Driven: Mercedes-Benz Actros truck review (gallery)

"Visibility is excellent, as it should be in a cab as a big as this, with plenty of light helped by the bright interior beige and silver used throughout. "



The latest model of the Mercedes-Benz Actros shows that parent company Daimler is consistently improving its truck offering

Mercedes-Benz has come a long way in the development of its brand in the UK heavy truck market over the past couple of decades and it’s no coincidence that this increased heavy truck brand image aligns itself with the introduction of the Actros in the mid-1990s.

At its launch, Actros was a ‘watershed moment’ in the design and, particularly, the integration of the latest technological to help and assist both the driver and the operator. Several observers thought it may be a step too far as in the road transport world, the theoretical concepts of new technologies and their application in real life sometimes leave a lot to be desired.

Overall, this fear was unjustified and, consequently, it helped Daimler to increase its heavy truck market share and presence in many European and overseas countries which continues to this day.

Of course, while the latest generation Actros may generally look similar to its predecessor outwardly, inwardly it bears little resemblance, as the demands of European Emission standards over the years has required extensive work ‘under the skin’.

So with this in mind, we thought it might be worthwhile looking at the latest generation Actros to see how it measures up to the demands of today’s distribution operators.

The 2545 utilises one of the core Euro VI engine powers for the Actros, rated at 450PS (330kW) developed at a low revving 1,600 revs per minute (rpm) and with a 2200Nm torque peak at 1,100rpm. This second generation 12.8-litre OM471 also has a power range between 423PS – 532PS and torque between 2,100rpm and 2,600rpm. 

These engines also feature X-Pulse, an enhanced common-rail high-pressure injection technology with an injection pressure of up to 2,700 bar which pulses fuel into the chamber on the downstroke, providing a longer torque range.

Coupled to the 452PS engine is the latest generation PowerShift 3 G211-12 automated gearbox which features additional functions such as direct shifting from forward to reverse as well as high-ratio reverse gears and a deep crawler function for easier pulling away. 

The software controlling the gearbox has four settings covering the general transport functions of economy, standard, manual and power where the economy function restricts speed to 85kph (around 52mph).

The three-axle tractor has a standard air actuated mid-lift and the outer axle spread is 4,000mm allowing for a 490-litre fuel tank accompanied by a 40-litre AdBlue tank. Full disc brakes are all round with most of the braking provided by the three-stage engine braking system which can develop up to 475kW in some cases.

Actros has all the latest passive and active safety features with the test truck even having the new ABA4 which is the first and only pedestrian detection technology which we thankfully didn’t have to test. It also has proximity control assist, tyre pressure monitor, driver airbag and seat belt monitor to name but a few.

On our road test truck we had the top of the range StreamSpace L-cab, 2.5m wide with a level floor which provides a maximum headroom of 1.97m between the seats. The Styleline trim had a semi-wraparound dashboard which is split into three sections, with the instrument panel directly ahead of the driver providing the essential information such as the speed, revs and tank levels with fuel and AdBlue. 

In between is a LCD screen which you can scroll through via the stalks from either side of the steering wheel to provide trip computer and driving software results etc.

To the left are the heating and ventilation controls as well as another LCD screen for the infotainment system, telephone and Bluetooth settings, and underneath is the start/stop button and key slot as well as the auxiliary controls.

Opening the driver’s door of the L-based StreamSpace cab reveals an indented four steps taking you to the flat floor of the cab. Once inside, the high roof and wide cab provides a great open space which should provide a cure for any claustrophobic truck drivers out there. Sitting in the optional leather-covered drivers comfort suspension seat with heating and massage facilities soon makes you warm to the whole cab ambience. It’s probably the best seat I have sat in for a long time and, after more than 30 years in the trade, that’s saying something.

Starting up is typical of the latest generation trucks, with a push-start button to get us going after the key has been placed in the slot. Once the checks are completed a quick flick of the right stalk into drive and release of the short handbrake lever on the central consoled, and we are away.

The 12.8-litre engine is exceptionally quiet, and perhaps one of the first things you notice is the smooth up changes of the third generation Powershift gearbox. It doesn’t take long to get the virtually fully loaded (we were at 42.5 tonnes just shy of the max 44 tonnes) combination to the Eco Mode top speed of 52mph.

Anyone who has undertaken a driving course recently will know driving these new trucks are all about setting cruise control and utilising the very efficient engine braking systems when necessary, almost reducing the use of the pedals to starting and stopping the truck.

The Actros is no different. It sits and loves 1,100rpm where maximum torque is developed and while it will go down to 800rpm without any trouble, the engine prefers the 1,000-1,100rpm range – great for fuel economy.

Our trip from the Mercedes-Benz depot at Barnsley involved a mixture of Yorkshire hills and motorways, running around the hilly and demanding Penistone area. The Actros drove within itself although towards the end of a couple of uphills it would have been interesting to have an extra 30PS or so from its other stablemate.

Visibility is excellent, as it should be in a cab as a big as this, with plenty of light helped by the bright interior beige and silver used throughout. 

Braking in most cases was left to either the adaptive cruise control or the engine brake with minimum use of the service brakes helping to keep servicing costs down. This also helps with the relaxed driving style.

Model tested: 2545 LS 6x2/2 Mid-Lift

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.