Scania’s new flagship 770S marks another step up in the power stakes. T&D had the honour of being the first to put the new truck to work and discovered there’s much more to this truck than sheer grunt.
This is quite the honour, to be granted first use of Scania’s new 770S. It arrives at their Bellshill dealership with just 800 miles on the clock – a test run with a Commercial Motor trailer and then bobtailing up to Scotland from Milton Keynes is all it’s done.
It’s a sunny Friday afternoon when I take the keys from Jarrod Griffiths, Scania’s PR and demonstration man and run it over to Bathgate to get photography done and then rig the cab out with my vast pile of tramping kit.
I start work on Sunday at lunchtime, running the truck on behalf of AAD Transport who have several S-series Scanias including a batch of 540S we featured in the March issue. My experience with Scania’s biggest cab has been restricted to a press test of a S650 and a couple of day shifts in S500s. V8-wise, I’ve worked three: an 06 R580 manual, a 13 R560 three-pedal auto and an 04 164 580 4×2 that was a bit of a riot to drive.
So this sumptuous new 770S is all new territory for me.
Before I turn a wheel properly, I’m impressed with the way the cab swallows all my kit. There’s lockers on the rear wall and if I remove the plastic shelf from the middle one it’ll accommodate my suitcase. There’s a huge underbunk drawer that takes loads of kit, the fridge is a good size and the centre of the dash features two drawers and three cup holders.
Everything is packed away exactly where I’d like it to be, even with a coffee maker and microwave taking up two of the three spaces above the windscreen.
The dash layout is simple and good quality; there’s no digital gimmicks here. It’s all simple button controls and everything is logically laid out. Down to your right are controls for the air suspension and air deflector, while the door has the headlight, mirror and for switches on it. The steering wheel has the full compliment of buttons (some lower spec trucks have blanks) and the buttons on the right allow you to scroll through the menus on a grid basis. It’s really easy to get to grips with.
The steering wheel adjustment is excellent as is the scope of movement from the driver’s seat which goes low enough without needing the air dumped. My first task is to deliver a load of potatoes to Rushden on Monday morning, so my target for Sunday is to get into Rothwell Truckstop, about 20 minutes from the drop off. We’re fully freighted to 44 tonnes. I fill the 400 litre diesel tank and 80 litre Adblue tank at Harthill Services and get on my way.
I have the option of running right down the M6, or going over the A66 which is six minutes longer. I opt for the latter as it’s more scenic and will provide some good opportunities to show what the big V8 can do. Firing it up, you can hear there’s a measure of intent underneath the flat floor, but you’re pretty well insulated from it all. There’s a muted rumble that may well be more pronounced on the lower R-cab.
The truck does not feature the latest Scania gearbox, but there’s no complaints here about the old one. There’s three modes accessible from the gear cog button on the steering wheel, ECO, Standard and Power. The latter only ever needs to be used for short bursts. Even in ECO mode, the software shows a willingness to kick down a ratio quickly and seek to maintain speed.
During the climb up over Stainmore on the A66 I find the performance a little underwhelming, but when I stop for a photo or two I’m reminded that the truck is literally brand new; and this is the first time it’s really had to work. There’s a fairly strong smell of hot plastics at this point, which never returns again.
It’s certainly a comfortable truck, although the height of the air suspended cab means it has that slightly ponderous feeling on cornering, but that’s the price you pay for that flat floor and loads of interior space.
I roll into a quiet Rothwell Truckstop and get parked right beside Stephen Jones and his DAF XF – our Editor’s Choice from the previous issue! That’s a nice surprise and we spend a short time chatting before I head off to use the shower and get my head down for the night.
The Scania has an extendable bunk but I don’t need it. I crash out no problem at all and wake up fresh at 5am. Having the coffee maker to boil water makes life so much easier, as does the microwave which produces perfect porridge in three minutes without the engine running.
The potatoes are offloaded bang on time at 6am, and so begins an entire week of everything running like clockwork, often down to the wire. My lucky streak continues as I head to Magna Park to load soft drinks for Livingston: I get onto a bay and two forklifts soon have me loaded and on my way.
The 770 doesn’t even break a sweat with this load, but I do note that the speed limiter is set lower than, well, any Scottish Scania V8. I reckon it’s doing 54.5mph so I get stuck in a few bunched up packs on the A14 and M6 where the big V8 won’t lose any speed on the hills, but gets overtaken on the flat.
The adaptive cruise control works very well, but it’s not possible to prevent the truck from wanting to slow near the tops of hills – it seems to be hard-wired to want to drop to 50mph before rolling down the other side, which means long periods of being well under the modestly set limiter. This just can’t happen on our busy roads, as you’ll find the truck you’ve just spent five minutes crawling past is out trying to overtake you again. So, a fair amount of over-riding on the throttle is required.
Tuesday morning sees the soft drinks tipped in Livingston, then a 90-minute wait at Kinross services for another trailer full of potatoes to go back to Rushden.
I cut over to Kincardine to head south, and by this point I’ve got my hand in with the powerful retarder; it takes a while to know how heavily to use it and in most cases the first three stages are more than enough. It’s really easy to build a smooth rhythm of driving.
The key to success is a light touch on the throttle, lighter than you think. By feathering it, and easing the power in, the huge reserves of torque get to work and you’ll actually build speed faster than if you simply floor it, which will engage all the electronic safeguards to prevent you pulling the drivetrain to bits with 3700Nm of torque.
It takes off with complete ease from roundabouts and junctions when fully loaded, and on the short times it’s empty, has an indecent turn of pace before headbutting the limiter
I make it down to Rothwell once more, at 20.15 and this time there are precious few spaces left in the truckstop. I manage to find a decent spot by accidentally driving the wrong way round what’s apparently a one-way system, but no matter it meant I didn’t have to blindside.
Low-speed throttle control when backing into space and bays was excellent at all times. I take another nine off and go to tip the tatties first thing.
My next task sees me sent into Norfolk, where the roads are narrow, severely subsided and very bumpy. Great concentration is needed as the Scania and I are bounced and battered down some woeful B-roads in search of a turf farm. I can’t find it, and end up getting hold of a phone number and directions. A 10-mile round trip and I find the turning I need to take in the village of Feltwell, and run down some tight single-track roads until I find the place.
Getting stuck in
It transpires that I need to load some of the turf from a field, so with my directions in hand I drive for some time down a dusty farm track until I meet another two artics and a couple of tractors that are actually in a field. I’m directed into the field, and I jack the air suspension up on the front of the unit, watching the rear bar on the trailer dig up a nice big sod as I turn in.
With eight pallets of turf on I’m directed to drive back out through the sticky black mud. I’m dubious, but engage the diff lock, off-road mode and hit the weight transfer button. The drive axle refuses to lift even for a short while. I give it the gun but the tyre treads fill with mud and we’re stuck. Uh oh.
So, I call up Jarrod who happily greets me and asks how the truck is doing. “Where’s the tow pin?” is almost certainly not the response he was expecting.
I reassure him that I’ve not broken down, that I’m just stuck in a field. I realise this potentially sounds even worse and quickly explain I’m legitimately in the field and it’s totally not my fault: the farmer told me to drive out this way. Mr Farmer makes short work of getting the 770 moving again with his old John Deere tractor on double wheels. I assist with some throttle and to be fair, after the first pull, the Scania was moving under its own steam.
I follow the dusty road back to a building where the remainder of the turf is loaded. I get a 30-minute break in and enjoy a microwaved burger for lunch before setting off north. The turf is due for delivery in Edinburgh the following morning, and I reckon that I can just make it to Lockerbie Truckstop and use my last nine hour rest to get it there on time.
There’s a lot of stop-start A-road traffic on the way to meet the A1M and a lot of agricultural traffic, so I make use of Power mode a couple of times to roar past tractors – there’s no way I’d have attempted it in a more modestly powered truck. The truck actually brings a smile to my face and then a laugh as it soars up the first big westbound dual carriageway climb on the A66, tearing past a convoy of trucks grinding their way up at 30mph.
Power mode will take 10th gear immediately and sitting at 44 tonnes the truck barely comes off the limiter at all. It’s at moments like that when the electronics are planting all that power to the road.
It’s a hard push but I get into Lockerbie just in time to get a shower (they close them at 20.30 and I get a key at 20.29) and I do little else apart from crash out as I’m up early again. The truck needs fuel at Johnstonebridge, with BP the preferred fuel supplier. With a 400-litre capacity, the big V8 needs to be tanked up daily on the mileage I’m doing.
The MPG hovers just over 7 – we’d expect that to improve, as the truck is brand new, plus that blue curtainsider is just that bit taller than the silver one or a fridge.
I cut cross-country “over the Forth” as I like doing and the Scania covers the ground so quickly (sticking to the Scottish 40mph A-road limit, obvs…ahem) and so easily. It’s just effortless. I get straight in and tip the turf, and then head to a farm in Fife to load potatoes for the final time.
My mental calculations work out that I should be able to squeeze into Rothwell on a 10-hour driving card, but I am also now restricted to running 13-hour days. As it turns out the M6 runs free and I get into Rothwell once more, in a nice quiet spot for 11 hours off.
The big spacious cab really comes in useful as I get the laptop out and write up the website post for the new issue of T&D and microwave a chicken tikka masala.
Some drivers can be pretty religious about Scanias, and I can understand why. For overall space and accommodation, the S-series has to be the benchmark. Given the choice I’d probably take the R-series and sacrifice the flat floor for sharper handling, but then I’m not very big either. For the guys on European work, away for a fortnight at a time, I totally get why they’re rated so highly.
Friday morning sees my final load of potatoes tipped and then it’s just a short hop round the corner to load breakfast cereals for Tesco on Saturday morning. A mere 10-tonne payload this time!
Again, I get loaded in good time and I’m on my way north again. I fuel up at Hilton Park, but have to get Adblue at Sandbach and then I stop in at Lymm Truckwash who give the big Scania a badly needed wash before I reset my time for the 4 hour 15 minute drive north back to the yard. It’s sunny, and I’ve got that feelgood factor on the go, piloting a fabulous truck through the wonderful scenery of the M6 through Cumbria and on up the M74.
I get back to the yard in time even though the M74 is closed north of Lockerbie due to an accident, I simply jump off and onto the B7076 which follows the route of the motorway and is in many places part of the old A74. I park the truck and head home for the night as my house is only 15 minutes away. My alarm is set for 4.45am so I can get the load to Tesco Livingston for 6am.
I get there on time and the booking system is done via a touch screen and I put my keys in a locker and take the fob with me. Then I’m free to do some housework in the cab as I prepare to empty my kit out the truck and hand it back to Scania.
The Scania 770S is a phenomenal performer at 44 tonnes – it’s overkill for UK work really; you’d be just as well off with the 590 or the 660. But we know these will sell. They’re really designed to pull 65 tonnes in Sweden and I bet if you loaded an extra 20 tonnes on it, it’d go just as hard as it does at 44. I get the feeling the computer science feeds in the power it needs.
If you think about it, it’s incredible just how smooth and refined this much power is. If you go too heavy on the throttle, you’ll get the traction control light coming on and that’s it. It really is an iron fist in a velvet glove.
The performance is as effortless as it is relentless and if you need to haul heavy stuff long distances, and a truck that’s as accomplished when you’re resting as it is when you’re working, then it really is hard to beat a Scania V8 – especially one with 770 horses.
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