UD gets the blues
Our Aussie hills are too big a challenge, writes GRAHAMSMITH
HAD our strine-talking Prime Minister been driving UD’s new PK10 automatic over the Blue Mountains, he may well have been heard to declare he’d got the rough end of the pineapple.
It would have been a fair comment when the updated Japanese medium-duty model almost ground to a halt on the steep climbs along the Great Western Highway.
He would have had to watch fully loaded B-Doubles and tippers with dog trailers weighed down with crushed rock fairly power past the UD.
UD’s new truck equipped with an Allison automatic transmission was clearly struggling — it would be more at home in the city as a suburban distribution vehicle.
It would have struggled even more had the truck been loaded to its maximum.
UD presented it as a 6x2 with a lazy axle, which made it capable of being loaded up to 22.5 tonnes.
But it was loaded only to the 16 tonnes of a regular 4x2.
Why UD decided to include the Allison-equipped PK10 in the drive program, which was to demonstrate its new range of autos, is a mystery.
A 239kW engine is due in 2011, but for now PK10 buyers have to be satisfied with a 7.7-litre common rail turbodiesel that peaks at 194kW at 2500 revs and 794Nm at 1500 revs.
UD released the PK10 last year with a UD six-speed manual gearbox or an Eaton nine-speed.
Since then the company has moved to meet the demand for self-shifting transmissions and has fitted its MK and PK mediumduty trucks with Allison automatics: the MK with a five-speed 2500 Series transmission and the PK with a six-speed 3000 Series.
The latter was installed in the PK10 in the Blue Mountains.
Operating the Allison is simple. It’s a push-button shift control mounted alongside the driver, not unlike the auto shifts in old Valiants in the 1960s.
Press D for Drive or R for Reverse and you’re off in whichever direction you’ve chosen.
Choose D and you can leave it there and let it do its own thing, and that’s the way you would have it for most of the time when driving in town.
On a road such as the Great Western Highway, with its climbs and descents, the manual-shifting function comes into play much more often.
Extra buttons are used to shift up or down and there was plenty of that.
To maintain speed up hills, it was necessary to change down before the climb and keep changing down as the truck slowed.
With the need to shift up or down almost constantly, the shortcomings of the push-button shift became clear.
On the flat, changes were smooth, but on hilly roads where the driver was often changing gears manually, it was clunky and didn’t give the driver any feeling of control.
The five-speed auto in the MK6 uses a T-bar-type shifter and a similar set-up would improve the operation of the auto in the PK.
Had the PM called a poll on the transmission issue that day in the Blue Mountains, the manual transmission would have been a winner.
Don’t head for the hills:
the auto-equipped UD PK10 found the going tough in a Blue Mountains test.