The Freightliner Columbia is a medium duty truck designed for short or regional transportation. The vehicle has a highly versatile character and can cope with various medium duty jobs. At the moment the truck is sold in South Africa, New Zeeland and Australia.
Designed to for construction or short haul applications, the Freightliner Columbia offers a light tare weight and ideal axle positioning, being available in 6x4, 8x4 and 10x4 configurations for construction work, and 4x2 or 6x4 for distribution jobs. Furthermore there is also the option of a Day Cab or a 34” Mid-Roof Sleeper.
Under the hood, the Freightliner Columbia is equipped with a Cummins ISLe5 engine which delivers a maximum output of up to 400 hp and 1,254 lb-ft of torque. Thanks to its powerful engine and the solid chassis the Freightliner Columbia can be rated to 40,000 kg Gross Combination Mass.
The truck’s style doesn’t look as aggressive as other models from the market, but we can’t say that it’s an ugly duckling either.
As most models in Freightliner ’s lineup the Columbia comes with a conventional cab configuration which sets the base for an aerodynamic design. When designing the Columbia, the company’s engineers have paid maximum attention to aerodynamics; hence the truck received a pretty slippery shape with clean surfaces and curved lines.
The Columbia features a lightweight aluminium cab, which besides the fact that maximizes payload it’s also more durable than the conventional steel cabs, as it can’t be attacked by rust.
The front grille features the common Freightliner design with a shiny treatment and horizontal thin strips. The main headlights have a vague petal shape but they fail to gel well with the rest of the body and they look a bit out of place.
The wraparound bumper is as rugged as it can be and features a solid construction being ready to go head to head with harsh working conditions. It’s also made of free pieces which makes it easy and cheap to replace.
To improve the front road visibility, the Freightliner Columbia’s hood is slightly raked, while the windscreen is also fairly big offering a wide angle of visibility.
You can climb inside without too many problems as the vehicle seats pretty low from the ground and the footsteps and handles are ergonomically placed.
Once inside, you’re welcomed by a fairly spacious cab and the common curved dashboard that can be found at most of today’s trucks. But while we like the overall ergonomy and the driver friendly interior, we can’t say that we’re big fans of the cheap materials and the poor fittings. Moreover, the doors jams do not seem tight and the overall refinement isn’t exactly first class.
Fortunately all controls are placed within easy reach, but we find the dash a bit cluttered and misleading.
We’ll have to admit that we love the captain seats which are available in various versions including the Freightliner EzyRider and other quality brands. Every option offers proper back support and you’ll feel fresh even after a full day of work. Besides the comfortable seats, the steering wheel is also pretty ergonomic and it’s available with optional foot-operated tilt and telescoping adjustments. On the other hand, we’re not impressed by its two spoke design and neither by the optional cheap looking decorative wood trim.
One of our favorite items found inside is the clear instrument cluster which is laid out in an intuitive manner and features big analog gauges with LED lights for easy readability.
Thanks to the high seats you have a commanding driving position and you won’t complain about road visibility either, as it’s nothing short of excellent. There are plenty of storage places around the cabin and our favorite one is the convenient overhead console which is fairly practical to use and also pretty spacious.
Engines and performance
The Freightliner Columbia is equipped with a Cummins ISLe5 8.9 liter Euro II engine which develops between 320 hp – 400 hp with maximum torques of 996 lb-ft – 1254 lb-ft. All engines can be teamed with either an Eaton manual or Allison automatic transmission. A giant 1300 square inch radiator ensures close fan to shroud clearance for maximum cooling efficiency.
Besides the strong engines, the Freightliner Columbia comes with a capable compression brake with up to 250bhp and the rear engine Power Take Off, (PTO) for maximum functionality.
The tried and tested Cummins engines are perfectly qualified for the task of dealing with the arduous missions of the Freightliner Columbia. Regardless of what version you’ll chose, throttle response is adequate and there is a huge slug of torque available from very low down in the rev range.
Freightliner Columbia Engines Specifications
|Engine||Power - Hp||Torque - lb-ft|
|320 hp||996 lb-ft|
|340 hp||1,106 lb-ft|
|360 hp||1,180 lb-ft|
|380 hp | 1,254 lb-ft|
|400 hp | 1,254 lb-ft|
Ride and handling
The truck is fitted with standard parabolic taper leaf springs, but there is also an air suspension available for the rear axle. This suspension configuration offers a pretty harsh ride as the truck finds it hard to keep the biggest road bumps outside the cab.
On the other hand we like that despite the tall stance, body roll is perfectly kept in check and the truck’s overall road manners are pretty good.
The steering is well weighted and offers an adequate feedback at both low and high speeds.
The Freightliner Columbia is a fairly practical workhorse which is able to make a compelling case for itself. It’s available in a wide range of models with different chassis and cabin configurations and its lineup of engines is also pretty wide.
The Cummins units are fairly strong but they aren’t the most efficient units in this class. The cabin however has anything it needs to offer a proper comfort and we also like its aluminium construction which make it more durable.
The ride and handling are average being at par with what you’ll usually find in this segment.