A drive test shows this sleek tractor is the very model of comfort, power and technology.
Volvo’s automotive line is now owned by the Chinese, but the safety and luxury DNA coursing through this company’s veins makes its Swedish roots clear. So when Volvo wheels out a road-test tractor, you can bet it’s going to be crammed full of high-tech features.
Such was the case in April when I showed up at the North American headquarters in Greensboro, N.C., to test drive a new VN780 – the company’s premium over-the-road/owner-operator tractor. Beyond its shining, silver metallic paint and charcoal trim, the VN’s sleek lines hint at its low drag coefficient. It’s no surprise to learn this tractor is EPA SmartWay-certified and that even with a 500-horsepower, 2010 Volvo D13 under the hood, it logs approximately 6.9 mpg on the road.
A sophisticated suite of electronics is designed to make life easier for the driver. The Pre-Trip Assistant, for example, offers an automated diagnostic check. When activated, it cycles through the tractor’s lighting system, testing high beams, blinkers and brake lights.
Other impressive uses of electronics show up in safety features beyond Volvo’s standard passive systems, such as driver’s-side air bags and high-strength steel cab construction. This tractor featured standard antilock brakes and Volvo Enhanced Stability Technology, as well as optional equipment such as Eaton’s Roadranger lane-departure/warning system, Volvo’s own collision-avoidance system and Volvo’s Enhanced Cruise Control. The last two alert you if, based on the speed of your truck and the vehicle you’re following, you’re trailing too close. After the system has chirped a few times, you find yourself naturally maintaining the proper intervals.
The Volvo D13 delivers plenty of power to get you going, but it’s remarkably quiet, even when shifting through low gears. At highway speeds, there’s no need to speak loudly when talking.
This truck featured Volvo’s new I-Shift 12-speed automated-manual transmission. Volvo did a bang-up job of engineering shift points to be logical and exceedingly smooth. You need not fret about giving up control over the transmission, either, because easy-to-use features allow you to take control of it. I was able to easily select and hold gears climbing and descending fairly steep grades in the mountains on the North Carolina/Virginia border. Using the I-Shift and Volvo’s integrated engine brake allowed me to easily maintain a safe descent speed with minimal brake wear.
The VN780 is not just a safe truck that’s easy and comfortable to drive. With its showcase blend of technology, power and function, it allows owner-operators to be productive on and off the road. n
ENGINE: Volvo D-13
TORQUE: 1,750 lbs.-ft. (max)
ENGINE BRAKE: I-VEB
(Volvo engine brake)
WEIGHT: 80,000 lbs.
TRANSMISSION: Volvo I-Shift ATO2612D
TRANSMISSION SPEEDS: 12