New generation Scania R-series and S-series: used buying guide

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Jump to: Road test, Vehicle specifications, About Keltruck.

Click here to view the full range of used Scania R-series tractor units we have in stock.

Click here to view the full range of used Scania S-series tractor units we have in stock.

Keltruck Newark’s sales boss Russell Barnes knows what he’s talking about – he has first-hand experience.

Scania dealer Keltruck’s fledgling used operation at Newark has a surprise secret weapon. When asked what is different about this set-up the salesman running it has a simple answer: “Me.” A live wire, Russell Barnes is only in his mid-30s, but he knows his stuff and how to get things done at “transport speed” – very quickly indeed.

Originally we arranged to visit Newark to drive a tipper, but a few days before our visit, we spotted a pretty stunning 18-plate new generation R450 6x2 tractor unit advertised in the back of CM. One phone call later, it was ours to drive, complete with a trailer loaned at zero notice from a local contact.

Impressive work, but by no means a one-off. We’ve since learned of other rabbits being pulled out of hats – such as the guy who needed a new tractor at two weeks’ notice after a misunderstanding with a franchisor. The production line waiting time was around 12 months. A fortnight later a less-than-six-months-old demonstrator had been pulled off the road, prepped to spec and delivered. The customer has since bought another one, purely because that sale was so well handled.

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To truly understand the needs of a transport man you have to have walked in his shoes, which is what Barnes has done – he’s an ex-lorry driver of 13 years’ experience, the latest generation in a long line of truck drivers. Even his mother works in a transport office.

Barnes came to Keltruck via another sales job, obtained through an industry friend after struggling to get off the road with a CV that just said “driver”. Talk to the man about any kind of haulage you choose and he understands what you need because if he hasn’t done it himself he knows someone who has.

He also comes without the usual preconceptions of how the selling of used trucks should be done. “I spent a bit of time working with Mitch Gough [Keltruck used vehicles sales manager] at West Brom while they finished off preparing the building here, and I picked up on what the new and used guys do,” says Barnes.

“I try to treat my customers a little bit more like they’re buying a new truck, give them a bit more of the experience – but only if that’s what they want.” Russell Barnes, sales boss, Keltruck Newark

“Don’t get me wrong,” he continues. “Some customers are more... salt of the earth, shall we say, and that’s fine. But then you also get those coming in at the bottom end of the market who want the ‘royal’ touch, so that’s what they get.” He stays in touch with customers after they’ve made their purchase. “I speak to most on a weekly basis and I’ve even got one I go out with. It’s not just a case of ‘call me if there’s a problem’.”

Whether he mentions his past, however, is dependent on who he’s talking to and whether he thinks it will help or hinder his credibility. “It might come up if they ask about my experience directly, and why I think a particular truck is great, for example,” he says. “But I don’t push it. It’s something that’s there as back-up almost.” This real-life knowledge shines through when we start to talk about our test vehicle. “It’s six months old and has covered about 20,000km as one of 10 spare units we keep available as part of a 300-plus vehicle contract, in case they have a VOR, for example,” says Barnes. “So the vehicles don’t depreciate too much, every six months when there’s a new registration we put a new batch in, giving us 10 low-mileage used trucks.”

In the case of such young vehicles, all damage is rectified, returning each vehicle to mint condition before it leaves the Newark yard.

The price difference isn’t that great. Basically, you’re getting a small discount on new, based on losing six-months’ worth of the initial R&M – so we wonder what the attraction is.

“If you order a new tractor you’ll wait eight months, whereas you can have that one now. It’s literally ready to go.” Russell Barnes, sales boss, Keltruck Newark

Actually, it’s already gone – the recent batch sold within 17 days of being withdrawn from service. “One of them has gone to a container driver with three vehicles – I’d already sold him a 67-plate and I’ve just sold him an 18-plate,” says Barnes. “He used to run a different marque and reckons the fuel economy improvement and saving in AdBlue usage is basically going to pay for another one.”

At Newark they can repaint, rewire, refit and generally titivate any choice of used truck. Lightbars, microwaves, tail-lifts and wet kits are no problem, although the latter will be fitted by Keltruck’s specialist division at Willenhall. They also check everything before sale, and deliver vehicles to new owners valeted and washed down, with a three-month driveline warranty for those that have reached the end of their initial manufacturer’s R&M deals. And if you want another three identical motors to go with your new acquisition, it will do its best to facilitate that as well.

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Road test

This is the first chance we’ve had to play in a used new generation Scania, so we’re looking forward to it. Hopping into the cab of the R450, the difference is obvious. This example boasts a premium dash, with built-in satnav and digital dials for rpm and speed. The whole thing has a smooth look and feel, with flat buttons rather than switches for the various auxiliaries. Overall, the impression is of a far classier vehicle than a 44-tonne truck.

Barnes gives a quick rundown of the more immediately useful controls – he does actually know what is immediately useful, unlike some who’ve taken great care over showing us the diff lock on a distribution rigid, for example, while we’ve sat and forgotten where the wipers are – and within a refreshingly short time we’re away.

Our trailer is an empty tanker so there’s no point hunting for hills. Instead we opt for a circular route taking us out of Newark via the ring road and A46, east across the A52 to Grantham then back up the A1. As ever, to start with we drive in the manner of the lowest common denominator, pointing the thing in vaguely the right direction and planting our right foot. Nothing very interesting happens. The 13-litre engine simply pulls away and drives. No over-revving, no loss of traction as we pull out onto the first roundabout despite being empty with a shallow-pinned trailer, no snatching of the brakes, nothing. We do pull up a little sharply to start with, but that’s because we knock the exhaust brake on instead of indicating right. Suffice to say it works very well, even at low revs.

Vehicle specifications

Make/model: Scania R450 6x2/2NA

Engine: Scania DC13 148/450hp Euro-6

Transmission: Scania Opticruise GRS905 12-speed AMT

Chassis: 4,050mm wheelbase 6x2 mid-lift pusher axle, with air suspension on rear bogie

Cab: CR, roof height H (high), twin bunks

Tyres: 315/70 R22.5

Fuel tank: 540 litres

Price: On application

One thing we can’t help noticing is that the cab appears to be leaning forward. It takes a while to put our finger on what feels unusual, but once we think we’ve worked it out we confirm our observation with Barnes, who immediately knows what’s happening. We have the mid-lift up, and because there’s no real weight over the fifth wheel the lift in the suspension needed to avoid it knocking on the floor on speed-bumps is more obvious than we’re used to – we normally pull fully freighted test trailers.

Making a little more effort to work with the technology, we play with the revs and find this latest incarnation of Opticruise far more amenable to subtle instruction through the throttle than previous models, although – as Barnes reminds us – this is a “learning” gearbox that adapts to how it is driven. He always resets these when they come into his stock, where other dealers might not.

We flick between Eco, Standard and Power profiles, but without any weight behind us it’s hard to tell the difference – the ECU isn’t chucking around unnecessary power regardless of how hard we try to make it, which is probably why the fuel returns are so good on these trucks. We do find it a little hard to see the green band on the rev counter, replaced as it is by a far less visually intrusive and muted set of lights, but we’re told we can reset it to a more traditional view should we prefer – probably unnecessary given time to get used to the unfamiliar view.

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Those specifics aside, our overriding impression is one of complete effortlessness. Empty artics so often feel a bit unstable, but there is none of that with this tractor, which feels sure-footed throughout the drive. The ride is as smooth as the interior fascia, and the 450hp available under firm control no matter how many tricks we try to play on it.

By the end of our short trip we are confirmed new generation Scania fans, and happily declare any driver who moans about being given one of these to be in need of being forced to drive a 1978 Foden for a while. Buy it from Keltruck at Newark, and not only will you effectively get a new vehicle without having to wait for months, you’ll get to meet a very nice bloke along the way.

“You should leave here happy, whether you’ve bought a truck or not,” says Barnes. “Customers are people, after all. So we need to just... be human!”

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About Keltruck

Keltruck has been in business for 35 years and is now Britain’s biggest independent Scania dealer. It has 19 sites across the East and West Midlands and south Wales, 17 of them dealer points. Used vehicles are sold from three sites – Newark, Cross Hands in Wales, and the head office at West Bromwich – although enquiries can be dealt with at any location.

It was founded in 1983 by Chris Kelly, who remains the company’s largest individual shareholder, while his son, Chris D Kelly, is chairman. The Newark depot became part of Keltruck when it acquired East Midland Commercials in 2004, and has recently undergone an extensive upgrade and refurbishment to provide new offices and customer facilities, including the reintroduction of dedicated used sales.

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Click here to view the full range of used Scania R-series tractor units we have in stock.

Click here to view the full range of used Scania S-series tractor units we have in stock.

Used Mercedes-Benz Unimog: 14 things you should know

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Click here to view the full range of used Mercedes-Benz Unimogs we have in stock.

Our used buying guides normally give you Points to Look For, listing specific items that often fail or cause issues, as reported by those operating or repairing the vehicles. For Unimog, however, that doesn’t really help; quite apart from anything else there are so many possible variations, and such a huge age-range of vehicles still in regular use, we’d be here until Christmas.

The other problem is that Unimogs genuinely don’t break. As one operator told us:

“I had to do the hub seals on mine just last week, which was a pain. But then it is 36 years old, so I guess it wasn’t that unreasonable.”

With that in mind, instead we bring you our list of ‘Things you should know about Unimog’, also sourced from those with active experience and knowledge.

1. Alteration costs

Rygor’s Matt Cleave says it’s important to get the right fit when you buy a used vehicle, and our operators agree. “Buy one that meets your needs, don’t buy one then make it work for you,” was an oft-repeated line. It really isn’t cost effective to start trying to alter trucks to add equipment which wasn’t originally specced.

2. Used models

If you can’t wait for the perfect Unimog, and aren’t prepared to go new so you can spec from scratch, your next best option is to go for something previously working with one of the big contracting firms, for example Balfour Beatty, because they tend to order their vehicles to a very high spec with far more equipment included.

3. Corrosion

Check the nature of the work it has previously been involved with. Theoretically, Unimogs shouldn’t be parked up for long periods, because they are versatile enough to be used for different work depending on the season – it’s part of their core concept. In this country, however, they are still used for snow ploughing and gritting then parked up for six months, in which case corrosion from salt might well have occurred, no matter how carefully the truck was cleaned before being stood up.

4. Life span

Unimogs have a minimum 15- to 20-year life span, so it is by no means unreasonable to consider buying something from the 1990s with a view to working it commercially every day.

5. DPF servicing

The current generation of Euro-6 Unimogs first hit the road in 2015. It is vital to check that these trucks had a DPF service when it was due – late servicing could lead to other issues.

6. Rusting

Rust is a big problem on older Unimogs, so always look for it. Our test vehicle had a fibre composite cab, but steel-cabbed vehicles are still available from new. An electro-plating process was introduced about 15 years ago, so after this point it is no longer a concern.

7. When older is better

All Unimogs have their own niche market, regardless of age. Many operators say that older trucks are better for the rougher environments such as forestry work, because there are fewer complex electrical components to suffer.

8. When newer is better

On the other hand, if you are sending your vehicles down the road for periods of time, for instance on motorway maintenance contracts or rail construction work, newer is better, not least because the extra circuits within the vehicle can be utilised to recover it. One fleet operator we spoke to has only had to physically retrieve one Unimog in 10 years as a result of this.

9. Water damage

Those circuits do eventually become prone to gremlins, however, thanks to a combination of their very sophistication and water ingress. High mobility UHE Unimogs are designed to wade through water up to 1.2m deep and will often have done so for many years, making it inevitable that seals will weep at some point.

10. Transmission system

Unimogs have unmatched ground clearance. This is achieved through the use of portal axles, which are effectively U-shaped. There is a transmission system within these axles, however, which operators advise inspecting closely before purchase.

11. Spare parts

Spare parts for the more usual running repairs – brakes, for example – can be “horrendously” expensive, but are still available off the shelf, even for Unimogs many decades old. Repairing these vehicles is definitely worthwhile, however, because they really do hold their value. One owner we spoke to was recently offered £35,500 for a Unimog he still runs on an M-suffix registration – that’s 1974!

12. Prop-shafts

Beware though, pre-2005 examples didn’t have prop-shafts, so if yours does break down it will need lifting – they can’t be put on suspended tow.

13. Hydraulic leaks

All our operators told us the things that break aren’t actually part of the vehicle themselves, but the items that have been attached. Hydraulic leaks are the biggest bugbear. Most of these manufacturers are German and include big names such as Mulag, Dücker, Werner and Aebi. Fear not, though – Mercedes maintains an online portal listing all these companies and which implements they make. It can be found at unimogpartner.com.

14. Nothing to match the Unimog

For all their complexity, all our operators were keen to emphasise that nothing else out there can do quite what a Unimog does. The latest JCB Fastrac has had a damn fine try but, we’re assured, still hasn’t quite matched the Unimog UGE it seeks to compete with – it can’t be used for motorway maintenance work, for example. Do your research, be prepared to be a little overwhelmed to start with and make sure whatever you buy has been inspected and serviced from top to bottom and you won’t go far wrong.