “It’s first-come, first-served, that’s always the way,” Wolstenholme assures us. “We have had people offer more money, but we always ask a realistic price for them,” he says, adding: “We don’t make any more margin on a V8 than any other truck.”
Many are sold over the phone without having first been seen, a testament both to the vehicle’s reputation and that of West Pennine. “If we say it’s a tidy truck people believe us, but you’ve always got to be honest with your description of any vehicle.”
Test drive: on the roads
A 2014 Griffin-spec R580 V8 6x2 Topline with mid-lift, our test vehicle isn’t just tidy, it’s pristine, despite having 390,000km on the clock. It also comes with the kind of luxury interior you would expect in a prestige motor – leather seats, steering wheel and door panels, a factory-fitted fridge-freezer, integral sat-nav, a TV/DVD player and dashcam. On a more practical level, this truck’s 16-litre V8 engine is coupled with the 2-pedal 12-speed Opticruise transmission, which offers a choice of economy, standard and power modes, and is linked with Scania’s R3500 retarder.
But never mind all that, what we really want to know is how this motor feels when you couple it up to a fully-freighted trailer and point it at a couple of really big climbs, so that’s precisely what we do. The obvious choice given our starting point is Windy Hill between junctions 21 and 22 of the M62, but first we’ve got to negotiate the nightmare of the road network in Trafford Park itself, currently being “remodelled” to accommodate an extension of Manchester’s Metrolink network. Never have we been so glad to have such a hefty engine and politely responsive gearbox as while we negotiate a set of badly signed diversions which have, we’re told, been changing on a daily – or, in some cases, even hourly basis. This is probably the best-known industrial estate in the Greater Manchester area, and we can honestly say having this level of power and responsiveness is a godsend; the fact we’re in a fully-freighted 44-tonner becomes a complete irrelevance, freeing up all our attention to work out where the hell we’re supposed to go.
Test drive: on the motorway
When we do eventually get to our target stretch of motorway, it turns out to be completely uneventful. We start at the bottom, we drive straight up, changing lanes a couple of times along the way, and we get to the top. That’s it. The engine sits at 1,150-1,200rpm in 12th gear all the way up to the last steep section, overtaking a car as it goes, holding a speed above 50mph even after we tap the brakes to let another wagon out. Even on the steepest section of the climb, just before the summit, the revs stay at 1,000rpm or above in top gear. Not that you’d know it – never mind hearing any kind of traditional V8 growl when it starts to dig in, we’ve heard noisier milk floats. We obviously need a bigger hill.
A couple of junctions later, we come off the motorway and drop down the A629 into Elland. Now this is what you call a climb, and what’s more we’ll get to do it from a standing start by rejoining the road from an industrial estate right at the very bottom. Anticipation builds in the cab, and even Wolstenholme is seen to rub his hands together at the prospect of the challenge to come. We need some kind of excitement, after all – everything about this truck is so smooth we don’t even notice the gearbox when it does make a change, and we’re fairly sure we don’t really need the lid on our coffee, even during a boy racer-induced sharp application of both foot and engine brakes.
Test drive: in the hills
First we need to go down the hill, so to liven things up we slow the truck to 30mph, set the retarder stalk to full whack and take our feet off all the pedals. On a 12% gradient. In a fully-freighted artic. Actually, things started to get a bit too slow so we knock the retarder off a bit. Turning to go back up, we know the writing’s on the wall when we find ourselves tempted to overtake a bus on the slip road. This time we can feel a bit of work going on below the floor, as we begin to accelerate up the climb from 30mph at 1,300rpm in 9th cog. When we reach 1,500rpm in 10th gear, Wolstenholme admits to being impressed himself, more so when he realises we’re not even using Performance mode. Eventually we’re forced to slow down as we reach the traffic leading into the roundabout at Ainley Top, at which point we declare the score as 2-0 to the truck, and admit there’s really nothing else to say, except perhaps the obvious.
The Scania R580 V8 is smooth as silk, strong as a whole team of steroid-inflated oxen, and an absolute pleasure to drive no matter where you take it. Go and buy one. Today. If you can.
West Pennine Trucks’ Trafford Park site is one of six spread across the northwest, from the Middleton head office in the north down to Knighton in mid-Wales to the south. Scania dealers for well over 30 years, used trucks are prepped and sold from Middleton, Trafford Park and Stoke.
All vehicles come with a full service history, a minimum of six months’ MoT and 7mm tread on the tyres, and can be provided with a service or repair and maintenance contract. All trucks under three years old and with less than 450,000km on the clock come with a 12-month warranty backed by West Pennine, with shorter arrangements made on vehicles outside that bracket. All trucks are prepared using only genuine Scania parts.
Click here to view the full range of used Scania R-Series tractor units we have in stock.