“T” TIME | TRUCK REVIEW-POWERTORQUE delves deeper into the appeal of the T610

POWERTORQUE delves deeper into the appeal of the T610

The release of the Kenworth T610 has created a lot of discussion among drivers and operators, and so it should. The T610 is the result of seven years, and over $20 million of investment from PACCAR, and represents the biggest single update in the Australian Kenworth model range for a very long time. Although a lot of the discussion is centred on the external appearance of the new model, the real beauty of this truck lies beneath the skin, with a host of comfort, convenience and technology updates that Australian Kenworth buyers have never been offered before.

While the introduction of a wider cab has been a long time coming, the improvements that come with it will offer buyers many features that, until now, we have only seen on European trucks. This includes a raft of information available through the in-dash display, automatic set-and-forget climate control, and added driveline features to improve economy. The great part in all this though, is that it still feels and sounds like a Kenworth.

The development of the T610, as mentioned earlier, has taken some time. This cab has been on the road in America (albeit with a different floor and firewall) for a few years now, but even in the early days of its design there was significant input from the engineering department at Kenworth Australia’s head office in Bayswater. The fact that this cab was developed to suit both Kenworth and Peterbilt brands meant that many options were on the table when the final Australian design was selected.

The collaboration between the two brands and their respective design departments led to a Peterbilt-designed dash being used in the T610. There has been a lot of work done, aside from the right-hand-drive conversion, to reinforce and strengthen the dash to ensure it stands up to Australian conditions. Other adjustments were needed too, like converting all the switches to the Australian standard “down is on” configuration. This is not just as simple as turning the switches upside down, believe it or not, and is part of what makes the new dash seem familiar.

The extra strength continues through to the firewall and floor panels, which are almost twice as thick as their American counterparts. These two panels also have a dramatic effect on the structural rigidity of the entire cab, and so improve the overall strength of the cab. Being the first right-hand-drive variant of this cab, the Aussie designers had a clean sheet to design and construct the firewall to local requirements, and the result is a good, clean finish with plenty of insulation to keep heat and noise at bay.

The sleeper compartment was also a local development, being designed and fitted here in Australia. While there are plenty of these style cabs running around America, the length laws there are a little more relaxed, and the fitted sleepers are bigger, creating issues with our length regulations. For the T610 to be a good seller, it needed to fit within the 26-metre B-double regulations, and so a shorter sleeper was designed to allow this to happen. While a bigger sleeper may be on the cards further down the track, the T610 is currently only available in either a day cab or with an 860 mm aero sleeper.

It may not look big from the outside, but the 860 mm bunk is the same size, inside, as the popular 36” unit used on the T409, with the extra space in the cab making it feel larger. The extra height in the roof, which runs from the windscreen back, also makes it easier to move around the cab, and creates a feeling of spaciousness that is sure to be appreciated by those spending their working week in the T610. The rear wall is flat, allowing for the full cab length to be utilised, with a small indent at the top to allow for fridge motors and/ or steep driveways.

With the new model comes a whole new CANbus system that allows for improved communication between the truck and the driveline. This allows for more information to be passed on to the driver, through the driver information display situated in the instrument cluster. This covers all manner of engine, trip, fuel economy and vehicle warning information, and is something that has never been seen in an Aussie Kenworth before this model. While there are systems, like the Cummins Road Relay, that cover engine information, this new system allows a lot more information to be displayed in an easy-to-read format, right in front of the driver.

Also incorporated into the T610 is a driver-assistance programme that offers a driver tips on how to maximise fuel efficiency. By monitoring a driver’s habits, the system will advise on ways to improve fuel economy and reduce wear, and give the driver a score on their driving.

A similar system has been available on European trucks for some time, with operators reporting good results, but it remains to be seen if traditional Kenworth drivers will make use of this type of technology. I remember back in the day when the T950 was first introduced, those fitted with Detroit engines came with a cassette tape containing a tutorial on how to get the best results from the new Series 60 engine. I bet most of those tapes are still in their plastic wrappers.

The driveline itself also brings with it many improvements, with the Cummins X15 featuring Advanced Dynamic Efficient Powertrain Technology (ADEPT). When matched with Eaton’s UltraShift Plus AMT, the ADEPT system measures load, road speed and any incline to adjust power output from the engine, and make gear changes, to maximise efficiency. It also incorporates a coasting function that neutralises the transmission when there is no engine load, dropping the engine back to idle to reduce fuel consumption and rolling resistance through the driveline. Cummins is claiming a 3.0 percent advantage in economy, along with reduced wear and tear on the driveline.

While most of the talk about the T610 at the moment is related to its looks, only a select few have had the chance to drive one at this stage. Given time, the T610 will prove itself to be a popular truck, with drivers and operators alike.

While there is a certain bravado that comes with driving a Kenworth, drivers will come to love the extra space, comfort and refinement of this new model. This will make them happier employees, which in turn adds to the overall efficiency from an operator’s point of view. With happy drivers and an optimised driveline (with the AMT), the reduction in fuel burn and maintenance could well make a big difference to the bottom line.

What Kenworth has done in the development of this truck is to bring the locally built T409 up to speed with the current American offering in the T680. This may not, initially, prove popular with the Aussie Kenworth purists, but long term it will prove to be a turning point for Kenworth Australia. This is the model that has brought Kenworth right back into mainstream market, with all the traditional Kenworth toughness, but with the comfort, safety and efficiency of a European truck. What’s more, they’ve done it without losing any of the emotion that comes from driving a Kenworth – that big truck feeling, the noise and the pride that comes standard with KW badge.

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