We were able to drive the new Iveco S-Way trucks, but only for a couple of laps of the Jarama ex-F1 racetrack. Nevertheless, we got to have a go in a diesel and a gas version, and it did offer an early insight into both trucks.
Trucking drove a gas-powered S-WAY 460NP first, followed by two laps in the S-WAY 480 diesel truck.
Climbing into each vehicle was via three steps.
We found the steering wheel adjustment a bit awkward; it uses a foot button on the floor, but as it’s covered by a mat, it took ages to find where it was.
The actual arc of the steering wheel’s positions is not huge; it’s better than a DAF, but not a patch on a Scania or Volvo.
The seat was very comfortable, although we felt it could have benefitted from being able to rake back a little more. (Or maybe you just need to lay off the doughnuts? –ed)
One big criticism of Ivecos over the years has been rattles and poor build quality. The new truck had none of the former, but there are still questions over the latter.
On one of the demo models opened for inspection at the gala dinner, one fuse box cover had already been ripped off its bolts and was loose!
Maybe it was a one-off, but if it’s not, it’s something Iveco simply has to address.
But on the road, there were no rattles at all and the cabs feel a lot less plasticy than earlier models.
However (and this has been a regular criticism from us), on show were the top-of-the-range interiors, and it would be nice if more manufacturers gave their press and demo fleets sufficient ‘typical’ models without the fanciest interiors so we get to drive the trucks people are most likely to buy.
We also thought the engines were a tad noisy in the two trucks, especially from the diesel. But other drivers we spoke too didn’t seem to think it was any worse than competitors, so maybe it’s just us.
The steering is excellent and the visibility is good. It’s impossible to get a full feel for the vehicle on such a short drive – each lap was 3.8 km, so we only had 7.6 km per truck.
And being on a race track with lots of bends (hairpins mostly) meant there was little scope to get the vehicles up to a decent speed.
There were a couple of short, sharp hills on the track, both to climb and descend, and the truck coped with them OK.
But it was just that: OK. It was not a sparkling performance – there was no romping up the hill, although we only had the typical 460/480 power outputs and we were loaded at 40 tonnes.
We would say both trucks were borderline sluggish on the steepest hill – though again, in its defence, it was not easy to get a good run up to the incline during our test.
There’s a five-stage engine brake with a noticeable click at every stage, which some drivers will like and others might not.
Again, the engine brake was OK – not as good as others we have tried, but also superior to some competitors. Middle of the pack in that respect.
First things first, the S-WAY is head and shoulders above the Stralis it replaces. And if we’re honest, the Stralis was a pretty competent truck – both underrated and unfairly criticised.
It is also fair to say Iveco knows its place in the market. You simply will not get a dyed-in-the-wool operator of premium Swedish brands to swap for this truck, even if it does look a bit like a Scania.
But Iveco has to woo the DAF, Renault, MAN and possibly even Mercedes-Benz drivers and operators to take the S-WAY, and the truck can do that – certainly with some of those brands.
The other thing worth remembering is Iveco makes a well-priced machine, and its dealers are always good for giving you a favourable price.
But that leads us onto the other issue which could affect the truck’s popularity: its dealers. There are only 17 in the UK, and they must, simply must, get a grip on supporting their operators.
It’s often said the Iveco dealers are too preoccupied with vans and the truck operators suffer.
We can’t say if that’s true, but one operator we know well has recently replaced its Iveco fleet – which was actually its biggest marque – and gone for DAF and Scanias purely because it felt the dealer could not support the trucks. Everything else, he loved about the brand.
We still have concerns about certain parts of the interior not being up to a high enough build standard.
We also think when you look at the strides Merc has made with upgrading Actros of late, the S-WAY should have been competing gadget-for-gadget with that – but it isn’t.
But we also have to be realistic. Iveco is still a small player in the UK market and its core clientele are in its homeland of Italy and Spain, not to mention an increased popularity in Eastern Europe.
It might never tear up the UK market, and while there are some operators who enjoy their Ivecos, get good service from them and, in some cases, swear by them, sadly there are not enough of them.
The S-WAY is a mighty fine looking truck. It’s not as exciting as some competitors, but as a money-making tool it has a lot to offer.
We will be very keen to take S-WAY over a longer route with more ability to actually see what it really can do, because deep down, we think it will be like the Stralis: underrated, competent, but now also packing some of that ‘wow’ factor.
+ Great, striking new look
+ Many cab improvements
+ Proven driveline
+ Many old niggles addressed
+ Gas options
– Concerns over build quality
– No mirror-cam option