The new Mercedes Actros has finally arrived in SA after a delay of five years due to poor fuel quality. Picture: MERCEDES-BENZ SA
The new Mercedes Actros has finally arrived in SA after a delay of five years due to poor fuel quality. Picture: MERCEDES-BENZ SA

Following a rather long wait in SA, Mercedes-Benz has finally made the Actros available here, five years behind the curve of the model’s introduction in European markets.

According to the local outfit the delay was due to our poor quality of fuel and, as such, extensive testing had to be conducted to ensure that the engines can operate reliably on our local diesel. The tests — which included long-haul and high temperature load-lugging — racked up 16-million test kilometres in SA alone, which the company says was essentially designed to place the engines under significant duress to see how they would fare under normal operational conditions.

The new Actros is available locally with both Euro 3 and Euro 5 emission standard engines and both are recommended to run on 50ppm (parts per million) diesel fuel.

Powering the model is a 12.8l straight-six engine putting out 330kW and 2,200Nm, paired to a 12-speed automatic gearbox. The engines are said to offer a 6% and 7% fuel efficiency improvement over the previous respective models, which contributes considerably towards the total cost of ownership (TCO) given that fuel can account for up to 60% of the TCO figure.

Considering that diesel has risen by 42% from January 2016 to April 2018, a truck tractor 4x2 can save an operator up to R270,000 over four years, which can exponentially increase with a larger fleet.

The interior puts driver comfort first. Picture: MERCEDES-BENZ SA
The interior puts driver comfort first. Picture: MERCEDES-BENZ SA

The cab offers the driver a fairly ergonomical layout with easy to reach switchgear, while the view of the road ahead and surroundings from the driver’s seat is particularly good, thanks to the large glass expanses.

In addition, the Actros now comes with a number of safety items that include lane keep assist and Attention Assist, both of which are more associated with passenger cars, but the model also takes things further with Active Brake Assist 4, which will bring the vehicle to a complete stop (from speeds of up to 50km/h) should it sense a pedestrian crossing its path.

We managed to drive the model around a compact gymkhana track to experience how it manoeuvres through tight spaces, including reversing through a slalom. There was no load in this instance, but the ease of use of the controls and overall visibility were highlights of the exercise. We also rode shotgun in an unladen truck tractor and I was quite impressed by the level of comfort on offer, thanks to standard air suspension, not to mention the smooth operation of both engine and gearbox.

According to Jasper Hafkamp, executive director Daimler Truck and Bus Southern Africa, the Actros continues to be the market leader having sold more than 25,000 units locally, which he attributes to longstanding reliability as the backbone of its popularity.

Even bigger news is that the Actros will now be assembled here at the company’s East London plant on a CKD programme with production having started in March this year, with dealers and customers taking deliveries from this month.

The dashboard features plenty of technology and a good driving position. Picture: MERCEDES-BENZ SA
The dashboard features plenty of technology and a good driving position. Picture: MERCEDES-BENZ SA

According to Gladstone Mtyoko, divisional manager, Mercedes-Bens Commercials, the total investment was about R11.5m, which has resulted in 15 direct positions being created and he says he expects the figures to grow considerably between the fourth quarter of 2018 and the first quarter of 2019 as volumes could increase over that period.

According to Hafkamp, the Axor will also be factored into the Actros range, while a new Arocs range will also join the fray in September.

The Actros range will offer flexible service intervals for maximum uptime — 50,000km for Euro 3 and 80,000km for Euro 5 — as well as a comprehensive range of standard safety equipment across the range.

The model seems to have all the right ingredients to keep it at the forefront of its segment in spite of having taken such a long time to arrive on South African shores and long-haul business owners will surely be clamouring for this one.

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