Test Drive: The new Mercedes-Benz Actros Rigid Range

By: Steve Brooks

The new trucks provide Benz with more opportunity and more success than ever before in Australia


Hot on the heels of its acclaimed prime mover range, Mercedes-Benz has showcased a new rigid truck line-up during recent drive events in and around Brisbane.

Sporting many of the attributes of their bigger brothers, there’s a lot to like as Benz continues to build the platform for a bold new future.

All up, this new generation of trucks marks an entirely new bridgehead for the Benz brand in this country, almost certainly providing the brand with more opportunity and more success than ever before.

Consequently, there’s a confidence in the Benz camp these days which hasn’t been evident for years and Benz insiders already buoyed by the early success of their prime mover portfolio now see metro distribution roles, from local delivery to the high demands of waste work, as ideal targets for this new crop of rigid contenders.

New generation. Mercedes-Benz rigid models are a critical part of an entirely new era for the Benz brand in this country
New generation. Mercedes-Benz rigid models are a critical part of an entirely new era for the Benz brand in this country.

The rigids also share high degrees of commonality with the prime mover family, not least in power and drivetrain combinations, and switchgear and control layouts.  

Under the cab, for instance, are the same 7.7 and 11 litre six cylinder engines used in the lighter end of the prime mover range.

The 7.7 litre engine is rated at 299 or 354 hp while the 11 litre is available at ratings from 398 to 428 and 455 hp.

Check out our video of Steve Brooks test driving the new Mercedes-Benz Actros in the NT

Of course, all engines in the new Benz range comply with Euro 6 emissions standards through the combined technologies of SCR, EGR and a diesel particulate filter.

All the new rigids also use the slick shifts of Mercedes-Benz’s latest PowerShift automated transmission in eight or 12-speed form, and now equipped with a creeper gear for low-speed reversing into loading bays and the like.

There are three different cab configurations across the rigid range, all 2.3 metres wide and all meeting the tough Swedish cab crash test standard.

What’s more, they come with roof-mounted air horns, remote locking, electric mirrors, and a locally-developed touch-screen sat-nav and audio unit with DVD player.

On the inside. Rigid models share many functional similarities with their impressive prime mover counterparts
On the inside. Rigid models share many functional similarities with their impressive prime mover counterparts.

On the options list are several interior style trims as well as a sleeper cab and rear seat layouts on some models.

Critically, rigid models were also subjected to the same extensive local test program as their bigger brothers.

As Mercedes-Benz states in a press release, ‘The new rigid range was part of a comprehensive local testing program that has now included more than 35 customers, 20 trucks and more than 1.8 million kilometres.’

All up, there are 11 models in a rigid line-up which Mercedes-Benz breaks into four categories.

4x2 Medium-Duty Distribution

Known as the 1230L and the 1630L, these two lively toilers come with gross vehicle mass (GVM) ratings of 11.99 and 16 tonnes respectively.

Power comes from the 7.7 litre engine with 299 hp and 1200 Nm of torque driving into the eight-speed PowerShift automated transmission.

Cabs are available in slimline, extended and sleeper configurations.

6x2 Heavy-Duty Distribution

The 2530 and 2535 single-drive six-wheelers have a GVM rating of 26 tonnes and gross combination mass (GCM) of 32 tonnes.

Both are powered by the 7.7 litre engine, with the 2530 using the 299 hp rating whereas the 2535 has the 354 hp setting with 1400 Nm of torque, and driving through the eight-speed PowerShift transmission.

The cab is what Benz calls its M-Cab Classic Space.

6x4 Heavy-Duty Distribution and Vocational

These are the 2635, 2640, 2643 and 2646, and in any assessment they are the spearhead of the rigid range, all with a GVM rating of 26 tonnes.

As for GCM, all are rated at 44 tonnes except the 2635 which is rated to 32 tonnes and the only one of this group to be powered by the 7.7 litre engine, in this case at 354 hp.

All others are punched by the 11 litre engine with outputs of 394 hp and 1900 Nm in the 2640, 428 hp and 2100 Nm in the 2643, and 455 hp and 2200 Nm in the 2646.

All four models stir through the 12-speed PowerShift box and cab sizes range from the M-Cab to the bigger L-cab.

8x4 Heavy-Duty Distribution and Vocational

The eight-wheelers are the 3240L, 3243L and 3246L, all with GVM and GCM ratings of 32 tonnes and 44 tonnes respectively, all powered by the 11 litre engine with the same outputs as their 6x4 equivalents, all stirring through the 12-speed PowerShift automated transmission, and all fitted with the M-cab.

Based on the heavy-duty Arocs platform, new Benz eight-wheeler is a vital addition to the rigid range
Based on the heavy-duty Arocs platform, new Benz eight-wheeler is a vital addition to the rigid range.

One model from each group was recently made available for short driving stints over a diverse test route in south-east Queensland.

Barely an hour in each truck was hardly a definitive review but it at least provided an insight into each model’s manners and muscle, particularly with the trucks carrying respectable loads.

Even so, with the design qualities of the prime mover models, there is certainly lots to like in a rigid range which shares many impressive traits; an exceptionally smooth and intuitive engine and transmission combination, great ride and handling, easy access into and out of a functional and entirely comfortable cab, and levels of operational refinement which are both extensive and quickly familiar.

In effect, this new line-up of Mercedes-Benz trucks simply reinforces the view that the Benz brand is well and truly back in business.

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