X-factor: Kenworth’s T610 and the Cummins X-15
The launch of Kenworth’s new T610 was the biggest product news of 2016 but under the hood, Cummins had news of its own with a revamped 15-litre engine labelled the X15. Yet behind the scenes there remains plenty of quiet discussion about the prospect of a
It’s now history, but when Kenworth lost Cat and Detroit engines from its power portfolio, there was no shortage of sceptics predicting the truck maker’s tumble from the top of the heavy-duty ladder.
Looking back, the scepticism was not unjustified. After all, Kenworth had, for many years, made good mileage of its ability to keep the customer satisfied with a custom-built truck offering the choice of three hugely successful engine brands – Cat, Cummins and Detroit – each with its own legions of loyal supporters.
What’s more, there was no shortage of fierce competition between the three engine makers, with the contest between Cat and Cummins particularly blatant and brutal. Here were two engine makers that seemingly loved to loathe each other, fostering similarly potent passions among a customer base populated by incredibly loyal proponents of each brand.
Kenworth, understandably, thrived on the constant rivalry that not only drove all three engine makers to remain sharp in performance and service, but likewise kept pencils sharp when it came to tight commercial contests.
Of course, all that changed dramatically when Cat threw the towel in with its much maligned decision to desert the on-highway truck engine business.
This hit hard at Kenworth’s customer base and there are numerous instances where men with yellow blood coursing through their veins simply would not buy a new Kenworth or any other brand powered by anything other than a Cat engine.
Strangely and illogically, some customers even accused Kenworth of contributing to Cat’s departure when, in fact, it was Caterpillar’s decision alone to callously abandon its tribes of defiantly loyal customers. Indeed, the last thing Kenworth and its Paccar parent wanted to see was Cat’s exit from the business and a diminution of the battle between the engine brands.
On the other hand, Detroit’s departure from
The Euro 5 X15 uses the same hardware and SCR emissions technology as the existing ISXe5.
Kenworth’s books wasn’t quite so brazen, driven more by corporate competitiveness than abject abandonment.
The thing is, Detroit Diesel had been acquired by Freightliner parent Daimler and, in the US especially, Freightliner was becoming an increasingly invasive competitor to Paccar’s Kenworth and Peterbilt brands.
So whether it was Daimler deciding to no longer sell engines to Paccar, or Paccar refusing to buy any more Detroit engines, remains a moot point. The truth is probably a bit of both.
For Paccar Australia, the numbers of Series 60 engines sliding into Kenworth chassis had been declining for some time anyway – exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) was delivering a slow and agonising death to the once great Series 60 – so the impact of Detroit’s departure wasn’t nearly as destructive as Cat’s capitulation.
Nonetheless, Kenworth, for the first time in its history of building trucks in Australia, found itself with just one engine brand. Cummins!
X MARKS THE SPOT
In time, of course, Kenworth would add the DAFderived Paccar MX 13-litre engine to the hugely popular T4 family, offered alongside the 15-litre ISX Cummins.
Yet long before the arrival of the MX, Cummins was the only engine available in a Kenworth, and it’s worth pointing out again that plenty of people were willing to predict Kenworth’s slide from the top of the heavy-duty sales tree following the departures of Cat and Detroit.
Kenworth has, however, remained firmly ensconced at the head of the pack and, among a myriad of reasons for the ongoing ascendancy, is the fact that Cummins is an engine brand with its own army of staunch advocates and a second-tonone reputation for service and support.
As a senior Kenworth insider confidently and quietly implied some years back, “If Kenworth had to have just one engine brand, Cummins was certainly the one to have.”
Still, that reputation and confidence has been sorely tested over the past decade. Indeed, you’d have to be living under a tent in Timbuktu to be ignorant of the issues that have plagued Cummins with its 15-litre ISX EGR engine.
Obviously Kenworth wasn’t too impressed either, knowing full well that the ongoing and seemingly ingrained failure of major components such as turbochargers and EGR coolers were a surefire way to send customers – even loyal customers – shopping elsewhere.
It’s again a moot point, but whether it was Kenworth pushing Cummins hard for an alternative to the EGR engine (which is still available in Kenworth) or the early success of trials of the ISXe5 SCR engine, there’s no question the e5 was catapulted into the market and has subsequently become an outstanding success and huge relief for Kenworth and Cummins alike. In effect, further cementing an association that has experienced its fair share of frustrations but has also delivered rich rewards for both brands.
It was, therefore, perhaps inevitable that Cummins would not only be the power behind the bug in Kenworth’s introduction of its totally new T610 model, but that the new truck would also be the launch pad for a revised rendition of the 15-litre engine called the X15.
Described as an evolutionary development of the ISXe5 which Cummins insists is the biggestselling engine in the Australian heavy-duty truck market, the X15 comes with a number of attributes that most certainly include the slick marketing appeal of a sharp new moniker. X15 just looks and sounds better than ISXe5.
Beyond all else, though, Cummins has been quick to emphasise the Euro 5 X15 uses the same hardware and SCR emissions technology as the existing ISXe5 and, according to a statement by Cummins South Pacific managing director Andrew Penca, “… incorporates all the product improvements since the ISXe5 release in 2012 including power cylinder, cylinder head and turbocharger upgrades.”
The newly named X12 has no chassis to call home … at least, not yet.
Cummins insiders also report the X15 will have no problem meeting the proposed Euro 6 emissions regime with much the same components as the current engine.
Pushing the point further, emissions technology is no longer the driving force of product development, says Cummins South Pacific director of on-highway business Mike Fowler, who cites customer needs and application requirements as the dominant principles now guiding engine development.
With more than 6000 ISXe5 engines put to work in Australia and New Zealand since 2013, the X15 simply builds on that success and, as Fowler puts it, “… is a sign of what is to come from Cummins in terms of significant efficiency gains for our customers.”
Yet with the X15 utilising the same hardware and offering the same ratings as the ISXe5, from 450 to 600hp (336 to 447kW) and peak torque from 1650 to 2050lb-ft (2237 to 2779Nm), what makes it different to the e5 other than a slick new badge?
The answer is found in yet another confusing, contrived corporate anagram, in this instance called ADEPT, which translates to Advanced Dynamic Efficient Powertrain Technology.
Basically, ADEPT is a suite of electronic features designed specifically to work in cahoots with Eaton’s UltraShift Plus automated 18-speed transmission, utilising load, speed and gradesensing technology to more precisely tailor power, torque and gear selection for better fuel efficiency.
In its first foray onto the Australian market,
ADEPT also includes systems known as SmartCoast and SmartTorque.
As Cummins explains: “SmartCoast operates when the vehicle is on a moderate downhill grade by disengaging the front box of the transmission and returning the engine to idle to reduce drag, maintain momentum, and ultimately improve fuel economy. Once the engine commands the transmission to be put back in gear, the appropriate gear is engaged.”
Meanwhile, “SmartTorque uses torque management intelligence to help eliminate unnecessary downshifts and keep the engine operating in the most fuel efficient ‘sweet spot’. Torque is varied across all gears depending on torque requirement.
“Further features such as predictive cruise control will be added to ADEPT in the future,” Cummins adds.
Again, though, ADEPT features are only applicable to trucks fitted with Eaton’s UltraShift Plus automated box.
But wait, there’s more. The X15 also comes with Connected Diagnostics, defined by Cummins as a “telematics system [which] automatically processes fault code data, sending instant notifications detailing probable root cause and providing recommended actions.
“The expert advice, delivered by email, app or web portal, enables the fleet manager to make an informed decision about continuing truck operation and when to schedule a service visit for the most convenient time, thus maximising uptime.
“Additional connected solutions to be added in the near future include Over-the-Air (OTA) engine
Above: Kenworth’s dynamic new T610 with a Cummins X15 under the hood
Far left: Cummins X15 attached to Eaton’s UltraShift Plus automated transmission. X15 updates include new software tailored specifically to the automated shifter
Cummins X12. Still looking for a home but there’s no doubt the engine has Kenworth’s attention