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Volvo Trucks will launch three new models in the Middle East

ANALYSIS, PMV, Volvo, Volvo Trucks

In a significant refresh to its regional offering, Volvo Trucks will launch three new models in the Middle East this month: the FH, the FM and the FMX. James Henderson travelled to Gothenburg to get behind the wheel of the new FMX

Volvo Trucks will launch three new models in the Middle East in January – a significant update to its offering in the region. The new line-up is to include the FMX and the FM, which were launched in Europe in September 2013, and the FH, which was unveiled on the continent in 2012. The simultaneous launch of three new Volvo vehicles will no doubt be of interest to haulage firms across the Middle East.

The Swedish company invited journalists to Gothenburg to test its new range around a track set up in a working quarry. PMV will provide in-depth coverage of the full line-up following the launch. In the meantime, enjoy this sneak peek of the brand new Volvo FMX.

The truck is a hardy machine, designed to handle harsh working conditions and challenging construction terrain. The vehicle is loaded with innovations that make it far easier to handle, making life easier for the driver.

“The Volvo FMX gave the construction segment a clear identity and now we are taking a huge step forward in all the most important areas – robustness, handling and design,” said Claes Nilsson, president of Volvo Trucks.

“Everything has been developed with the driver in focus.”

Chief amongst the new technology packed into the FMX is Volvo Dynamic Steering. Having first driven an FMX truck without the system, and then completed the test track with Dynamic Steering engaged, the difference was eminently clear – the latter format is significantly easier and more comfortable to operate.

The strain on professional drivers – who often travel hundreds of miles at a time – is markedly reduced, even on uneven and challenging surfaces.

Volvo Dynamic Steering also automatically returns the steering wheel to its central position, again reducing the amount of work for the driver, allowing him or her to concentrate on the road ahead.

In addition, the new steering system lessens harsh jolts felt through the wheel from the road surface, so less effort is needed to ensure that the wheel stays straight when driving over uneven terrain – particularly at low speeds. Volvo Trucks says that apart from making driving easier and more comfortable, Dynamic Steering also cuts the number of occupational injuries suffered by commercial vehicle drivers.

Such improvements have been made possible by an electronically controlled electric motor attached to the steering gear, which represents a major technological innovation. The electric motor works together with the hydraulic power steering, and is regulated thousands of times per second by its control unit.

“At low speeds the electric motor replaces the driver’s muscle-power,” explained Gustav Neander, project manager for Volvo Dynamic Steering. “Instead, the driver can relax and steer without any effort and strain.”

The FMX will launch with the option of Volvo’s new rear air-suspension system, although leaf suspension will still be available.

The new system features automatic ride-height control and its 300mm off-ground clearance offers excellent ‘get-you-there’ ability. Off-road air suspension is available with the 4x2, 6x4, 6x6, and 8x4 axle configurations – the latter offering both the traditional twin front axle setup and the new Tridem design with a hydraulically steered tag axle. The tag axle can also be lifted or dumped for increased drive-axle traction in difficult operating conditions.

Since the anti-roll bar is positioned in the centre of the bogie, the vehicle has excellent stability. There are no unprotected suspension components behind the truck’s last axle, making it ideal for tipping into asphalt pavers.

Volvo Trucks has also added its proprietary I-Shift gearbox, which has proven particularly popular in Europe; 80% of FMXs sold on the continent in 2013 included this technology.

The I-Shift has also been made available on the FMX 4x4, 6x6 and all-wheel drive vehicles, and – as well as potentially cutting emissions and making driving easier – has extended the oil-change interval period to 450,000km. Drivers using the I-Shift transmission have a choice between economy mode and P+, which reduces the number of gear shifts for extra performance.

The cab has also been given a makeover – all with the driver in mind. A lower position relative to the chassis offers a more convenient entry and exit point, as well as superior close-up visibility. This arrangement also reduces the risk of damage to the vehicle and improves safety for those working in close proximity to the truck.

The steering wheel is equipped with integrated control buttons for cruise control, phone and navigation. The all-black instrument panel is now angled even further towards the operator.

“This gives the driver a well laid out, logical working environment with all the buttons, controls and functions within easy reach,” said Ulf Andreasson, product manager for cab development.

In order to free up more legroom, the ignition key has been moved up to the dashboard. Immediately to the right of the key, important features such as the large integrated information display are positioned for easy accessibility.

The European vehicles will all use Volvo Truck’s new Euro 6 engine to meet emission quotas, but in the Middle East, the trucks will continue to house the Euro 3 engine. In fact, the Euro 3 is still sold in North, Sub-Saharan and South Africa, many large Asian markets such as Indonesia and Thailand, and South American counties such as Argentina and Peru.

Speaking to PMV in Gothenburg, Astrid Drewsen, product manager for Volvo’s Powertrain, said the Euro 3 is still an important part of Volvo’s offering: “We have kept the Euro 3 as we know it is still widely used. In fact, many are still running very well on older models in Europe.

“When we develop new technology, we are very aware of what we already have, and we know that if they meet the requirements set out by Euro 6, then they certainly will for the Euro 3 engines as well.

“So there are no plans to phase out Euro 3, and we have great feedback from customers using the trucks in a number of markets.”

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