Test drive: Latest AMT takes Hino 700 to next level
HINO'S almost venerable 700 Series is due for a complete replacement early in 2021, and I have it on good authority that the new truck is already testing in Japan.
But to make sure that in the meantime operators and drivers can get on with productivity without feeling short-changed on tech and safety, Hino has added further latest generation technology to the 700.
I didn't really need to drive another 700 Series variant, but took up the offer when I was told it had ZF's latest TraXon AMT on board.
This FS 2848 was specced almost ideally for the farmer that needs a stock-crate truck with a hefty body and long wheelbase, and the capability of pulling a dog trailer.
Without being too unkind to Hino, I discovered this is the feature that turns a good truck into a class-leader.
The run headed south from Hino's head office, down the Pacific Highway to the bottom of Mt Ousley, then turned around and headed back up the long slow hill.
With plenty of undulation on this run, plus a healthy dose of Sydney's awful traffic, the driveline got a serious workout in every department. The verdict? 10 out of 10 - and here's why.
Competing in this sector are a wide range of trucks with just as wide a range of transmissions. Thankfully, Hino engineers picked one of Europe's best transmission options - the ZF TraXon.
TraXon is a modular system that you can specify in its home market as either a simple automated manual, or add a torque converter to make a full automatic. A range of ratings makes it suitable for a wide range of weights.
This version delivers 16 ratios and some software that exploits the biggest Hino's new-found torque band.
However, downhill was where this set-up really shines. ZF's Intarder is standard on the truck and delivers something close to 3,500Nm of braking torque at the maximum of three settings.
Additionally, Hino has fitted a genuine Jake brake instead of the usual Japanese unit, which makes a lot of noise in the process of doing very little. I ran down the length of the Mt Ousley using only stage two of the three-stage auxiliary, at times having to wind the braking back.
Even in traffic, the service brakes were only necessary for the last three or four metres. Brake maintenance on this truck would be rare.
If I had a criticism it would be that in auto-mode the mapping changes the lower gears too quickly - they only run across about 150rpm before grabbing the next cog.
It could easily skip gears and use the full width of the 13-litre engine's torque band. I'd be using manual mode from the start, speeding the process and using less fuel to boot. But once under way and into the top box I left it to itself.
Hino's 700 needed some extra hype to make the now dated cab and controls saleable in the face of some slick competition.
The cab and fittings may be old now, but TraXon takes driveability, and productivity to the top of the ladder.