This week Diesel News is going on a new Kenworth T610 cabin tour, checking out how much has changed from the brand’s traditional design. The single windscreen is one of those indicators of US influence and all of the original launch trucks are fitted with them. However, the split windscreen has not gone away and Kenworth promise it will appear sometime soon. The question has to be, is the single windscreen really a step too far?
The big issue for the truck designers, and one which they have carried off with some aplomb, is creating a conventional truck which fits into the B-double dimension brackets and also has enough living space for the driver.
Some of the earlier attempts to create a 26 metre prime mover with a bonnet and a bed ended up with pretty cramped conditions. In the T610, the introduction of the US cab components has made for a radically improved interior design. The wider cabin means the driver can step in between the seats with ease and move around freely. The higher US-style roof means they can stand up straight. This is a 26 metre capable conventional cab, with an 860 mm bunk, you can walk around in, a real rarity.
The sensation of space in the cab has been achieved by a radical redesign of the layout. The engine hasn’t been pushed back into the cabin, the cabin has been moved forward over the engine. The result is surprisingly roomy from inside the cabin. From the outside, from side-on, the bonnet does look a bit snub-nosed but the new cabin interior space makes it well worth it.
Moving the cab forward also has lead to another improvement in the design. It is now possible to run the steering column, straight down to the steering box at the front axle, there is no turbo in the way, bypassed by a series of universal joints.
Out on the road, this improved steering feel and response is one of the more obvious changes , from the driver’s point of view. Moving the cabin forward has also improved this point of view, in terms of the blind spot in front of the bonnet, largely gone on the T610.
Laid out in front of the driver is the new dash. The design is not radically different from what we are used to, but it is clearly a new design. Although the layout fits into the US style of cabin, this dashboard was designed and is manufactured here in Australia. It is built in a considerably more robust way than the North American equivalent.
Here we have a modern array of controls, but not looking too modern. The climate controls are simple to use and practical. All of the functions we expect are there, plus a switch to turn the under bunk fridge on and off.
Of course there’s a LCD screen set into the dashboard, just to the driver’s left. It can show stuff like the radio or CD info but can also be set up to show a series of traditional looking ‘virtual gauges’. Drivers can pick and choose which ones they prefer to see on screen, up to five. They look very similar to the real gauges with silver rings around the dash.
On the test drive, working the truck hard on a hot day, the front drive temperature gauge on the screen clicked over, out of its comfort zone, and close to the red zone. Immediately, an alarm alerted the driver and the gauge grew to fill the screen with a red background. There is no mistaking the message and a kilometre later when the grade was behind us, the gauge returned to normal.
There is a space to the left of the screen, and around the same size, which is set aside for any extra gauges a truck buyer would like to have fitted. However, if a physical gauge is fitted, it is no longer available as a virtual one.
Traditionalists will be disappointed to learn a pyrometer is not included among the gauges on offer, so far. There is no sensor on the turbo, which produces a signal for the CANbus to pick up. The system monitors turbo condition in other ways, but I suspect some customers will still be choosing the option to have an analog gauge fitted. Of course, the screen will also be able to handle navigation systems, reversing cameras etc. The whole set up also has all of the connectivity we have now come to expect, with bluetooth streaming and phone connection, et al.
The smaller LCD screen straight in front of the driver gives basic information to the driver. There are a number of options, which can be scrolled through using a turn and press button to the left of the steering wheel. Options include trip, fuel consumption, digital speed read out, or even driver performance score. There is an option to turn the screen off, if the information doesn’t suit you.
The ergonomics are good. The switches/controls the driver needs all the time are close to hand and the more occasional ones lie further afield. Gone are the gold bezels around the dials. Instead, there are silver rings on the set of instruments included on the new dashboard. In fact, these dials come out of the Peterbilt parts book and look the part.