Story & photos by : Bhushan Mhapralkar
Despite being an Eicher, the Pro 8000 feels quite unlike one. There-in lies the quantum leap.
It does not take long to notice. There’s something different about this truck. The height, the appearance, and the visual presence the truck seeks is quite unlike an Eicher truck ever. It flaunts an Eicher logo allright. Walk closer and the ‘L’-shaped head lamps draw attention. They are a far cry from the round or square twin beam head lamps an Eicher truck or a bus is known to possess. So, is this some kind of an illusion? It takes a while before an answer is found. To begin with, the tall cabin of the truck beckons. It marks a distinct departure from the lower height cabins of Eicher trucks. The wing-shaped grille looks like the only connection. The other bits seem to refuse to add up to the image. Ladies and gentlemen, the Eicher Pro 8000 that you see here is the company’s new flagship. Marking a high point in the journey that began with the Volvo Group and Eicher Ltd inking a joint venture in 2008, the Pro 8000 looks beyond Eicher’s dominance in the 9- to 16-tonne category and Volvo’s presence in the premium category. A result of Volvo bringing technology to the table and Eicher bringing frugal engineering, the Pro 8000 is the result of a pro philosophy according to Siddharth Kirtane, Head – Marketing, Volvo Eicher (VE) Commercial Vehicles. “It is about professional processes and abilities, higher payload and efficiency, superior uptime, and better profitability,” mentions Siddharth.
Walking closer to the two Pro 8000 tippers – one with a rock body and the other with a box body, reveals that these are solidly built machines. Called the Pro 8031T, they are equipped with a Hyva superstructure. Part of the Pro 8000 series, which includes a 25-tonne 6×4 tipper, 49-tonne 6×4 and 6×2 tractors, and a 250 hp 31-tonne 8×2 rigid truck, the Pro 8031T is a heavy duty tipper that aims at an emerging mid-premium segment. This segment calls for higher power and torque combination apart a higher degree of refinement and sophistication. Reflecting upon the fact, that it has been made to last long, the ‘L’-shaped lamps ironically remind those of the UD Quester. Found in Thailand and a few other South Asian markets prominently, the Quester is a new age truck to come from UD, which is also a Volvo Group brand. UD was born out of the acquisition of Nissan Diesel by Volvo.
Placed at either corner of a deep bumper finished in a shade of black, the ‘L’-shaped lamps lend a distinctive appearance to the truck. The upper portion of the cabin is painted in a bright shade of yellow or red, leading to a nice contrast. Measuring 3770mm in height, the plastic bits indicate a mid-premium positioning. The Pro 8031T looks a notch above what has been coming out of Pithampur. It gets fairly close to what has been coming out of Hoskote, indicating a quantum leap for Eicher. Modern and distinctly upmarket in its appearance, worth noting is the stubby turn indicator on the door. It goes well with the look. Quite unlike what has come out of Eicher till date, the Pro 8000 is a sea change. Siddharth mentions, “This product was conceived on the basis of low operating cost, more revenues and higher profitability.
Volvo’s Asia truck platform
Having a 50 per cent local content as of now, the Pro 800 is the first Eicher truck to be made at Hoskote. It is made using Volvo’s manufacturing technology and processes. Based on Volvo’s Asia truck platform, which is also referred to as the Volvo Group value truck platform, the cabin of Pro 8000 is sourced from Thailand. The rear axles are from Fuwa, and include hub reduction for tipper application. The 9-speed manual transmission (ST1199) is from Fast Gear, China. With a transmission oil cooler as an option, the Pro 8000 according to company sources sports the biggest chassis dimensions. Built to European standards, the cab complies with ECR929 strength test. Power comes from a 280 hp, 8-litre six-cylinder common-rail turbo-diesel engine (with four-valves per cyl.) sourced from Volvo Eicher Powertrain Limited. Structured over a wheelbase of 4600mm (longer wheelbase versions are available on demand), the C-section long member aligns with Volvo’s specs, and is 300 mm tall. For tippers a reinforced member runs throughout the length of the chassis. Some of the advanced features the Pro 8000 comes with, include cruise control, advanced telematics (with driver times and fuel coaching). An audio system and an air-conditioning are standard.
Climb aboard, and a modern interior draws attention. The driver’s seat is suspended and 6-way adjustable. The cab is 4-point suspended. The sprawling dash looks modern, and has a two-tone finish. The centre console stands out with its different texture and colour. It contains an audio system, HVAC controls and a bank of switches. While a sense of space prevails, the cabin, with moulded roof, comfortable seats, carpeted floor and a sleeper bunk (even on a day cabin for the driver to rest during breaks), is modern. Look up and at the top center there is a storage cubicle. Below, the steering is adjustable and aids to arrive at a commanding driving position quickly. Ergonomics has been paid good attention. Also, comfort. Not much noise filters into the cabin; not the vibes either. The cab is well insulated. It is also carpeted. The clutch action is light and the gear shifter located within easy reach. Shift quality may not be car-like short and precise, it is not as stubborn or energy sapping either. A gate between 4th and 5th gear calls for the lever to be rocked to the extreme right when moving into a higher set of the gears, and to the left when changing to a lower set of gears.
A sense of power prevails. Good ability to pull is evident in each cog. A distinct character reflects from the way this truck drives. It feels robust and capable. The cruise control, like that of a car, has the tipper sticking to the set speed. Apply the brake, and it disengages. For an 8×4 rock body tipper that can achieve a maximum speed of 82 kmph, and has a payload capacity of 31-tonne, the braking action is highly progressive; overwhelming almost. A mere touch of the pedal is enough to shed speed in a hurry. Pick up speed out of a turn, and the truck accelerates smartly. The turbo whistle, evident. Keep the needle in the green band, and the tipper will provide good fuel efficiency. Engage the exhaust brake going downhill, and a retarding action will accompany a ‘whoosh’ sound. Clearly this one’s not about speed, but about carrying capacity, and the ease of doing it. Apart from a sense of solidity, this truck also presents a spacious and comfortable driving environment. The plying conditions may not be anywhere close to what a mine has to offer, the Pro 8031 nevertheless feels tough and modern. It feels like a tipper that will support a profitable business equation. Once again, the prospect of a quantum leap is brought to the fore. The Pro 8031T is so much unlike an Eicher truck I have known until now!
States Siddharth, that a tipper like this, which is used to carry overburden, will have a life span of five years. During these five years, fuel management assumes much importance. “The fuel coaching feature of the advanced telematics, which is integrated with the truck’s ECU”, explains Siddharth, “records the amount of time a driver is spending in the sweet spot (the green zone on the tacho). Apart from offering real-time driver guidance, unique is the uptime services the advanced telematics offers. It helps to achieve higher uptime.”
Priced in a region of Rs.45 lakh, the Pro 8031T does not take time to convey the fact that it packages Volvo’s engineering prowess and Eicher’s frugal engineering capabilities. It comes across as a truck that will take the Eicher brand to the next level. Work, it is clear, is cut out for the Pro 8031T and the men associated with it. The premium tipper market has been growing for some time. It has reached close to 50 per cent of what it was during the peak period. It is about time the other tipper categories start moving. Amidst the growing crowd of tippers, the Pro 8000 marks a quantum leap. From the way it looks, and from the way it is packaged and equipped. The way the Pro 8031T feels like to drive and operate.