Cover Story: Foton Aumark S

By: Lyndsay Whittle, Photography by: Lyndsay Whittle, Video by: Justin Bennett


With two previous test drives of Foton trucks under his belt, Lyndsay Whittle was eager to get in behind the wheel of the new-generation Foton Aumark S to see what it had in store

Way back in December 2014, the Ed sent me off to test a Foton ISF 2.8-litre truck at a time when I was hardly aware that the brand existed, and I came away after a few hours of driving the truck around Auckland streets, an impressed individual indeed.

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More recently, I tested the Foton Aumark BJ1051; only this time, the Foton NZ team had found a couple of loads for me to pick up and deliver around the suburbs of Hamilton.

Having a loaded test vehicle to put through its paces on the most-recent occasion was just the ticket from a tester’s point of view, so I spent a lot of the time on the drive down to Hamilton to carry out the Aumark S test, wondering what kind of load sales product manager Bevan Dale and his team had concocted for me this time around.

I didn’t have to wait long to find out what the guys had up their sleeves, as at the end of the customary handover at Foton HQ, Bevan said I was to go out to AgriLife at
33 Lincoln Street in Frankton and collect a 1.8-tonne digger on a trailer that I could tow around for as long as it was needed.

Given the fact that even trucks get to be driven around empty on occasions, the trip out to Frankton to collect the load provided an ideal chance to see how the truck performed without any weight aboard.

It wasn’t too much of a surprise that with a 3.8-litre turbocharged, intercooled Cummins engine producing 115kW of power and 500Nm of torque sitting under the cab, take-off from the traffic light was a fairly swift affair.

Talking of those dreaded traffic lights, as is usually the case with me, I caught a red one every time, with the upside of this phenomenon being that I was able to enjoy the interior of the cab while I was waiting for the light to turn green.

Behind the wheel

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DOW’s Lyndsay Whittle takes the new Aumark S for a spin

While the features that are usually foremost in the mind of a prospective truck purchaser are generally based around reliability, economy, and the vehicle’s ability to carry out the task that will be required of it, aesthetics and comfort are nonetheless important features, especially for someone who’ll be spending the most time in the driver’s seat.

Two other features that come as a part of the standard Foton Aumark S package are heated exterior rear-view mirrors and a 24-volt system, both of which would be worth their weight in gold on cold and frosty mid-winter mornings.

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All the in-cab features of a modern up-market car

The inside of the cab is finished to a high standard and sports a light brown finish; long gone is the obligatory grey interior that most truck brands, including Foton, have provided for the past 20 years or more.

A feature that I’d never come across before on any other vehicle, car, or truck was that the doors opened to approximately 90 degrees, rather than the 80 or so degrees on other makes and previous Foton models.

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MP5/WMA/Radio with touch screen

While it might not sound a lot, the extra few degrees of opening-capacity does make a world of difference to entering and exiting the vehicle. Night-time use has also been catered for with the inclusion of light over both the driver and passenger-side steps.

It’d be dead easy to write this entire article around the in-cab features of this truck, such as the dual action telescopic and tilting steering column, the large touch screen multi-media Bluetooth system, and cruise control, operated from the steering wheel, not forgetting the Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), all of which come as standard equipment, but hey, I’ve kind-of promised I wouldn’t go on about it in that previous sentence.

Loading up

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The reversing camera made aligning truck and trailer cinch

The 10-or-so minute drive out to AgriLife’s offices was over all too quickly and it was time to back the truck up to the waiting trailer that was going to be carrying the 1.8-tonne Kubota.

While I would have liked to have been able to load the machine onto the back of the truck, the fact that we didn’t have any ramps put paid to that notion.

Had we have had suitable ramps available, transporting the excavator on the deck would’ve been achievable, as the test truck was fitted with certified tie-down points. Backing the truck up to the trailer was a cinch, courtesy of the reversing camera, allowing me to place the tow ball precisely in line with the trailer coupling.

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Loaded at AgriLife and ready to go

After loading the machine and carrying out the usual safety checks, DOW’s Justin Bennet and I were off to a new subdivision a few kilometres away to get some video footage (check it out on the Deals on Wheels website) and to check-out the Aumark S’ turning capabilities.

While we didn’t put the unit over a weighbridge, it’s probably fair to estimate that a 1.8-tonne excavator and the tandem trailer carrying it would weigh-in at around the three-tonne mark, however, the extra weight didn’t seem to make one iota of difference to the performance of the truck.

Heading down the end of the road in the new subdivision, I could see that sometime very soon I was going to have to turn the rig around in order to go back to where I’d just come from, and to do that I was probably going to have to make a three-point turn.

However, as it turned out, there were parking bays either side of the road, and to my surprise the truck made it around in a single sweep, albeit that I’d made a concerted effort to get the vehicle lined up as far to the left as humanly possible prior to making the turn.
After that effort, I just had to go back and have a second go at the manoeuvre, even if it was only to prove that I hadn’t imagined it.

The second run proved that the turn could made with a lot less effort than on the first occasion. Suffice to say that the 12.2-metre turning circle will allow you to get in and out of tight spots with considerable ease.

It was a pity that our test drive didn’t include any really steep hills in which to give the four-wheel disc brakes out on, as in addition to the discs on four wheels, the Aumark S has a full-air braking system, something until now has been the exclusive domain of larger trucks.

Not only does the full-air system gives the truck a great deal of stopping power, it also allows the manufacturer to do away with the traditional cardan shaft park brake mechanism and replace it with an air-operated spring brake that applies effort to the rear wheels, as opposed to the driveshaft.

One word of caution, though, to anyone driving a Foton Aumark S for the first time is that you will need to tread carefully on the footbrake for the first few stops, as they’re extremely efficient to say the least.

After dropping the Kubota digger back to the kind people at AgriLife, all that was left to do was to tune the radio to my favourite station and enjoy the short trip back to Foton HQ.

Verdict

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Still room for a load on the deck

When I finally parked the truck up in the yard having driven it around for several hours, I have to say that it not only lived up to but also exceeded my expectations, and set up as it was as a flat deck with drop sides (certified tie-hooks included) I could see it serving a multitude of uses.

With a ton of power, it’d also handle a curtainsider body easily, as it certainly has the agility to get around what appear to be ever-tightening sites for city deliveries. Also, longer-distance trips would be handled easily, courtesy of the 160-litre alloy fuel tank.

But where I reckon the Aumark S would really come into its own would be as a contractor’s or landscaper’s truck with a tipper body.

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While the truck could be fitted with an electric hoist, provision is also made on the left-hand side of the 6speed ZF gearbox to fit a PTO.

The full-air braking system makes this truck an ideal choice for anybody who needs to load and unload machines and who wants the assurance of knowing that their vehicle is pulled up hard and fast with an air-operated parking brake.

That feature alone makes a Foton Aumark S worth a first look – at the very least.
A big thank you to AgriLife for the loan of their Kubota KXD18-4 excavator and trailer.

Foton Aumark S specifications

Engine Cummins ISF 3.8L
Turbocharger Intercooled
Rated power  115kW @ 2600rpm
Rated torque 500Nm @ 1200–1900rpm
Emission standard Euro 5 
Emission control (SCR) AdBlue
Electrical system 24V
Gearbox ZF 1 Ecolite 6S500 manual transmission
Speeds 6
PTO provision LHS on gearbox
Turning circle 12.2m
Fuel capacity 160L alloy fuel tank 
Cab Forward control tilting 40 degrees
Exterior mirrors (5) Two with heated electric operation
Wide-opening doors Yes
Bluetooth Yes (hands-free)
Door impact beam Yes
MP5/WMA/Radio audio  Yes
Touch screen  Yes
Reversing camera  Yes
Reverse sensors and alarm  Yes 
Airbags No 

Pluses

  • Full-air braking system
  • Air-operated park brake
  • Wide-opening doors
  • Heated/electric rear-view mirrors
  • Excellent turning circle
  • Powerful Cummins ISF 3.8L engine
  • Multitude of in-cab features
  • Reversing camera

Minuses

  • No airbags fitted

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