UD builds on its heritage and blends design features from within the Volvo Group to redefine customer expectation when owning a Japanese truck – Words by Ed Higginson, images by Jonathon Wood
With the recent release of the latest Quon, UD is claiming the company has redefined the UD brand image to become the best Japanese truck on the market. It’s a bold claim amongst class rivals from Isuzu, Hino, and Fuso, but, nonetheless, worth investigating in today’s highly competitive market.
UD has been selling the Quon in Australia since 2004, and the success of the product range undoubtedly suffered in its initial stages by a lack of marketing support to match its highly capable launch credentials. Now, with a renewed focus and a more serious intent from the Volvo Group umbrella, it’s starting to get noticed, and deservedly so.
In the first quarter of 2018, the UD sat in 11th spot in the Australian heavy-duty market, with Isuzu in 2nd place, Hino 8th and Fuso 12th. But during this quarter the latest Quon hadn’t yet hit the ground running, so expect its position to climb now the new model is fully available.
Mark Strambi, vice-president of UD Trucks Australia explains, “Being part of the Volvo Group allows us to draw on the technologies that the Group has developed, which therefore gives us the ability to bring to market new features in safety and innovation.
“It means we are able to incorporate into our product those features that are in greater demand from our clients. For example, UD Trucks recently released its innovation roadmap, Vision 2030, which looks at future developments in electromobility and automation,” he added.
“Some of the purchases of the new Quon have been made by existing large Volvo and Mack fleets. They already have an awareness and appreciation of VGA products and the established dealership support, but need a smaller, lighter or slightly cheaper truck for short-distance work.
“Each of the three brands in the Volvo Group have their own identity and have strengths in different segments of the market. UD’s brand position has been clearly stated since the introduction of the PD range in 2015, and we have been very clear that our market focus is on the lighter end of the heavy-duty market.” Mark added.
For PowerTorque’s evaluation of the new Quon, I joined UD sales support manager, Patrick Ryan, at the CMV dealership in Derrimut on the outskirts of Melbourne to drive a Quon GW26.460 6×4. This top-of-the-range model offers a GCM of 60,000 kg for use in B-double work, but for the purposes of a more realistic evaluation of the typical type of work it will undertake we were hooked up to a Freighter single curtainsider loaded to a GVM of 41,000 kg, ready for a 500 km trip around country Victoria.
On walking around the truck to cover off on the pre-start checks, first impressions are that the facelift has improved the appearance, bringing it up to date with the market.
The base cab dates back to 2004, so several features are still present that one might not expect, such as the step on the rear corner of the cab to allow drivers to swing from inside the cab onto the chassis. This form of movement is probably not advisable under modern day of health and safety regs, plus it puts you firmly on top of the DPF muffler that clearly says you cannot step on it! The older cab also misses out on external lockers that would benefit many drivers.
When compared with others in this segment, the Quon is impressive, with dash material, dials and movable switches all having a quality feel. The UD also now gets segment-leading safety features as standard, including traffic eye braking system, traffic eye cruise control, lane departure warning, driver alert and UD stability control. This is where the Volvo DNA starts to shine through to make the UD an impressive truck.
The GW26.460 is the largest of the UD prime movers on offer, fitted with the GH11TD, 11-litre, inline, six-cylinder turbocharged and intercooled engine, producing 460 hp (338 kW) at 1800 rpm, and 2200 Nm of torque at 1200 rpm. The GH11 engine uses both a unit injector and a common-rail system to exceed pPNLT emission standards from Japan, which are higher than Euro 6.
Coupled to UD’s own version of the market-leading Volvo I-Shift, named the ESCOT-VI 12-speed automated manual transmission, it makes for a relaxed drive at 41 tonnes, always picking the right gear.
Heading out of Derrimut, we took the ring road towards the Hume Highway, so quickly got to experience the regular morning rush hour with typical stop/start traffic where five lanes merge into two. As many UDs will spend most of their lives in city traffic, it is good to see that the new Quon is quiet and effortless to drive, with the engine working well matched to the automated manual transmission.
As we joined the Hume and started to pick up speed, we quickly reached the 100 km limiter, with the Quon illustrating it would easily match other brands that run at similar torque-to-weight ratios. With a quick stop in the Broadford VicRoad’s checking station to self-weigh the truck, we rejoined the highway. Again, the UD impressed with its performance, quickly reaching 70 km/h along the long rise before cresting the hill at 80 km/h.
The route selected would then take us to Seymour, over to Murchison, then along narrow country roads to Bendigo, enabling me to compare the outcome with a Volvo FM450 that I had taken on the same run a few months ago.
I’ve always been a fan of the Volvo, particularly for the comfort and ride on the rough, but the UD is a close match. You can order the UD with springs, but the demo had the eight-airbag suspension with an electric control box, so it’s a comfy ride, especially on the cab’s four-airbag suspension. Coupled to a modern Freighter trailer with matching EBS and disc brakes all round, the truck gave a confident feel on the twisty and bumpy roads.
On the inside, the cab layout is typical Japanese style, with the dash wrapping around the driver over the engine bay. The shapes and colours have been modernised, but I would have liked lockers above the windscreen with a full width sunvisor, a common omission amongst the Japanese brands.
The four-spoke steering wheel appeared to be from the Volvo stable, so worked well with integrated switches to control the cruise, adaptive cruise, which was called ‘Traffic Eye’, plus the controls to scroll through the truck’s easy to navigate computer menu.
A small frustration on the demo truck, was that the Traffic Eye alarm could only be switched off for a couple of minutes at a time, so in heavy traffic it kept beeping to warn of vehicles in front. However, I was told this could be changed using the workshop plug in laptop, similar to the lane departure warning.
There is a small bed for mini breaks but not really designed for a night away and hard to climb in and out. The driver’s seat was a little hard and not as adjustable as we’ve come to expect, but a company spokesperson subsequently commented that an ISRI option might be coming soon, which would help.
After a quick logbook stop next to the old dragline mining excavator in Maldon, our route then headed to Ballarat to join the Western Freeway back in towards Melbourne.
Across the drive, the UD returned a consumption figure of 1.84 km/litre (54.3 litres per 100 km of diesel) and used 1.8 litres of AdBlue. This may not sound great, but by using the UD telematics, also known as Dynafleet, it showed that our route was particularly harsh, and cruising around the ring road would see a much lower number.
Overall, the latest Quon has lots to offer and is a worthy product within the Volvo group. The UD has a light tare weight of just 7600 kg in 6×4 form, service intervals of 70,000 km, emissions better than Euro 6, and a long list of safety features to rival many European brands.
Whether buyers agree with UD’s claim of being the best Japanese truck on the market, the Quon is certainly worth considering for the right application.
– Performance of GH11TD engine mated with ESCO transmission
– Standard safety features
– Light 7600 kg tare weight
– 70,000 km service intervals
– Hard seat, needs the ISRI option
– Exhaust and engine brake not up to typical Volvo performance
– No external lockers
– No lockers above windscreen