Mitsubishi rolls out new lineup

MITSUBISHI FUSO has a new lineup of medium duty trucks en route to North American dealers.

Brand new models will fill Class 3-5, with existing Class 6 and 7 trucks getting substantial upgrades. Some trucks have already been ordered. Vehicles began being released to Mitsubishi dealers in July, and were expected to begin appearing in truck equipment distributor shops in August.

“These are a new generation of products developed for the global market with a great deal of design influence from the North American market,” says Bob Aquaro, vice-president of product assurance for Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America.

Among the considerations when designing the new trucks were ease of installing bodies and equipment, compliance with environmental regulations, drivers, and truck owners.

To reduce truck body and equipment mounting times, Mitsubishi made a variety of changes, including:

  • Parallel frame rails. Tapered frames have been replaced with straight rails spaced 33.1 inches apart. The only exceptions are crew cab and 4 × 4 models. They retain the 29.7-inch frame spacing.

  • More clearance for PTO installations as a result of the wider frame rails. The trucks accept applicable Chelsea and Muncie power take-offs.

  • Fuel tank options. The aft-of-axle fuel tank is standard. Twin tanks are optional.

  • Rear stabilizer bars allow a higher vertical center of gravity for completed vehicles.

  • The transmission cooler is now perpendicular to the frame, a change that resolves some interference issues.

  • Even though all Mitsubishi engine-powered accessories are gear-driven, the company retained a pulley to power belt-driven accessories.

The vehicles were introduced in Japan two years ago, but the ones coming to North America will be the first export sales. They will be introduced in Australia and Europe next year.

In designing the trucks, Mitsubishi engineers balanced performance with environmental regulations.

“Many medium-duty truck users feared that compliance with the new 2004 EPA emissions standards would affect performance and fuel economy,” says Robert McDowell, executive vice-president and chief operating officer of Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America. “Yet, while all Mitsubishi Fuso diesel engines meet 2004 EPA regulations, engine and transmission design improvements have actually allowed us to increase both torque and horsepower.”

“We met the 2004 emission regulations with no loss of performance,” Aquaro says. “In all cases, performance has improved over the current trucks.”

All engines are drive-by-wire. Depressing the accelerator pedal sends a signal to the engine control module (ECM). The ECM considers a range of variables — including turbo pressure, speed, altitude, and water temperature — before signaling the engine to burn more fuel.

“Whenever the driver depresses the accelerator, the ECM calibrates the engine to peak emissions efficiency for that moment in time,” Aquaro says. “That's its first job. Its second job is to accelerate the truck.”

Despite the calculations and calibrations, Mitsubishi says the new trucks accelerate faster than the vehicles they replace. Savvy drivers may notice a somewhat slow curve for the first 20 feet as the optimization occurs, but the overall result is a faster acceleration time.

The greener engines produce fewer emissions, but at a slight cost in fuel economy. Aquaro says that compliance with 2004 emissions regulations results in an increase of between 8% and 12% in fuel consumption for all engine manufacturers. The effect for the new Mitsubishi trucks has been less than average.

Simplified lineup

The new trucks represent a streamlined lineup. The Class 3-5 models, based on the FE platform, essentially start as a Class 5 truck. Lighter-duty components can change the GVW rating to a Class 3 or Class 4. The FE 120 is rated at 12,000 pounds GVW. Other FE models include the FE 145 (rated at 14,500 pounds GVW) and the FE 180 (with a 17,995-pound GVW rating). The FE 145 also is available as a crew cab.

Mitsubishi offers two Class 6 models. The FK 200 Low Profile is rated at 20,935 pounds. The low profile (under 36 inches high unladen) is achieved in part through the use of a new multi-tapered-leaf front suspension and laminated-leaf-spring rear suspension. Its four wheelbases ranging from 168.1" to 205.1" can accommodate 16-, 18-, 20-, and 22-ft bodies.

The company's other Class 6 is the FM 260, rated at 25,995 pounds. A factory air suspension is an option on the FM 260. A dump valve can be used to lower the truck, and the suspension automatically raises up when the truck is put into gear.

At the top of the GVW spectrum is the FM330, a Class 7 cabover rated at 32,900 pounds.

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