ON TRACK

Owner Driver - - Owner/Driver -

In a truck with min­i­mal mileage un­der its belt, the shift move­ment was a tad tight but, other than that, it was as slick and quick as you’d ex­pect in a con­ven­tional truck where the stick ba­si­cally comes straight up from the top of the box. The throws be­tween gears may be a lit­tle longer than ex­pected, but there’s no reach­ing for gears and the lever falls eas­ily to hand. Vi­tally, it pro­vides lit­tle im­ped­i­ment in swing­ing out of the seat to stand up or climb into the bunk.

As for the au­to­mated mod­els, well, there’s not much to say that hasn’t al­ready been said. Times are changing, au­to­mated shifters are in­creas­ingly on the up­take for a wide range of roles, and the ease and intuition of Ea­ton’s Ul­tra shift-Plus 18-speeder in both fully loaded and empty com­bi­na­tions on the twist­ing Mt Cot­ton cir­cuit sim­ply typ­i­fied why times are changing. Sure, there were oc­ca­sions on a cou­ple of pinches when a shift to man­ual mode was made just to see how deep the Cum­mins X15 would dig, but there’s no doubt an au­to­mated box is hard to beat if you’re battling in the ‘burbs.

Speak­ing of the ’burbs, it’s not stretch­ing the imag­i­na­tion too far to sug­gest day cab ver­sions of the T610 will pro­vide Ken­worth with greater ap­peal for heavy-duty lo­cal and re­gional roles such as short-haul B-dou­bles and PBS truck and dog com­bi­na­tions. A con­ven­tional de­sign with such a com­pact bumper to back-of-cab di­men­sion, plus an en­gine and au­to­mated trans­mis­sion cou­pling pur­pose­fully tai­lored to en­hance per­for­mance and fuel ef­fi­ciency, may well be seen by some op­er­a­tors as sig­nif­i­cant at­tributes of the new mod­els. Time will tell! But among the im­pres­sions forged by more than a dozen trips around the Mt Cot­ton cir­cuit, none stood out more than the ex­cep­tional steer­ing and han­dling qual­ity of the new Ken­worths in all their forms and con­fig­u­ra­tions.

Sure, steer­ing ge­om­e­try of the T610 and the SAR ver­sion with its set-for­ward front axle are com­pletely dif­fer­ent. The 610 with its set-back front axle, for ex­am­ple, al­lows a straight shaft from the fire­wall to the steer­ing box mounted far for­ward on the out­side of the chas­sis rail.

On the other hand, the set-for­ward front axle of the SAR has caused the steer­ing box to be sited much fur­ther back – slightly be­hind the fire­wall on the out­side of the chas­sis rail – and, con­se­quently, a steer­ing shaft that runs down and back from where it ex­its the fire­wall.

Yet de­spite these sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ences, the trucks driven at Mt Cot­ton dis­played steer­ing and road han­dling qual­i­ties which were firm, pre­cise, di­rect and, to put it plainly, out­stand­ing. Of course the tight, twist­ing Mt Cot­ton cir­cuit doesn’t of­fer op­por­tu­ni­ties to drive trucks at 100km/h high­way speeds. But rest as­sured, we’ll get around to tick­ing that box soon enough. Stay tuned, be­cause down the track we have some­thing spe­cial in store!

Day cab T610. The short 112-inch bumper to back-of-cab di­men­sion cre­ates strong po­ten­tial for short-haul work

They look dif­fer­ent be­cause they are dif­fer­ent. T610 SAR (left) has a set-for­ward front axle whereas its ‘stan­dard’ sib­ling has a set-back front beam. What they share, how­ever, are a much bet­ter cab and ex­cel­lent road manners

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