One of the most popular heavy trucks in the UK, the Mercedes Actros has been with us since 1996 when Mercedes-Benz stepped away from the old model numbering convention to giving their truck proper brand names. True, the Actros replaced the SK (Schwere Klasse – or Heavy Class) models that were in production until 1998 – but we only knew these trucks as the 1835.
As Mercedes’ top truck, the Actros was originally designed for long distance transport – especially as a tractor unit in the UK. Over the years, the truck carried out many roles as a rigid truck, just check out the number of Actros trucks for sale as tractor units on Truckpages.
2011 Mercedes Actros 2546 6×2 Midlift Long Distance Cab Tractor Unit 12 Speed Powershift Gearbox Twin Bunks Radio/Stereo Excellent Condition We can organise shipping to any worldwide destination – Contact for a quote.
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After launch, the first versions were not well received and there was a view that the quality was not the usual Mercedes-Benz standard. The Actros was the first truck to get a name, followed by Mercedes’ light truck, the Atego and the Econic and the Axor arriving in 2001.
Fitted with a 12-litre V6 engine with power up to 480 and the OM502 V8 which took the top power Actros to more than 650hp.
The choice of cabs was wide, prior to the launch of the smaller Axor that bridged the gap between the Actros and the Atego. Available as a day cab, the S-cab also had a construction version, (to be replaced by the Arocs much later on). The ‘M’ cab was for local distribution, although the accommodation was less roomy than the larger ‘L’ and later ‘LH’ MegaSpace cab with its high roof.
2002 – Actros Version 2 launched
The Euro 3 truck had some visual changes to the outside of the cab with additional streamlining and the inclusion of some new headlights. However, you would have to look closely to tell the MP2 version apart from the older sibling the MP1.
2007 – Actros Version 3 launched for Euro 4
By the time that the third version was launched, Mercedes-Benz had sold more than 550,000 Actros trucks worldwide.
Mercedes claimed that there were 37 major changes to the third version launched in 2007. The automated ‘Powershift’ gearbox became standard equipment – the first time this was seen for any European truck manufacturer.
The MP3 Actros was powered by Mercedes ‘BlueTec’ engines with power outputs from the compact V6 engines starting at 320 going right up to 480hp and the mighty Mercedes V8 with outputs of 510 to 600hp. These engines met the Euro 4 standards at launch, but greener operators could also buy the Euro 5 versions of the trucks a whole two years early. There were no financial incentives in the UK for operators to buy Euro 5 trucks early ahead of the 2009 deadline, so you won’t see many 2007 (57) reg Mercedes Actros at Euro 5 in right hand drive in the UK.
Mercedes’ boast at the time was that these BlueTec Euro 4 were 3% better on fuel economy than the outgoing Euro 3 trucks. Not only this, as a swipe against fellow German manufacturer, MAN, they claimed that fuel economy was up to 7% better than those using exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) systems (MAN & Scania) as opposed the the SCR system used by Mercedes-Benz.
The MP3 Actros was available with two levels of ‘economy packs’ – the basic and the classic. The basic included, automatic cut outs and adjustable air deflectors, whilst the classic included a retarder, (not very handy in the relatively flat UK).
Following the same ‘package’ principle, the Actros MP3 also offered three ‘comfort’ packs, basic, classic and top. These range from getting a blind, sunroof and speakers in the basic through leather steering wheel and sun blinds on the classic to a fridge, climate control and – wait for it – an illuminated three pointed star on the front grille!
On a more serious note, the MP3 was the first production truck to receive active brake assist as an option – it will slow the truck down – even slamming the brakes on if the truck gets too close to the vehicle in front.
More safety tech such as lane assist, stability control, roll control were all available in this brand new truck. Mercedes were certainly leading from the front regarding safety systems. It helps to share the passenger car multi million Euro R&D budget, no doubt. Read the full information about the third generation Actros published at launch time here.
2011 – New Actros launched for Euro 6
It’s horrible to see businesses struggling along for R&D investment. Take Mercedes, for example. A paltry one billion Euros to develop the Euro 6 Actros revealed as early as 2011 for a launch in 2012. You won’t see too many of these trucks on the used market registered much before 2014, however, as UK truck operators were not falling over themselves to invest in Euro 6 trucks early, unlike in Germany where Government incentives were being offered.
With a further one billion Euros invested in manufacturing facilities, the beautiful new generation Actros looked like a favourite to continue with the Actros success – already more than 700,000 of them sold worldwide by 2011.
Not just good looks
In automotive design terms, if something looks right, it usually is. Thanks to plenty of wind tunnel work, the fuel consumption for the Actros was better by 3-4% comparing the new, Euro 6 model to the previous Euro 5 model. Pitch the new Euro 5 vs the old one and savings of 7% were possible!
Using EGR and SCR with a new injection system to achieve these levels, the systems have already been available elsewhere on Daimler trucks for some while.
Launched in the midst of a credit crunch crisis – this new truck had the benefit of 20% longer service intervals -now as much as 150,000kms with savings of up to 6%.
The Actros at launch was available 421 to 510hp and – cleverly for Mercedes – was available either at Euro 5 or Euro 6.
2014 – The Actros SLT Launched
The start of 2014 saw the launch of the heavy haulage version of the Actros – the Actros SLT. These top-end Euro 6 trucks have a huge gross train weigh (GTW) potential of up to 250 tonnes.
Available in many configurations – operators can choose from a 6×4 or 8×4 tractor unit with air suspension and an adjustable fifth wheel or two heavy duty couplings. If an operator opts for steel springs then the axle configuration choice extends further to an 8×6, a 6×6 or even an 8×8!
There is a choice of the full-width Actros cab at 2.5 metres wide or the narrower Streamspace cab at 2.3 metres. The rear of the cab is loaded with the cooling and air tank equipment, as the chassis is usually full of axles, wheels and tyres.
Not content with making just a top end heavy haulage Actros, Mercedes have also produced a semi-heavy version which will cope with up to 120 tonnes GTW. This comes with no retarder or extra cooling system.
Actros SLT Power
Fitted with the Mercedes 15 litre OM473 in-line 6 cylinder, the power ratings start at 517hp and rise to 625hp using a turbo compounding system linked to the 16-speed Powershift3 automated gearbox – Mercedes are the only manufacturer that do not fit a manual gearbox to their heavy haulage tractors. Special programming for a ‘heavy’ mode means that the gearbox has been specifically designed to carry out the heavy haulage tasks.
2015 – Actros gets new OM471 Engine
A revised set up sees the Mercedes 6 cylinder in-line engine available with three percent fuel savings and top power from 420hp up to 530hp. With twin overhead camshafts in the 12.8 litre engine and Mercedes’ X-Pulse common rail injection system where maximum rail pressure has been increased from 900 to 1160 bar, resulting in a maximum injection pressure of 2700 bar.
According to Mercedes, since 2011, following the introduction of the Euro 6 Actros, the Predictive Powertrain Control (PPC) cruise control system and the new engine generation, average consumption has dropped by up to 13 percent compared to the predecessor Actros model.
2018 – The Actros is Relaunched
No huge changes to the exterior of the Actros – evolution, not revolution this time, the largest difference is the removal of external mirrors and replacing them with mirror cameras as standard.
The differences were primarily under the skin. Fuel savings of some 5% have been quoted by Mercedes – mainly due to some aerodynamics but also the predictive powertrain control and new axle ratios.
Safety and autonomous driving featured strongly in the 2018 model – plus some new, large screens in the cab plus other internal upgrades to make the driver’s life easier.
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