Check out the new DAF CF85
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