Why Does Scania Still Use a V8 Engine?

About a week ago, we put out an article going over commercial trucks, semi-trucks, whatever you want to call them, and why they all use inline-six engines. The basics of that revolve around torque, ease of rebuilding, and lack of size limitations.

The size limitations part makes sense because commercial trucks in the US are massive, but that got me thinking about trucks in other countries where the roads are much smaller and there are size limitations.

So, today we’re going to be looking at Scania, which goes against much of what we talked about in the last article because they use a V8 configuration rather than inline-six. So, get your popcorn and get comfy, let’s take a deep dive into Scania trucks and why they use a V8.

US Trucks vs The World

Before we look at why Scania built a V8 truck and still uses the V8 configuration, I think we should briefly look at the difference between European commercial trucks and American commercial trucks, because those differences play a part in this story.

If you look at US trucks, they’re almost all conventional style, meaning the engine is in front of the cab. Ultimately, that means the trucks here in the US are pretty big in length. For example, sleeper cab trucks, not only have the engine in front of the cab but also have a massive sleeper as part of the cab, which makes the total wheelbase massive.

The massive size of these trucks isn’t an issue in the US, because our roads are very wide, so maneuverability isn’t necessarily at a premium over things like comfort, cab space, ease of maintenance, and most importantly, fuel economy because many of these trucks are traveling hundreds of miles per day unless you’re talking about a day-cab truck, although those can see some pretty serious mileage too.

On the other hand, you have Europe, where the roads are generally much smaller. Even outside the city, roads over there are pretty small as compared to roads here. On top of that, intracity roads are even smaller, and so maneuverability is at a premium over anything else, which is why trucks in Europe are pretty much all cab-over or cab-forward; however, you want to call it.

The point is, trucks in Europe are much shorter because they need the extra maneuverability, especially in-city. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at where the Scania V8 came from, and to do that we need to rewind the clock to the late 1960s, which is when they introduced the 350hp 14-liter V8 turbo-diesel engine.

The Start of Their V8

Up until that point, Scania had done things such as building cars, bicycles, industrial engines, buses, fire trucks, and a lot more. Really, up until their V8 engine release, you could argue they didn’t really have a brand image or something to remember them for.

I think it’s also worth noting that they technically had a V8 engine prior to 1969 through a partnership with Mack, but that’s relatively unimportant to the story so we’re not going to get into it. There are a few reasons for releasing a V8 engine as opposed to what they already had.

A big one is packaging size, which we went over in the last article. To briefly recap on that, a cab-over truck doesn’t have as much engine compartment space as a conventional truck, and V engines are more space-efficient than inline engines, which means switching to a V8 engine helped save cab space which is at a premium in cab-over trucks because you’re basically sitting on top of the engine.

More Power

An interesting thing to note about that original 14-liter engine is that it blew the doors off everything else in Europe at the time, producing 350hp when most other options only produced 250hp. With more power, you can haul heavier loads at higher speeds, meaning you can get more work done and get paid more.

Not only that, it was determined that a more powerful truck that could cruise at higher speeds, actually improved highway safety, as overtaking it when you were in a normal car was easier because the speed differential between the truck and car wasn’t so exaggerated.

1976 DS14 was upgraded to 375hp and then the power continued to be upgraded throughout the years. Taking a massive jump forwards to today, Scania is still using the V8 engine configuration, although now the power levels are pretty insane, with their current top-of-the-line engine producing 770hp and 2200lb-ft of torque.

Why Use a V8 Still?

But, the question is, why did they stick with the V8 this whole time? Well, a few reasons, but a big one is simply heritage. It’s ultimately something that helped give their brand a unique identity. Packaging is another one, as there are significantly more size constraints in a cab-over truck, especially one that needs super maneuverability to scoot around tight European roads.

That being said, the V8 configuration isn’t nearly as balanced as an inline-six, it has to share bearing space on the crank, and doesn’t have quite as much stroke as an inline-six, but, that being said, the DC16, which is the 770hp engine I was talking about a moment ago, that engine has a bore and stroke of 130mm by 154mm, so they were still able to get a fairly long stroke out of this engine.

Really though, for Scania it almost all comes down to heritage. The V8 diesel is what helped grow their brand to new heights and it’s what their customers expected them to continue with. They’ve had plenty of chances to switch to an inline-six, but they’ve stuck with their roots and as such, they’ve built quite a following in Europe.

You could argue that they’re the most popular truck brand in Europe, as well as other parts of the world, but the point is, they stuck with their V8, and even though an inline-six might have more pros on paper, the cons of the V8 configuration can be and have been covered with good engineering from Scania.

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