Scania R-series: used buying guide
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”.
“It all happens in the workshop over the road from our main site. We can do anything over there – light bars, camera systems, side skirts – but their specialism is the paintwork.” Stuart Wolstenholme, used truck sales manager, West Pennine Trucks
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.”
“Look at your fridge and international hauliers, they’re all running V8s.” Stuart Wolstenholme, used truck sales manager, West Pennine Trucks
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 can sell them to big fleets as well though,” he says. “You get people buying them for anniversaries, where they’ve got a driver who’s been with them 20 years so they want to treat him – that’s happened before.” Stuart Wolstenholme, used truck sales manager, West Pennine Trucks
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.
- Make/model: Scania R580 LA6x2/2MNA
- Engine: Scania DC16 102/580hp V8
- Transmission: Scania Opticruise GRSO905R 2-pedal 12-speed
- Chassis: 4,000mm wheelbase, 6x2 twin-steered mid-lift pusher axle, with air suspension on rear
- Tyres: 315/80 R22.5 on front axle, 295/80 R22.5 on midlift and rear
- Fuel/AdBlue tank: 540/175 litres
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.
“We pride ourselves on being able to source the right truck for the customer. Whether that is a rigid or tractor unit, a tipper or a tag-axle, we want to provide the customer with as much flexibility as possible.” Stuart Wolstenholme, used truck sales manager, West Pennine Trucks
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.
Mercedes-Benz Econic 3235L: Low-entry cab test
With its low-entry, high-visibility cab and versatile transmission, it’s no surprise the Econic is winning over new customers in and beyond its traditional municipal market.
The Mercedes-Benz Econic is iconic, and it is finally getting the recognition it deserves. Like the Dennis Eagle Elite, the low-entry Econic has stubbornly forged a loyal following in the refuse sector since being launched in 1998. These days it is finding operators looking to limit risk to vulnerable road users, picking up a range of customers in urban distribution and tipper work.
It is also flexible, with a range of driveline configurations including 4x2, 6x2, 6x4 and both highand low-cab versions. Power comes from a 7.7-litre in-line 6-cylinder engine, which is available with power ratings from 299hp to 354hp. Tested here is the most powerful 354hp engine with 1,400Nm of torque paired with Mercedes’ PowerShift 3 transmission. An Allison 3000 gearbox is standard, but the PowerShift gearbox is, according to Mercedes, much better suited to mixed road types compared with the more urban-appropriate Allison.
Make/model: Mercedes-Benz Econic 3235L
Engine: Mercedes-Benz OM936 7.7-litre 354hp
Transmission: Mercedes-Benz G211 PowerShift 3 12-speed
Chassis: 8x4 tridem
Cab type: Low-entry crew cab
Body: Boughton hook-loader
Our Econic 3235L 8x4/4 ENA hook-loader also has a rear-steer-axle, but mid-steer is available. A three-person passenger seat configuration is standard, but there is the option of a single passenger seat with a storage area over the engine tunnel.
A mild facelift was carried out to the Econic in 2017 that involved the addition of a full-height driver’s side door. Other changes included wider aperture door openings (89 degrees) and a shift in the mirror mounting positions to improve visibility and reduce the risk of damage when hit, as well as changes to the layout of the transmission tunnel to provide more space at floor level.
This particular vehicle is destined for waste company Biffa and comes with a Boughton body and hook. As standard there is also an engine brake, lane keeping assist, on-board weighing device, adaptive cruise control and Active Brake Assist 3 – a now relatively old incarnation of the safety system compared with that in the new Actros but one that includes full brake application when approaching a stationary object. Additional equipment includes a driver’s suspension seat, and high-speed PTO.
In the cab
Aside from its main use in the waste sector, the Econic’s viability as a low-entry, high-visibility vehicle is winning new customers. As such, the bulk of our attention is towards the bus-style doors on the passenger side. Like the Elite 6, the view is unquestionably excellent and certainly the doors offer a novel experience. However, we come across one fly in the ointment: a particularly damp day means that within minutes of setting off, the cab steams up. While this isn’t a problem for the windscreen or driver’s side window, the blowers struggle to clear the enormous pane of glass on the passenger side, particularly in the area of the much higher mounted mirrors. As a result, our view of the wide-angle mirror becomes problematic. While the fog clears over time, it certainly is an issue to begin with. The full-height glass screen provides excellent forward visibility but the tightness of the mirror housings to the body creates an awkward blind spot that makes it hard to see between the gap of the A-pillar and mirror.
That aside, the Econic is hard to fault and while not quite Actros-like in its overall comfort, dynamics and performance it is certainly identifiable as a well-honed Mercedes product. Responsiveness and agility are the real highlight of a great, and relatively light, steering system. That makes piloting the Econic exceptionally easy at slow speeds. It’s similar to the Elite 6 in this respect, but there is more communication and the truck therefore feels more attuned to the road and the job.
On the road
The most striking difference between the Elite 6 and the Econic is the gearbox. Whereas the Elite – with its 6-speed Allison transmission – is great for low speeds, picking up power fast and flicking through the low gears, it’s pretty hopeless at high speeds and getting there (see page 30). You have to really floor the throttle to get there, and when you arrive in top gear the revs are racing away quite noticeably. The Econic, with the PowerShift 3 transmission, is the polar opposite. The 12 speeds mean that the low-speed work can be dealt with just as efficiently, but A-road speeds are just as easily managed. More importantly, top gear at 50mph is a full 300rpm lower than in the Elite, with an engine speed of 1,600rpm.
The engine delivers a fairly spirited performance, with 354hp far more suited to the chassis than the 320hp found in the Dennis. While 10hp per tonne is adequate the majority of the time, the combination of engine and transmission works so much better in the Mercedes, making progress smoother and faster.
Our test vehicle is fitted with a Brigade camera system as specified by the operator. While effective in showing all areas around the vehicle, we can’t help but feel that Mercedes’ own central camera mount is more useful. The Brigade system is low and awkward to view, whereas the Mercedes version is higher and at a more natural eye level. Though driver distraction could be an issue, the inclusion of a stalk-operated control with Mercedes’ equipment to change the camera view seems like a feature the Brigade system missed.
- 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.