The Swedish power race had been dormant for 10 years after Volvo’s FH16-750 usurped Scania’s R730, but now Scania has retaken the crown with its 770S. Trucking takes the UK’s first fleet example for a long drive…

High-power trucks from Sweden are designed and brought to market with their home territory in mind. In their home country, timber trucks and others easily operate in excess of 60 tonnes, and trials of 104 tonnes have even taken place. For work like this, you can understand needing over 600 or even 700 bhp.

Over the last few years we’ve seen Scania break the 500 bhp barrier with its R143 V8, so Volvo followed with its F16 at 505 bhp. Then the V8 went to 580 bhp, so the FH16 topped 610. The V8 went to 620, the FH16 went to 650, then 700. The V8 went to 730 and then the FH16 reached 750 bhp in 2010. And there things rested for a time.

But in late 2020, Scania overhauled its V8 ratings from 520, 580, 650 and 730 to 530, 590, 660 and a new big one – 770 bhp. We can’t say for sure, but we reckon it won’t be too long before Volvo launches an FH16-800 or similar (775? –ed). Watch this space!

But for the time being, Scania rules the roost. Its latest 770 bhp V8 aren’t designed with 44-tonne UK operation in mind, but the Swedes know they will sell (though not in massive numbers). They will be snapped up by fleets and owner-drivers wanting a flagship.

The first one

COVID hasn’t helped Scania in allowing journalists to get hold of a 770S for testing purposes, so when we found our good friend Chris Good has put what we believe to be the first 770S 6×2 into UK fleet use, we jumped at the offer of an extended drive.

Chris likes his firsts – he had the first New Gen Scania in the UK back in December 2016, and that S500 served him well and has since been sold. In the intervening time he’s had a S520 and an S650 and he’s been impressed with both – so when the 770S was added to the catalogue, it was no surprise he put in an order.

While a 770S XT 6×4 heavy-haulage unit has been spied in a customer’s livery, we’re pretty certain Chris’s is the first general haulage truck with the new meaty engine.

The 770S we had charge of was a 6×2 mid-lift with flat-floor, high-roof, twin-bunk sleeper cab. Scania’s 16.35-litre DC16 123 V8 delivers 770 bhp at 1800 rpm, which gives a whopping 3700 Nm of torque at 1000-1450 rpm. It uses Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) to meet its emission standards with NOx control.

The gearbox was the established GRS0926R – the new G33CM Opticruise option has only just become available for ordering from February.

The GRS box has 12 forward speeds with overdrive, two crawler gears and two reverse ratios. The truck was fitted with the R4100D retarder and an exhaust brake. The rear drive axle was the R780 and the ratio was 1:3.08. It was the two-pedal Opticuise option.

The gearbox offers Economy, Standard and Power performance modes. On standard day-to-day UK driving, Economy mode is best. The cruise control has active prediction with a kickdown option.

Chris had specified twin bunks, a microwave, night locks, premium driver’s seat, manually adjustable air deflector and alloy wheels. He also took the truck with three years of bumper-to-bumper R&M.

A day’s drive

Chris is based in Shrewsbury and spends all week tramping. We met Chris and his new machine at Woodhead Tunnel in the middle of the Derbyshire Peak District. He’d loaded at Birkenhead that morning and we were heading first to Scunthorpe to unload 26 tonnes of cut timber, before running empty to Newark to load food produce for Warrington, which would then see us dropped off at Woodhead that evening while Chris carried on with the load.

Chris’s truck is actually pretty conservative in its appearance: no over-the-top bling and only the factory-fitted badge tells you it’s a 770S. There are no 770 stickers on the side or rear. No lightbars, no bull-bar, no illuminated V8 badge in the cab and so on.

Inside the cab is exactly what you’d expect from a top-of-the-range V8, with leather seats and a healthy smattering of the iconic V8 logo here and there. But other than that it is exactly the same as previous New Gen Scanias. We still rate Scania cabs as some of the best on the market: they ooze quality are generally well laid out and functional to use. That said, others are catching up, and in some cases possibly overtaking them.

Pulling away from the layby at Woodhead, immediately we were on some of the toughest terrain in the UK: a single-carriageway road that’s exceptionally busy with twists and turns, climbs and drops. The complete polar opposite of a nice smooth motorway.

The road condition is also found wanting in many areas with a poor top surface and potholes to boot. This is not an ideal trucking road, but Woodhead does allow us ample opportunity to pull into a parking layby for a picture or two.

Even fully loaded, this beast of a truck pulls – although it only had 4700 km on the clock, so nowhere close to being ‘comfortably bedded in’. But it made light work of the Woodhead Pass and it was only the fact the road takes no prisoners that held us back. Going downhill, however, there was a tendency for the truck to run away, so drivers have to keep their eyes on the speedometer and feet or hand close to the brakes!

Once we’d negotiated the A628 to join the A616 near Hazlehead, we then headed towards the M1. This section of road is another that requires total concentration from the driver, not least because it’s downhill with two sections restricted to 40 mph, so you need to keep your wits about you – there are speed cameras lurking if you don’t! But here the Scania handled very well, and the climb towards Stocksbridge soon showed the benefits of big power as we romped up the hill with complete ease.

Motorway cruising

Once on the M1, it was time to set the cruise control and sit back and enjoy the ride. We like Scania’s CC set up: it’s easy and adaptable. With the motorway flowing exceptionally well, there was no need to either touch the accelerator or the brake, and simply knocking off the CC as required would rein the truck back in and keep its speed sensible.

Off the M1 onto the M18 and then the M180 and M181 was also effortless driving, until we got to the delivery point near Scunthorpe. One annoying feature – and we find this with all trucks, not just Scanias – is when they have a tendency to slip into Eco Roll mode, which effectively shifts into neutral just as you get close to the top of a hill.

It’s especially annoying if you are in lane two overtaking a slower truck and it drops into neutral and instantly speed drops from 55 to, say, 52 mph and you lose momentum as the guy you’re overtaking starts to sail past you on the inside.

Once at our destination, the truck was easy to manoeuvre into the unloading area – the mirrors are superb when reversing. Once in place, it was time for a break while we were tipped.

The next leg of the journey was empty, and here the truck is out of the blocks like a rat up a drainpipe. This is one argument for big-power trucks: they save you time on acceleration – loaded or unloaded – and that can save you valuable minutes across a day or week, adding up quite a bit over the latter.

With time on our hands before our next collection, we were able to veer off the A1M and take the big Swede into the backroads for a few pictures and also a bit more single-carriageway driving.

Power vs speed

Once loaded, we were again on our way. That is an interesting point, as having high power to save you time is all very well, but if your work still means you will be stuck waiting to be loaded, it can negate the benefits. Hauliers should have a pretty good idea of what is best for them based on their usual work. But one thing is for sure: quicker acceleration out of the blocks at any stoppage, plus shaving a few minutes here and there elsewhere on things such as hill climbing, can all add up over a nine- or 10-hour day’s driving. You might get 15, 20, even 30 more minutes with the wheels actually turning than you might get in a 450 bhp truck. If you need that, then high horsepower is worth considering.

But one thing is for sure: there is no slouching with the 770S. But whether it’s better than a 650S or even a straight-six 540S is debatable. For our money, a 540 should be able to do most of what a V8 can.

The S-cab is one of the best in the business. It’s got a flat floor, plenty of room and is very comfortable to both drive and live in. It’s not perfect; the bottom side lockers are a pain to open, but we’re nit-picking here.

VERDICT

We cannot make a case that 770 bhp is required for 44-tonne work. It isn’t – and Chris rightly admits he only has one because he can. He operates three trucks; if he operated 10, there’s no way he would have them all as 770s.

The 770S will do the exact same work as an R450, a DAF CF450, a Volvo FH460 or whatever. But it will do it slightly quicker, that is for sure.

One thing is fuel consumption, and so far this 770S has been averaging about 8.5 mpg on typical UK tramping work. That’s pretty good, but not exceptional for sure –new MANs, Volvos and Ivecos are all superior by one or two miles to the gallon. But if you can afford to run V8 Scania, fuel costs are probably not your greatest concern. Chris reckons if the 770 follows the trend set by his 650, it will only get better as it loosens up a bit more.

But the age-old issue is: does it represent good total cost of ownership? Chris told us the price he paid, and it certainly wasn’t cheap! It’s fair to say this is not a truck a new owner-driver should be considering, but one an established O-D might. But he also told us the money he got trading in his three-year-old S650 which had been “well worked”, and it certainly proved V8 Scanias still command a high price on the second-hand market.

The 770S is a flagship. For fleets that have always had V8 Scanias and they are doing well, then yes, there’s a case for it. Treat yourself to Europe’s most powerful production truck. Owner-drivers may also be tempted, but we still think a 540S would be a much more cost-effective bet.

The 770S is a status symbol. It tells your customers you’re doing well. Just do your sums first though; don’t let it become a millstone around your neck. But if your business is doing well and the sums do stack up, then why the hell not?

One thing’s for certain: there will be no shortage of 770s at truck shows in 2022!

 

We like

  • Plenty of power
  • Handles superbly
  • Build quality
  • An imposing flagship

 

We don’t like

  • VERY expensive!
  • Side lockers are a pain
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