Isuzu Truck South Africa is about to introduce the eagerly-awaited FX-Series. RUDI MASSYN had the unique opportunity to spend time in the cab and out on the road.
Is 2010 going to be Isuzu Truck South Africa’s year? It certainly seems that way. The year kicked off with the launch of the highly acclaimed new F-Series, which is becoming a firm favourite in the heavy commercial vehicle market.
This was followed by month after month of startling sales performances – the N-Series is, to all accounts, confounding competitors with its market penetration in the medium commercial vehicle sector of the market.
And now Isuzu is going extra heavy. Literally. It is taking on the big boys in the extra-heavy duty sector with its FX-Series, which is about to break cover (the first units will be on our roads in two months’ time).
This is an ultra-tough market segment, in which transport operators demand longevity, reliability and – above all – economy. So, does the FX-Series have what it takes?
At face value, the answer would have to be yes. Isuzu’s products have become renowned for longevity and reliability – readers of FOCUS are unanimous in their praise of the product range, and this is reflected in the company’s growing market share. And, on paper at least, the range does not fail to impress – its common rail engines promise to deliver very good economy.
But more of that later. What is the vehicle like out on the road? In order to obtain the answer to this, I joined Anton du Plessis, national sales and distribution manager for Isuzu Truck South Africa, in a FXZ 26-360. This is a 6×4 with a manufacturer’s GVM of 25 500 kg, a manufacturer’s GCM of 45 000 kg and a 265 kW engine.
It is one of five models in the range. The others are the FXR 17-360. This is a 4×2 with a manufacturer’s GVM of 16 500 kg and a manufacturer’s GCM of 36 000 kg. Next in line is the FXZ 28-360 compactor. This too is a 6×4 vehicle with a manufacturer’s GVM of 28 000 kg and a manufacturer’s GCM of 45 000 kg. The first of the truck tractors is the GXR 35-360. It is a 4×2 with a manufacturer’s GVM of 16 500 kg and a manufacturer’s GCM of 34 500 kg. At the top end of the FX-Series is the GXR 40-360. This truck tractor is a 4×2 with a manufacturer’s GVM of 16 500 kg and a manufacturer’s GCM of 40 500 kg. This GXR 40-360 model is standard with a retarder.
OUT ON THE ROAD
Back to the specific model we were putting through its paces, FXZ 26-360. The first thing I noticed was the similarity of the FX-Series’ interior to that of the F-Series. This is no coincidence. “Compatibility of components was a key feature throughout the Isuzu truck range,” Du Plessis explained. “Isuzu trucks, from the N to the FX-Series, benefit from unitised construction of cab parts, doors, lights and dashboards. All crash components are the same. This is a great advantage for fleet owners as it will decrease vehicle downtime.”
We discussed about the various features – the comfortable air suspension seat, for instance. “Drivers will appreciate the inclusion of an air-suspension seat on every model, which helps prevent fatigue, resulting in a more alert driver,” says Du Plessis.
Also immediately apparent was the quiet interior. With no road or engine noise intruding into the cab, Du Plessis made use of the opportunity to further discuss the strategy behind the FX-Series.
“The main goal of this FX-Series is to increase our market share. We want to be a contender in all three truck segments. The extra-heavy commercial vehicle (EHCV) sector is the largest and fastest growing sector of the truck market in South Africa; Isuzu came to the realisation that it was important to have an industry-leading product in all three sectors of the market.”
When the time came to silence the 265 kW engine and head back to the office Du Plessis elaborated on what Isuzu terms its SEE philosophy. “Environmental compliance is an important factor, and of global importance, for Isuzu Truck South Africa. It is because of this that we now apply the SEE philosophy, which is an acronym for safety, economy and environment, to the manufacturing of our vehicles.”
SAFETY TO THE FORE
When it comes to the important issue of safety, all the trucks in the FX-Series are fitted standard with a driver airbag and an anti-lock braking system (ABS).
All Isuzu trucks are also equipped with an engine exhaust brake for extra retardation without using the footbrake. As any operator will confirm, this preserves brake linings and keeps the brakes fade-free for any emergency application. Standard automatic slack adjusters ensure that brake settings are correct at any stage in spite of brake lining wear.
Naturally, the economical and environmental features of the FX-Series go hand in hand. Du Plessis points out that all the engines in the range are EURO III compliant. “This means greater fuel efficiency and less impact on the environment. The FX-Series also features common rail diesel technology. The advantage in common rail diesel engines is the very high injection pressure, over 1 600 bar, that is consistently maintained from idle to maximum engine speed. This ensures clean burning in a diesel engine’s compression ignition cycle, with the benefit of improved fuel economy and reduced exhaust emissions,” he explains.
One thing is clear: the new FX-Series is a competent truck in all departments. When it launches in two months’ time, we will study the EHCV sales with much interest…