It is a new and interesting encounter, driving the new UD Quon. Climbing up into the cabin is a familiar experience. The original GW470, when it came out, was a sound prime mover design, and UD has retained the essential elements that made it work. Inside the whole look has been freshened up but the overall geography of the interior remains the same.
The wraparound dash has a sharper look and the feel of the dials and switches has had some Volvofication (is that a word?). Underlying these changes is the sophisticated multiplexed wiring system. The switches can connect into the CAN bus at any position, so operators can customise, and later change, the layout of the switches. It’s a simple plug-and-play operation.
The now-familiar set of buttons on the steering wheel control both the cruise and automatic braking, plus act as controls for the new, larger LED screen right in the middle of the driver’s eye-line. It is possible to scroll through information and set a preferred default screen to be displayed when driving.
There seems to be a common theme in all Japanese truck information screens – the wording and fonts used seem clunky when compared to the look we are used to from our phones, computers and other truck systems. This is most likely due to the system being designed to use the Japanese characters and then adapted to the roman type used across the world.
The lap sash seat belt is still attached to the B pillar and not integrated into the driver’s seat. We have to assume this is a safety consideration, with the – always-safety-conscious – UD engineers in Japan yet to come up with a cabin floor adaptation to hold onto a driver’s seat with a integrated seat belt to their satisfaction.
The overall performance of the driveline is more than satisfactory. The engine feels comfortable at its task and well within its comfort zone when asked to work hard. Taking a B-double set loaded to just under 60 tonnes out on the road with the 460hp prime mover demonstrated the abilities of the new Quon in being able to handle this job. It is not up to long-distance line-haul at top weights, but can handle B-double work over the shorter haul.
We are dealing with a well-proven combination of engine and gearbox, even with the tweaks to suit Japanese sensibilities. Changes are smooth and effective, shorter diffs at higher masses align the trucks precisely to their applications.
Since the Volvo Group takeover of UD, the changes came slowly to begin with, but are now coming thick and fast. At times, it has seemed the overall strategy being followed by Volvo with regards to its Asian operation may have left the Australian arm of UD short of options. Recent launches have seen a clearer picture emerge, however. The Group is now following a two-pronged approach to Asia, offering cheap, unsophisticated trucks in the developing markets, but retaining a high level of sophistication for the advanced economies like Japan and, more importantly, Australia.
This has been exemplified by UD’s previous launches of the PD and PW models and has now been followed, with Quon brought up to speed and a close contender to European heavies.
We can expect this trend to continue when an 8×4 version of the Quon emerges in the future. In the past, UD executives have been very coy about such a prospect, but they are now willing talk about its planned introduction – although they won’t be tied down to a date for its first appearance.
The inclusion of a fully functioning safety suite is likely to make this truck particularly attractive to fleet buyers who do not need a top-end prime mover but do have a duty of care, corporately. More and more, safety systems are likely to become standard across just about all heavy-duty trucks on the Australian market.