Volvo makes ‘Lite’ of demands for greater payloads in the 44-tonne GCW niche market. Tim Campbell reviews.
There are many niche markets in the world of road transport and there can be no doubt that one of the key areas in the UK is the need for greater payloads within the often restrictive 44-tonne gross combination weight (GCW).
With the ever-increasing kerbweights of the prime mover (tractor units, in other words), mainly as a consequence of the demanding requirements of noise and emission legislation, it’s always been a fight between these two issues to maintain an acceptable chassis weight.
To help with this, nearly every truck manufacturer has a high or low cab variant which usually translates into a lighter or heavier alternative for the transport operators.
But what happens when the standard range offerings don’t meet the high payload demands of your contract or operating criteria?
This is where Volvo Trucks has the answer in the aptly named Lite variants for both the regional- and national-appealing FM range and the more internationally minded FH range.
For this month’s truck review, we are looking at the Volvo Truck FM 6x2 model which, potentially, has the ability to deliver the best solution, combining the lower weight of a smaller cab matched to the product features designed by Volvo in its Lite model.
As far as the front end of the drivetrain is concerned, there is little to differentiate the lightweight version from the “standard street” model, with our truck powered by the 10.8-litre Euro VI DK11 engine.
Its power rating starts at 335PS and 1,600Nm of torque and ends with a maximum of 456PS available between 1,600–1,900rpm and maximum torque of 2,150Nm starting at 1,000 to 1,400rpm.
As normal, Volvo’s Euro VI ensures you get selective catalytic reduction (SCR) and exhaust gas recirculation (EGR).
What you also get to help both these systems is a seventh injector used for heat management of the diesel oxidation catalyst (DOC) and ensures the efficiency of the diesel particulate filter (DPF) and good SCR functionality.
Behind the DK11 engine is a single-plate 430mm diameter clutch providing the connection to the Volvo I-Shift 12-speed splitter and range gearbox with automated gear changing which can easily handle the 2,150Nm of torque as it’s rated to 2,400Nm.
There are two wheelbases available, with the 3,800mm suggested by Volvo Trucks for lightweight or a slightly longer 4,000mm if more chassis equipment is required, for instance longer range fuel tanks etc.
Front suspension is standard with steel although there is an air suspension option complementing the air suspension on the rear second and third axle.
The rear suspension is also where some of the weight saving occurs with a newly designed drive axle suspension featuring lighter aluminium brackets and supports which, combined with a new axle, saves a further 100kg and is optimised for 11.5 tonnes, showing it’s ideally suited to UK operations.
Talking of a new axle, Volvo Trucks has designed a lighter pusher axle with 245/70R17.5 tyres and this is definitely the area for most of the weight saving as it’s approximately 500kg lighter compared to a traditional pusher tractor.
Having said that, the plated weight on the pusher is reduced to a measly 4,500kg which, matched to the 11,500kg of the drive axle, gives a total rear bogie weight of 16,000kg.
Finishing off the axle loadings, the front axle goes up to 8000kg on its plated weight helped by a set of 385/55R22.5 super singles and, therefore, the tractor has a combined carrying weight of 24,000kg across all three axles.
Of course, plated weights are one thing but perhaps the key number that matters is the potential payload and with a very attractive kerbweight of 7,761kg, it allows for a trailer weight and payload of 36,239kg based on 44,000kg GCW.
Indeed, even with a full 480-litre fuel tank it has almost 36,000kg of payload available. All these figures are based on aluminium wheels.
Braking for the FM starts at the front with the DK11 engine, featuring Volvo’s Engine Brake system which is a compression brake with an exhaust pressure governor, and can provide an engine braking effect of up to an impressive 290kW.
Traditional air braking is provided by 430mm disc brakes all round, helped, of course, by a plethora of technology such as electronic brake systems as well as brake assist.
The FM cab is a familiar sight on UK roads and this lighter model version doesn’t look any different, it even features one of the top-of-the-range Globetrotter cabs with a fixed 2.2m bunk.
Cab suspension is provided by rear air bags and “steel” on the front. This, together with the rear suspension, offers a comfortable driving experience.
As mentioned previously, this special version of the FM 450 does not vary too much from its standard road haulage cousins, as it is all about the lighter chassis rather than lighter cab.
Consequently, as you enter the Globetrotter, the interior is just as you expect, with a nice blend of beige and black colours around the cab and dashboard.
Both the passenger’s and driver’s seat upholstery is a pleasant mixture of dark grey leather inserts and black leather bolsters.
The I-Shift gearbox is a real pleasure to use helped by the wide torque level of the highest horsepower available on the DK11 helping to create a very relaxed driving style.
The FM Globetrotter cab is well known for its comfort and low in-cab noise, and if you add the good visibility mainly due to its low entry, driving becomes, not necessarily a pleasure, but certainly not a chore.
The FM450 6x2 Globetrotter model is an excellent example for Volvo Trucks Lite version, matching the most powerful horsepower rating of their light 11-litre engine to a very lightweight chassis and an excellent FM Globetrotter cab, resulting in a compelling offer for any payload conscious UK truck operator.
Model tested: Model: FM 450 Globetrotter 6x2