When considering a truck like the DAF LF 6×2, it’s all about traction and the lifting axle. The new DAF LF can load up to its 23.5 tonnes gross vehicle mass (GVM), but as soon as the mass at the back drops below 6.5 tonnes, it can be retracted.
Any operation where the load diminishes during the journey, or where the truck is only fully loaded one way, will have a truck that turns into a 4×2, with all of the fuel use, tyre use and manoeuvrability advantages this will bring. The truck will work at its 23.5 tonnes GVM as long as is necessary and then, as soon as the load gets down to a manageable level for a 4×2, it can be raised and the operator starts saving fuel and tyre wear.
For the driver, this truck does its job extremely well. It’s a typical European medium/heavy-duty truck. The truck drivers of Europe who ply their trade around medieval cities, crowded city streets and vast industrial areas demand quite a high standard of comfort and sophistication. In terms of sheer specifications, the Japanese can match the Europeans toe to toe, but there is a quality about this equipment, plus its added design elements, that gives driving these trucks a feeling of quality.
Jump into the cabin, up the two well-spaced and well-placed steps, take a seat and start making all of the adjustments. Fire up the engine and get to work. This truck, both inside and out, has a modern feel. The look of the dash confirms the modernity, and the restrained sophistication.
This an area where DAF really does excel. The truck has all of the sophisticated equipment we would expect, but does not have to over-egg the pudding. The controls and instruments are simple and straightforward – there’s no need to make things any more complicated than they have to be.
This cabin is the latest Euro 6 model, but the truck is fitted with the Euro 5 driveline. This is the latest design to come out of Europe, and it feels like it. The electronics in the truck are new to Australia and, as a result, systems like the electronic braking system had to be put through the Australian Design Rules (ADR) process when it arrived.
The Paccar GR 6.7-litre engine is rated at 285hp (210kW), achieving maximum output between 2,100 and 2,500rpm. Torque comes in at 1,020Nm (750 ft lb) from 1,200 to 1,800rpm, plenty for the kind of work the truck will be doing. This model now uses a ZF nine-speed direct drive transmission, replacing the Eaton used in older models.
The rear axle ratio is 1:3.73, this means the engine is going at 1,950rpm when the truck is doing 100km/h – at 80km/h, the tachometer is sitting just on 1,500rpm. DAF reckons this setting maximises the compromise between drivability and fuel economy. On the road test, it becomes clear this set-up works well for both city driving and intrastate tasks.
DAF is examining the prospect of the AS Tronic automated manual transmission (AMT) in this model, but this will be part of the process of preparing for ADR 80/04 (Euro 6) and it will only be available for the lower emission driveline. This segment of the market seems to be swiftly moving across from manuals to AMTs compared with only a couple of years ago. Figures suggest further increases in market share for AMT will continue, making the planned arrival of the AS Tronic timely for DAF.
Engineering-wise, DAF is working through the process to get the whole range ready for the next stage of exhaust emission controls, due in three or four years. With limited engineering time, only some of the models can be adapted to work in the Euro 5/Euro 6 hybrid space, to which this 6×2 belongs.
The model tested is fitted with a 14-pallet body – this is the kind of work DAF expects this truck to ideally suit. There is a chassis insert located where the pusher axle is fitted, plus a stronger cross member. This all serves to beef up the chassis at a point where there is normally less stress and strain.
The cab chassis comes into the country with tare weight of just over 6.8 tonnes, before any body is fitted. This means this truck is quite a useful performer, in terms of payload. The truck, as tested here, sits at 9.7 tonnes unladen, giving us a payload of over 13 tonnes and a GVM of 23.5 tonnes.
This truck is probably unique for DAF in the Australian market. There are some lifting pusher axles out there, but they are few and far between. Some operators doing very specific tasks have specified and paid extra for this kind of configuration, but no one has offered this kind of set-up directly off the end of the truck production line.
The task for DAF is to take this model to the operators, big and small, using 4×2, 6×2 and, probably, 6×4 configurations in their operations and offer this as an option within a fleet that can cover a few more bases and introduce some extra flexibility into the mix.