Dennis Eagle Elite 6: Low-entry cab test
It may be a well-respected urban vehicle offering a great field of view, but with a dated cab design and a gearbox better suited to stop-start work, the Elite 6 can struggle as a tipper.
Say the name Dennis Eagle and most people will think of one of two things: a fire-fighting vehicle or a refuse collection truck. The Dennis name was once synonymous with both, but these days it’s best known for its dustcarts.
The Elite cab design dates back to 1992, but our test vehicle was revised in 2014 for the introduction of Euro-6 engines.
Fundamentally, however, the Elite is a direct descendant of the 1990s cab and only a few alterations have been made over the years. The latest updates include a high roof line – this extra 90mm is a marked difference cosmetically and practically, allowing the cab front to better blend with its mounted bodies.
Make/model: Dennis Eagle Elite 6
Engine: Volvo D8K 7.7-litre 280hp
Transmission: Allison MD3000 6-speed
Chassis: 8x4 tridem
Cab type: Low-entry crew cab
Body: Thompsons tipper with Epsilon grab loader
LED corner cab beacon lights are standard, along with LED front strobes and daytime running lights. Functional but necessary changes have included relocating the fuse board to accommodate more ECUs in the passenger footwell. This has enabled safety systems like Lane Departure Warning to be fitted to newer vehicles.
Despite the fact that Dennis Eagle is now owned by Terberg Group, much of the Elite is down to Volvo. The engine, a 6-cylinder 7.7-litre unit, is Volvo’s DK8 and is available in either 280hp or 320hp, two of the three outputs available in a Volvo-badged truck. The interior is largely Volvo-made too, with the Euro-6 truck retaining the same dash as Euro-5 models.
While Volvo vehicles get the automated manual I-Shift transmission, the Dennis makes do with the full automatic Allison. The 6-speed 3000 gearbox is well used in refuse vehicles and Allison transmissions have been a stalwart of Dennis vehicles for a number of years. Suspension is improved, with full air suspension on the front and rear axles as standard on regular width cabs, while narrow-width vehicles (2,250mm) get air-assisted suspension on the front and full air to the rear.
In the cab
Driveline configurations range from a 4x2 to the 8x4 we test here, with 6x2 mid-lift, 6x2 mid- or rear-steer and 6x4 also available. Our standard-width 8x4 midsteer chassis test vehicle has two possible cab layouts to allow the driver plus three passengers or the driver plus four – the latter option adding an almost centrally mounted passenger seat in line with the driver.
As a low-entry vehicle, this Elite 6 has been fitted with a typical working body, the sort you expect to find in an urban environment. This Thompsons Loadmaster Lite is made from Hardox steel with a capacity of 13.2cu m and has been fitted with an Auto-Loc R pneumatic tailgate, a Covermaster 1000 electric sheeting system and a Dawes LPD guard system.
As visibility is key to a low-entry vehicle, the test starts with a look at the camera system. It covers the rear, side and front and is fairly standard in operation – indicating in either direction makes the screen view switch to that camera, while selecting reverse puts the rear-view camera in full screen. Visibility elsewhere is helped by the wide-angle mirror on the top of the cluster, while the rear side windows – which have been increased by 100mm in this latest version – improve the driver’s field of vision, particularly on his side. Narrow A- and B-pillars add to the effect of creating a light and open cabin, which in the urban environment is the main aim.
On the road
On the road, the Elite 6 is a mixed bag. The forward seating position is particularly good at aiding visibility, but the driving experience is largely let down by the Allison transmission. While refuse operators might be big fans of the gearbox, it is a compromise for the mixed work that an urban tipper such as this is likely to undertake. Our test vehicle’s transmission is a slightly different specification to the municipal versions, but gears one to four are understandably close given the traditional slow speed nature of its usual application. This means that on the open road they tend to be zipped through quickly. In contrast, the Mercedes-Benz Econic – the Elite’s only direct rival with a bus-style passenger door – fares better with its 12-speed Powershift transmission dealing more capably with both slow- and high-speed requirements. There’s also a fair amount of noise with engine revs at 50mph being 1,900rpm in sixth. Coupled with some noticeable but not outrageous wind noise around the mirror, it is clear the Elite 6 is more suited to a slower pace where it is nice to drive. Steering is heavy but manoeuvrability with the second mid-steer-axle is good.
Competition in the low-entry sector is hotting up, but the Dennis Eagle Elite 6 has been around for so long and is so successful that it should be considered a real master of its environment. Compared with the Mercedes Econic (see page 34), however, the cabin is dated and its general feel and driveability are not in the same class. In principle, the Elite 6 does everything right but, in reality, the evolution of a cab from 1992 does it no favours.
- Freight in the City is the must-attend event for anyone involved in making urban logistics cleaner, safer, quieter or more efficient. This free event is taking place at Alexandra Palace, London on 6 November. Click here to register for your free tickets.
Euro 5 Volvo FM: used buying guide
At CM we scour the classified pages to find your ideal vehicle. Today we’re on the hunt for a Euro-5 Volvo FM tractor unit.
The Volvo FM was launched 20 years ago and since 1998 its popularity has gone from strength to strength, with its lower cab entry and all-round visibility a big draw.
The original Euro-2 version featured the 7-litre and 10-litre blocks, but Euro-3 saw the introduction of a new range with a D12 engine with electronic unit injectors and 9-litre option.
The speed of development driven by a need for lower emissions and better economy now sees the Euro-6 FM offered with either a common-rail 11-litre or 13-litre engine, with a choice of seven power options.
John Comer, product manager at Volvo Truck and Bus, says: “Always a fleet favourite, the model offers the class-leading I-Shift automated transmission and a choice of sleeper and all-steel high-roof cabs – all tested to the toughest Volvo safety demands.
“The Volvo FM scores well for payload, with the 11-litre 450hp version being the most flexible Volvo model in the marketplace” John Comer, product manager, Volvo Truck and Bus
Comer adds: “With the introduction of UK authorised weights, which permitted 44 tonnes, the 4x2 tractor market all but disappeared. However, for increased efficiency a supermarket specified FM 4x2 could be the solution for a bespoke operation where maximum weight is not the key feature of the job.”
Thomas Hardie Commercials
North West-based Thomas Hardie Commercials, established for more than 25 years, has a used truck site located just off junction 18 of the M6.
The dealer has fully Volvo-trained staff, as well as the latest software and diagnostic tools from the manufacturer.
Here CM found a 2012 (62-plate) Volvo FM Globetrotter with a Euro-5 11-litre engine, delivering 450hp through an I-Shift automated transmission.
On a wheelbase of 3.9m, this tractor unit has a 480-litre fuel tank, air suspension and disc brakes.
Fitted with a day cab finished in shades of green, the paint and bodywork condition is very good and the interior finish is clean.
Cabin refinements include electric windows, seats and mirrors, night heater and air conditioning, as well as three half-leather seats and a CD player.
As an ex-dray, this unit also has a low chassis and low-profile tyres, with approximately 50% tread remaining. The truck has 196,000km on the clock and is MoT’d until August.
With one previous owner and a full Volvo service history, the vehicle is offered with a 30-day Volvo Economy warranty for £18,000, ex-VAT.
Carl Boase, national used vehicle sales executive, says: “The unique selling point is the very low mileage and the rare Globetrotter day cab.”
Britcom, which was formed in 1981, has three sites: a 14-acre head office in Market Weighton; a sales depot in Manchester; and its sister company HVPS in Nairobi, Kenya.
The dealer is well known as one of the UK’s leading exporters of used commercial vehicles and is a key player in the UK used commercial vehicle industry. The group has strong purchasing power with many of the UK’s large fleet owners, such as major supermarkets, hire and leasing companies and financial institutions, and can also source individual and specialist vehicles from smaller operators.
At its Market Weighton, Yorkshire site CM found a 2013 (63-plate) Volvo FM Globetrotter. With an 11-litre Euro-5 engine, producing 450hp through an I-Shift automated transmission, this unit has covered 640,000km. The tractor unit has a Globetrotter cab and a 480-litre fuel tank. On a wheelbase of 3.9m, it has leaf suspension on the front and air suspension on the rear.
The 295/80R 22.5 tyres have a tread of 10mm to 12mm, and the disc brakes are in good condition, with ABS, EBS, diff lock and an exhaust brake.
Finished in white, the paint and bodywork are in good condition, as is the interior. There is a radio/CD player and the internal refinements include air conditioning, central locking, cruise control, electric and heated mirrors, electric windows and a single bunk.
The truck also has a full air deflector kit, a fixed fifth wheel, an immobiliser, side wind deflectors, a sun visor and a digital tachograph. It is MoT’d until June and is offered for sale at £17,500, ex-VAT.
Regional sales manager Adam Day says the unique selling point is the choice of units available.
Walker Movements sells and distributes second-hand trucks, with the facilities to transport any vehicle in stock to any destination worldwide. Over the past 25 years the company has sold in excess of 21,500 trucks to more than 15,000 customers around the world.
At a 21-acre custom-built sales centre, located next to the M1 between junctions 24A and 25, CM found a 2011 (61-plate) Volvo FM Series Globetrotter with sleeper cab.
It is powered by a Volvo D11C 450hp 6-cylinder Euro-5 engine, with AdBlue, through an I-Shift automated transmission.
On a wheelbase of 3.9m, this truck also has a Volvo multi-stage engine brake (VEB), a Volvo single-reduction drive-axle with a locking differential, an airsuspended mid-lift axle and Ecas drive-axle air suspension with in-cab controls.
It also has a full disc brake system with EBS/ABS and a sliding fifth wheel with run-up ramps. There is an aluminium chassis catwalk, a PVCU vertical engine air intake, an ISO trailer ABS/ EBS suzie socket, an exterior sun visor, a rear loading light, a full air deflector kit complete with cab side extensions and a 450-litre aluminium fuel tank.
Inside it has an Isringhausen air-suspended driver’s seat with adjustable lumbar support, electric windows, electric adjustable and heated mirrors, a pop-up sunroof, air conditioning and cruise control. Further refinements include a Webasto night heater, an RDS CD/radio player, a reverse alarm with an in-cab cut-out switch, switchable traction control, SRS driver’s airbag and a 12v auxiliary power socket, with overhead and under-bunk storage compartments.
Finished in white, the paint and bodywork condition is good, as is the interior finish and condition, with approximately 50% tread remaining on the tyres.
The digital tachograph shows 761,000km on the clock and the MoT runs until August.
With two previous owners there is no service history but for £13,750, ex-VAT, this tractor comes with a three-month driveline warranty.
Lloyd Collingham, marketing manager, says the unique selling point of this truck is the Euro-5 engine.