The 4 Cyl Vs 6 Cyl debate in 16T rigid trucks

Bharat Benz 1617

Over the last 70 years, from the era of Tata Mercedes-Benz 312 and Ashok Leyland Comet, to the present Signa’s and Captain’s, there has been tremendous technological changes which the Indian trucks have gone through. And many of those technological changes were guided by the very own incredible Indian market preferences, and among which, Mileage being the most preferred one!

As the market developed from initial 6T to 10T during 50’s to 60’s, new segments were developed with 12T and 13T trucks during 70’s. They further gradually got upgraded to 16Ton as it has become standard over the past 4 decades. They have been in forefront in driving the MCV industry volume until the 90’s when the multiaxle started to gain acceptance. Even today it accounts for nearly 30-35% share in overall M&HCV segment industry volume, though shrinking.

Shift from Long haulage truck to distribution trucks:

During initial periods in 80’s and 90’s even till early 2000, 16T trucks were used in the long application. They did travel more than 800 kms to 1000 kms like what today’s multi axle trucks do. Later with the development of multi axle trucks from 25T to now 37T, long haulage operations started to shift towards multi axles leaving the single axle 16T trucks to distribution application application only. Today from 10T to 16T trucks are preferred to be used for distribution.

But sensing this oppurtunity, in 2006, Ashok Leyland attempted a bold move by introducing a new model targeting the rated/under payload segments like containers, parcel, white goods and petroleum tanker applications. The model rechristened Comet 1611, was a 16 tonner powered by a four cylinder H series BS2 engine which developed 120 HP  Power and a torque of 40o Nm torque. This was a new segment and till such time was only dominated by 6 cylinder trucks.

A new Market

This attempt opened room for market perception about 4 cylinder engine in heavy truck applications. It also came with factory fitted day/sleeper cabin, 20′ loading span and also fully built options like containers and tankers, which facilitated ready to use from day one concept.

The market until then was driven by 16 tonners powered by 6 cylinder engines, 18 feet loading span and offered as standard cowl chassis. The operators used to construct body as per their requirement from the local body builders.

Ashok Leyland Comet 1611

Ashok Leyland Comet 1611

Rated load application trucks are operated with lighter voluminous goods or with one side empty trips like the tanker application. The operating economics demand higher fuel efficiency, better tyre life with quick turn around time. And thus the idea of truck with a four cylinder engine with suitable power and torque made sense. Even though leading logistics and transport operators came forward to attempt this combination, the market in general was very apprehensive about this idea.

Since then, the past decade which witnessed drastic changes in technology in trucks, slowly shifting and upgrading to higher tonnage segments. The period facilitated gradual up gradation of segments like 25T to 31T  and 37T and 12T to 15T etc. More manufacturers started offering trucks powered by four cylinder engine in higher tonnage segments.

Array of 4 Cylinder 16T

Eicher 11.14, AL1214, Tata1412 etc are models that gained market acceptance quickly. Meanwhile Ashok Leyland continued to offer its upgraded versions of COMET1611 in BS3 era as 1612il. Now after a delay Tata has launched a Ultra 1518 a 15.8T truck with new 5 liter, 4 cylinder engine, with a power range of 180- 210 PS, producing torque @ 590-805 NM.

Tata Ultra 1518

Tata Ultra 1518

 Eicher has launched Pro 3016, powered by E494 engine developing a power of 165hp and torque of 520 Nm. Eicher also has a sub 16T at 15.7T with a power rating of 135hp and torque of 450 Nm.

Eicher Pro 3016

Eicher Pro 3016

However the latest entrant in the 16T segment was BharatBenz in 2015 with its 1617R model powered by a four cylinder 170HP engine. Offered as fully built models as well as cabin chassis in two variants AC and Non AC each with 20’, 24’, and 32’ loading span options. The killer combination of fuel efficient four cylinder higher power engine and AC cabin was something unheard in industry and contrary to drivers and operators perceptions of low performance. This models has become a runaway success with its highest power to weight ratio and superior unmatched fuel efficiency. The operating economics of four cylinder high power engine coupled with synchronised drive line has been proven beyond doubt.

Preferred applications

  • FMCG
  • White Goods
  • Parcel & Courier
  • Logistics
  • e-commerce
  • Gas container
  • Petroleum carriers
  • Fisheries
  • Chicken and Egg transportation
  • Beverages
  • Milk Tanker

This fact is established by the larger acceptance of 1617R across rated payload segments. For example, in small TIV market like Kerala,  with 1617R, BharatBenz has become the second leading brand, displacing Tata Motors to third place, with over 200 numbers sold in less than a year. The 1617R BS4 SCR based model is the latest offering from Bharat Benz and it comes with a new face lift version.

Bharat Benz 1617 R

Bharat Benz 1617 R

Its also understood that Ashok Leyland is working on a 16T truck in its highly successful Boss range of trucks and is due for launch in couple of months. Though there are still 6 cylinder trucks, like Ashok Leyland 1618/1, 1618/1C, 1618/2C EGR trucks and Tata LPT1613, the shift is clearly towards their smaller brothers in haulage applications.

 – Raj Bharat

2 Comments on "The 4 Cyl Vs 6 Cyl debate in 16T rigid trucks"

  1. Yes, the general trend seems that OEMs are shifting towards less no. of cylinders not just in 16T, but in every segment. But to counter the reduction in no. of cylinder, each cylinder volume(bore*stroke) is increased.

    Diamler, with is global presence, has possibly all engine combinations (Power and No. of cylinders) readily available for Indian CV requirement, so they know what is the best combination.
    AL launched Guru with 3cyl, what typically would have been 4cyl in ICV, but customers for whom this truck was targeted are stepping up and going for Boss, which is premium offering..!
    For 16T, AL did launch its N-series 4cyl tipper U-1619 [& U-2519], this is probably the highest power-to-weight ratio (considering 4cyl) offering. But however, since H-series was doing so well, it vanished in fin air… Neptune was first tested on 3120, which was also 4cyl.
    All xx23 BS4 for Captain range (both haulage and tipper) now comes with N-series 4cyl…

    TML’s 1518 and VECV 3016 is yet to show the numbers, TaMo which relied on TataCummins for >180hp engines has engineered this on its own (of course not without partnerships), but yet to see how these take off…

  2. Good article. Yes, the manufacturers are shifting towards lesser number of cylinders in 16T GVW segment, especially meant for rated load applications. This means better operating economies for the transporter as well. While majority are using EGR technology in this 4 cylinder MCV range trucks, BharatBenz is using the ad-blue based SCR technology.

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