Handles as easy as a car

I'VE heard it time and again, manual trucks will soon be a thing of the past.

So it wasn't much of a surprise when Volvo rolled out their new FE model this year with an I-Shift option and standard electronic stability program - making it safer than ever.

Volvo's new FM, FMX and FE models were unveiled at the Melbourne Truck Show this year, and journalists were given a chance to test the trucks at the Australian Automotive Research Centre at Anglesea recently.

I took the FMX for a spin on Anglesea's off-road test track with product specification co-ordinator Wayne Westwood.

The truck was equipped with the best handling tech you can get in a truck - Volvo dynamic steering - which made the truck feel like a light SUV.

I didn't even notice the 21.2 tonnes on the back until the 30% gradient test.

Mr Westwood said VDS would open the vehicles up to a new generation of drivers with the car-like handling and I would have to agree.

We took the FMX for an on-road test and driving along the highway to Werribee was the most comfortable I've ever been in a truck.

I was prone to oversteer however, as I'm used to trucks that take more effort to turn the wheel.

I switched over to the new FE and immediately missed the VDS, which is only available on FM, FMX and FH models.

A truck equipped with VDS will cost you just under $6000 more, but it makes all the difference.

By reducing the steering force by up to 85%, cutting down steering kicks caused by potholes and other road damage, you lessen driver fatigue.

And I think Volvo are spot on with this one. Driving on that off-road track with some pretty bad corrugations, the only vibrations I felt came from the seat's air suspension.

VDS has an electric motor attached to the hydraulic steering gear of the truck.

This motor is controlled 2000 times per second based on driver input and on board sensors to create precise steering.

Volvo have packed a multitude of features into their FM and FMX models, including hill-start assist, adaptable cruise control and the ability to use a remote control for some functions.

The FM also has improved suspension and the new I-See system for fuel efficiency.

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