The fact Freightliner’s M2 medium-duty and SD vocational models haven’t seen a serious revamp is a testament to their popularity. But, said officials when recently unveiling their first major makeover, the time has come to change that.
“Some of our feedback has been, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it,” said Aaron Scates, vice-president – vocational and medium-duty market development. “But more recently we got feedback that we need to make a major leap forward in terms of technology and features.”
This comes as medium-duty and vocational truck buyers warm to active safety features. Features such as active braking assist, side guard assist, and active cruise control are now being rolled out to M2 and SD truck owners for the first time via Detroit Assurance 5.0. The overhaul also marks the first time Detroit Assurance has been made available with Cummins engines, an important development since Freightliner has announced Cummins will be its medium-duty engine supplier going forward.
But it will also offer the newest Gen 5 version of the Detroit DD13 in the M2 112 and 114SD, complete with vocational-specific power ratings and the DT12V vocational 12-speed automated transmission. The vocational automated manual offers features for rugged job sites such as off-road mode and rock-free mode, and can be spec’d with a side-mounted power take-off.
Freightliner says body builders will also appreciate the updates, which introduce a quick-fit system that allows truck equipment manufacturers (TEMs) to more quickly and efficiently integrate their bodies, controls and related software.
“The way they connect to the vehicle in terms of software and electrical connections are common between our products,” adds Scates. “This is a huge improvement in upfit efficiency…The potential to partner with TEMs, and create a plug-and-play setup with them can’t be overstated.”
For the drivers, the ones who’ll spend the most time with the trucks, there’s a completely new interior featuring better materials and an improved fit and finish.
“We focused on the human-machine interface and operator experience,” Scates explained. The end result of this work is the new Plus series of M2 and SD medium-duty and vocational trucks.
Most M2 and SD drivers don’t think of themselves as truckers. They show up to work in their F-150s and appreciate some familiarity when they climb into their work truck for the day. That’s why Freightliner has relocated the door lock and window switches to the door, where they’d be found on a pickup truck. It’s also why the truck maker updated the interior materials to provide a more automotive feel, and improved the insulation for a more comfortable cab and quieter ride.
But Gret Treinen, head of vocational and medium-duty product marketing, added, “There are certain things we haven’t changed; a lot of things that made the M2 and SD product lines so popular over the last couple decades.”
Examples include the 2,500-square-inch windshield and sloped hood for optimum visibility, whether in the city or on a construction site. The 55-degree wheel cut maintains the turning radius drivers have come to expect. And the steel-reinforced aluminum cab with 26-inch extended and 48-inch crew cab options remains. The low step height has also been retained.
A new grille and air intake cover take their cues from their Class 8 cousin, the Cascadia.
“A lot of customers run Cascadias, and box trucks for last mile deliveries,” Treinen said of the desire to bring some commonality to the exterior design. Intelligent high beam headlights that automatically revert to low beams when oncoming vehicles approach are another new feature, as are automatic windshield wipers and headlights.
Engineers moved the PDC module from the fender so it will experience less vibration. Other electrical components including the transmission control module have also been relocated for increased protection.
The new interior materials produce fewer squeaks and rattles, Treinen claimed, and the speakers have been moved from the dash to the door for better audio quality. A new map pocket has been installed on the door and is rated up to 300 lb., so most drivers can use it as an additional grab handle when hefting themselves up into the cab.
Three trim packages are available, ranging from the Professional Package with vinyl seats for cost-sensitive customers, to the Rugged Package with leather-wrapped steering wheel and cloth seats. The Elite Package adds bright finish bezels, additional seat options, and stylish wood trim.
LED lighting is standard throughout the cab, and additional lighting is available in the footwell area. The seats now have more travel front and back, and a greater recline. They’re also made of new materials for greater comfort.
Steering and switches
Another cue taken from the Cascadia is a more functional steering wheel that gives drivers easy access to frequently used controls without taking their hands off the wheel. A five-inch driver display feeds drivers the information they need without diverting their eyes to the B panel. That display can show trip info, fault codes, Detroit Assurance safety warnings, and more.
Even the switches received some upgrades, made of a more tactile material with dividers between them to avoid unintentional fat-finger deployments. They’re LED-backlit for better nighttime visibility.
The transmission control stalk has been also been borrowed from the Cascadia and can now even be spec’d in trucks equipped with Allison transmissions, freeing up space previously occupied by the push-button Allison control box. (The traditional Allison push-button controls are still available, if you prefer).
Drivers can get some help with their pre-trips by activating an inspection button that will cycle through the lights. It can be reached from the ground, thanks to its location beside the seat. And the steering wheel column is now infinitely adjustable.
The new Plus Series includes the M2 106, M2 112, 108SD, and 114SD, and Plus Series production will begin in the third quarter of 2023.