Mercedes-Benz ‘candy shop’ truck will attract owner-drivers. By Tim Campbell
Every sector of the UK heavy truck market has its idiosyncrasies and the tractor unit sector is no different. But perhaps it has one of the most defined areas of operation, the fleet and owner-driver.
For Mercedes-Benz, the owner-driver market has not been its natural hunting ground with Scandinavian marques traditionally the vehicle of choice for many operators.
As a consequence, the Actros has gained considerable acceptance in the competitive and demanding UK fleet segment, but the Mercedes–Benz sales and marketing team at Milton Keynes appears to have a yearning to attract a few discerning owners-drivers with its latest creation.
The lure is a limited-edition Actros, only 100 will be made available, and it’s called the Actros1.
It looks as though it has been specifically targeted at the owner-driver, with just two models (if we go basically by nomenclature) but filled to the gunnels with high spec features demanded by a very image-conscience sector.
Mercedes has focused on three key design areas: driver comfort, technology linked to safety and connectivity.
Actros1 is based on a mid-lift 6x2 axle configuration and sitting on the chassis is the range-topping 2.5m-wide GigaSpace cab with a flat floor.
Of course, a top-of-the-range tractor unit has to have an engine to match and the Actros1 is no different, having the OM473 15.4-litre 634PS. There is the option of the smaller OM471 12.8-litre 537PS.
The 634PS has a first class torque level of 3,000Nm and this is matched to the in-house G330 12-speed PowerShift automated gearbox. Sandwiched in between is a single disc clutch, ultimately leading to a steered second and driven hypoid rear axle.
The chassis specification goes along the lines of most UK specification requirements with a 7.5-tonne second axle and 11.5-tonne rear axle. The front axle is slightly above the norm given that, when fitted with 385/70R 22.5, it allows for a nine-tonne capacity.
Suspension is provided by a single leaf on the front and air bags on the rear complete with electronic control system and, while standard UK regulations limit the gross vehicle weight to 25 tonnes, the driveline has been configured for up to 68 tonnes.
It’s no secret that Daimler and Volvo both vie for the safety crown and the Actros1 packs most of the currently available safety features, making it as safe as can possibly can be.
Included are driver’s airbag, lane-keep assist, stability control assist, active brake assist (ABA4) with pedestrian recognition and proximity control assist.
Braking is a mixture of mechanical and electronics. There are disc brakes all round with the standard ABS and ASR. Of course, high performance engine braking is helped by predictive powertrain control.
Let’s face it, an owner-driver-focused truck has to have a cab focused to match and Mercedes-Benz has definitely majored on this area. It’s a veritable candy shop for truck drivers.
On the exterior, there’s roof-mounted air horns, LED daytime running lamps, a front under bumper spoiler and Actros1 livery in silver and black or in the reverse colour, which is complemented by a black chassis and painted catwalks/side guards.
In the cab, there are enough optional packages to sink a battleship. Driving Package includes leather steering wheel, sunblind and manoeuvring mirror and a Sight Package with light/rain sensor, Bi-xenon headlamps, LED tail-lights and headlamp wash/wipe.
The two main packages are the Comfort and the Media. These include electric sunroof, illuminated star, pull-out fridge and premium comfort mattress with custom bedding.
Media package has a seven-speaker sound system, multimedia radio touch which includes Apple Carplay and Android Mirrorlink.
For our road test, we chose the high powered 2563 in the predominately black livery rather than silver. As you walk up to the unit, it certainly strikes a presence; the all black livery is accentuated by a silver line to the back of the cab and alongside the central grille, the sun visor and air horns complete the image.
Climbing up the four steps, there’s an Actros1 plaque on the top step and reaching the flat cab floor takes you into an impressive cab environment, which is light in ambience, helped by the great blend of beige and dark grey, with the beige areas representing the rest section and the darker areas for work.
As you settle into the leather driver’s seat complete with massage and heat functions, you notice that even the floor mats are colour-coded and Actros1-designated.
The instrument panel is simple and uncomplicated with a couple of large dials and two smaller ones. In between is a simple LCD screen for the basic functions.
To the left of the driver in the semi-wrapround dash is the larger LCD screen for the sat-nav, radio etc. and there’s the heating and ventilation system complete with automatic climate control.
Behind the driver is a comfortable-looking bed with chequered design and storage space galore and, in addition to the fridge, there’s a microwave.
Once the engine is started via the standard multifunction key and D is selected on the steering wheel stalk, the Actros1 easily moves off with a fully loaded trailer.
Switching on the cruise control and predictive powertrain control makes driving as easy as it gets, touching the foot pedals becomes a once every 10 minute occasion and concentrating on the road and enjoying the ambience of the cab becomes an every moment occasion.
My only criticism of driveline is that now and again, especially approaching a roundabout, gear selection showed a slight hesitance.
Noise levels are kept to a minimum and visibility is good all round helping with safety and, of course, you can’t forget all the active and passive safety systems looking after you and other road users.
Actros1 is a limited model and is meant to show off Mercedes-Benz’s credentials in the lucrative owner-driver market complete with a certificate of authenticity, driver’s bag and watch.
It has certainly created a lot of interest in the right circles and makes a pleasing alternative to the automatic Scandinavian manufacturers choice in this sector.
Model tested: Actros1 2563 6x2
Case study: Chiltern Cold Storage happy anniversary
Chiltern Cold Storage boss Paul Jackson treated himself to a very special Mercedes-Benz truck to mark his company’s 25th anniversary – and promptly took it to Spain to collect a load of fruit and salads.
The 1,300-mile drive back from south of Valencia gave Jackson a perfect opportunity to put the limited edition Actros1 tractor unit through its paces.
His verdict: “Stunning! A fantastic-looking truck which is exceptionally comfortable and offers huge reserves of power, yet still returned a very acceptable 9mpg.”
“The Actros1 is a lot more powerful than the vehicles I usually buy,” he said.
“But its launch coincided nicely with our own anniversary and I’ve maintained a great relationship over the years with Orwell Truck & Van, so I decided to go for it.
“Whenever I buy a new piece of equipment I like to try it for myself and this truck certainly lived up to its billing on the run back from Spain, as it’s a real pleasure to drive.
“It performed brilliantly as I came back through the Pyrenees, while some of the safety features are particularly impressive.”