Ahead of its public unveiling at the IAA Commercial Vehicles Show in Hanover, Germany, Mercedes-Benz presented their new Actros prime mover in Berlin this past September.
The latest iteration of a nameplate that’s been around since 1996 and has seen more than 1.2 million units delivered worldwide, the new, 2019 Actros is described as bringing to reality some of the innovations of the ‘Future Truck 2025’ concept that was presented in 2014.
These include semi-autonomous driving assistance and the latest version of Mercedes’ active brake assistance, as well as the ‘MirrorCam’ and increased use of multimedia touchscreen displays in the cabin.
Less futuristic, more practical features include improvements in fuel efficiency, with Mercedes claiming the new Actros uses 3 per cent less fuel on highways and 5 per cent less in rural areas thanks to improved aerodynamics, a more efficient Predictive Powertrain Control (an intelligent cruise control) and revised ratios on the driven axles of selected variants.
Tilt the cabin and the engine line-up is familiar from the existing Actros range, but a new LPG engine is offered on rigid Actros variants.
Rear View x Two
Perhaps the most interesting new addition to the Actros is the MirrorCam: a first for a series-production heavy vehicle, according to Mercedes-Benz.
Doing away with conventional rear mirrors, the MirrorCam uses a pair of cameras, mounted to the roof frame, to provide the rearward view, with the vision from each displayed on 15-inch screens mounted on the A-pillars.
Mercedes says this system improves safety by providing a better all-round view, especially diagonally from the cabin, while deleting the bulky external mirrors also improves aerodynamics.
Brightness and field of view can be driver-adjusted, with the cameras able to adjust the viewing angle when cornering, while an intermittent operation system - that switches the camera on for two-minute periods - serves as a security device, helping to identify potential cargo or fuel theft when the driver is resting or the truck is unattended.
When reversing the truck, the “mirror” display splits into two views: the upper section shows the area close to the vehicle; the lower section shows the view further away.
There’s a degree of overlap between the two views for better manoeuvring, which can be enhanced further with the optional Sideguard Assist warning system that was introduced in 2016.
Active Brake… and Active Drive
Active Brake Assist has been a feature of Actros trucks since 2006, but the fifth-generation version on the new Actros now operates across a greater variety of speeds.
Using radar and camera technology, Active Brake Assist 5 can now better identify people in front of the vehicle and initiate full braking - to standstill if necessary - to speeds up to 50km/h.
Working to avoid rear-end collisions the same way, the new version uses a three-stage warning function, firstly a visual and audible alarm, then applying partial brake pressure, then full force braking.
If the truck is brought to a standstill, the hazard lights automatically activate, along with the electronic parking brake.
Active Drive Assist is all-new, with its signature feature being the ability to operate semi-autonomously across all speed ranges, not just higher speeds like some existing systems.
Mercedes are claiming this as a world first in a series-production truck.
Using the same radar and camera views as the Active Brake Assist 5, this system’s features include lateral control and the combination of longitudinal and lateral control at all speeds.
In addition to adjusting braking and acceleration within a lane (as per existing semi-autonomous systems), the new system actively keeps the Actros within its lane, too, warning the driver, then steering the truck back into its lane when it’s detected as crossing a lane marking.
This active lane guidance remains operational even if the driver has de-activated Active Drive Assist, thus improving safety by stopping non-indicated lane changes.
The autonomous steering control uses the new Servotwin electrohydraulically-assisted power steering that also makes turning easier by enhancing steering torque in response to driver input.
While drivetrains are unchanged from the existing Actros, fuel efficiency has been improved in the new version, with Mercedes claiming 3 per cent less fuel use on highways and 5 per cent less in rural road application.
Highway efficiency is achieved in part through the improved aerodynamics delivered by deleting the external mirrors, along with other aero changes on the body and a revised rear axle ratio. On trucks fitted with the OM 471 inline six and G211 transmission, a new axle ratio of 2.412 (previously 2.533) is standard.
On rural roads, the improvement is down to the above and enhancements in the Predictive Powertrain Control (PPC).
Essentially a cruise control, PPC combines a satellite-based location system with digital mapping data that tracks the usual road junctions, traffic signs and other info, but also measures topography, so winding roads and changes in elevation and gradient are dealt with more effectively than traditional cruise control systems.
PPC measures all these factors to reduce fuel-chewing gear changing, acceleration and braking.
It also talks to the truck’s Proximity Control Assist to optimise acceleration and gear shifting when approaching and overtaking other vehicles.
For maximum fuel efficiency, there’s also a new ‘Economy+’ driving mode on the PowerShift3 auto transmission that’s an improvement over the existing ‘Eco’ mode (‘Standard’ and Power’ modes also remain unchanged).
Outside and In
Externally, the new Actros features a different lighting set-up, with LED DRLs part of a new Intelligent Light system that features auto high/low beam and automatic cornering light and front fog lamps.
There are some subtle changes to the exterior aero elements, too, but it’s inside is where the bigger changes are.
The new ‘Multimedia Cockpit’ consists of two 10-inch displays as standard, with switchgear now down to a minimum.
One display takes the place of the traditional instrument cluster and includes the information for the new Active Drive Assist as well as a customisable area.
The second occupies the traditional central console and offers touchscreen control of heating and air con, lighting and phone functions, but can also display vehicle data, like tyre pressures and axle loads.
Both displays can be configured via a new, multi-purpose steering wheel with control pads that feature both touch and swipe functions.
Up to six different display settings can be stored (using a driver card), enabling fleet trucks to be easily personalised to individual driver preference.
Optional to this is the Multimedia Cockpit interactive that features a larger 12-inch instrument screen with two display options – Classic and Advanced – with the latter showing audio settings, driving times, phone book and the like, while the display changes when the Active Drive Assist and Proximity Control Assist functions are activated.
The interactive upgrade also includes advanced sat nav, a remote vehicle assessment function and access to the MB Truck App Portal that offers a number of smartphone apps to improve convenience and efficiency.
In the standard cabin set-up, there’s Apple Car Play and Android Auto compatibility, as well as dual Bluetooth connectivity that enables two mobile phones to be connected at the same time.
A new key enables remote locking and unlocking from up to 50 metres away, while engine stop-start can be done without the key in the ignition – it only needs to be in the cabin – so it never needs to leave the driver’s pocket.
Finally, the new Actros’s Truck Data Centre is an extension of the existing connectivity functions, connecting it to the cloud and Mercedes-Benz’s existing Fleetboard and Uptime services.
Uptime maximises truck availability by monitoring vehicle data in real time, but a new addition on the latest Actros is that this data now also includes the trailer.
Arocs Upgrade, Too
In line with the new Actros, its heavy-duty cousin for construction and off-road use, the Arocs, has been upgraded, too.
Most of the new and improved features on the Actros, including the MirrorCam, Active Brake Assist 5 and Multimedia Cockpit, are also offered on the Arocs, but the majority of these are cost options and not standard features.
European deliveries of the new Actros will start in Q2, 2019. Australian delivery and pricing is yet to be confirmed.