In the demanding and often nonglamorous distribution sector, the business is all about getting the job done. As far as the customer is concerned they generally have little regard for what truck turns up – once it turns up on time.
Drivers working within the sector are often under pressure and need a truck that makes what is a tough job a little more pleasant, while fleet managers need a truck that will simply load and go on an urban or national run. With the Range D offering, Renault Trucks believes it has ‘D’ answer.
D Range as such replaces the Renault Premium and Midlum models and the updated D Wide Cab with its 2.3m wide span portrays a business-like and competent profile. This is enhanced by the deep red colour which enhanced the sense of quality of our test truck. First impressions are that the high roofed 6×2 with a rear steered tag axle and DHollandia tuck away tail-lift seems to have all necessary qualities on display. This is added to by the wide 385/55 Michelin X-Line Energy tyres on the front and rearmost axles. Incidentally it is hard not to notice the vision glass in the nearside door, a feature we will come to later.
Cab access is first class thanks to the wide opening door, well placed steps and grab handles. Internally the cab is both high and wide and despite a large engine hump the first impression is one of space. Trim colours are a mixture of dark greys and black, but some lighter shades would brighten the cab up a bit. Nevertheless the colours are serviceable for the area of work and will continue to look well, and drivers can brighten up the truck to their own taste.
From the driver’s seat all is quite familiar, which makes it easy to work with once becoming acquainted with the switchgear and controls. Seating is excellent and visibility forward and to the rear is good. With regard to the vision panel in the nearside door there is no doubt that it is a help, though it is not a solution and anyone who thinks that is mistaken. Firstly if there is anyone in the passenger seat the window is blocked and vision is limited, secondly this is not a new idea. One drawback is when the cab is being used as a sleeper there must be a method of preventing light from entering when asleep. Drivers do not always have the luxury of night-time sleeping, and to sleep when the cab is full of sunlight is difficult. The vision panel also requires that the passenger window operates as a sliding horizontal window rather than dropping down into the door.
While the cab is spacious the engine hump does make it difficult for the larger driver to move around, though this is typical of the sector. However on the passenger side there is ample room with the recessed overhead panel, which is useful for getting dressed, and could comfortably house a TV. The Range D has plenty of good quality storage both overhead and under the bunk. These trucks are usually only used for the occasional night out, and rarely would a driver be required to spend a great deal of time away from home. Based on that the high roofed sleeper is more than adequate. That said, the bed and the bunk area are well appointed and should give a good night’s sleep. Other than the point that we didn’t really find any suitable beverage bottle/cup holder we really liked the interior.
We also liked the drive from the Range D26. The 7.7 litre common rail DTi 8 on the test unit develops 315hp (235 kW) at 2,100 rpm, so it is well able for the max permissible weight of 26 tonnes. The 1,200Nm of torque available from 1,050 to 1,600 rpm allows the truck to easily manage the stop start nature of urban distribution work. Having the extra few horsepower makes for a smoother drive as the transmission is not always ‘hunting’ for the correct gear to match the ever changing road speed. Th is was particularly evident when working our way along the Quays in Dublin City centre, and driving around the industrial and residential areas on the outskirts of the capital. Recent software updates to the transmission have improved gear selection, and certainly the transmission selected ratios smoothly and precisely. The clunk when moving between ranges became strangely comforting as the drive progressed.
We have driven other versions of the Range D previously, although the powertrain of this model was different due to a much longer rear axle ratio of 2.85:1. Our last venture out in a 6×2 Range D in Ireland had a ratio of 3.36:1 which is quite a change. We expected this change to be reflected in the on-road performance with less instant pulling power swopped for a lower engine speed and improved fuel economy when cruising. Strangely we did not notice any lack of urgency moving off, though we did notice the lower engine speed at 90km/h. These features combined with the DTi 8’s timing gears located at the rear of the engine all make for a quiet smooth drive.
On the motorway section the Range D’s rev counter sat at 1,406 rpm at 90km/h. This compares to the previous drive with the axle ratio of 3.36:1 which registered 1,536 rpm at 90km/h and just a shade over 1,300 rpm at 80km/h. The truck not only moves well and quietly, it gives the driver a sense that they are making good progress.
There was a slight expectation that the wide 385/55 tyres on the front and rear axles would make the steering if not heavy, more cumbersome. This was certainly not the case, and it was easy to forget that the large and imposing Michelin X-Lines were fitted as the steering behaved well on the road. When negotiating tight areas and roundabouts the rear steer tracked accurately, and manoeuvring was never an issue. This is important as in this sector if an operator has moved from the more common two axles to three it’s usually because they transport heavy pallets such as beverages, vegetables and packaged liquids and need the extra weight capacity. If so, a lifting rear steer axle is really a must have, rather than an option. The big Renault rigid sitting on three axles with wide 385 tyres not only handles well, but it is a comfortable truck to drive and should please any driver in this market segment.
The D Wide is also well equipped in the area of safety features, with Hill Holder plus ESC, EBA, and EBL not forgetting the powerful 228hp Renault Trucks’ Optibrake engine brake, which is an important feature that will save brake linings if used correctly. One other safety feature fitted to this truck was the Brigade Electronic all round vision camera system, providing the driver with a ‘birds eye’ view of the truck as well as forward and rearward views as selected. The system is precise and works in giving the driver an accurate image of potential dangers around the truck. One issue with such aftermarket systems is the location of the screen, and the possibilities of driver distraction is one up for discussion, nevertheless that is not a Renault Trucks issue and does not take away from the Range D Wide, which would appear to be ‘D’ answer to many of this sector’s transport questions.