Check out the new DAF CF85

Deals on Wheels - - Contents -

It has surely taken a while, but DAF fi­nally ap­pears to have done ev­ery­thing right in de­vel­op­ment of a model specif­i­cally for the Aus­tralian mar­ket.

And that truck is the ver­sa­tile CF85 with the top 510hp ver­sion of Pac­car’s MX-13 en­gine.

More than any of its past or present sib­lings, this truck has the dis­tinct and over­due po­ten­tial to lift DAF out of the depths of the heavy-duty class and, in the process, pro­vide the brand with the lev­els of mar­ket ac­cep­tance long sought but rarely re­alised.

Not for a mo­ment is that meant to sug­gest DAF will be any­time soon steal­ing Volvo’s crown as the lead­ing con­ti­nen­tal cab-over in this coun­try. Ab­so­lutely not! As things stand at the mo­ment, the thought is far­ci­cal.

What it does dare to sug­gest, how­ever, is that DAF now has a spear­head model with the at­tributes to kick-start a new era for a brand that has strug­gled for con­sid­er­a­tion as a con­tender, let alone a se­ri­ous com­peti­tor.

True, there’s noth­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary in tak­ing an ex­ist­ing model such as the CF85 and slip­ping a higher-pow­ered ver­sion of a cur­rent en­gine un­der the cab.

Nor is there any­thing earth shat­ter­ing about giv­ing it a trans­mis­sion with more speeds. Like­wise, there’s noth­ing es­pe­cially no­table about test­ing a new com­bi­na­tion un­der Aus­tralian oper­a­tions to make sure it can cope with the va­garies of this coun­try’s con­di­tions.

Stan­dard prac­tice, you’d reckon!

Well, maybe in some minds, but, un­til now, such stan­dards haven’t been par­tic­u­larly promi­nent in the his­tory of DAF trucks in this coun­try.

In fact, DAF’s early days un­der Dutch rule were rid­dled with ex­am­ples of ill-con­ceived and poorly ex­e­cuted at­tempts to crack the Aus­tralian mar­ket.

Still, things have at least im­proved on the cor­po­rate front. Since Ken­worth and Peter­bilt par­ent Pac­car took con­trol of the trou­bled truck and en­gine maker in 1996, DAF has evolved to be­come one of Europe’s most suc­cess­ful brands.

Vi­tally, DAF has also been the de­sign and tech­nol­ogy plat­form for Pac­car’s hugely suc­cess­ful push with the MX en­gine range into North Amer­ica. As we’ve pre­vi­ously re­ported, at the end of last year there were more than 135,000 MX en­gines pow­er­ing Ken­worth and Peter­bilt mod­els across the length and breadth of North Amer­ica.


Ob­vi­ously enough, it’s a dif­fer­ent story in our neck of the woods, where DAF has strug­gled to even par­tially em­u­late its Euro­pean ex­pe­ri­ence.

De­spite re­peated as­sur­ances from Pac­car’s lo­cal lead­ers that the con­ti­nen­tal cab-over is on the cusp of a brighter fu­ture, the brand has hung tena­ciously to the lower lev­els of the heavy-duty sales charts.

That said, though, mar­ket stats are now in­di­cat­ing the first hints of a turn­ing tide and, crit­i­cally, a smarter mind­set high­lighted by a 510hp CF85 model con­fig­ured to spe­cific mar­ket seg­ments rather than try­ing to be all things to all peo­ple. And those seg­ments are the metro and re­gional ap­pli­ca­tions where the cur­rent 460hp ver­sion of the MX-13 en­gine al­ready does a re­spectable job but lacks the fire­power to se­ri­ously chal­lenge for a reg­u­lar spot in the bur­geon­ing short-haul and re­gional B-dou­ble busi­ness. Or, for that mat­ter, those sin­gle-trailer and truck-and-dog du­ties where 500-plus is in­creas­ingly pre­ferred.

As DAF Trucks Aus­tralia gen­eral man­ager Rob Grif­fin said re­cently: “The CF85 at its 460hp rat­ing is DAF’s best seller but the in­dus­try has a psy­che around 500hp and that’s where the 510 rat­ing un­der the CF cab opens up new mar­ket seg­ments to DAF.”

A re­al­ist in every sense, Rob Grif­fin is in­tently con­fi­dent the 510 rat­ing will carve new busi­ness for DAF, but he’s equally in­tent it won’t be at any cost. Grif­fin, like many oth­ers, has long be­lieved the ma­jor­ity of the Dutch truck’s dilem­mas – and its sub­se­quent rep­u­ta­tion – were spawned by a ‘one truck fits all’ men­tal­ity which saw var­i­ous ver­sions sold into ap­pli­ca­tions that were sim­ply too oner­ous for the avail­able spec­i­fi­ca­tion.

That’s why, he in­sists, the flag­ship XF105 will con­tinue to be DAF’s line-haul spe­cial­ist while the up­rated CF85, with its com­fort­able yet con­sid­er­ably lower cab, will es­sen­tially tar­get metro and re­gional work, even though both mod­els now share the 510hp rat­ing.

Still, an adamant Rob Grif­fin knows it won’t be easy. He takes noth­ing for granted and gives no sug­ges­tion of reach­ing for the un­reach­able. It is, af­ter all, a mar­ket seg­ment packed with high­qual­ity con­ti­nen­tal con­tenders from the likes of Volvo, Sca­nia and a re­newed Mer­cedes-Benz.

Nonethe­less, if DAF were to fin­ish this year with 5 per cent or more of the heavy-duty sec­tor, it would be a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment and Grif­fin ad­mits he’d be sat­is­fied. For now!

Much de­pends, he con­cedes, on the suc­cess of the 510hp CF85 but so, too, does plenty de­pend on get­ting peo­ple be­hind the wheel to re­place aged per­cep­tions with mod­ern re­al­ity. And it’s that re­al­ity we found re­cently in a test run of the 510hp CF85 over the hills and high­ways of re­gional Vic­to­ria.

Make no mis­take – this is a nice truck to drive.

2006 DAF CF85. Good re­pairer or wreck for parts • VIC 0427 488 173

2004 DAF FAT CF85. Com­plete with al­loy tip­ping body • QLD 07 3073 8031

Above: Class act – ride qual­ity, road man­ners and gen­eral han­dling of the CF85 on a de­mand­ing and di­verse test route were first rate

2004 DAF CF85. 6x4 P/M plus 45ft Freighter D/D taut with mezz floors • QLD 0414 871 790

2017 DAF CF85 FTT. Brand new 6x4 prime mover cab/chas­sis, 35 kms • VIC 03 9998 4886

2002 DAF CF85. 430hp, al­loys, 16 spd syn­chro g/box. 50,000 GCM • NSW 0411 061 696

Above – In­side views: for lo­cal and re­gional work, the CF85 pro­vides a com­fort­able and prac­ti­cal lay­out. A re­ally nice truck to drive

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