LOUISVILLE, KY. Volvo Trucks kicked off a major product push on several fronts at the 2013 Mid America Trucking Show this week, rolling out a new truck, a new suspension, and a new fuel sipping calibration for its D13 engine, among a wide assortment of other initiatives.

“Economic indicators are good and the average age of Class 8 trucks continues to rise and that will build demand for new trucks” and related components, explained Göran Nyberg (pictured above), president of North American sales & marketing for Volvo Trucks, during a press event at the show. “As expected, 2013 is off to a bit of a slow start [in terms of Class 8 sales] but should pick up as the year progresses.”

To broaden the appeal of its product line in the North American market, Volvo Trucks introduced the new VNX heavy-haul tractor designed for extreme gross weight applications. It features a Volvo-built D16 engine that cranks out 600 hp and 2,050 lb.-ft. torque mated to a Volvo I-Shift automated manual transmission, explained Frank Bio, the OEM’s product marketing manager for trucks.

[To view a video detailing some of the key characterisitcs of the VNX, click here.]

Developed for applications up to 225,000 pounds, the VNX is ideal for long combination vehicles, heavy equipment hauling, aggregate, low-boy, logging, oil field and mining operations, he said – noting that VNX demonstrator models will be available early this summer, with customers able to start placing orders by the fall of 2013.

Available in 6x4 and 8x4 configurations, the VNX’s front axle ratings range from 16,000 to 20,000 lbs. with parabolic springs, is available with 385 wide-base, 425 and 445 tires to match front axle load capacity, and offers rear axles ranging from 46,000 to 52,000 pounds in regular, dual-track and wide-track tandem configurations are available. Dual steering gears and a 20,000-lb. steerable pusher axle are also available as options, added Bio.

The OEM also unveiled the new Volvo Blade Air Suspension at the show, designed to improve ride, handling and driver comfortfor its VNL and VNM models. Field-tested by customers for more than three million miles, the Blade Air suspension features paired high-strength steel blades for each wheel end attached to the axle using the upper and lower axle seats, noted Bio, with the design acting to control ”wind up” for smoother and more effective braking and improved traction – especially at startup.

Volvo also provided a sneak peak of sorts for its prototype liquid naturals gas (LNG) powered D13 engine, which uses compression-ignition technology developed by Westport Innovation.

A small amount of dieselfuel is used to ignite the LNG instead of spark plugs, thus providing diesel-like durability and performance in terms of horsepower and torque while offering a 20% fuel efficiency improvement compared with spark-ignition natural gas engines, noted Ed Saxman, marketing product manager for alternative fuels.

[To watch Saxman provide some insight into why natural gas is becoming more attractive as a transportation fuel, click here.]

The OEM’s VNL daycabs powered by the D13-LNG engine will be made available for order during the second half of 2014, he added.

Volvo Trucks also said it plans to offer its I-Shift automated manual transmission (AMT) as standard on all Volvo-powered trucks built for the North American market, though a manual transmission option will remain. That’s largely because the I-Shift is in 80% of all truck units spec’d with Volvo engines, with nearly one of every two Volvo trucks built in North America featuring the I-Shift, said Nyberg.

The truck maker added that it’s boosting peak torque for its D13 engine with the introduction of a 500 hp, 1,850 lb.-ft. torque engine rating aimed linehaul, heavyhaul and on- and off-highway vocational applications.

“Added torque provides even better gradability in demanding mountainous terrains and improves startability in heavy-haul and off-road vocational applications,” said Bio, with the new rating to become available for order on all Volvo VNM, VNL, VAH and VHD models beginning in the third quarter of 2013.

Last but not least, Volvo rolled out a bevy of announcements for its VN, VNL and VNM tractor models, including:

  • New air disc brakes to help reduce stopping distances from 355 to 250 feet, reduce brake ”fading,” and offer longer brake pad life, resulting in lower maintenance costs. Volvo air disc brakes will initially be available on all VN model front axles in August 2013, expanding to include all axles in 2014.
  • VNM models can now be equipped with a new line of aerodynamic chassis fairings to optimize air flow around the cab and chassis, significantly improving fuel efficiency by reducing drag.
  • In an effort to increase comfort, Volvo designed a new TV mount for its VNL tractors to accommodate a 19-inch LCD TV on the Volvo VNL 630 and 670 models and a 22-inch LCD TV on the VNL 730 and 780 models. Available in November this year, rhe new mounts make it possible for the TV to be visible from both the upper and lower bunks without sacrificing storage space.