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THE NEW DAWN FOR DAF | Truck Review – DAF Trucks

As the fastest growing truck brand in Europe, DAF Trucks is aiming to make a similar move to become a major player in Australian transport. – Report by Chris Mullett.

Ordinarily, a new product launch review focuses on the equipment, the technical supremacy, the efficiency and the appeal for the Australian operator.  But before entering the current world of the engineers, designers and marketing people, it’s worth delving just lightly into the history of this Dutch company.

Dutch ability extends much further than making wooden clogs and growing daffodils. Whilst its national dish of pea and ham soup may not rank amongst the world’s greatest culinary experiences, the country hosts arguably one of the highest number of transport fleets operating through Europe, with Dutch operators covering the whole of the European Union, plus Eastern Europe and now the self-isolated United Kingdom.

When you start looking closely at DAF and its origins you get to understand how this brand has become one of the most sought after and popular in the European trucking scene.

The DAF 2600, launched in 1962, was the first European truck that could be specified with a fully-fledged sleeper cab. Its bunk had a comfortable mattress and its driver comfort could be called absolutely revolutionary in those early years of long-haul European transport.

In 1972, International Harvester took a 33 percent share in the company as a joint venture with the Dutch Government and with the van Doorne family, relatives of the founders of the company holding the remaining 42 percent. This agreement lasted until 1981, when DAF sold its passenger car business to Volvo Cars, then concentrating on its truck products.

In 1985 DAF surprised the transport world by equipping a long-distance truck with a 3600 Space Cab, a cab with a wealth of space. Later it introduced the even more spacious Super Space Cab, the ultimate in driver comfort, which remains today one of the most spacious cabs on the market. The 3600 was also one of the first to introduce an intercooled turbocharged diesel engine.  Its largest 11.6-litre (710 cu.in) six-cylinder turbodiesel was based on the old Leyland O.680 motor and this remained  DAF’s standard large engine long into the nineties.

In 1987, DAF merged with Leyland Trucks and traded as Leyland DAF in the United Kingdom and elsewhere as DAF Trucks.  In October 1996, PACCAR acquired DAF Trucks and in 1998 DAF was rejoined with Leyland Trucks.

The joining of DAF to the PACCAR organisation provided Kenworth and Peterbilt with access to the DAF engine range that features today branded as the PX-7, the MX-11 and MX-13. Engines are supplied through two main plants, one in Holland and more recently, a new engine plant established in 2017 in Columbus, Mississippi.

Last year, DAF Trucks scored a market share of 16.2 percent in the heavy duty (16-tonne plus) segment, putting DAF in the Top Three largest truck manufacturers in Europe. DAF’s share of the market in the light segment grew from 9.0 to 9.7 percent.

DAF continued as the market leader in the heavy segment in the Netherlands (31.8%), the UK (29.4%), Poland (22.0%) and Hungary (23.8%). The Dutch truck manufacturer also gained market leadership in 2019 in Belgium and Luxembourg (19.4%) and Bulgaria (23.6%). In the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Greece, DAF was number one in heavy prime movers, while in France, the second largest truck market in Europe, it was the most popular imported prime-mover brand.

The European market for medium-duty trucks (6-16 tonne) grew from 51,900 to over 53,600 units last year. DAF’s market share rose to 9.7% (2018: 9.0%). DAF is the market leader in the medium duty segment in the UK (34.8%) and the biggest-selling European brand in Ireland (19.1%).

DAF sold 7900 trucks outside Europe. The company introduced the new generation of Euro5 and Euro6 trucks to Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand. In Taiwan, DAF remained the market leader amongst European brands in the heavy segment.

In South Africa, sales rose by more than 20 percent, whilst in Bayswater, Australia, production of the versatile DAF CF commenced in the factory of parent company PACCAR. DAF also sold more than 3000 PACCAR engines to leading manufacturers of coaches, buses and specialised vehicles all over the world.

In 2019, DAF produced 52,746 CF and XF Series trucks and 11,344 LF Series vehicles. It’s produced over 250,000 DAF XF Super Space Cabs, the top of the line model in the range, with half of all DAF XFs ordered in Europe being configured as the Super Space Cab.

Since the launch of the new generation of CF and XF models DAF Trucks has already delivered the 100,000th model to roll-off the production line. Never before in the company’s history has a 100,000 series-run been reached so quickly.

Long known as the truck that European drivers (especially the British) prefer to drive, DAF Trucks Australia is now launching a broad range of LF, CF and XF models aimed at significantly increasing market share. With all models upgraded, the new DAFs are all Euro6 emissions rated, bringing the benefits of reduced emissions to the Australian marketplace.

For PACCAR Australia this new generation is pivotal in enabling the company to rank strongly against new products from Europe, in addition to being acknowledged as the leading aspirational North American brand with Kenworth.

The strength through the years for PACCAR Australia has always been the immense reputation of the national dealer group. In the same way as Holden and Ford controlled the car market with accessible local dealerships available near any major town, Kenworth has developed the same success in its customer service and support ability to satisfy operators as well as ensure a ready stream of drivers keen to pilot a Kenworth down an Australian highway.

The world however is changing. And while competitors in the car industry now battle against globally-based importers, truck makers need to be able to offer their customers the best of both worlds, from conventional models to cabovers, in order to maintain sales and service profitability amongst their dealership groups.

The introduction of the new-generation DAF models comes with technology upgrades that collectively improve safety, efficiency and driver comfort, extend service intervals, provide improved telematics and diagnostic services and ultimately reduce the total cost of operation.

The 9.0-litre PACCAR MX engine has been replaced by the PACCAR MX-11, while those looking for more power and torque are well met by the PACCAR MX-13 which sees its power increased to 530 hp (390 kW) with 1850 lb.ft (2508 Nm) rated at 1000 rpm.

There’s a wide-ranging upgrade throughout the driveline, which now incorporates the ZF TraXon 12-speed and 16-speed transmissions in the upper weight categories, replacing the previous ZF AS-Tronic units, although the ZF AS-Tronic remains in the medium-duty specifications.

Truck makers are having to consider global warming and when temperatures in Western Australia can peak well over 50 degrees Celsius, it means that cooling packages have to be capable of meeting the challenge.

For the new generation DAFs there’s a new cooling system that’s 30 percent larger than the previous cooling package. That’s good for the vehicle, but it’s also good for the driver as the new system reduces fan engagement by over 50 percent, meaning much lower noise intrusion into the driver environment. The common rail fuel injection now runs at 2500 bar pressure, there are new engine blocks, heads and pistons, plus a new generation VGT turbocharger to give higher boost pressures at low engine rpm. Parasitic power loss by ancillary equipment has also been substantially reduced with new variable speed oil pumps, compressors, steering pump and cooling pump.

A pre-release evaluation drive clearly illustrated the sophistication of the new driveline and the amazing reduction of interior noise levels, reducing fatigue and driver stress.

The drive evaluation for the range of new models took place on the closed road circuits of Mount Cotton in Queensland, and while this is by its own nature restrictive as compared to driving on public roads, there are some steep pinches that demonstrate the advances made in the TraXon transmission by ZF. It’s definitely the leader of the pack currently, with rapid shifts and a near instant response to driver and vehicle input. Other benefits include a 35 percent reduction in noise, less internal friction and greater driver acceptance.

The frontal styling treatment has come in for an upgrade, with an improved aerodynamic    performance, which, accompanied by the new fuel injection system and VGT spells a reduction in fuel consumption of at least 10 percent.

Access in and out of each of the LF, CF and XF cabs is as good as it gets, with wide opening doors, clearly accessible treads and plenty of handholds for a three-point safety regime. The modern series of cabs from all the Europeans are now so refined that high levels of comfort, visibility and access to switches and views of the dashboard are near perfect.

The lack of noise from the road, engine or driveline intruding into the cab is a stand-out feature. The comparison is often made that noise levels are car-like, but for the DAF that means a comparison with a high-level car rather than something down the spec’ chart.

The bunks are easy to climb into and comfortable when you get there and with an under-bunk fridge you’ve always got cool drinks alongside you during the drive.

The LF 260 starts off the range with a 7-litre PACCAR PX-7 engine of 194 kW (264 hp) at 2300 rpm with peak torque of 1000 Nm rated at 1000-1700 rpm, a GVM of 12,000 kg and a GCM of 16,000 kg. The driveline includes the ZF AS-Tronic six-speed AMT, with an axle ratio of 3.73:1. It’s available as a 4×2 rigid with a day cab or extended cab plus a sleeper cab, with a choice of three wheelbases (4.65, 5.70 and 6.40).

Dimensionally, the Day Cab features a front to rear depth of 1603 mm, which extends to 2003 mm for the extended cab and sleeper cab. The height of 1610 mm from floor to roof and the width of 1850 mm are constant through the LF range.

The same cab options available with the LF 260 are included with the LF 290 as a 4×2 rigid, but with the power output increased to 217 kW (295 hp) at 2300 rpm, with peak toque of 1100 Nm rated at 1000-1700 rpm. The GVM rises to 18,000 kg and the GCM to 28,000 kg.

The LF 290 6×2 rigid runs with a sleeper cab plus the same power and torque rating but raises the GVM and GCM to 23,500kg. The driveline features the 12-speed ZF AS-Tronic transmission and a rear axle ratio of 4.10:1. The AdBlue tank capacity is 50 litres and the warranty is three years/200,000kms.

Over to the CF now and buyers have the choice of three cab variants of Day Cab, Sleeper Cab and Space Cab, with the engine choice being between the MX-11 and the MX-13.

The MX-11 offers three ratings: 270 kW at 1600 rpm with peak torque of 1900 Nm rated at 900-1125 rpm; 300 kW at 1600 rpm with peak torque of 2100 Nm rated at 900-1125 rpm; and 330 kW (449 hp) with peak torque of 2300 Nm rated at 900-1125 rpm.

These torque figures relate to transmission with direct drive top ratios. The peak torque figures for overdrive transmissions are 1800 Nm at 900-1400rpm; 2000 Nm; and 2200 Nm respectively, rated at the same rpm.

The availability of the MX-13 litre engine with the CF will certainly please some of the longer haul operators and in this application the maximum power options are 355 kW (483 hp) at 1600 rpm and 390 kW (530 hp) at 1675 rpm.

Peak torque outputs for the MX-13 are 2500Nm rated at 900 -1125 rpm and 2600 Nm rated at 1000-1460 rpm for direct drive transmissions and 2350 Nm at 900-1365 rpm or 2500 Nm rated at 1000-1425 rpm for the overdriven transmissions. The driveline fitment here is the ZF TraXon 12-speed or 16-speed transmission. The AdBlue capacity is 55 litres and the warranty support is three years/750,000 km.

Buyers looking for the pinnacle of the product range have the XF 530 to consider. With 390 kW (530 hp) the GVM for this 6×4 prime mover is 25,200kg, leading to a GCM of 70,000 kg. With a wheelbase of 3900 mm, the cab options cover all possibilities, with a Comfort Cab, Space Cab and the top of the line Super Space Cab.

The Super Space Cab is certainly tall from ground level with the roof height approaching 3700mm, but this bodes well for the driver that gains a cab floor to roof height of 2255mm. With two bunks on board, the lower bunk offers a width of 810mm and length of 2200mm, while the upper bunk comes in at 700mm width and 2000mm length. The external width of the cab is 2490mm.

When comparing the dimensions of the three XF cabs, the overall front to back panel and ground to cab floor measurements are identical. The differences all relate to the interior height from floor level and the inclusion of a skylight/sunroof, plus additional locker space.

The 12.9 litre MX-13 engine puts out 390 kW at 1600 rpm with peak torque of 2600 Nm rated at 900-1125 rpm. With its TraXon 16-speed AMT and optional Intarder, the rear axle ratios reflects the European and North American trend to downspeeding, offering a ratio of 3.09:1 to work with the overdriven 16th ratio of 0.082:1.  It’s parabolic springs for the front suspension and airbags on the rear together with ECAS.  The warranty cover is three years/750,000 kms.

It’s fair to assume that all the potential bugs and rattles have been addressed through the two years of pre-launch research and development work, and first impressions of each model driven never suggested that there was a compromise in either quality of sophistication.

The new DAFs bring Australian drivers a complete upgrade in safety features with all models in the range featuring ventilated disc brakes front and rear. This feature alone improves braking efficiency and reduces overall stopping distance, but of course to remain highly competitive in the safety stakes you need more.

And plenty more there is, with Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC); Forward Collision Warning (FCW); Advanced Emergency Braking System (AEBS); Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS); Vehicle Stability Control (VSC); protective cab suspension and construction; air bag SRS for the driver and two seat belt tensioners.

Also up in the spec’ are side-camera vision, reverse warning signalling and a basic engine immobiliser system. There’s also a major upgrade in efficiency for the PACCAR engine brake which now provides retardation of 360 kW, increasing braking power in the 1200-1500 rpm range.

The DAF CF 530 FTT 6×4 prime mover will continue to be assembled on the PACCAR Bayswater assembly line, while the LF and XF models will be fully imported in the Australianised specification that results from extensive test and development work completed over the past two years.

Brad May, the Director of Sales and Marketing for PACCAR Australia explained that while the suggestion of full local assembly was of interest, the current costs of transporting cab assemblies in SKD or CKD form did not provide the required economies when compared to full import of completely built-up units.

The European sector now has some highly interesting competition, with the new DAF models competing against the Scania NGT range which has seen the sales performance of the Swedish manufacturer virtually double since its release. MAN comes in with its Euro6 product, as does Mercedes-Benz with the Actros, all aiming to challenge the dominance of Volvo Group, which is currently enjoying stronger sales than other makes.

For those that adopt the European philosophy of near zero emissions, higher driver safety levels, lower total cost of operation and clever telematics and driver performance systems, the future is going to be extremely interesting.

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