At a small press gathering at the Kenworth US Research and Development Centre and after driving the new Kenworth T680 Next Generation, PowerTorque’s US Correspondent, Steve Sturgess, can say for certain it was worth the effort and worth the wait.
On hand for the 40-mile (64km), one-hour route, looping south and west of the Kenworth R & D centre, were two quite different derivatives of the Next Gen: a day-cab that likely will see use as a regional-haul prime mover and a top-of-the-line 76-inch sleeper model that has caught the attention of fleets and owner-operators alike judging from the order book. Those new trucks started to get into customer hands from April this year. Conversations at the driving exercise indicate to me it will eventually head for Australia.
With the two very different trucks to drive over a 40-mile loop, it seemed reasonable to drive the regional truck first and then compare with the decked-out long haul sleeper unit.
Both were pulling trailers, empty with the day cab prime mover, and with a GCM of 67,000 pounds (25 tonnes) for the other. So, selecting drive on the new right-side selector/retarder lever to the right of the steering column and releasing the brakes we took off in the day-cab prime mover with no fuss. The transmission picked up the gears progressively, generally shifting at less than 1400 rpm.
The first thing apparent was the lane-departure warning and the lane-keeping assist that, with the electric motor assist on the steering gear, would gently bring the truck back to centre lane whenever it strayed. Called Torque Assisted Steering, it greatly lowered steering effort and gave a very precise positioning to minimise steering wheel movements going down the road.
The steering wheel is new and features cruise control buttons as well as other functions such as display-related for the dash. Apart from the cruise, which was pretty obvious, it will likely take days rather than hours to work out just how much the buttons can do. There is a button, for instance, to set maximum speed which would be very useful when passing through road construction where speed limits are reduced.
There is a row of switches along the lower dash and off to the right that will also take a little familiarisation for the driver new to the T680.
When driving the new Kenworth T680 Next Generation with an unloaded trailer on the day-cab, the performance was spirited. The ride was good, though with a little harshness from the front axle, likely because the tandem was so lightly loaded. This was in stark contrast to the sleeper prime mover. With some imposed weight on the turntable and the longer wheelbase, the ride was excellent. And the steering was just as good on the sleeper truck, maybe even a shade better because of the longer wheelbase.
The overall comfort and interior appearance has been improved significantly. The VIT interior of both trucks featured the new door pads with a peachy colour accent that KW calls Madrona. This was repeated on the ultra-leather seats. The short time available didn’t allow for any sleeper time, though the 76-inch sleeper is among the best organised with the most creative use of space in the industry. It looks mighty good, too, with the colour accents. And there are other sleeper lengths and height options on this integral cab.
The current T680 will stay in production alongside the new model, at least initially. But the Next Gen is a mighty fine step up for Kenworth. While structurally the same, the Next Gen with its improved aerodynamics and engine updates accounting for a 6 per cent fuel advantage over the existing model is a big reason to opt for the new model. Its enhanced driver safety, convenience and comfort features are a big bonus and takes the Next Gen to a whole new level.
Kenworth bills itself as ‘The Drivers Truck’ in the USA, after driving the new Kenworth T680 Next Generation, the Next Gen underscores that message.
Kenworth T680 Specification
The Kenworth T680 Next Gen for the US truck market includes new aero bumper and hood, turning vanes, durable lower fairing extensions, chassis fairings, wheel well closeouts, 28-inch side extenders, tandem drive axle fairings, and wheel covers, among other features, all to keep the airflow closer to the cab and reduce drag-causing turbulence. The T680 Next Gen is standard with the EPA 2021 Paccar MX13 12.9 litre engine and Paccar Powertrain that also offer strong fuel efficiency gains.
The bottom line is up to an estimated 6 per cent overall fuel economy increase for a T680 Next Gen 76-inch sleeper over a comparably spec’d T680 with an EPA 2017 Paccar MX13 engine.
The EPA 2021 Paccar MX-13 engine features enhanced durability, reduced complexity, performance upgrades, increased downspeeding capability and more efficient combustion. The result is more power, longevity, uptime, ease of service and driver satisfaction. The Paccar MX-13 engine guarantees a smooth-operating, high-performance powertrain of unmatched capability, optimised for a seamless integration with the Paccar 12-speed transmission and Paccar 40K axles.
“The T680 Next Gen hit our design goal of being sleek and sophisticated. We wanted to focus on the aerodynamics, the technology and the refinement, and make the styling show that is a world class, high-performance machine.” said Jonathan Duncan, Kenworth Design Director.