Iveco Astra HD9 off-road truck review

By: Matt Wood


It is comfortable and easy to handle, but has the Iveco Astra HD9 arrived on Australian shores too late?

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The Iveco Astra HD9 is a rather imposing lump of truck. The Italian built off-roader rolls out of its box as an eight-wheel drive that has a GCM of up to 70 tonnes.

This jacked-up eight-legged monster just begs to be given a flogging in an environment with no roads and heavy loads.

I didn’t have to squint too much to picture it labouring under a loaded tipper body and covered in protective mesh screens, with jungle vines hanging off the mirrors.

The Astra brand is a part of the mammoth CNH Industrial group, part of the same stable as Iveco. No surprise then that the vehicles are being sold through the Iveco dealer network.

Engine

Those eight wheels are driven by a 480hp 13 litre Iveco Cursor engine that uses ZF’s venerable 16-speed automated transmission, which also runs through a two-speed mechanical transfer case.

Hub reduction axles help amplify the Cursor’s 1700lb/ft of torque.

It’s been made to climb mountains with big loads on its back and the roads, if they indeed exist, are less than average.

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Suspension

It’s well specced for keeping all eight wheels on the ground at any given time as it uses Iveco’s rather nifty steel cantilever rear suspension.

The cantilever set up which is also used on the off-road Iveco Trakker overseas has excellent articulation off-road.

The load-sharing front suspension of the Iveco Astra HD9 uses parabolic leaf springs that are air bag dampened.

A similar set up is also found on the 8x4 Iveco Stralis.

If low speed tractability is your thing while playing in the mud there is also the option of an Allison 4700 automatic.

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Cab and Controls

Two seconds in the driver’s seat and it’s very apparent the Astra is under the CNH umbrella.

The switch gear and instrument panel are all Iveco family and nothing is oddly placed.

The outside of the cab could almost be called retro in its lumpy-bumpy styling but inside the overall feel is modern and functional.

The transmission selector panel consists of rocker switches that are mounted above the dash panel to the left of the steering wheel.

High and low range as well as diff lock dials and buttons are all centrally mounted.

On the road, the jacked up Astra gives a commanding view, but what did surprise me was the quality of the ride.

A cab-chassis off-roader with no body fitted and no load should’ve been a hard riding, bouncy kidney beater.

Admittedly it’s no limo, but for what it is, the air bag dampened front end does a very nice job of taking the kick out of the big parabolics underneath.

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Performance

The Cursor is a rather quiet engine at the best of times and this is true even with the HD9.

The low down gearing of the Astra means that 80km/h at 1,800rpm is probably as fast as you’d like to cruise on the road.

The lack of weight on this Astra’s back meant the ZF tranny tended to bog down a bit before building up ahead of steam. I’ve no doubt a load would sort out any issues on that front.

It’s also surprisingly manoeuvrable for a big rigid on a 6.5m wheelbase, and doesn’t need a lot of road when cornering.

Overall, it seems like a reasonably comfortable, easy to handle vehicle.

It’s also quite narrow measuring just 2,300mm across which again would no doubt come in handy when carving up uncharted wilderness.

The Astra HD9 has the credentials to prove it can shift dirt with the best of them but the Australian market isn’t exactly lacking for heavy-duty off roaders, it’s such a niche market.

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Verdict

Overall it seems like a reasonably comfortable, easy to handle vehicle.

But, with iron ore prices crashing to earth, the Astra has arrived way too late.

This truck is clearly one for the resource exploration and mining types. However, Iveco Australia has turned up to find that the party is already over, leaving the Astra as a specialised niche vehicle looking for a role.

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Specifications

Make/model:Iveco Astra HD9

Engine: 13-litre Iveco Cursor

Rated power (hp/kW): 480hp/358kW - 2,305Nm torque

Transmission: 16-speed ZF automated manual transmission (AMT) with 2-speed mechanical transfer case

Optional: Allison 4700 series automatic

Drive: 8x8

GCM: 70,000kg (higher on application)

 

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