A True Japanese Prime Mover

a true Japanese prime mover

In Australia we have seen plenty of Japanese heavy duty trucks but there has never really been a true Japanese prime mover, with the new Quon from UD, Diesel News reckons we may finally have one.

The Australian requirements for a prime mover are unlike those anywhere else in the world. We are also a relatively small prime mover market in the greater scheme of things, but every truck manufacturer likes to have a photo in their boardroom of their prime mover hauling a road train on a dusty red road in Australia’s outback. It infers ruggedness, durability and strength.

They have all had a crack at the market and have succeeded in one way or another. For the Japanese, however, the results have been patchy at best. The domestic Japanese heavy duty market does exist, but the heavy duty rigid is the dominant force at the heavy end of the weight range. There is also not much of a sleeper cabin tradition in Japan, most are fitted with something we would regard as an enhanced day cab.

All of the Japanese truck makers have offered a prime mover to the heavy duty market which has ticked some of the boxes in terms of Aussie requirements, but none have hit the mark squarely enough to have an impact. 


a true Japanese prime mover


Engines have not had enough power or torque, wheelbases have not been suitable to get maximum benefit in GCM terms. The marriage of the Roadranger gearbox and Japanese engine has not been one made in heaven, functional but not great. Cabins have been ordinary and often cramped. The trucks have been adequate for the task, but were up against the best North America and Europe could offer, and coming a distant third.

The way some Japanese designed trucks has transformed in the past 10 years shows the influence of European ownership, plus the perceived need by Japanese industry to open up to global ideas has taken hold in Japan. The big four Japanese truck makers no longer make a truck to suit Japanese buyers and then adapt it as an afterthought for export markets, the outside world is part of the initial design scope.

These changes are epitomised in the latest Quon from UD. This is like a new truck, from the ground up. It may look familiar, but from behind the wheel it is a transformation. While retaining the familiar solidity and resilience of the traditional UD truck the new design has allowed the designers from the Volvo Group to run riot.

The Quon doesn’t miss out on much of the technology we have seen in Volvo for many years and in Mack’s trucks more recently. This is a Japanese prime mover with all of the fruit. It is a very sophisticated unsophisticated truck, if that’s possible. The smart technology is an overlay on a basic durable Japanese truck.

By adding all of these technologies which make up the modern sophisticated truck, UD trucks has set itself apart from the other Japanese manufacturers competing here in Australia. Other brands do have access to very sophisticated electronics and systems globally, but often choose not offer them here. UD has decided to go to town on technology and throw everything at it.


a true Japanese prime mover


Top of the Range

Diesel magazine took the top of the range UD, to the top of the range, to Toowoomba and drove a GW 6×4 prime mover pulling a single trailer on a circuit around the Darling Downs and the upper Brisbane Valley. This route could be a typical day out for an intrastate prime mover going about its daily task in these parts.

This truck is rated up to 60 tonnes GCM as standard, but the truck is configurable up to 68 tonnes, if the correct rear axle ratios are specified. It is powered by the 460 horsepower GH11 engine. This is the Volvo Group 11 litre built by UD at its Ageo plant in Tokyo. Due to its design and engine mapping this relatively small, at 11 litres, engine puts out 2200Nm of torque. It currently passes the PPLT Japanese exhaust emission regulations, equivalent to Euro-6 or ADR 80/04, which we can expect to come into force here in Australia sometime in the 2020s.

The transmission is the Escot Vl. Again, this is another Volvo group technology, the same basic gearbox as the I-shift and the M-Drive used elsewhere in the group. We can be sure of its smooth changing pedigree. The version chosen for this model is the overdrive box with a 1:0.78 ratio in top gear.

As with all UD prime movers since 2003 the truck is fitted with EBS, along with disc brakes and the engine compression brake available on this group 11 litre. In terms of suspension, there are parabolics on the front and an eight bag air suspension on the rear.

These are the basic specifications on this truck, but there is so much more which the group technology can offer and does make available in these models. UD divides the safety equipment on offer into basic safety and active safety, both preventative and predictive. 


a true Japanese prime mover