T610 on track:

Test run for Ken­worth’s ‘best truck’ range

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KEN­WORTH BE­ING Ken­worth, se­nior in­sid­ers at the Mt Cot­ton drive event were hes­i­tant to give too much away when asked if early or­ders for the new T610 and its SAR sib­ling were meet­ing or ex­ceed­ing ex­pec­ta­tions.

But peo­ple be­ing peo­ple, you didn’t have to wait too long or lis­ten too hard to see sat­is­fied smiles and hear whis­pers of ex­cep­tional numbers now that the cov­ers are off the truck boldly pro­claimed by Ken­worth as its lat­est and great­est ever!

From all ac­counts – un­of­fi­cial, of course – there were close to 400 firm or­ders in place by the time pro­duc­tion kicked off in early Fe­bru­ary at Ken­worth’s Bayswa­ter (Vic) fac­tory and, sig­nif­i­cantly, early mo­men­tum was show­ing no signs of lev­el­ling out, let alone fad­ing.

Even so, his­tory proves that Ken­worth is not an out­fit to storm the beaches with­out know­ing the depth of the wa­ter, which means that re­cent in­di­ca­tions of ramped up pro­duc­tion at Bayswa­ter are a pre­cur­sor to a big, bold and boun­ti­ful year for the mar­ket-lead­ing brand.

Then again, should any­one be sur­prised? Af­ter all, the big-bud­get 610s are the first en­tirely new con­ven­tional mod­els from Ken­worth since the in­tro­duc­tion 30 years ago of the trend­set­ting T600 Anteater, so their ar­rival was al­ways go­ing to be a big deal. Be­sides, as much as some com­peti­tors may hate to ac­knowl­edge it, Ken­worth only has to cough and peo­ple take no­tice.

Like it or loath it, that’s just the way it is, and from the mo­ment the first ru­mour of an en­tirely new Ken­worth con­ven­tional sur­faced, peo­ple started to watch, wait and won­der. And I was cer­tainly one of them.

Sev­eral test units were even­tu­ally spot­ted, and it wasn’t long be­fore images started to ap­pear on phones, along with con­cocted and hugely naive no­tions that the new truck was sim­ply a right-hand drive ver­sion of an im­ported US model, namely the T680 or T880.

Typ­i­cally, Ken­worth kept its cool and said noth­ing other than the usual line that it never talks about new prod­ucts be­fore they’re re­leased.

Yet pa­tience, per­sis­tence and an un­der­stand­ing of Ken­worth’s en­trenched com­mit­ment to lo­cal en­gi­neer­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing man­aged to achieve some­thing very spe­cial.

Thus, a few weeks be­fore the upmar­ket un­veil­ing of the new trucks in front of hun­dreds of in­vited guests at the Bayswa­ter plant, I was for­tu­nate to be the first truck journo not only granted a few hours be­hind the wheel, but given the first de­tailed in­sight of the 610s de­vel­op­ment by some of the peo­ple most re­spon­si­ble for its cre­ation.

Best of all, it was bla­tantly ap­par­ent

“Man­ual shifters may still rep­re­sent up to 80 per cent of Ken­worth’s pro­duc­tion”

from the out­set that the 610 was some­thing truly im­pres­sive, cre­ated specif­i­cally for our part of the world.

To re­cap the broad de­tails, the T610 and its SAR coun­ter­part are the re­sult of a long-term and ex­pen­sive de­vel­op­ment pro­gram draw­ing from the plat­forms of Ken­worth and Peter­bilt in the US, then fash­ioned by Bayswa­ter’s ex­ten­sive en­gi­neer­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties to pro­duce mod­els tai­lored to the ex­act re­quire­ments of Aus­tralia and sur­round­ing re­gions. Around $20 mil­lion was in­vested in bring­ing the new trucks to life, mak­ing the ’610 pro­gram Ken­worth’s big­gest sin­gle in­vest­ment in new prod­uct in its 40-year Australian his­tory.

De­vel­op­ment cen­tred on re­plac­ing the 1.83m-wide cab, dat­ing back to the orig­i­nal T600 in the mid-’80s, with an en­tirely new 2.1m-wide struc­ture which sets a dy­namic new de­sign path for Ken­worth in this coun­try. In fact, it seems the only thing in or on the cab that isn’t new is Ken­worth’s iconic ‘bug’.

In­di­vid­u­als will, of course, make their own judge­ments, but greater in­ter­nal space, an en­tirely new dash lay­out, su­perb vi­sion over the slop­ing snout and through ex­cel­lent side mir­rors, full stand­ing room in sleeper ver­sions, and ex­cep­tional steer­ing qual­ity are just some of the things that, in my mind, com­bine to not only make the T610 cab big­ger and vastly bet­ter than its pre­de­ces­sor, but no­tably ahead of any other con­ven­tional on the mar­ket.

Again, in­di­vid­ual opin­ions may vary but as far as this com­men­ta­tor’s con­cerned, the gains in space, func­tion and form are ex­traor­di­nary.

Sure, it’s a big call so early in the evo­lu­tion of new mod­els but there’s more to it than just a new cab de­sign. It is, for ex­am­ple, a cab that also sits higher and fur­ther for­ward, giv­ing the 610 day cab a re­mark­ably com­pact bumper to back-of-cab (BBC) di­men­sion of 2845mm (112 inches), with its SAR brother just 15mm (a frac­tion more than half an inch) longer.

These di­men­sions are a mas­sive as­set from an op­er­a­tional view­point, mak­ing both forms of the 610 highly at­trac­tive for a mul­ti­tude of length­crit­i­cal com­bi­na­tions and, vi­tally, still avail­able with out­puts up to 600hp (441kW) and 2050ft-lb of torque.

What’s more, and no doubt adding even greater in­sight into why the new mod­els have gained such early trac­tion with op­er­a­tors, the 610s are di­rect re­place­ments for the hugely pop­u­lar T409 and T409 SAR. Or, more specif­i­cally, 409s pow­ered by the 15-litre Cum­mins for­merly known as the ISXe5.

In sync with the launch of the new Ken­worth, the Cum­mins SCR en­gine has been re­branded X15 and comes with the same hard­ware and per­for­mance rat­ings as the e5.

Yet along with a new badge, the X15 also comes with a suite of new soft­ware pro­grams – col­lec­tively la­belled ADEPT, or Ad­vanced Dy­namic Ef­fi­cient Pow­er­train Tech­nol­ogy – de­signed to en­hance per­for­mance and ef­fi­ciency when the en­gine’s cou­pled to Ea­ton’s Ul­trashiftPlus au­to­mated trans­mis­sion.

Maybe that’s why six of the seven 610s lined up for demo du­ties at Mt Cot­ton had the 18-speed Ul­trashiftPlus au­to­mated box.

CAB DE­TAIL

Man­ual shifters may still rep­re­sent up to 80 per cent of Ken­worth’s pro­duc­tion but there’s no ques­tion times are changing. Fast!

In fact, with the ar­rival of X15 and a soft­ware pack­age de­signed around Ea­ton’s au­to­mated trans­mis­sion, the like­li­hood is that Ken­worth and Cum­mins will be gen­tly urg­ing up­take of the au­to­mated op­tion to build the com­pet­i­tive case for greater fuel ef­fi­ciency.

Still, old habits die hard. Hav­ing driven an au­to­mated ver­sion a few weeks be­fore the of­fi­cial launch, it seemed only fair to grab the lone man­ual model for the first drive of the day. Be­sides, few others ini­tially seemed in­ter­ested in stir­ring a stick which was, per­haps, an­other sign of the times as driver stan­dards drop deeper into the dun­geon.

The seven trucks lined up at Mt Cot­ton were four T610s with the set-back front axle and three in set-for­ward SAR form. Like­wise, three were fit­ted with the clev­erly con­fig­ured 860mm (34-inch) sleeper which pro­vides full stand­ing room, and the re­main­der in day cab lay­out. Some were loaded, some were not.

The man­ual truck was a T610 SAR sleeper model cou­pled to an un­laden B-dou­ble set be­long­ing to line-haul spe­cial­ist SRV. And just as they did dur­ing the pre-launch sneak peek a few months back, first im­pres­sions were im­pres­sive.

For starters, floor height of the T610 is 75mm higher than its 409 pre­de­ces­sor, cre­at­ing an ex­tra step for cab en­try. Still, it’s cer­tainly not a dif­fi­cult climb in or out, and the higher stance al­lows hot air un­der the cab to more eas­ily es­cape out the back.

While we’re on hot air, Ken­worth has re­peat­edly em­pha­sised the en­gi­neer­ing ef­fort that went into de­sign­ing a heat­ing, ven­ti­la­tion and air-con­di­tion­ing pack­age suited to Aus­tralia’s vast ex­tremes.

For­tu­nately, a Mt Cot­ton day that saw tem­per­a­tures climb into the high 30s at least ver­i­fied Ken­worth’s claims, bring­ing cabs that had been stand­ing in the heat for long pe­ri­ods down to a com­fort­able tem­per­a­ture within min­utes.

What’s more, the pos­i­tive im­pres­sions made dur­ing the first drive of a sleeper cab model sev­eral months ear­lier were no less ap­pli­ca­ble af­ter driv­ing most of the trucks at Mt Cot­ton.

Con­se­quently, it’s prob­a­bly worth re­it­er­at­ing at least some of those orig­i­nal com­ments: “There’s a sub­stan­tial in­crease in space around the driver’s footwell, the gap be­tween the seats has sig­nif­i­cantly opened and, with a rise in the height of the bunk, there’s now room for an op­tional slide-out fridge.

“In fact, it’s quite amaz­ing what Ken­worth has achieved with an ex­tra 270mm be­tween the B-pil­lars. The taller cab also im­proves vis­i­bil­ity, though some driv­ers may rue the fact that the top of the KW ‘bug’ is no longer vis­i­ble and there­fore un­avail­able as a line of sight to the edge of the road.”

How­ever, that com­ment re­ferred to the T610, and it can now be con­firmed that the top of the ‘bug’ is vis­i­ble from the driver’s seat of the SAR ver­sion.

Sim­i­larly, vi­sion through the sin­gle-piece wind­screen over a droop­ing snout is ex­cep­tion­ally good, while the mir­rors are pos­si­bly the best in the busi­ness.

They’re mounted low enough to pro­vide al­most no im­ped­i­ment to a clear line of sight at round­abouts, and, as we pointed out ear­lier: “They’re also in­cred­i­bly strong as one ex­u­ber­ant Ken­worth ex­ec­u­tive demon­strated by swing­ing his full weight from the mount­ing arm.”

Re­fer­ring again to the orig­i­nal story: “Vis­ually the dash is de­cid­edly dif­fer­ent but, in typ­i­cal Ken­worth fash­ion, is strong on func­tion and form.”

The pho­tos with this re­port de­scribe the dash best, but suf­fice to say prac­ti­cal­ity was a crit­i­cal de­sign cri­te­rion: “The ini­tial de­sign sees a wood­grain fas­cia sur­round­ing tra­di­tional gauges, with an op­tional multi-func­tion touch­screen in the pipe­line.

“Lower down, and within rel­a­tively easy reach, is a line of switches for a wide range of func­tions such as en­gine brake, diff lock and the like.

“Mean­while, switches for cruise con­trol, au­dio and menu func­tions for an LCD info dis­play di­rectly in front of the driver are mounted on the arms of a com­fort­ably padded steer­ing wheel.”

It could, how­ever, be sug­gested that with only one or two gauges in the cen­tral pan­els on the driver’s left, the dash fas­cia can look de­cid­edly bland. Even un­fin­ished.

Sure, in the ab­sence of more gauges (up to 18 gauges can be spec­i­fied in the T610), the blank area is ideal for mount­ing a phone, telem­at­ics sys­tem or the like, but in those ‘bare bones’ ap­pli­ca­tions, where the re­sult is just a slab of blank grey, maybe Ken­worth could add a ‘bug’ just to add a touch of class. To my mind, the cab de­serves some­thing bet­ter than a blank slab.

On the other side of the equa­tion, the dash lay­out di­rectly in front of the driver is mod­ern, clean, and com­plete. As al­ready stated: “Prac­ti­cal­ity was clearly high on the agenda. Most prom­i­nent gauges are the speedo and rev counter un­der a cen­tral LCD screen, while on each side are well-po­si­tioned gauges for fuel and AdBlue, front- and rear-brake air pres­sure, coolant tem­per­a­ture, and en­gine oil pres­sure.

“Yet ar­guably the great­est con­ces­sions to prac­ti­cal­ity, and cer­tainly buck­ing the trend in mod­ern au­to­mo­tive de­sign, are ex­posed fas­ten­ers hold­ing the dash in place.”

As Ken­worth di­rec­tor of sales and mar­ket­ing Brad May ex­plained: “The trend in au­to­mo­tive styling these days is to hide screws and fas­ten­ers, but if some­thing needs at­ten­tion be­hind the dash, ac­cess is made a lot eas­ier and there’s much less chance of dam­age by sim­ply un­do­ing a few eas­ily reached screws to get be­hind the dash.” Smart!

Again, as we pre­vi­ously pointed out, cup holder trays on the lower edge of the dash cen­tre dif­fer be­tween au­to­mated and man­ual mod­els: “With a man­ual trans­mis­sion, the cup holder is neat and un­ob­tru­sive, but au­to­mated ver­sions have the ‘Cobra’ shift con­troller mounted on a much larger assem­bly which ex­tends no­tably into cab space.

“Put sim­ply, the mount­ing of the ‘Cobra’ shifter is in­tru­sive and out­dated in an en­tirely new cab lay­out where the de­sign em­pha­sis re­volves around space, func­tion and form.”

And that, I sup­pose, brings us back to the Ea­ton 18-speed man­ual shifter in the T610 SAR B-dou­ble at Mt Cot­ton.

"Our Best Truck Yet", says Ken­worth. And they’re not kid­ding

The new Ken­worth T610 line-up: ready to rum­ble at Mt Cot­ton

On the in­side. It’s to­tally new and un­like any­thing Ken­worth has ever pro­duced be­fore. Over­all, func­tion and form rate high in the new lay­out

Stick shift. A sign of the times, the only man­ual model of­fered for drives at Mt Cot­ton was this SAR ver­sion hooked an un­laden B-dou­ble set

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