Less is best for new T-Liner
It was perhaps appropriate DAF’s newest model should be coupled to Freighter’s T-Liner Mark II curtain-sided trailer.
After all, DAF says its 510hp CF85 is designed specifically for local and regional distribution duties where loading and unloading a traditional curtain-sided trailer is a regular, time-consuming part of the daily routine for drivers.
Fortunately, Freighter’s latest T-Liner is designed to save substantial time by using less than a third as many buckles while maintaining the same equivalent vertical tension on the curtain.
The T-Liner Mark II reduces the number of buckles over a traditional design from 22 to six, saving a significant amount of time at each and every drop while also limiting the risk of repetitive strain injuries.
“Less buckles results in less time spent opening and closing curtains,” Freighter general manager Mario Colosimo said at the time of the Mark II trailer’s release in the second half of last year.
“Operators can save up to 10 minutes per drop.
“Previously it hasn’t been possible to reduce the number of buckles on a curtain without loss of vertical tension which is vital to ensuring the curtains stay closed and don’t flap in the breeze.”
However, Freighter overcame these issues by applying its ‘curtain arc technology’, which uses a high-strength nylon rope running through a series of arcs at the bottom of the curtain to create vertical tension, and developing a new ‘high-force’ buckle mechanism with a unique strap fastening point on the tie-rail.
Making matters even smoother is the 16-speed version of ZF’s AS-Tronic automated transmission, installed as standard equipment (as it is in the top-shelf XF105) to enhance the operational flexibility of the 510hp CF85.
Opting for the overdrive 16-speeder instead of its 12-speed sibling was a wise move by DAF, particularly when you consider the 510hp CF’s gross combination mass rating of 70 tonnes and the inevitability of operating at B-double weights in the stop ‘n’ start snarl of metropolitan conditions.
Again, with operational flexibility in mind, the standard diff ratio in the Meritor drive tandem is 3.73:1. By comparison, the XF105 employs a faster 3.58:1 ratio for line-haul work.
What it all boils down to is an extremely responsive and highly intuitive combination across a diverse range of conditions. Compatibility between the MX engine and ZF transmission is exceptional, providing smooth and consistent performance through quick and entirely appropriate shifts, whether hauling through suburban traffic or running up and over the demanding high-country hills.
It’s also worth noting that, despite a modest gross weight of just 32.5 tonnes, the retardation performance of the optional MX engine brake
(an exhaust brake is the standard retarder) on several steep descents was both strong and surprisingly quiet. Likewise, an electronic braking system of discs on the front axle and drums on the drive – complete with anti-lock, anti-slip and hill-hold functions – provided the smooth, powerful braking expected of any modern combination.
Meantime, on the flat southbound dawdle back to Melbourne along the Hume Freeway, the DAF
strode to 100km/h at a flick over 1550rpm, and while some minds may figure this a tad high for efficient country cruising, it’s worth remembering DAF’s desire to provide a drivetrain with a high level of operational flexibility. All up, it’s a good compromise.
Besides, it’d be a hard marker who would consider the fuel return of 2.21km/litre (6.24mpg) at the end of the exercise to be anything other than respectable considering the wildly varying demands of terrain and traffic on a truck with just a few hundred kilometres under its belt.
Still on fuel, the test truck was fitted with twin rectangular tanks holding a combined capacity of 770 litres, along with a 45-litre AdBlue tank.
Not the sort of capacities you’d like for long-haul work but certainly adequate for most city and country runs.
Critical as they are, though, fuel and performance factors are far from the only considerations in the modern assessment of any truck and as expected, DAF’s CF85 typifies the high standards of comfort, convenience and road manners found in European cab-overs of most persuasions. It doesn’t take long to realise why the CF is DAF’s top seller.
The relatively low-slung cab is available in slimline and sleeper form, the latter with a standard or raised roofline, and in all cases offers the easy entry and exit qualities deemed a prerequisite by most fleets, particularly in the local and regional fleet work DAF intends to target.
Meanwhile, ride quality is first rate thanks to the combined qualities of a cab mounted on four coil springs, a front axle riding on long parabolic leaf springs and a back-end on Paccar’s popular Airglide eight-bag air suspension.
In fact, in any overall assessment of ride, road manners and general handling, including a great turning circle for manoeuvring in tight spots, the qualities of the CF85 on this exercise were exceptional and equal to any in the business. And I mean any!
Make no mistake, this is a nice truck to drive. On the inside, the driver sits on a high-quality seat in a cockpit-style layout where gauges and switchgear are generally well placed.
Though, like all trucks, familiarity takes a little time. At first glance, the trailer brake lever sticks out like a sore thumb, but its convenience for momentarily holding the truck at traffic lights and the like soon outweighs first impressions.
Of course, the relatively low stature of the cab also means there’s a substantial engine cowl, so getting in and out of the bunk is something of a managed movement. The bunk itself, however, is more than adequate for those occasions when you’re caught short of sleep or driving hours, or both.
There are plenty of other aspects about the
CF85 worth a mention, like excellent forward vision and good mirrors, and a level of standard and optional features comparable to most European cab-overs competing in the same class. According to DAF’s inner circle, there are also the benefits of sharp pricing, long service schedules, generous warranty and financial packages all designed to give the brand something it has long lacked: appeal!
The key for DAF now, as general manager Rob Griffin consistently states, is to get backsides into the driver’s seat of the 510hp CF85 to not only demonstrate the new model’s merits but, perhaps more importantly, to add muscle to the message that the DAF of yesterday is long gone.
The way he sees it, the truck will do the rest and, after putting this particular backside in the seat, it’s a message that comes through loud and clear.
Above: More muscle – with 510hp, the DAF CF85 will target metro and regional work in single trailer, truck ‘n’ dog or B-double configuration. Line-haul will be left to the flagship XF105 model