Hino XL8 made for heavy deliveries; would it work on the road?

November 2019

Tom Berg

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The name Hino doesn’t come to mind when we think of highway trucks, but is that about to change? Since the mid-1980s, the builder has made its mark in North America by producing and selling local delivery trucks, with low cabovers coming from homebase in Japan and Canada, and the heavier Class 6 and 7 conventional-cab models assembled in West Virginia.

But Hino, a unit of Toyota Motors, also makes Class 8 heavies for customers in Asia and elsewhere. And after slowly and methodically making inroads here, it is expanding into the heavy duty market.

Called XL, the new model comes as a Class 7 or 8 straight truck or tractor. Like its mediums, Hino’s new heavy series is aimed primarily at local and regional operations. Despite that, the XL might also find employment with expedited freight haulers, because it’s got the carrying capacity and power to cruise on the open road, and the builder’s reputation for making tough, long-lasting trucks should appeal as much to an owner-operator as to a fleet manager.

This was apparent in a brief test drive I did near Hino’s large, new plant at Mineral Wells.

Production started there last May, and XLs were the first off the line, according to Derek Kline, the company’s marketing manager. Like Hino’s 200 and 300 series mediums, XL7 and XL8 vehicles use a galvanized-steel cab shell and engine sent from Japan, but everything else – from frame rails and axles to hoods and interior upholstery – is sourced in North America, primarily the USA. All XLs get Hino’s A09 diesel, a heavy-duty powerplant displacing 8.9 liters (about 544 cubic inches, much like the Cummins L9). In our test truck, the A09 had the highest rating of 360 hp at 1,800 rpm and 1,150 pound-feet at 1,400 (the others make 300 and 330 hp).

The transmission was an Allison 3000 RDS six-speed full automatic, an easy driving and long-lived appliance running through Dana tandem rear axles. Rear suspension was a Hendrickson HaulMaax rubber-spring unit, something popular in construction trucks. It’s also used in heavy delivery vehicles, like this one, with its 24-foot Kidron insulated body and Thermo King reefer unit.

Driving it was a snap, thanks largely to the Allison but also to a healthy upright seating position and terrific outward visibility through a large, nearly vertical windshield and tall side glass.

The hood sloped down and out of the way, but I could glimpse its leading edge over the grille, so I knew where it was.

The dashboard and instrument panel were attractive but simple. There were only four gauges: speedometer, tachometer, and a pair of air pressure readouts with odd “10x lb2” markings rather than our standard PSI. But a center color screen can show coolant and oil temperature, fuel and diesel exhaust fluid levels, diesel particulate filter regeneration events, odometer and trip odometer, average speed, idle time, miles per gallon, active safety warnings, Hino Insight telematics status, and so on. HVAC controls, thankfully, are the tried-and-true triple knobs for temp setting, fan speed and air-flow setting.

Kline said there was a 10,000-pound test load in the box, which helped settle things down and gave us an idea of a realistic ride. It was smooth over decent pavement with some vibration and a just a little jouncing over rough concrete.

Road noise was minor and the engine’s roar was well muffled. The powertrain was excellent in town and suburban roads, but got really busy at highway speeds on nearby Interstate 77. At 65 mph the AO9 revved at about 1,900 rpm, just 100 shy of the official redline. It’d probably do that for many years with no complaints – Hino claims it’s built to last almost 1 million miles – but a couple more cogs in the tranny would slow the engine down and perhaps improve fuel economy.

Eaton 10-speed and 13-speed manuals are on the options list, but Kline said few customers take them because the standard Allison six-speed works so well.

There’s no provision for adding a sleeper box, but that’s possible in the aftermarket if someone wanted to take an XL on the road. Don’t be surprised if you start seeing them out there. LL