Heir to the throne

Ken­worth’s wide-cab T610 marks a dy­namic shift in con­ven­tional cab de­sign by the mar­ket leader

Deals on Wheels - - Contents -

In Fe­bru­ary 2017, a dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent Ken­worth con­ven­tional will start rolling down the Bayswa­ter pro­duc­tion line. It’s called the T610 and, in the 40 years and more since Pac­car first started build­ing Ken­worths at Bayswa­ter, there has been noth­ing like it.

Sure, the first T600s in the mid-80s rev­o­lu­tionised the world of con­ven­tional truck de­sign and changed the face, lit­er­ally and phys­i­cally, of Ken­worth for decades to come. But in the 30 years since then, the ac­tual struc­ture of Ken­worth con­ven­tion­als with their 1.83m-wide cab has changed very lit­tle. Un­til now!

In fact, when it comes to the time and money spent on lo­cal de­vel­op­ment of a sin­gle model for the Aus­tralian mar­ket, se­nior Ken­worth in­sid­ers say there is noth­ing in Ken­worth’s Aus­tralian his­tory to even re­motely match the in­vest­ment made in the T610 with a cab that is 2.1m wide and pro­vides ma­jor gains in op­er­a­tional ap­peal.

Word has it that by the time trucks start rolling out of the renowned Bayswa­ter fa­cil­ity, around $20 mil­lion will have been spent on a long-term project that ef­fec­tively grew from the con­cep­tual pos­si­bil­i­ties pro­vided by cur­rent Ken­worth and Peter­bilt mod­els in the US. The end re­sult is an en­tirely new con­ven­tional truck en­gi­neered and built to the spe­cific re­quire­ments of Aus­tralia and sur­round­ing re­gions.

Of course, most of us have heard Ken­worth’s home­grown spiel many times but, in the case of the T610, it ar­guably car­ries more clout now than ever be­fore.

Some per­spec­tive on the ex­tent of the in­vest­ment in the T610 and its crit­i­cal role in Ken­worth’s fu­ture is per­haps best gleaned from the as­ser­tion that the en­tire range of cur­rent 09 mod­els (T409, T609, T909 etc.) plus the rad­i­cally re­vamped K200 cab-over all came to life for less than half of what will be spent on bring­ing the T610 into ex­is­tence.

“This is the big­gest sin­gle in­vest­ment ever made in new Ken­worth prod­uct in this coun­try and out­side Aus­tralia there is noth­ing like this truck any­where in Pac­car,” says a pas­sion­ate and in­tensely proud Brad May, Pac­car Aus­tralia sales and mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor. “We are re­spon­si­ble for our own mar­ket and, now more than ever, that makes us largely in­de­pen­dent when it comes to right-hand drive engi­neer­ing.

“This is our truck,” he says with to­tal con­vic­tion. “We ba­si­cally took what we could from Pac­car’s global plat­form – but no one should be in any doubt, none what­so­ever, that the engi­neer­ing and de­sign of the fin­ished prod­uct are all ours, all done in Bayswa­ter.”

As May is quick to high­light, ma­jor cost items like the fire­wall and floor struc­tures, as well

This is the big­gest sin­gle in­vest­ment ever made in new Ken­worth prod­uct in this coun­try.

as a com­pletely new and strength­ened dash, are uniquely Aus­tralian – fully en­gi­neered at Bayswa­ter to achieve the struc­tural dura­bil­ity and de­sign goals deemed es­sen­tial for this mar­ket.

“They’re the things that re­ally cost a lot of money to en­gi­neer and pro­duce in right-hand drive,” he con­firms.

“Our par­ent com­pany ob­vi­ously had to ap­prove the in­vest­ment, and we cer­tainly utilised Pac­car’s fa­cil­i­ties in the US in the dura­bil­ity val­i­da­tion process, but the engi­neer­ing de­sign is to­tally ours. This is a truck en­gi­neered in Aus­tralia, for Aus­tralia. Ab­so­lutely.”


While ex­ter­nal styling is hugely dif­fer­ent, it re­mains res­o­lutely Ken­worth and comes with a num­ber of an­cil­lary fea­tures adapted from the in­ven­to­ries of both Ken­worth and Peter­bilt. Air in­takes on the sides of the hood, lights and mir­rors, for ex­am­ple.

Yet the T610 is un­ques­tion­ably an ex­er­cise in sub­stance over style and, when it’s all boiled down, it’s the cab that counts. A cab that is wider, taller and in sleeper form, vastly more spa­cious and live­able than the long-serv­ing cab of Ken­worth’s cur­rent con­ven­tional range.

In fact, un­like cur­rent T4 mod­els, sleeper ver­sions of the 610 pro­vide full stand­ing room from the seat to the sleeper. It’s easy to sug­gest that, in the eyes of own­ers and driv­ers alike, this fact alone will be a mas­sive as­set for Ken­worth.

Crit­i­cally, it’s also a cab pro­vid­ing a sig­nif­i­cantly shorter bumper to back-of-cab di­men­sion than any­thing else in Ken­worth’s con­ven­tional line-up – other than the baby of the bunch, the T3 se­ries.

We’ll get to the di­men­sional de­tails shortly.

For its ini­tial as­sault, Ken­worth’s new T610 will im­me­di­ately su­per­sede the hugely suc­cess­ful T409 and its SAR de­riv­a­tive, but only those pow­ered by the 15-litre Cum­mins ISXe5 en­gine. Or, as the en­gine will soon be known, the Cum­mins X15, which comes with ex­ist­ing hard­ware, a Euro 5 emis­sions sys­tem, and a more ad­vanced suite of elec­tronic fea­tures.

The 610’s first foray into the mar­ket will see it of­fered in set-back and set-for­ward (SAR) frontaxle con­fig­u­ra­tions, ini­tially as a day cab or with an 860mm (36-inch) sleeper. Of course, fur­ther sleeper op­tions will be pro­gres­sively added.

Mean­time, ‘409s punched by Pac­car’s own 13-litre MX en­gine will con­tinue with the cur­rent 1.83m cab and ex­ist­ing sleeper op­tions. How­ever, it’s more than a fair bet that within a year or so the wider cab will be ap­plied to MX-pow­ered

409s as well. In fact, it’s un­der­stood de­vel­op­ment

work on an MX-pow­ered ver­sion is al­ready well un­der way. Logic sug­gests it will be known as the T410.

As for other con­ven­tion­als in the Ken­worth range, the 610 rep­re­sents an en­tirely new prod­uct plat­form, and it’d be naïve to think the 2.1m cab won’t be ap­plied across the full range of con­ven­tional mod­els in due course.

Now on the spe­cific de­tails and el­e­ments that make the T610 so de­cid­edly dif­fer­ent from any­thing in the past or present port­fo­lios of Ken­worth, it’s per­haps best to go back eight years or so. Even while the im­pacts of the global fi­nan­cial cri­sis (GFC) were still raw, Pac­car Inc pro­ceeded with a US$400 mil­lion de­vel­op­ment pro­gram that, among other things, would ul­ti­mately lead to the US re­lease of Ken­worth’s T680 and Peter­bilt’s 579 mod­els. Later, th­ese would be joined by the T880 from Ken­worth and Pete’s 567.

De­spite their in­tense sib­ling ri­valry and fiercely held his­to­ries of go­ing their sep­a­rate ways in ev­ery­thing in­clud­ing truck de­sign, GFC con­straints dic­tated the new Ken­worth and Peter­bilt mod­els would be de­vel­oped with a cou­ple of core sim­i­lar­i­ties. The stand­out fac­tor for both was the shar­ing of a 2.1m-wide cab in place of the 1.83m-wide struc­ture which, in Ken­worth’s case, had been serv­ing the brand on both sides of the Pa­cific since the 1986 launch of the orig­i­nal T600 Anteater.

In­ter­est­ingly, Pac­car chose not to go with the 2.3m cab width of the much touted but sur­pris­ingly short-lived T2000, a model which had been also eval­u­ated in Aus­tralia. Pac­car’s ex­pe­ri­ence deemed 2.1 me­tres as the op­ti­mal width.

Any­way, with word sift­ing through cor­po­rate cor­ri­dors that a 2.1m-wide cab was un­der de­vel­op­ment for up­com­ing Ken­worth and Peter­bilt mod­els, Aus­tralia’s prod­uct plan­ning team heard the whis­pers and didn’t waste time touch­ing base with their US coun­ter­parts to in­ves­ti­gate the pos­si­bil­i­ties of a wider right-hand drive cab for the Aus­tralian mar­ket.

Con­se­quently, with op­por­tu­nity spurring evo­lu­tion and full sup­port from the US, Bayswa­ter en­gi­neers were soon enough dig­ging into the de­vel­op­men­tal de­tails of a wider con­ven­tional cab for our part of the world.

As Brad May re­marks, it was a long and highly de­tailed ex­er­cise, and, while a wider cab was seen as a ‘no-brainer’ for the next gen­er­a­tion of Ken­worth prod­uct, the idea of sim­ply tak­ing a US truck such as the T680 and con­vert­ing it to right-hand drive was never an op­tion. Apart from the in­her­ent need to de­velop a truck ca­pa­ble of en­dur­ing our op­er­a­tional and reg­u­la­tory re­quire­ments, some de­sign as­pects of the T680 sim­ply weren’t suit­able for Aus­tralia, par­tic­u­larly in ar­eas such as the ap­pear­ance of the dash. Or, as a suc­cinct Brad May put it: “Our de­mo­graphic is sim­ply dif­fer­ent to the US.”

On the home front, the T4 range was seen as an ob­vi­ous and ideal first can­di­date for the new cab. Evolv­ing from the T600 with an orig­i­nal de­sign goal as a short-haul dis­tri­bu­tion model with ex­tremely lim­ited op­tions, the T4 fam­ily has grown to be­come the most ver­sa­tile range in the Ken­worth ar­moury. Nowa­days, its ac­cep­tance as a heavy-duty hauler for a vast range of ap­pli­ca­tions is higher than ever, and cer­tainly light years be­yond its orig­i­nal goals.

Con­se­quently, it’s per­haps fit­ting that the 15-litre T409 should be first to morph into a new era as the T610 and, in the process, over­come the in­her­ent is­sues as­so­ci­ated with the in­stal­la­tion of a big bore en­gine into the rel­a­tively nar­row con­fines of the ex­ist­ing 1.83m cab. Chief among those is­sues are a nar­row driver’s footwell,

It’s per­haps fit­ting that the 15-litre T409 should be first to morph into a new era as the T610.

awk­ward ac­cess to the bunk due to lim­ited space, lack of stand­ing room be­tween the seats, com­plex steer­ing ge­om­e­try, and poor ser­vice ac­cess to the rear of en­gine – par­tic­u­larly the big red Cum­mins.

As a few hours be­hind the wheel of a pre­pro­duc­tion unit quickly ver­i­fied, the 2.1m cab of the T610 dra­mat­i­cally di­min­ishes all th­ese is­sues and, in the case of steer­ing ge­om­e­try, com­pletely negates con­cerns about com­plex­ity thanks to a straight shaft from the cab to the chas­sis­mounted steer­ing box. While on the sub­ject of steer­ing, I can cer­tainly con­firm that steer­ing qual­ity is com­fort­ably firm, im­pres­sively pre­cise and un­de­ni­ably im­proved. First im­pres­sions are en­tirely pos­i­tive.

As for the in­side, there’s a sub­stan­tial (30 per cent) in­crease in space around the driver’s footwell, the gap be­tween the seats has been sig­nif­i­cantly opened, and, with a rise in the height of the bunk, there’s now room for an op­tional slide-out fridge. In fact, it’s quite amaz­ing what Ken­worth has achieved with an ex­tra 270mm be­tween the B-pil­lars.

How­ever, it’s not just the bunk that has been raised. Floor height of the cab has been lifted by around 75mm. While it adds an­other step for the climb in and out, the ad­van­tages far out­weigh any neg­a­tives – per­ceived or other­wise.

Per­haps the great­est ben­e­fit of lift­ing the cab, how­ever, is that it has al­lowed the cab to be moved for­ward to cre­ate a bumper to back-of­cab (BBC) di­men­sion of just 112 inches on the day cab model, giv­ing the new­comer par­tic­u­larly strong ap­peal for any num­ber of length-crit­i­cal ap­pli­ca­tions. By com­par­i­son, the cur­rent T409 has a BBC of 116 inches, while its T609 big brother is 126 inches.

As for the fu­ture of the T609, par­tic­u­larly given its sim­i­lar­i­ties to the T610 in terms of be­ing an aero­dy­namic 600hp truck with a set-back front axle, an adamant Brad May says there are no plans to with­draw the 609 from Ken­worth’s con­ven­tional crop.

“There’s noth­ing to be gained by drop­ping the T609,” he says.


Im­por­tantly, the higher stance of the cab al­lows greater air­flow un­der­neath to en­hance cool­ing ef­fi­ciency, and con­sid­er­ably im­proves ser­vice ac­cess to the rear of the en­gine.

Fur­ther­more, the taller cab also im­proves vis­i­bil­ity, though some driv­ers may rue the fact

that the top of the KW ‘bug’ is no longer vis­i­ble and there­fore un­avail­able as a line of sight to the edge of the road. While I’m re­li­ably in­formed the bug re­mains vis­i­ble over the snout of the SAR ver­sion, there are sure to be some op­er­a­tors who will ques­tion the cost-ef­fec­tive­ness of a sin­gle-piece wind­screen over the two-piece screen avail­able on cur­rent T4s. For now, though, Ken­worth will be stick­ing with the sin­gle screen.

How­ever, it’s highly un­likely any­one will ques­tion the mir­rors. Adapted from US mod­els, they’re mounted on low-slung dual arms and, un­like some com­peti­tors’ mir­ror ar­range­ments th­ese days, of­fer lit­tle visual in­ter­fer­ence on the ap­proach to round­abouts and the like.

They’re also in­cred­i­bly strong, as one ex­u­ber­ant Ken­worth ex­ec­u­tive demon­strated by swing­ing his full weight from the mount­ing arm.

Back on cool­ing ef­fi­ciency, the T610 uses an alu­minium ra­di­a­tor. With a frontal area of 1670 square inches (the T409 uses a 1600-squareinch ra­di­a­tor) work­ing with the greater heat dis­si­pa­tion of alu­minium over more tra­di­tional cop­per and brass com­bi­na­tions, an adamant

Brad May says the new model has no dif­fi­culty cool­ing 600hp at high loads and high am­bi­ent tem­per­a­tures.

“None at all,” he in­sists. “The cool­ing per­for­mance of this truck is in­cred­i­bly good. Cool­ing the en­gine isn’t a prob­lem.”

As for dura­bil­ity of the alu­minium cooler,

May says there have been no is­sues with the alu­minium ra­di­a­tor used in MX-pow­ered 409s. Given the amount of test­ing done on the T610, Ken­worth is en­tirely con­fi­dent there won’t be any dra­mas with the new in­stal­la­tion.

Fur­ther­more, Ken­worth is adamant that de­spite the big­ger cab, there has been no in­crease in tare weight, in large part due to the use of alu­minium wher­ever pos­si­ble – not least in the ra­di­a­tor and the ma­jor­ity of the cab shell. It’s worth men­tion­ing, how­ever, that the roof of sleeper cab mod­els is made of a strong yet light­weight com­pos­ite ma­te­rial.

“Keep­ing tare weight down was one of our prime goals,” May says.

So, too, were qual­ity and strength, with ex­ten­sive engi­neer­ing and test pro­ce­dures put in place from the out­set. One of those pro­ce­dures was to ‘wire’ a T650 op­er­at­ing in road train roles with Queens­land-based live­stock spe­cial­ist Ross Fraser to elec­tron­i­cally record a ‘drive file’ of real-world and of­ten se­vere road con­di­tions for test­ing and engi­neer­ing val­i­da­tion.

This data plat­form was the crit­i­cal fac­tor in creat­ing what May says is “the strong­est cab we’ve ever built”, with test cabs en­dur­ing three times the nor­mal cy­cle of shaker tests. The tests were, in fact, pro­grammed to dis­pense up to 30 per cent greater in­ten­sity than the road con­di­tions recorded by the Fraser file.

“The tests were de­signed to kill the truck, ei­ther on the shaker or at Pac­car’s tech­ni­cal cen­tre, to find the break­ing point in a sim­u­la­tion of 10 mil­lion kilo­me­tres on Aus­tralian roads,” an en­thu­si­as­tic May ex­plains. “No Ken­worth cab has un­der­gone greater dura­bil­ity as­sess­ment than the T610, and the whole struc­ture stood up to ev­ery­thing put to it.

“We could not be more sat­is­fied with the re­sults.”

Mean­while, back in Bayswa­ter, the cab was sub­jected to ECE R-29 crash stan­dards, and again came through with fly­ing colours ac­cord­ing to May. How­ever, when asked why a driver’s side airbag was not in­cluded in the op­tions list for the new cab – a move that would’ve made Ken­worth the only heavy-duty con­ven­tional truck on the mar­ket to of­fer a driver’s airbag – he said ex­pense and lack of mar­ket de­mand were the con­cern­ing fac­tors.

There were, how­ever, no such con­cerns when it came to in­ter­nal cab de­sign, and it ap­pears Ken­worth de­sign en­gi­neers were in­tent on mak­ing the most of start­ing with a clean sheet of pa­per. For ex­am­ple, be­tween the fire­wall and an in­jec­tion-moulded dash fas­cia said to be dou­ble the thick­ness of US de­signs, a to­tally new

The cool­ing per­for­mance of this truck is in­cred­i­bly good. Cool­ing the en­gine isn’t a prob­lem.

heat­ing, ven­ti­la­tion and air-con­di­tion­ing sys­tem was cre­ated for Aus­tralian con­di­tions.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the struc­tural in­tegrity of the dash and its un­der­ly­ing com­po­nents are founded on what Ken­worth de­scribes as a pur­posely de­signed cross-car steel beam stretch­ing across the width of the dash.

“A huge amount of time, ef­fort and ob­vi­ously money went into the dash and all the com­po­nents at­tached to it. It was a com­plex ex­er­cise but we knew it had to be ab­so­lutely right,” May re­marks.

Vis­ually the dash is de­cid­edly dif­fer­ent but, in typ­i­cal Ken­worth fash­ion, strong on func­tion and form. The ini­tial de­sign sees a wood­grain fas­cia sur­round­ing tra­di­tional gauges, with an op­tional multi-func­tion touch­screen in the pipe­line. Lower down, and within rel­a­tively easy reach, is a line of switches to a wide range of func­tions such as en­gine brake, diff lock and the like.

Mean­while, switches for cruise con­trol, au­dio, and menu func­tions for an LCD info dis­play di­rectly in front of the driver are mounted on the arms of a com­fort­ably padded steer­ing wheel.

Prac­ti­cal­ity, how­ever, was clearly high on the agenda. Most prom­i­nent gauges are ob­vi­ously the speedo and rev counter un­der the LCD screen, while on each side are well-po­si­tioned gauges for fuel and AdBlue, front- and rear-brake air pres­sure, coolant tem­per­a­ture, and en­gine oil pres­sure. In to­tal, up to 18 gauges can be spec­i­fied in the T610.

Yet ar­guably the great­est con­ces­sions to prac­ti­cal­ity, and cer­tainly buck­ing the trend in mod­ern au­to­mo­tive de­sign, are ex­posed fas­ten­ers hold­ing the dash in place.

“The trend in au­to­mo­tive styling th­ese days is to hide screws and fas­ten­ers,” May ex­plains. “But if some­thing needs at­ten­tion be­hind the dash, ac­cess is made a lot eas­ier and there’s much less chance of dam­age by sim­ply un­do­ing a few eas­ily reached screws to get be­hind the dash fas­cia.” Makes sense!

Still on the in­side, it’s worth men­tion­ing that cup holder trays on the lower edge of the dash cen­tre dif­fer be­tween au­to­mated and man­ual trans­mis­sions. With a man­ual stick, the cup holder is neat and un­ob­tru­sive, but au­to­mated ver­sions have the ‘co­bra’ shift con­troller mounted on a much larger as­sem­bly which ex­tends no­tably into cab space. Put sim­ply, the co­bra shifter is in­tru­sive and out­dated in an en­tirely new cab lay­out where the de­sign em­pha­sis re­volves around space, func­tion and form.

Mean­time, while Ken­worth has been typ­i­cally tight-lipped about its new cre­ation, the past six months have re­vealed the first in­di­ca­tions of a new gen­er­a­tion of Ken­worth con­ven­tion­als.

It was mid-June this year, for ex­am­ple, that the first T610 field eval­u­a­tion unit went to work with high-pro­file fleet McColl’s. Over fol­low­ing months, an­other four units – day cab and sleeper ver­sions – hit the high­ways. By the time pro­duc­tion trucks start rolling out of Bayswa­ter, at least 11 pre­pro­duc­tion T610s will be in­volved in on­go­ing field tri­als.

Trial re­sults have been ex­traor­di­nar­ily pos­i­tive says May, adding that the years of care­ful plan­ning, lo­cal engi­neer­ing and de­sign ex­pe­ri­ence, and bru­tal test pro­ce­dures have driven high lev­els of con­fi­dence that Ken­worth’s lat­est will also be its great­est.

“The T610 is home­grown and we are al­ready in­cred­i­bly proud of what we’ve achieved with this truck,” he says earnestly. “Yes, we’re ex­tremely con­fi­dent, but I think we have good rea­son to be.

“After all, the T610 is the lat­est evo­lu­tion of what we’ve been do­ing in this coun­try for 40 years. Build­ing trucks for Aus­tralia.”

Above: Proud and pas­sion­ate. Pac­car Aus­tralia sales and mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor Brad May.

Ac­cess to the 15-litre Cum­mins is sig­nif­i­cantly bet­ter, but per­haps the big­gest gain un­der the hood is a straight shaft to the steer­ing box. Ken­worth has also gone to an alu­minium ra­di­a­tor for the big red en­gine.

Above: The lines are fresh, clean, and stylish. But, as Ken­worth is quick to em­pha­sise, the T610 is def­i­nitely a case of sub­stance over style.

Schematic de­tail of the en­tirely new dash lay­out.

Above left: Floor height is one step taller than the T409, but the ben­e­fits are great, par­tic­u­larly in al­low­ing the cab to be pushed for­ward for a short bumper to back-of-cab di­men­sion of just 112 inches. Above right: On the in­side. The 2.1m-wide cab pro­vides a huge im­prove­ment in in­ter­nal space, along with full stand­ing room in sleeper ver­sions.

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