It has been a few years since T&FME last took UD Trucks’ Quester and Croner trucks for a spin, so last month’s launch and track day was a great opportunity to catch up with how the Japanese brand is making the jump to Euro 5 in the region.
Japan itself made the leap to its Post New Long-Term Emissions Standards – the equivalent to Euro 6 – back in 2016, so reaching the higher emission targets for countries like the UAE’s Euro 4 mandate, doesn’t represent a giant leap forward. However, the new launches do come with a raft of other changes and services which may not quite match the full fat versions you would expect in other markets but UD is pushing forwards with a pretty compelling offering. Especially for those looking for a value alternative with the dollar/yen rate is as good as it has been for two years.
The new Euro 5 long haul and heavy Quester and its medium-duty cousin, the Croner, also mark the first major launches in the region since the marque made the move from the busy ranks of Volvo Trucks into Isuzu Motors’ arguably more complimentary portfolio – at least in terms of the heavy duty-end of international markets. Certainly in the Gulf, UD trucks enjoys a higher profile than its Tokyo-based owner when it comes to larger truck sizes.
Having said that, features such as the ESCOT (Easy Safe Controlled Transmission), its automated manual transmission, are the direct result of UD’s time with Volvo Trucks – although its worth noting that UD was at the cutting-edge with early generations of the system back in 1995 – and both Isuzu and its former owner have agreed to continue joint development for the next two decades.
What we have is a balance of the old and new. The new Quester and Croner are not outright new platforms, but instead feature significant upgrades and refinements to minimise their environmental impact, improve efficiency and uptime, increase profitability, and optimise the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), “all without compromising the benefits offered by the previous models,” says UD Trucks.
Fleets in the UAE market have generally opted to skip Euro 4 for the higher emission standard of Euro 5. UD itself says it wants the launch of the new trucks to get it ahead of the introduction of new regulations in fast-growing regional countries such as the UAE and sensibly Qatar where it has made good progress over the past decade and will be adopting Euro 5 emission standards by mid-2022.
This move allows businesses to better prepare for the switch to more environmentally-friendly fleets, as the Euro 5 range reduces NOx emissions by about 43 percent compared to Euro 4 and significantly reduces the carbon footprint of the vehicles through cleaner emissions, says UD Trucks.
The official launch event was UD Trucks’ first since the COVID-19 pandemic and took place in Dubai this November. T&FME joined an estimated 160 customers and media from across the region, who were able to experience driving the new trucks first-hand for themselves. Understandably as its first major gathering in over two years, the regional team used the opportunity to offer hospitality to many of them, including a chance to visit the nearby EXPO 2020 site.
Most importantly this was a chance to rack through the extensive number of new features offered on the Quester, as well as experience the ride quality of the Euro 5 upgrade. UD says the Quester Euro 5 range, with 460 hp and 2250 Nm torque, also delivers improved fuel economy by about 10 percent, assisted by the ESCOT automated manual transmission feature, a lighter tare weight and optimised driveline. Improvements made to the new Quester also extend to safety, where ESCOT takes away the drivers’ need to shift an average of 1,000-1,500 times a day by automatically selecting the right gear at any given time. This leads to increased focus and safety for the driver.
The latest Euro 5 upgrades also add to the Croner’s extensive specification list. The Croner is available in three models – MKE, LKE and PKE – with wheelbase variants that offer up to 21 different configurations to suit the specific demands of various industries. The truck’s fuel efficiency has been improved, in part due to a more aerodynamic cab design that reduces drag by 5 percent compared to previous models. According to the manufacturer, the Croner is very much driver-focused as its cabin is designed to put driver comfort first with numerous active and passive safety features to protect the driver, cargo, and surrounding traffic.
With the COP-26 meeting taking place days before – emissions from transportation alone have the potential to increase global emission levels by over 1.5% – it was pertinent to hear that these heavy-duty and medium duty trucks combine optimal fuel efficiency with enhanced durability,
UD Trucks over the years has been one of the more discreet pioneers in truck technology dating back to its Nissan Diesel engine origins, its development of transmissions and the significant achievement of being the first truck manufacturer to introduce Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) technology in 2004. It claims the new range’s SCR technology significantly boosts environmental protection and fuel economy; and is more reliable when compared to other emission control technologies for reducing emissions.
The new range focuses on three themes: improved efficiency and optimised TCO; better uptime; and better for the environment, says UD. The truck manufacturer claims it also delivers better uptime for both models via less maintenance time and an expanded AdBlue supply network, which is a safe-to-use diesel exhaust fluid used in vehicles with SCR technology to reduce harmful gases from being released into the atmosphere. Most importantly, a cleaner and more robust engine configuration with lower sensitivity to sulfur content in fuel leads to a longer engine life and contributes to a better environment. The truck is fitted with innovative UD Telematics – a high-tech wireless communications system, which allows transportation companies to maximise efficiency with real-time vehicle tracking and geo-fencing.
From a driver’s point of view, the ride is much improved over earlier models in the opinion of T&FME. ESCOT is now a refined asset and as easy as ever to use. Noise levels also feel greatly reduced as part of an overall improvement to comfort. Indeed, the new steering wheel and improved seating are welcome and reflect the work in Japan to make truck driving a much more attractive occupation to young drivers in an ageing workforce.
Japan has suffered as much as any market in terms of driver retention and recruitment, so the emphasis on comfort makes a lot of sense and something fleets can benefit from here. While the look of the cab design is relatively stripped down compared to the premium-end of the truck market the real star of the show is the addition of a driver rating system that offers immediate and specific feedback on driving techniques that are more fuel efficient via the instrument cluster. Effectively you are scored in real time and there are now no excuses for drivers to push the vehicle hard when the truck is warning you as you drive.
Simple to understand, this is a real boon for fleets who consider good driving important and are concerned with the rising cost of fuel on their bottom line.
“In the rapidly-changing trucks industry, staying ahead of the competition by launching Euro 5 trucks is a core focus for UD Trucks. The Quester and Croner Euro 5 models reflect UD Trucks’ ‘Better Life’ commitment,” remarked Mourad Hedna, president of UD Trucks Middle East, East and North Africa. “The launch is another example of offering optimum support for our customers as we make sure they are ready for any new regulations in such a fast-growing region.”
At launch, the new Euro 5 models will be available in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. At the same time, regional markets such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Pakistan, Iraq, and others will benefit from new, improved versions of the Euro 3 Quester and Croner models.
The Euro 5 Quester and Croner mark a step up from previous models. Depending on the level of services available in your market, the driver rating system and extra comfort could be game changers for many fleets concerned with value.