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