The Free Trader UK expert verdict:
Reasons to buy:
- Loads of cab variations on offer
Back in 2011 when other OEMs were finalising their Euro-6 drivelines, Mercedes-Benz went to market with its 12.8-litre straight-six engine and an array of new safety and fuel friendly features. This was followed up with the launch of an all new Actros cab range to sit on top of the engine, waving goodbye to the trusted yet tired Axor. The current Mercedes-Benz Actros is available with four engines; 7.7, 10.7, 12.8 and 15.6 litre, delivering 18 power ratings from 240hp to 630hp (badged horsepower ratings). All the engines from Mercedes-Benz are straight-six diesels, which use exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and selective catalytic reduction (SCR) to meet Euro-6 emission standards. The 10.7-litre is a scaled-down version of the 12.8-litre, so both engines share key features: double overhead camshafts, common-rail injection and single-stage waste-gated turbochargers. In 2015 Mercedes-Benz upgraded the 12.8-litre with an extra horsepower rating – 530hp with 2,600Nm torque and introduced in-house turbochargers, improved the injection system and brought down the peak power output by 200rpm to 1,600rpm. The following year they did the same with the 10.7 litre, and added an 450hp/2,200Nm option. These two mid-range engines are by far the most popular in terms of sales, the second-generation engines cover 10 power ratings badged as 330 to 530hp. From that range, the 2545LS 6x2 450 model with the 12.8 litre delivering a true horsepower of 443hp and 2,200Nm of torque stands out. Keep an eye out for the ones that have rear axle ratios of 2.611 and 2.533, they have an extra 200Nm torque in top gear. The most sought after of the lot are the three power ratings on the 15.6-litre 6-cylinder in-line engine, which are badged as 52 (a true 510hp), 58 (570hp) and 63 (616hp).
One of the reasons automated transmissions now outnumber manuals is down to the quality of the 12 speed Mercedes-Benz PowerShift. Now up to its third incarnation as PowerShift3, it comes with three software packages; economy, fleet and power. The first is the economy has no kickdown option and the driver can dip in and out of EcoRoll (a function that drops out of gear allowing momentum to carry the truck over level and undulating sections). The second is the fleet has no kickdown option, is restricted to 85km/h and EcoRoll is on permanently. Finally, the Mercedes-Benz Actros' power mode employs kickdown, and the driver can select EcoRoll. In cruise control the Predictive Powertrain Control (PPC) kicks in using GPS (Global Positioning System) to select the right gear when anticipating the ups and down on the road ahead. This improves fuel economy as it uses kinetic energy to keep the vehicle moving without any unnecessary acceleration, gear changing or braking.
The 11 cabs are available in five specifications; CompactSpace, ClassicSpace, StreamSpace, BigSpace and GigaSpace. Across the first three there are two cab widths, 2.3m and 2.5m, with maximum width only for the BigSpace and GigaSpace cabs. There are four flat floor cab options; two in StreamSpace for the both cab widths, BigSpace and GigaSpace. The flat floor gives the driver 2.13m standing room in the Giga, 14cm less in BigSpace, and 20mm less in both StreamSpace cabs.
Comfort and storage
All the cabs are comfortable when driving and relaxing when parked up. The air-suspended seat is an option in BigSpace and GigaSpace, and well worth the extra money. Storage only excels with the two largest cabs with lockers above the windscreen. Under the bottom bunk are options for coolers and refrigerators. Further options include a stowage tray with cup holders on the engine tunnel between the driver and passenger seats, and a luggage net fitted on the rear wall of the cab.
One area Mercedes-Benz has been proactive is implementing Active Brake Assist (ABA), which can detect obstacles and people driving ahead of the vehicle. It warns the driver of any dangers and, if necessary, will carry out an emergency brake. With ABA3 or ABA4 you can add Proximity Control Assist, a stop-and-go function that can reduce the risk of rear-end collisions in slow moving traffic. Also available is Lane Keeping Assist, with the added option of Attention Assist, which recognises when a driver is tiring and recommends a break.
Mercedes-Benz Actros epitomises how many trucks are driven today; it’s all about letting the driveline work efficiently and ensuring you are in the right setting at the right time. This means making sure you understand how to use the cruise control settings, the parameters of the over and underrun and employing the three-stage auxiliary brake system to reduce an overreliance on the footbrake. Pedal to the metal and standing on the brakes to stop is history. Of the trucks driven so far, the favourite is the Mercedes-Benz Actros 2551LS 6x2 from the 12.8-litre line up with 510hp and 2,500Nm torque. With a stiffer chassis the handling is very precise, to get the full benefit operators should go with a mid-steer axle and not a lift. It handles superbly well on tough, winding A-roads. On the motorway it holds top gear on most drawn out climbs without dropping a gear, unless PPC says otherwise. With the ‘stop-and-go’ option it takes the stress out of traffic jams too.
As an early adopter of Euro-6, Mercedes-Benz helped dispel the myths that the new emission rating would harm the mpg. Fuel figures proved to be better than Euro-5 and more than offset a small rise in AdBlue use. Feedback from operators remains positive, especially from those running second generation 10.7 and 12.8-litre engines on trunking work and bulk liquids.
Price and residuals
Not the cheapest when buying new, in the second-hand market generic fleet specifications (white, 6x2, 450hp and sleeper cab) can dominate. There is a strong following for smart, well-maintained Actros with the 12.8-litre driveline and the higher power ratings; 476, 510 and 530hp. While not the cheapest upfront a new Actros is viewed as more than a sum of its parts. In the second-hand market strong residual values reflect the quality, especially those that return off contract and part-exchange and go through the refurb process at Wentworth Park in Barnsley. And Mercedes-Benz is not averse to putting out limited editions like the Actros1, which proved to be pricy but very popular.
Warranties and dealer networks
Warranty is one year across the board for the whole vehicle, with driveline over two years up to a specific mileage on each engine size; 7.7-litre engine up to 250,000kms, on the rest it’s covered up to 450,000kms, and on trucks with more than one drive axle it’s up to 250,000kms. The Mercedes-Benz dealer network is comprehensive, with several operators like Massey Wilcox Transport in Somerset putting a workshop on site run by franchise dealer Rygor. There are 14 dealer groups and 83 service points covering the UK and Northern Ireland.
Mercedes-Benz has never been afraid to innovate and the move to Euro-6 provided the opportunity to reinvent Actros as all things to all operators. While safety and fuel efficiency are the primary focus behind the innovations, nice-to-have options and modern exterior is a truck that is not afraid to get its wheels dirty. Go to town on the specification and the Mercedes-Benz Actros is a standout vehicle on any fleet.