VECV Eicher Pro 3016 AMT: ‘The Smart Shifter’ - Test drive report

Eicher Pro AMT truck

VECV is introducing first-ever Automated Manual Transmission (AMT) option in the 16T truck category (as per earlier norms). We may have driven more sophisticated trucks in this lot earlier, but none of them gave more relaxing ride than Eicher Pro 3016 AMT, with time-honored simplicity and frugality in its operations. It combines the bests of both the worlds - manual and automated transmissions, while also showing what it can do for drivers, without hurting their bosses’ billfolds!

Who said truck drivers have to do all the battle with two legs? Just one leg (the right one) is enough, so pull out the other one! Says VECV this time, with the advent of an AMT option in its Pro 3016 16.2-ton GVW truck. The truck maker has perfectly adapted WABCO’s OptiDrive AMT system to its 6-speed gearbox, to offer enhanced driver comfort, vehicle turnaround time, safety, and overall fuel efficiency in this truck, all for a little bit of extra premium.

I was invited for an exclusive test drive of the all-new truck at VECV’s Pithampur facility test track. Frankly speaking, I was little skeptical about truck semi-autos in budget segments earlier, but Pro 3016 did broke my previous opinion with its impressive performance. The drive experience and contemplation thereafter has bettered my assessment of AMT in trucks, that it wouldn’t be impossible for the technology to cut the mustard in the timid domestic market.  

For starters, the AMT in this truck still features a manual gearbox, but the selector assembly is paired to two pneumatic lines that does all the shifting by pushing the selector plates into required position. In other words, the technology offers a simplistic two pedal system, wherein the clutch is fed in automatically subject to the electronic throttle’s position. There is no mechanical clutch pedal whatsoever for the driver to manually engage or disengage. No gear shifting required either, so no need for a sinewy gear stick, just a tiny selector is more than enough!

Easy Rider

Climb into the driver seat, the truck is hardly any different inside. Just that you need a few minutes to master the basic functioning of the gear selector to be all set to roll. The selector is more like a simple play toy, moves one step back and forth from standard position, and has buttons on the handle’s either side and on the base unit as well. To change up and down, simply push the selector level forward and backward respectively.

On the left side of the stalk is the button to push the vehicle back to neutral, while on the right is a function button that has to be pressed while initiating the first gear shift from neutral or for engaging reverse gear. This is a standard safety protocol even in manual override mode, which can be selected with a press of the right most button on the base unit. Left to that button is Economy/ Power mode selector, while the left extreme button is to for crawler mode. That’s all anyone has to know before cranking this truck!

I soon disengaged the parking brake, and pushed the lever forward, only to hear an error beep. Oh wait, I forgot to press the function button while engaging the selector for the first time. When I did right, the first gear for hooked, the driver info LCD always lets us know in which gear the vehicle is in. Step on the gas pedal, the truck moves with ease. It’s in automatic mode, so the AMT system shifts the gears up and down on my behalf depending on the engine rpm, vehicle speed, boost pressure (engine load), and accelerator pedal position (potentiometric reading).

Smart Gearbox

After reaching the sixth gear somewhere around 1,400 rpm and at 50 kmph, I slowed down a bit, the vehicle then geared down to fourth gear instantaneously. Later when I came to a grinding halt from the same speed, the first gear got engaged immediately to start all over. Select the ‘Power’ mode, the system powers up further at every gear shifts, thereby offering a brisky transition between the gears. The shifts in both modes are seamless, even at lower speeds, without any notable jerks. Life’s never been so easy in trucking before.

Eicher Pro 3016 AMT dashboard

The manual override mode, on the other hand, is even more fun to drive. All I have to do is push the level forward and backward at right speeds, even without removing my leg off the accelerator pedal during gear shifts. Doing this without any clutch pedal action reminded me of the time when I drove a BMW E92 M3 with paddle shifters years ago at a race track. My brain started fantasizing the Pro 3016 as a race machine on the roll!  

So, is this a “Smart” gearbox? Definitely yes. The AMT system won’t give you a gear it can’t pull, nor would it allow a downshift that would over-rev and hurt the engine. Although the truck was empty and the test track was restrictive, the gear system feels quite peppy and confident for any kind of terrain and operating conditions, may it be crowded city streets or a ghat incline. No exaggeration, the system is designed to eliminate engine lugging and engage overdrive gear at all possible scenarios, so as to ensure power-torque ratios and fuel efficiency on par with manual transmission.

How it all measures up?

Apart from reduced driver fatigue and enhanced vehicular safety as driver’s road focus is not compromised in juggling with clutch-gear operations, VECV claims that AMT improves fleet fuel performance significantly. This is based on the premise that drivers in a large fleet can be a mix of best, average, or even worst in terms of frugal driving. But AMT can facilitate unskilled drivers to achieve greater fuel economy than usual, which can offset wider spread of drivers’ performance in a large group and result in savings for the fleet.

In addition, AMT has the potential to significantly prolong component lifespan, engine and gearbox aggregates in particular, as systemic gear and clutch operations offers less scope for their abuse. This is very relevant in case of trucking in India, as driver awareness on sustainable driving behaviour is not that prevalent. Service intervals for transmission is also higher with AMT, adds the manufacturer.

The AMT system also offers Hill start assist that can prevent the vehicle from rolling backwards in steep inclines. Further, the Pro 3016 AMT comes equipped with standard cruise control, fuel coaching and driver information system, on-board diagnosis and optional EICHER LIVE telematics. The 3.8-litre engine is one of the peppiest engines I have ever driven in this segment, delivering 165 hp power and 520 Nm of torque, while the truck’s responsive steering and ABS-assisted air brakes performed impressively during the test drives.

Eicher Pro 3016 AMT instrumentation display

Eicher Pro 3016 AMT steering wheel

In a nutshell, the Eicher Pro 3016 AMT makes a wonderful proposition, both in terms of value-for-money and equipment capabilities. An AMT is way more generous in terms of long-run fuel economy and TCO than it might appear, while enhanced driver comfort and lower maintenance can distinctly contribute to fleet productivity. It’s easy, smart, but also very humble without complex electronics or cost associated with, something that Indian truckers would surely love.  

SPEC FOCUS – Eicher Pro 3016 AMT (16.2 GVW)

Engine

E494 3.8-litre, 4-cylinder CRS Diesel with SCR technology

Transmission

ET40S6 Gearbox with AMT (6-forward, 1 reverse)

Clutch Diameter (mm)

362

Chassis Type

Ladder type design with modular frame

Axle

Front - Forged reverse Elliot

Rear - Heavy Duty floating type

Suspension

Front - Parabolic leaf spring with anti-roll bar

Rear - Semi elliptical leaf springs with helpers

Axle Ratio

6.166

Gradeability (%)

24.8

Tyres

10R20 – 16PR


*This article was first published in MOTORINDIA Magazine March 2019 issue. 

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