October Alternative

| October 07, 2002

A Detroit Diesel engine proves its mettle for highway applications – and does an end-run on the current emissions deadline.

Detroit Diesel’s MBE4000, a mid-range engine with seven power ratings from 350 to 450 hp, is not new to the vocational and less-than-truckload markets. And in the global market, its performance is proven.

Now, Freightliner and Detroit Diesel have begun to present the MBE4000 more strongly for the Class 8 U.S. market. Judging from a hilly test drive, the engine is a worthy addition to Detroit’s product line in over-the-road operations.

“The 4000 is a great fit for Sterling,” said Sterling President John Merrifield in a news conference at Freightliner’s Mt. Holly, N.C., production plant last month. “Its 12-liter power is ideal for over-the-road applications where the driver gets home every night.”

In addition to Sterling, a Freightliner subsidiary, the MBE4000 is available in Freightliner’s Century Class S/T, Columbia, Argosy and FL112.

Detroit Diesel – a sister company of Freightliner under parent Daimler-Benz – now includes support programs for the 4000, said John Morelli, a Detroit Diesel vice president. “Sixty percent of Freightliner dealers have MBE4000 maintenance and rebuild capability,” he said.

The MBE4000, made in Brazil by Daimler-Benz, is exempt from the Oct. 1 deadline to reduce emissions. The engine will not get exhaust gas recirculation hardware until Jan. 1, 2004, when it has to comply, said Mark Lampert, a Freightliner vice president. EGR is the technology used by Detroit Diesel, Cummins, Volvo and Mack to reduce their heavy-duty engine emissions.

The drive between Mt. Holly and Asheville, N.C., was split among four trucks – a Columbia 120 daycab, a Western Star 4900SA and a Century Class, all with 435-hp MBEs, and a Century Class with a Detroit Series 60 375 using EGR. Two MBEs and the Detroit were matched with Eaton 10-speed transmissions.

As we tackled Smoky Mountain inclines as steep as 7 percent, the 4000, like the Detroit, showed the quick acceleration and almost total lack of rpm lag that is a feature of EGR engines. Both the Series 60 and the 4000 have high performance turbos to provide quick throttle response and increased drivability in hilly country and on takeoff.

The Century Class S/T with the MBE4000 and Eaton’s FR 14210B was smooth as silk and, given the inclination of these engines to pull at low rpm, easy to get used to. I found the most startling differences among the trucks were in shifting rather than pulling power or other performance features. All trucks came on quickly and, at the other end of the rpm range, were hard to lug. The MBE pulled well down to 1,000 rpm – where the fuel savings are, if they are anywhere, on those long grades.

As with the EGR engines, the MBE has very little turbo noise. Extremely tight tolerances, an acoustically decoupled air intake manifold, and a gear-driven oil pump and air compressor help trim noise and produce a satisfying thrum.

Like Detroit’s Series 60 big bores, the MBE is light. Detroit says it has “the best power-to-weight ratio in the industry.” It weighs a mere 2,070 pounds with the engine brake. A turbo brake option increases an already big horsepower brake rating to 600.

The engine’s 17.75:1 compression ratio makes cold weather starts easier. Service intervals are out to 25,000 miles. Projected life to overhaul – 800,000 miles – is higher than many other engines.

The MBE is an excellent choice for those who want a new, non-EGR engine and are looking for a mid-range workhorse with plenty of drivability and a pleasing performance. It’s well qualified for road work among fleets and owner-operators willing to sacrifice big power. Of course, many owner-operators aren’t willing, but when it’s good for the bottom line and fits your application, it’s worth looking into.

Comments are closed.

OverdriveOnline.com strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.