Giti Tyres Big Test | Light 'n' low fuso

 
 November 2020     FUSO FS2536 Super Low 8x4   Story Brian Cowan Photos Gerald Shacklock

When global trucking giant Daimler took over the majority ownership of longtime Japanese make FUSO 15 years ago, you could easily have imagined that the longtime brand might soon lose its autonomy….and, thus, its individual identity.

That it could soon become a rebadged Merc, without all the fancy bits….with no trace of FUSO DNA.

But, on the evidence of the latest Shogun to reach our market, that is emphatically not so. 
The 8x4 FS2536 Super Low that’s this month’s Giti Big Test subject bristles with a full suite of the same technology as current Mercedes-Benz models – from its 7.7-litre OM936 Daimler “global” engine and G211-12 automated manual transmission…..

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It might not look like much of a truck for one of our Giti Big Tests: There’s no trailer and it’s only got small wheels….but that’s the way this truck is meant to look.

The FUSO Shogun FS2536 8x4 Super Low is set up for metro work – low horsepower, low height, not too many frills….that’s what makes it work. 

And what better example of this model to test than this Carr & Haslam unit – used for NZ product development as it worked around the lower South Island, delivering swap gas bottles. It perfectly shows off the model’s versatility in both open country and metro driving.

I take over the steering wheel for my test drive in Oamaru, to drive to Dunedin. The climb up into the cab is good, with three well-spaced, wide and deep-enough steps – starting low to the ground, as this is a low height spec truck. The climb is assisted by grabhandles running up both sides of the doors. 

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Giti Tyres Big Test - Light 'n' low Fuso 

When global trucking giant Daimler took over the majority ownership of longtime Japanese make FUSO 15 years ago, you could easily have imagined that the longtime brand might soon lose its autonomy….and, thus, its individual identity.
That it could soon become a rebadged Merc, without all the fancy bits….with no trace of FUSO DNA.
But, on the evidence of the latest Shogun to reach our market, that is emphatically not so. 
The 8x4 FS2536 Super Low that’s this month’s Giti Big Test subject bristles with a full suite of the same technology as current Mercedes-Benz models – from its 7.7-litre OM936 Daimler “global” engine and G211-12 automated manual transmission…..
Through to a raft of safety and convenience features, including not only EBS and ESC, but more advanced elements like active brake assist, adaptive cruise control, and driver fatigue and lane departure warning systems.
And yet this newcomer is still a long way from a rebadged Mercedes Atego or Arocs. Instead, it is the result of an extensive development programme in both Japan and New Zealand that uses full air suspension and 19.5-inch wheels to produce a model that should prove attractive to both low-height and general transport operators.
The test truck is run by Carr & Haslam on a loop around the lower South Island servicing the LPG bottle swap business for Vector’s OnGas division. The operator has been very much involved with the development of the model, running two of the units on inter-island linehaul while the design was being evaluated.
Carr & Haslam director Chris Carr is very impressed with the way the project was handled: “The development team from FUSO was absolutely thorough with the whole exercise. We had engineers out here from Japan on several occasions, monitoring every aspect. 
“All up, the process covered around 50,000km of running. And we didn’t just follow our normal schedule – for much of the time we ran to factory-developed journey templates that included a range of road and engine speeds and various loads. 
“The trucks were fitted with cameras and data loggers and the drivers were surveyed for their comments and feedback on every aspect. FUSO NZ was also involved at every step, and was given a free rein by both Daimler and FUSO in Japan to set the model up for our market. We were seriously impressed at how the project was handled, and it has definitely delivered a truck that’s ideal for local conditions.” 
And that’s not mere talk. Despite having no obligation to buy the trucks at the end of the test period, Carr & Haslam bought both.
The OM936 is the latest of the Daimler Group’s truck engines to be developed under the company’s Blue Efficiency Power design stream. In common with the 10.7-litre OM470 fitted to the sister FS2540 model, it boasts variable timing for the exhaust camshaft. 
This is activated by a vane-type hydraulic actuator – the first time such a mechanism has been incorporated in a heavy-duty diesel engine. The primary function of the design is to intermittently elevate the exhaust temperature when the DPF (diesel particulate filter) needs regeneration, achieving this by advancing the valve timing. 
Daimler says this closed-loop technology makes regeneration of the particulate filter possible under practically any operating conditions and at outdoor temperatures as low as -30 degrees Celsius, and also significantly extends the intervals for filter replacement.
Also shared with the OM470 is the Group’s X-Pulse fuel injection, which uses a common rail for primary delivery. However, unlike more conventional systems, the pressure in the rail is a comparatively modest 900 bar, which is boosted to around 2400 bar by the multiple-nozzle injectors themselves, leading to very accurate control over all aspects of combustion.
The engine in the test truck is rated at 354 horsepower/260 kilowatts and meets the JP17 standard – an almost exact equivalent to Euro 6. It’s the highest-power variant of the OM936, and achieves this via dual turbochargers. Lesser-powered models use a single turbo. 
When exhaust flow rates are modest (at low revs, or under light loads), everything is routed through the smaller, high-pressure turbo. Under medium-load conditions the larger, low-pressure unit has a proportion of the exhaust sent through it, while it handles the whole job in the upper rev range. 
The exhaust standards are met via a combination of SCR and EGR. Even before the aftertreatment systems are brought into play the sophisticated injection protocols ensure that the combustion is remarkably clean. 
A complex heat exchanger brings the temperature of the EGR gases right down so they can have an optimal effect on combustion temperatures, and so reduce oxides of nitrogen in the exhaust.
The effectiveness of the new design can be seen in the lower AdBlue dosing rates, which Daimler claims have dropped by nearly half compared with earlier Euro 5 engines – to between 2.0% and 2.5%. Considering that AdBlue’s cost per litre is a measurable proportion of diesel, this will be a definite boost to operators’ bottom lines.
Paired with the engine is the third generation of Mercedes-Benz’s intermediate 12-speed AMT, a direct-drive unit that offers a skip-shift function under light loads, as well as crawler and rock-free modes. 
Handling the Shogun Super Low on its weekly tour of the lower South Island is Steve Davidson, who we catch up with in Timaru preparatory to a crack of dawn start the next morning. 
Steve started driving relatively late, in his mid-30s. His working life actually began on the water, working on crayfishing boats out of his hometown of Riverton in western Southland. At the time, he says, it was a way to make a steady living, “but not as much any more, sadly. The costs have gone up a lot and it’s much more difficult now.”
It was a good life, if a hard one, he recalls. The boats regularly ventured around the Fiordland coast, and the weather conditions in the south Tasman Sea could occasionally get really rough, forcing the boats to run for the shelter of the Sounds. The cool upsides, he says, included being flown by floatplane over spectacular country to Te Anau for spells of R&R.
From crayfishing he went into forestry – tree felling and doing a range of skidsite work that included operating skidders, loaders and excavators. This was still in Southland. Then after two or three years he shifted to Christchurch, where he has extended family, and gained his Class 5. 
This was the signal for Steve to come up against the common Catch 22 conundrum facing someone with a new Class 5. Without experience he could find no job...without a job, he could gain no experience. 
The impasse was broken when he was picked up by Wilder Transport, starting in an International T-Line and four-axle trailer carting wool bales and, occasionally, containers. This was in the mid-1990s, and Wilders had grown explosively on the back of super-aggressive rate pricing. At the company’s peak, recalls one of its former staff, around four trucks an hour left the Christchurch depot, headed either north or south. 
The cut-price approach, however, left little over for maintenance. As Steve remembers, slotting into another truck was very much a lottery: “A huge number had ‘mystery’ gearboxes...you never knew what ratio you were going to get until the lever went through. And legend had it that serviceable assemblies like brakes were swapped from truck to truck at CoF time, because they wouldn’t have passed with the gear they were normally fitted with.”
Despite the company’s shall-we-say “casual” approach to maintenance, pricing and business in general, Steve says he quite enjoyed his time with Wilders, and was still on the payroll in 2001 when it was shut down by an earlier incarnation of the NZTA for repeated safety violations. 
Relatively soon afterwards he landed a job with Halls, driving a Volvo FH12 8x4 on metro deliveries. That was followed by a switch to metro meat cartage, delivering out of the Sockburn freezing works. From there Steve progressed to longer-distance work – at first travelling south with a B-train set up for meat, and subsequently handling a Western Star on a Christchurch-Picton grocery goods run. 
His next shift was to Feilding, where wife Rosemary’s family hailed from, and a job with Road Freighters, carting steel out of Wellington, and later beer into Hawke’s Bay from Tui. But that company too folded: “I was beginning to feel I was a jinx!” Steve laughs. So it was on to Fulton Hogan for six years, doing roadside mowing. 
The jinx still seemed to be holding when Fulton Hogan lost its contract with the local council.
But then came salvation when Carr & Haslam advertised for a job delivering swap gas bottles out of Palmerston North. An Australian company had previously been handling nationwide distribution, with OnGas contracted for the filling duties. 
The Aussies decided to withdraw from Kiwi market, and offered OnGas the local distribution, which it bought, and subsequently appointed Carr & Haslam as delivery contractors.
That was 11 years ago. After six years in Palmerston North, Steve was offered an opportunity in Christchurch and he and Rosemary grabbed it – and have been there since. Rosemary also works with Carr & Haslam, and on the day of our test is training a new driver on a metro delivery run.
The company currently has two big trucks operating out of Christchurch, with Steve handling the lower part of the South Island and the other unit looking after Nelson, Marlborough and the West Coast. Another five cover the North Island.
Steve’s standard route follows a roughly anti-clockwise loop. Leaving Christchurch on Monday, he heads through Fairlie, Wanaka and Queenstown to an overnight rest stop in Lumsden. 
Tuesday is spent covering Te Anau, rural Southland, Invercargill and Gore before Steve heads to an another overnight halt in Dunedin, by which time the truck is generally empty. 
The next day it’s up SH1 to Christchurch for an unload/reload. Depending on the timing, he will spend the night in Timaru or Oamaru on the return journey south, before servicing the balance of the Dunedin/Mosgiel sites, then leaving SH1 at Milton to follow the Clutha Valley through Roxburgh, Alexandra and Cromwell. Queenstown has its second visit of the week on Friday morning, before a return to base.
The weekly route totals around 2500 kilometres, and at the time of our test the truck has covered over 114,000kms. 
All the nine kilogram swap bottle filling and refurbishment is now done at the OnGas facility at Papakura, with two dedicated Carr & Haslam linehaul units servicing the Christchurch depot.
It’s still fully dark when we leave Timaru just after six on a Thursday morning. NZ Truck & Driver test steerer Hayden Woolston has taken over the driving at Oamaru, and a pearly dawn is breaking over a dead calm sea as we follow the coast towards Shag Point. 
Ahead lie a couple of the country’s benchmark climbs – the run over the Kilmog and the Dunedin motorway. 
The FUSO is running close to its 25-tonne maximum GVM. By the standards of H-rated combinations that’s pretty piddly, but with just 7.7 litres up-front it’ll still have do some heavy breathing.
Already, it has left us really impressed with the quality of its ride. Air front suspension can sometimes be a little problematic in terms of its effect on steering, or sometimes shunting between the axles on an 8x4, but this setup is a beauty – smoothing out the imperfections of what can be a pretty bumpy highway.
In the rolling country south of Oamaru and through Maheno and Herbert, Hayden takes it out of cruise control and leaves the box in normal auto mode. It’s a good opportunity to check the truck’s ability to handle a succession of bends and minor hills. 
The cab suspension and the front axle airbags introduce a minor initial sway in bends, but it doesn’t affect the steering, which still proves to be accurate and nicely weighted.
Starting the Kilmog he again engages cruise control, leaving the system to make its own mind up. Which it does, with a will. Downshifting is triggered early – well before a human driver would make the call. 
In the steeper sections it’s shifting is back at 1700rpm, the tacho needle bouncing up to 2200rpm. Overall the impression is that it’s busy….but still effective. With the revs consistently in the peak power range, our speed never drops below 43km/h, and we easily haul away from laden combinations.
Basically, the whole system is more proactive with the cruise control engaged. But because the ratio shifts, both up and down, are super quick it doesn’t become intrusive.
The cruise control really struts its sophistication at the crest of climbs, triggering an upshift as soon as the slope lessens, to ensure the speed does not rise more than 1-2km/h above the set value. A consequence of this rapid intervention via the transmission means that the throttle is not being continuously adjusted up and down, which must have a positive flow-on effect for fuel economy.
On the downhill run from the top of the Kilmog to Evansdale and Blueskin Bay, Hayden has the Shogun in eighth gear at 2300rpm and – with the engine brake on its second setting – travelling at a cruisy 53km/h. 
It has been in ninth at the top of the steepest section, but a tap on the service brake sees a quick ratio drop, to hold the speed. Typically for a Euro truck, the engine brake performs most strongly at a high 2500rpm. 
For the slog up the Dunedin motorway he puts the AMT into Auto mode and keeps the accelerator away from the kickdown position. Now, the engine lugs back to around 1300rpm before backshifting – quite a departure from the early intervention from the cruise control.
However, it also proves responsive to changes in the accelerator position, almost allowing the driver to play with the accelerator to dictate the ratios. As drivetrain systems become more sophisticated, this level of fine control via the right foot is likely to become the norm. 
The smoothness and quietness of the new powerplant is very impressive. Its specific output of 46hp/litre puts it up with the heavy hitters of the diesel world: If it was a 16-litre, it would be making close to 740hp. Given its under-eight-litre capacity, it’s no surprise to find that it’s a free revver. 
Peak torque output extends to 1600rpm, and peak power is achieved at 2200rpm. What is surprising though is the fuss-free manner in which it makes these revs...it is so smooth and quiet in the maximum power range that you can easily begin to doubt the accuracy of the tacho…while the 1900-2000rpm at which it typically upshifts feels more like 200rpm lower.
Steve is back at the wheel for the Dunedin metro deliveries. There are half a dozen stops – to three BP stations, a Caltex, and Mitre 10 and Bunnings DIY stores. One of the three swap cage sites at Bunnings is quite a challenge, because it’s close to the traffic lanes in and out of the parking area. 
Steve says that people are generally very good, but once in a while you get a punter with something else on their mind who has no idea that they’re in the way. We agree that it’s a challenge faced by any delivery driver: You’re so much part of the regular background, people tend not to realise the impact they might be having on you.
Another challenge in Dunedin is the one-way street system, which calls for a good level of local knowledge and an acceptance that a certain amount of backtracking will be called for.
By the time we’ve serviced the Dunedin sites and another couple at Mosgiel, the day’s tally of bottles swapped is up over 120. On a typical day, says Steve, he’ll handle around 200, which is about half a truckload. When you consider that the weight of an empty bottle is around 8kg (and the ones returned are very seldom totally empty), this means he’s humping close to three tonnes for the distance between the truck and the swap cage. And depending on the site that can sometimes be quite a few metres.
All of this makes the low chassis height of the new Shoguns critically important...and deeply appreciated by drivers. The test truck goes even further. Integrated runners for the Kingsford Motor Bodies body mean that the deck has been lowered yet further, so that the metal stillage cages for the bottles now sit barely above the top of the small-diameter tyres. 
The feet of the stillages themselves nestle into metal cross channels whose bottom profiles are gently curved to aid positive location when loading, without compromising stability. As Steve says, the system is so good that the tiedowns used to secure the stillages are almost redundant.
The thoughtfulness of the overall design extends through to the top of the body matching the level of the aero spoiler, for minimum air resistance. This contributes to excellent fuel economy. 
With around 114,000km up at the time of our test, the truck is averaging 2.8km/l, reports Chris Carr: “And remember, because all that’s being unloaded is the weight of the gas, the difference between a completely full load and a completely empty one is less than four tonnes.”
Despite the you-beaut kit inherited from its Daimler Group parent, the newcomer is still very much a FUSO, both in exterior style and interior layout. The big centre console is wide and looms high, making the passenger section feel a bit claustrophobic. 
On the more spacious driver’s side the console has a useful selection of incidental cup and bottle holders and open storage trays, but when it comes to the lidded bins in the centre they’re quite shallow, so it doesn’t have the capacity that its overall size hints at. Nor is the storage above the big, deep windscreen all that special – limited to a glovebox ahead of the driver.
A lowset dashboard top adds to the feeling of space. Upright A-pillars and useful gaps between the upper main mirrors and their asymmetric partners below ensure that blind spots at intersections are minimised. The middle section of the dash is curved back towards the driver – not as far as in some makes, but still enough to put all the controls in that section within very easy reach.
That section is dominated by a large multi-display screen, while a vast array of functions are controlled – either primarily or secondarily – by buttons mounted on the steering wheel.
As you’d expect given its low ride height, getting in and out of the Shogun Super Low is a breeze. However, the distance between each of the three steps isn’t exactly the same, and the second one is set back more in relation to the other two. 
The doors have a really positive intermediate hold at around 70 degrees, before opening fully beyond 90 degrees, while well-placed handles both sides of the door openings make the process uber-convenient.
The driver fatigue monitor which is now part of the standard kit is set on top of the dash above the main instrument cluster. By monitoring the driver’s eye movements, such as their blink rate and drooping eyelids, it can infer that tiredness is setting and will sound an alarm. 
Its location means that if a driver prefers to have the seat well back and the steering wheel quite high, the rim of the wheel will interrupt the direct line between the unit and the eyes. Sitting a little further forward and lowering the multi-adjustable wheel will fix that problem.
The other standard safety alarm system monitors unintended lane departures. It is loud and quite annoying, so it’s possible that quite a few drivers might switch it off.
Steve says that he finds it easier to monitor the truck’s speed from the Navman display unit in front of him than to keep glancing at the speedo. It’s ideally located, and its GPS-based readout is more accurate than a conventional speedo anyway.
The side mirrors are very much in the European style – big and flat and offering a good rearward view. The subsidiary optical unit doesn’t look to be as convex as some others, but it still provides a wide field of view.
The driver seat offers a full range of power adjustment. Steve finds that its surface is too firm for his tastes, so he’s adjusted it to be lower than normal and has added a cushion for comfort.
At Milton, we leave the main road to follow SH8 inland, joining the Clutha River at Beaumont. Though it doesn’t have any climbs as dramatic as the Kilmog, the road offers plenty of ups and downs to keep the FUSO honest. 
The OM936 might be an enthusiastic revver, but it can also grunt when needed. On a steep little pitch not far short of Raes Junction, Steve eases over to let traffic past. We drop down to little more than a walking pace in third gear, yet the engine doesn’t feel fussed at all.
And this easygoing ability to handle whatever’s thrown at it is the abiding memory of the FUSO after we finish the deliveries at Roxburgh and Steve carries on to Alexandra – leaving the NZ Truck & Driver team to return to Dunedin. 
The Super Low might do several things in an unexpected manner, but when you look at them closely you’d be hard pressed to find a more effective manner.  

Pirelli Hayden Trevor Test
It might not look like much of a truck for one of our Giti Big Tests: There’s no trailer and it’s only got small wheels….but that’s the way this truck is meant to look.
The FUSO Shogun FS2536 8x4 Super Low is set up for metro work – low horsepower, low height, not too many frills….that’s what makes it work. 
And what better example of this model to test than this Carr & Haslam unit – used for NZ product development as it worked around the lower South Island, delivering swap gas bottles. It perfectly shows off the model’s versatility in both open country and metro driving.
I take over the steering wheel for my test drive in Oamaru, to drive to Dunedin. The climb up into the cab is good, with three well-spaced, wide and deep-enough steps – starting low to the ground, as this is a low height spec truck. The climb is assisted by grabhandles running up both sides of the doors. 
The driver’s position has an air suspended seat that I notice regular driver Steve has added some extra cushioning to, due to it being too hard for his liking. 
From the driver’s position the cab layout is simple yet on point – everything is at your fingertips or less than an arm’s reach away. The main dash has revs, speedo, engine temp and AdBlue level gauges, with a digital display in the centre with various settings.
The steering wheel and stalk setup is very similar to a Mercedes-Benz – a sign of the Daimler influence in these new FUSOs. The left side of the wheel has buttons to control the heads-up display settings including adaptive cruise control distances and music. The right-hand side has cruise control on and off and hands-free phone functions. 
The right-hand stalk controls window wipers, indicators and high beam. The left stalk has drive, neutral and reverse, engine brake and manual shifting controls. 
The main dash layout is not your full wraparound setup but everything is nicely placed and not looking too busy or confusing. 
On the left is a seven-inch touchscreen media unit, with Apple CarPlay. The centre console can only be described as boxy, giving the feeling of cocooning the driver, but it does provide plenty of space for driver’s personal bits and pieces. 
There’s plenty of adjustment in the seat and the steering wheel. But I do have to settle for a position that feels a bit unnatural – in order for the Active Attention Assist monitor to be able to see my eyes…necessary if it’s to do its job and keep an eye on me for any signs of fatigue. If I set up exactly as I’d like, the top of the steering wheel blocks the camera’s view. We did note this in our first test of a new Shogun.
As I get rolling through Oamaru I find the mirrors to be great. They’re not in a big shroud and have a good gap between the A-pillars and the mirrors in order to minimise blind spots at intersections and roundabouts. 
I test the cruise control in a metro environment and it works well, with very quick shifting and on the steep hill heading south out of town it barely drops from my set speed and at the top of the hill the overrun is only a few Ks. Very impressive. 
I don’t get any opportunity to test the adaptive cruise on this test but I have in other drives in the new Shogun and it works well.
Out on the open highway it’s a nice drive. With air suspension on both steer axles, I do find a little side to side sway when the road camber changes, but it is minor: The axle loadings on this setup are as close to even as you could ever want – helping with the ride. It’s a nice quiet truck, with a smooth ride.
My final test for the Shogun is the Kilmog hill heading into Dunedin: The 360hp engine and 12-speed auto box have worked well together up till now and I trust it to continue – keeping it in non eco mode to start with. 
The AMT is very conservative, taking probably one more gear than I would have in manual. Still, I’m happy with that: It doesn’t like to get caught out like some older-generation auto boxes. 
The lowest/slowest we get to is 40km/h in seventh, at the steepest point of the first climb. The box does seem to like to keep the revs high, with downshifts at 1400rpm and revving out to 2200rpm before upshifting. That sounds high but it really doesn’t sound that way in the cab. 
On the very steep run down the other side, the three-stage engine brake works very well – revving out to 2500rpm with only light taps on the service brake needed.
The engine and gearbox seem to handle all this with ease even when, at the last minute, I try to trick it by putting the AMT into manual mode and letting it lug down to 1100rpm…but, quick enough, it actually takes over and grabs a gear.
Before the last drop down into Dunedin I pull over to give Steve his truck back. It’s been a memorable drive – more so than I expected. Seems that these new AMTs can’t be caught out by NZ hills any more.
I’m about to hop out and walk around and check the mileage on the Teletrac Navman head unit in the left side of the windscreen when I notice that it has the kilometres displayed down the side – so they’re clearly read from the driver’s seat. Easy.