In his latest report from Europe, PowerTorque’s correspondent there, Will Shiers travels to Spain for a first drive in DAF’s New Generation XF, named last week as International Truck of the Year 2022 by a jury of 24 commercial vehicle editors and senior journalists.
I’ve given DAF a ribbing in recent years for having the oldest cab on the market. After all, the current one, which was jointly developed with now defunct Spanish truck maker Pegaso (appearing on both the Pegaso Troner and Seddon Atkinson Stratocruiser), first saw the light of day in 1987 when I was still in school!
But in DAF’s defence, it has done an incredible job of disguising its heritage, and the latest Euro-6 version is undoubtedly a great truck. In fact, it’s the clear market leader in the UK, and has been for some time. But now the writing is on the wall, in Europe at least. Although it will soldier on for a while longer, it has suddenly been eclipsed by the New Generation trucks.
In its defence, DAF’s decision to eke out the current XF design for so long has been well and truly vindicated. Let me explain.
Last September the European Union introduced new masses and dimensions regulations, giving truck makers more freedom in terms of cab length, and thus encouraging them to push the boundaries with aerodynamics, safety and driver comfort. A decade ago, most of the manufacturers were lobbying for exactly these changes, but funnily enough they fell silent more recently, after rolling out their (current length) new models.
DAF however, bided its time and waited for the new regulations to come into force. And then, earlier this year, it unleashed the new XF/XG/XG+ range, having embraced the longer dimensions.
Ron Borsboom, director of product development at DAF Trucks, explained that the design process started seven years ago, with a completely clean sheet of paper. In the early days almost nothing was ruled out, and the Dutch truck maker even built a working prototype of a truck with a protruding nose, which wouldn’t have looked out of place on the front of a Japanese Bullet train.
But this was quickly dismissed when tests revealed that the aerodynamic gains were barely any better than when using a subtle bulge. Other drawbacks included worse manoeuvrability, a higher production cost and a significant weight penalty.
The final design, which is used on the front of all three New Generation trucks, consists of a 160mm tapered protrusion. In addition to being more pedestrian friendly than a flat front, it boosts aerodynamics to the tune of 19 per cent, equating to a 6.3 per cent improvement in fuel economy compared with the current XF.
Meanwhile, the XG and XG+ both get an additional 330mm of length at the back of the cab, while the flagship XG+ has 200mm of extra roof height too (see diagrams).
Although the headline grabber has been the XG+ with its 12.5cu m of cab volume (which is palatial by European standards), the real story is arguably the new XF, which looks set to become the volume seller.