Howard Shanks



It was as I recall a little after 6.30am when Kevin Taylor turned the key in the green Powerstar and the 13-litre Cursor engine leapt into life.

Kevin was Iveco’s product support manager for National Fleet and had been on the road for more than a week, demonstrating the 26-metre B-Double ATN13 Powerstar to various customers and press.

While the compressor on the Cursor engine built up air, Kevin ran through some of the specs and changes to the new model.

“One of the most significant changes we’ve made is to the chassis,” Kevin told us. “We’ve added a new intermediate cross member along with inner and outer chassis reinforcement to further strengthen the frame and enhance vehicle handling.

“We’ve added Knorr front disc brakes to enhance braking performance through more efficient operation and make for easier maintenance and improved safety.

“This is our 2.3 meter ‘Active Time’ sleeper cab,” Kevin continued. “It has been designed to improve efficiency with a focus on reducing fatigue for drivers. As you can see, the bunk is generous in size and comes complete with privacy curtains to ensure a good night’s rest for long-haul drivers. There is also a choice of low and medium roof heights and an additional bunk can be specified for two-up driving.

“Another area we get a lot of praise is with the flat floor and dash mounted gear lever,” Kevin added. This makes moving around the cabin comfortable and easy. Storage space is abundant in the sleeper cabin version with compartments located all throughout.”

Powering up

A quick glance in the mirrors revealed the airbags in the trailers had not charged with air after all this time. “You have to release the park brake to charge the trailers,” Kevin said, reaching over and releasing the park brake. And sure enough the trailers’ mudguards slowly began to rise from the tyres and their airbags filled with air.

The Powerstar models use what Iveco calls the Iveco-EuroTronic-II 16AS2601OD automated 16-speed overdrive transmission, however it’s essentially a rebadged ‘ZF’ transmission, the same as found in most European trucks.

At the wheel of the Powerstar with full a charge of air, it was time to toggle the little gear lever to select second gear and get the Powerstar rolling.

At touch before seven, the city-bound rush hadn’t quite started and traffic on Ipswich road was light as the Powerstar entered the motorway. Our route out of Brisbane to Sydney was to take us out the Logan Motorway and onto the Gold Coast Freeway which runs into the Pacific highway through to Sydney.

The Powerstar uses Can-Bus wiring system, which along with full communication with engine and transmission allows an accumulation of data from the engine, transmission and other equipment making it possible to transfer information to a fleet management system.

In the city, the ZF box worked a treat, and in auto mode it shifted up and down gears extremely smoothly.

“The marriage of the Iveco Cursor engine and ZF transmission is really great,” Kevin explain. “It allows the driver the flexibility to interact with the system to operate with complete freedom.

“For instance, if you want a little more engine braking while the transmission is in auto-mode you simply hold the grey button on the gear lever and move it backwards and it will drop a gear.

“Conversely, when you are climbing a steep grade like the ones out of Tweed Heads, you can press the grey button on the gear lever to engage manual mode and it will hold the gear. On really long steep climbs if you leave it in auto-mode then the transmission will constantly be changing up and down gears which is just burning fuel unnecessarily.

“Another feature of the Powerstar is the kick-down function,” Kevin added. “If you depress the accelerator all the way down you’ll feel an indent, that’s how you activate the kick-down function.”

The best way to operate it is when you are approaching a steep climb you press the accelerator passed the indent which part of the interaction the driver has with the truck by telling the engine that truck is approaching a steep climb. It will then drop down a gear and increase the revs so minimal road speed is lost on the climb.

Nuts and bolts

The 13-litre Cursor engine can best be summed up as a little engine with a big heart and over time has gone through some power upgrades. In this test vehicle it was set at 560 horsepower (405kW) and developed 1733 lbs/ft (2350Nm) torque at 1000rpm. The Cursor engine uses four valves per cylinder, overhead camshaft with unit pump injectors and variable geometry turbocharger.

Rear axles were Meritor RT46-160GP with a ratio of 3.42:1 and driver-controlled diff locks. Rear suspension was Hendrickson’s Primaax PAX-460. Front suspension is three leaf parabolic with sway bar, coupled to Meritor FG941 6.7-tonne I-beam axle.

A couple of noteworthy standard features on the Powerstar include, the 430mm self-adjusting clutch, which adjusts itself each time the ignition is switched on. The air system includes a dessicant type air dryer. The Cursor engine is feed fuel through a Fuel-pro 230 primary filter. This 2007 model also comes standard with an internally mounted bug screen.

From a driver’s point of view the cabin environment is well appointed with ample room for additional switches which may be required operating auxiliary equipment such as hydraulics. Everything is within easy reach and visibility is very good both fore and aft with wide mirrors. There a few switches mounted behind the steering wheel which are somewhat awkward to use at first but we soon got used to them.

The standard air ride ISRI seat combined with the fully adjustable steering wheel ensures a driver can set the cockpit to their optimum driving position.

Well mannered

The Powerstar’s road manners are very good, the ride is very smooth and steering is positive which is an area Kevin pointed out is something that new chassis additions have assisted with. Cabin entry and entry is very easy and what you’d expect in a bonnet truck.

Kevin’s background is from the workshop floor and he is very passionate about the significant improvements that have been made under the hood.

There’s two rubber catches to release and bonnet can be tilted with one hand, via a recessed handle in the front. The engine installation is one of the neatest and cleanest we’ve seen for some time.

Unlike most trucks the turbo is mounted on the left hand side of the truck and the route for the exhaust is straight out to the rear of the cabin. The plumbing on this Powerstar is very neat and clean as well. The Powerstar would be one of the easiest of the modern breed of trucks to perform scheduled servicing as access to the engine bay is very open.

The Powerstar has the option of having a Fresco bunk air conditioner installed from the factory if required.

Long warranty is something that Iveco is pushing too with five-years, one million kilometres or a 425,000-litre fuel burn.

If you don’t want the ZF transmission, customers can spec an Eaton 18 speed as an option.

The strengths of the Powerstar include the ride and comfort. The Cursor engine is now a mature product and is well proven in the field. Iveco’s clean neat build of this model is also commendable and there nation-wide dealer support is another comforting feature of the Iveco. The Powerstar offers buyers the only European derived bonneted truck on the Australian market.

Specifications: Iveco Powerstar 6x4

  • Engine: Cursor 13
  • Power: 560hp (417kW) at 1900rpm
  • Torque: 1696lb/ft (2300Nm) at 1100rpm
  • Gearbox: EuroTronic-II 16AS2601OD 16-speed
  • Front Axle: Meritor FG943 with Alloy hubs
  • Front Suspension: Parabolic leaf
  • Rear Axles: Meritor RT46-160GP
  • Rear Axle Ratio: 3.42:1
  • Rear Suspension: Hendrickson HAS460
  • Main Driveline: Meritor MXL 18N with full round yokes
  • Inter-axle Driveline: Meritor MXL 17N with full round yokes
  • Brakes: Meritor disc/drum with WABCO Antilock Braking System with traction control
  • Fuel: Alloy 1 x 450-litre and 1 x 360-litre
  • Bumper: Polished alloy