Product Evaluation: Hino 268

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Hino 268 specifications
Wheelbases: 175-253 inches
Engine: Hino J08E-TA 6-cylinder, 4-valve diesel, 220 hp @ 2500 rpm, 520 lb-ft torque @ 1500 rpm
Transmission: Eaton 6-speed synchronized manual; Allison 5-speed automatic
Clutch: Dana/Spicer Solo, adjustment-free
Fuel tanks: Steel, 52-gallon, rectangular
Front axle: Meritor
Rear axle: Meritor
Brakes: Hydraulic, 4-wheel disc, WABCO ABS
Wheels: Accuride steel, Alcoa aluminum, 22.5 x 8.25
Tires: Bridgestone, Goodyear, 11R22.5 G

Hino has long been known as a Japanese company that sold its medium-duty cabover trucks here. No more. In fact, what’s surprising about Hino’s new conventional line is how un-Japanese these trucks are – and how much they cater to North American tastes.

They’re built here, largely with American components, including Eaton 6-speed synchronized manual or Allison 5-speed automatic transmissions; Dana/Spicer clutches and driveshafts, Meritor axles, Hendrickson suspensions, TRW steering gear, Delco alternators, Donaldson air filters and Accuride or Alcoa wheels. Even their hoods, which give them entry into the conventional club, are manufactured in Indiana. Only the cab and engine come from Hino/Toyota in Japan.

Familiar components and relative lack of captive parts scored big with CCJ’s evaluators, some of whom had experienced serviceability issues with import trucks in the past. “They can be a bear to find parts for,” said one.

With wheelbases ranging from 175 to 253 inches, the Class 6 268 is quite accommodating for its intended applications, judged evaluators, including dry van, reefer, dump, fuel delivery, stake-bed, utility and towing operations.

Power flows from a Hino 6-cylinder, 4-valve diesel that makes 220 hp @ 2500 rpm, and 520 lb-ft of torque @ 1500 rpm. It’s variable-geometry turbocharged and aftercooled; and uses high-pressure, common-rail fuel injection, and cooled EGR to meet emissions requirements.

The powertrain is cradled by an 80,000-psi, 34-inch wide frame with Huck-bolted crossmembers, which can handle bodies from 12 to 24 feet, depending on wheelbase and application. Standard four-wheel, hydraulic disc brakes with WABCO ABS slow the package down, while standard front shock absorbers help smooth the ride.

At your service
Serviceability is an area in which Hino’s 268 shines. After tipping the hood – which can be done, literally, with one finger, thanks to a gas strut – evaluators noted that all routine fluid checks, save the windshield washer fluid, can be performed from the driver’s side, with no undue reaching. Moreover, they were pleased to see clear access to the rear of the engine, with no need to remove or reach into a “doghouse” for service. And they appreciated the gas strut preventing the hood from slamming shut if closed carelessly. Other service pluses include a standard air intake restriction gauge, free access to the oil pan drain plug, and grease fittings on the rear leaf spring shackle bushings.

Evaluators also liked the well-shielded, but easily accessible, spin-on fuel filter. But they didn’t care for the location of the windshield washer reservoir, which is mounted under the passenger seat and must be slid out of a bracket for filling. “That’s going to get messy,” predicted one evaluator. “We mount our CBs there,” said another, “so we’d have to move the reservoir right off the bat.”

No problems were found with wire or hose routing and tie-downs, or with the clearly labeled, easily accessible, dash-mounted cab fuse panel or the back-of-cab-mounted chassis and body fuse panel/junction block. The latter, the team agreed, along with perfectly smooth top-of-frame rails, should allow the 268 to accommodate virtually any type of body.

Please, come in
“These are extremely well placed grab-handles,” proclaimed one evaluator. “You can’t possibly make a mistake getting into and out of this truck.” Others agreed.

As seems typical of Japanese-designed vehicles, the interior is inviting – even for three occupants – and evokes more passenger car feel than truck utility, with amenities like a tilt/telescoping steering wheel, air conditioning, stereo radio/CD player and cruise control standard. And, as an alternative to the universal gray found in most trucks, the interior is finished in blue, which evaluators found pleasing, with standard vinyl or optional cloth seats.

Hino has added extra height to the cab, and the team found plenty of room everywhere, with overhead storage, map pockets and a cup holder. The location of that last amenity, however, wasn’t popular with evaluators, since it’s below seat level and too far to the rear of the cab. “You don’t want a driver to take his eyes off the road trying to reach his soda or coffee,” said one. Turns out, Hino already has recognized the problem, and the cup holder will be relocated in the 2006 model.

Where to, sir?
After driving the 268 on a mixed loop around South Plainfield, N.J. – home to H.K. Truck Services, which hosted our evaluation – evaluators had plenty of good things to say about the experience. In particular, they praised the quiet engine and cab, and noted that normal conversation is easy, even at highway speeds. They also agreed that it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position, with instruments and controls “right where you need them.”

They also thought that visibility was good all around, especially forward, thanks to the sloped hood and oversized windshield, which is the same part used in the older, cabover models. Ride was found to be “really smooth,” and the team reported no squeaks, rattles or wind noise.

Maneuverability was judged to be “Outstanding. I made a tight, parking-lot turn the way I always do,” said one evaluator, “and was amazed that I still had another easy half turn left in the steering wheel.” Hino credits a sharp wheel cut and TRW’s lock-to-lock power assist for the 268’s super-tight turning circle.

To protect and serve
Finally, evaluators had no quarrels with Hino’s warranty: Two years/unlimited mileage for the vehicle, and three years/unlimited mileage for the engine. Hino also provides three years of roadside assistance on new trucks.

Hino plans to expand its U.S. dealer network from the current 122 to 150. Moreover, dealers will be interconnected within defined areas called CityPaks, with interned-based visibility of each other’s parts inventories, and regular meetings to review mutual care of key customers.

Overall, evaluators agreed that Hino is on the right track with its approach to the medium-duty market. “It’s a decent product with familiar components and a good service strategy,” said one. “These guys have definitely done their homework.”

Hino 268 Product Evaluation Team

The Hino 268 Product Evaluation Team (from left): Bob Renner, equipment manager, and Dan Alderfer, maintenance supervisor, Haines & Kibblehouse, Skippack, Pa.; Bruce Grankowski, maintenance superintendent, Middlesex County Utilities Authority, Solid Waste Division, East Brunswick, N.J.; Dave Piliro, regional fleet supervisor, Dunbar Armored, Cinnaminson, N.J. Special thanks to Bert Dreossi, general manager, H.K. Truck Services, South Plainfield, N.J.

The fleet operator’s opinion
CCJ Product Evaluations are not performed by CCJ editors. They are conducted by a team of fleet equipment managers, chosen for their experience with the type of product being evaluated. Editors report evaluators’ opinions, not their own. Comments are not attributed directly to specific evaluators to avoid the appearance of individual endorsement or criticism of products.

An evaluation is based on a driving test and design assessment (which sometimes involves some disassembly of the vehicle), followed by a discussion among the evaluators and manufacturer’s representative(s). Manufacturers are given ample opportunity to respond to any criticisms.

CCJ welcomes your comments and suggestions.