Giti Tyres Big Test | Quon Convert

 
Giti Tyres Big Test
 August 2018     UD Truck GW 26 460 6x4   Story: Wayne Munro | Photos: Terry Marshall

Giti Tyres Big Test: Quon Convert

Aman goes up the hill a skeptic….and comes back down a believer. Well….maybe not actually a complete convert – but at least more inclined to believe it’s possible.
Believe, that is, that the automated manual transmission in his new UD Quon just might be as good as him at managing the gearshifts on steep and windy hills.

Like the big one we encounter on State Highway 16 – the Kaipara Coast Highway, between Helensville and Wellsford, north of Auckland.

When I asked McAllister Cartage owner Mike Steed 20 minutes back if he’d mind leaving the ESCOT-VI AMT to do its own thing on the hills ahead, he shot me a you’ve-gotta-be-joking look.

My point is that the AMT should be able to manage the hills just fine – automatically, autonomously: It is, after all, UD’s adaptation of the highly-regarded, well-proven Volvo I-Shift.

His point of view is that while he’s really happy with the automated manual trans, he’s also sure that it’s better to drive it in manual mode “most of the time – when it’s loaded. Just because (otherwise) it changes gear too much. 

“I’ve tried it – yep…..but I just prefer manual. Then you can hold the gear longer…” So far, he concedes, he hasn’t left it to do its own thing on a big hill – and he explains why: “I’m kind of new to trucking (he’s been driving for 10 years)…..and it’s my first automated manual – so I can’t yet drive it up to its full potential.”
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Pirelli Trevor Test

It’s a typical run for McALLISTER Cartage owner Mike Steed – up to Wellsford for a load out of Rodney Aggregates’ Whangaripo Quarry, and then back to Silverdale.

We meet Mike at Millwater, just off State Highway One north of Silverdale, for the run north for the load of GAP20.

It’s my second time in the cab of a new UD Quon, after an introduction day at the Pukekohe motor racing circuit, so I’m familiar with the layout of the cab and really looking forward to seeing how the new truck performs in real work conditions rather than just driving around a flat track.

Climbing into the cab is pretty easy with only a couple of well-spaced steps to negotiate and excellent grabhandles front and back. 

Once in the cab a quick look around confirms the handy placement of all the major controls and highlights the work that has gone into this model to improve the ergonomics.

The dash layout is very user friendly, with the speedometer and tachometer display immediately in front of the driver, with a digital information screen between them and gearshift information and engine brake display below. 
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Giti Tyres Big Test: Quon Convert


Aman goes up the hill a skeptic….and comes back down a believer. Well….maybe not actually a complete convert – but at least more inclined to believe it’s possible.

Believe, that is, that the automated manual transmission in his new UD Quon just might be as good as him at managing the gearshifts on steep and windy hills.

Like the big one we encounter on State Highway 16 – the Kaipara Coast Highway, between Helensville and Wellsford, north of Auckland.

When I asked McAllister Cartage owner Mike Steed 20 minutes back if he’d mind leaving the ESCOT-VI AMT to do its own thing on the hills ahead, he shot me a you’ve-gotta-be-joking look.

My point is that the AMT should be able to manage the hills just fine – automatically, autonomously: It is, after all, UD’s adaptation of the highly-regarded, well-proven Volvo I-Shift.

His point of view is that while he’s really happy with the automated manual trans, he’s also sure that it’s better to drive it in manual mode “most of the time – when it’s loaded. Just because (otherwise) it changes gear too much. 

“I’ve tried it – yep…..but I just prefer manual. Then you can hold the gear longer…” So far, he concedes, he hasn’t left it to do its own thing on a big hill – and he explains why: “I’m kind of new to trucking (he’s been driving for 10 years)…..and it’s my first automated manual – so I can’t yet drive it up to its full potential.”

Putting the UD’s 11-litre engine, AMT and hill hold start system to the test on a steep gradient with 28 tonnes on its back (we’re at 44t all-up) – and risk having it grind to a halt – is clearly NOT what he wants to be doing with his month-old truck! 

But then he did it anyway – on a good climb on Port Albert Road, as we headed back to SH16 after picking up a truck and trailer load of lime rock at the Port Albert Quarry...

That hill-climbing experience wasn’t exactly convincing – in that the ESCOT-VI upshifted from 10th to 11th at one point…then, just 10 seconds later, had to drop two gears to recover.

“Now, I would’ve held that,” said Mike. Seven seconds later it was back up to 10th – just as we were about to take a tight bend on the hill. It needed to quickly drop down two gears again, so we ended up in eighth.

We climbed on – the AMT picking up a couple of gears, one at a time…but only holding 10th for 10s before it had to drop a gear again.

From there to the top of the hill, it sensibly worked its way down, with single shifts, to sixth at 20km/h – and fifth just moments before we had to stop at the SH16 intersection. It did it – just too busily.

Mike didn’t make a big deal of it, but reckoned he probably would have come up in 8th – manually downshifting if necessary. The AMT, he said, is “basically not really programmed for these hills. Like how the (early HD) Mitsis weren’t.”

Still, he’s now happy to humour me and keep the AMT in automated mode for the sake of our test on a series of steep climbs on SH16.

Again, things don’t get off to the perfect start: We’re sitting on 80km/h in 11th when the AMT upshifts into top gear (12th) just before the start of the climb. Within eight seconds it’s forced to drop two gears as the hill bites.

It’s the only mis-step though – the next three single-gear downshifts come crisp as you like over the next 30 seconds, before we settle for a bit in 7th gear at 30km/h and 1700rpm.

There’s an upshift to 8th when we’re almost at the top of the first part of the hill – and it’s one shift that Mike wouldn’t have made, because the next climb to the top is quite steep…but he’s pulling over to the side of the road here anyway, where the hill plateaus, to let following traffic go by.

Restarting, the AMT works its way up into 11th gear before a 45k corner slows progress and the climb resumes. That provokes five quick, single-gear downshifts over the next 30 seconds – so we’re in 6th, Mike accurately predicting it will hold this to the top of this sharpish climb.

One more steep pinch prompts another shift, to 5th – and then we start picking up speed and gears before arriving at the lookout over the Kaipara Harbour in 8th.

Now, pulling over for a brief break, Mike’s showing signs of being won over….well, in part, at least.

o what would he have come up here in, if he’d selected manual mode – making the shifts simply by nudging the button on the side of the shift control?

“Ah, it’s hard to say eh.” This is, after all the new Quon’s first loaded run on this road. But there’s a hint of newfound respect for the AMT: “That’s not too bad.”

And he adds – tellingly maybe, showing another sign of wavering from his automated mode preference: “It’s quick with its gearchanges isn’t it. You notice when it’s on a hill it’s a lot faster than when it’s going along on the flat. So it adjusts itself.”

He will, he says, give the ESCOT-VI a bit more of a go – allow it the opportunity to prove itself in a few different situations. See if he might end up closer to UD Trucks’

recommendation – of driving it in automated mode for all but the trickiest terrain, where a driver’s ability to see exactly what’s ahead can sometimes beat an intelligent, but blind, AMT.

Although the 36-year-old Steed repeatedly says he’s “hopeless with technology,” that doesn’t mean he’d rather go without the Quon’s high-tech features: He’s more than happy that UD decided to load the Quon with much of the latest technology that the Volvo Group has on offer….

And that UD Truck Distributors NZ, staying true to the parent company’s approach, is including them as part of the standard spec on the Kiwi Quon.

It has a lane departure warning system, which sounds a warning if the truck leaves its lane without the driver indicating. And it has stability control (traction control) – and radar-managed adaptive cruise control (backed up by a cab-mounted camera), which will autonomously maintain a preset gap to the vehicle ahead to avoid a collision.

Part of that Traffic Eye Brake System is autonomous emergency braking: It’ll warn the driver that a collision is imminent – and if there’s no driver-initiated braking, it’ll do it itself.There’s hill start assistance, disc brakes all-around, LED headlights and brake blending – whereby a dab on the brake pedal prompts the truck to call on a balance between the foundation brakes and engine braking for optimal stopping power.

And then, to save fuel, there’s ESCOT Roll, which puts the AMT into neutral when the truck’s coasting, the prevention of harsh acceleration (unless an ECO Off switch is selected) and a driver-coaching system, which displays advice on how to achieve improved fuel economy.

What it amounts to is an unprecedented level of world-class technology in a Japanese truck, UD reckons – even suggesting, in fact, that it “redefines the Japanese heavy-duty truck” with its levels of driveability, safety and fuel efficiency.

The funny thing is that none of that stuff was at the forefront of his mind when Mike Steed went looking for a new truck late last year.

He’d been wanting a new truck for a while, he reckons, but he and wife Toni had agreed that’d have to wait till they’d paid off the McAllister Cartage business they bought four years ago.

The Silverdale operation, which Mike had been driving for, was sold to the Steeds in tragic circumstances – after Dion McAllister was killed in a motorcycle accident in late 2013. The business had come with three Mitsubishis – 2007 and 2009 370hp 6x4s and a 2003 model 350 – all running manual gearboxes.

But last year, the 350 started to become troublesome – “just lots of little things were going wrong. It was always in the shop, getting fixed. The maintenance bill was getting up there, you know,” Mike explains.

“And the accountant said ‘well, what’s your answer to this!’ Me being a smart-arse, I said ‘a new truck.’ And he goes ‘yes, that’s right.’ I was off the next day looking for a new truck!”

What he wanted mostly in that new truck was a good, reliable workhorse with two very down-to-earth, practical features – a low cab height and just two steps to get in and out.

The low cab is important when a lot of your work is on residential developments and properties: “When you’re getting down tight driveways, under eaves of houses….overhanging trees, you don’t want to be scratching a new truck!” he explains.

“You do get into some horrible driveways that you have to back down and stuff. And overhead trees! I get so angry: ‘Why didn’t you tell me there were overhanging trees!’ ”

And the two steps make for easy entry and exit lots of times a day – typical in the bulk tipper work he does around his home area.

“I went to Isuzu, went to Scania – had a look at them and went ‘whoah! They look expensive’ and drove out.

“It was mainly between Isuzu and Nissan – and there was a couple of things I didn’t like about the Isuzus – that third step was one of them. Fuso has a third step as well. And I’d heard a lot about their automated transmission.”

He actually tried to buy the outgoing-model 420hp UD, “but I was about an hour too late” to get the last one available in Auckland: “I wanted it because it was here – didn’t have to wait.”

He reckons there wasn’t much difference in the price of the old-model 420 and the new 460 – and much the same between the comparable models from other makes. So the Quon was ordered.

Given Mike’s purely practical reasons for buying a Quon, it’s not much of a surprise that, after just a handful of weeks of learning first-hand about its leading-edge features, he reckons “I’m still getting used to it.” And, he adds: “It’s maybe a bit too high-tech for me!”

Even so, he’s still sure he made the right buying decision: “I love it eh. Totally different power though – just all torque.”

The 460hp/338kW GH11TD engine in the GW 26 460 model Mike has bought – with 2200Nm/1622 lb ft of peak torque – is the most powerful rating that the Volvo Group has okayed for use by UD, avoiding any Volvo v UD rivalry in the marketplace. There’s also a 390hp/287kW variant with 1750Nm/1290 lb ft and a 420hp/309kW alternative, with 1900Nm/1401 lb ft.

The 460hp engine develops its peak power at 1800rpm and optimum torque at 1200-1400rpm, but has 400hp of that power from 1300 to 2000 revs. And the torque band sees 2000Nm/1475 lb ft over a much wider range – starting at 900rpm and extending right up to 1600.

UD says that the 11-litre engine achieves the Japanese pPNLT (post-post new long term) exhaust emissions standard using a combination of SCR and EGR technologies. The standard, it adds, is tougher than Euro 6.

The Japanese branch of the Volvo Group reckons that its new fuel injection system and reshaped combustion chamber also sees it “exceed Japanese fuel economy standards by 5%.”

The only transmission option is the Volvo Group’s 12-speed AMT – an I Shift by another name. In UD’s case, it’s an ESCOT-VI.

The UD RTS2370A rear axles are suspended on parabolic leaf springs with a rubber cushion (electronic air suspension is optional), with parabolic leaf springs on the steer axle. The cab sits on airbags.

We meet up with Mike and his 6x4 Quon at the McAllister Silverdale yard, where he effortlessly tips the cab for a look-see at the engine in its UD guise. Effortlessly because it’s all done with an electric-hydraulic lift. The first time he tried it, he says, was a bit worrying: It tilts so far forward that “we were like ‘is it gonna stop….is it gonna stop!’ ” It does.

It’s a good-looking truck, with angular lines shared with its Volvo stablemate – which seems fair enough, since they share so much else. The frontal styling is distinctive – like a wedge that tapers slightly, from top to bottom.

The truck has a steel tipper body built by the local TBK Engineering, with finishing touches including a Mike-ordered headboard, steps up onto the truck chassis and the bin and a purposebuilt shovel bracket. It tows a 19-year-old Transport Trailers four-axle alloy trailer.

The truck runs on Alcoa Dura-Bright alloy wheels, with Roadlux R302 295/80R 22.5 steer tyres and Goodride AT557 385 65R 22.5s on the drivers. There’s a 400-litre alloy fuel tank and a 50-litre AdBlue tank.

Access in and out of the snug but comfortable (and modern) cab is via Mike’s all-important two steps, aided by good grabhandles. Three of ‘em, in fact – two on the right-hand side on the driver’s entry, one down low, one high. Then there’s a long vertical one on the left side.

Showing his practical approach to things, Mike reckons: “The thing I like about the steps is they’re real sturdy. You can bang your dirty boots on them.”

You couldn’t call it roomy inside the two-tone grey cab, what with the usual engine intrusion into the cab no doubt accentuated by the lower cab height – but it’s not cramped either. Mike says that he’s very comfortable in the CVG air-suspended driver’s seat, with “heaps” of fore-aft adjustment, even with the skinny-ish bunk behind it in the sleeper cab.

Unexpectedly, he has actually used the bunk already – just a few days ago: “I hopped on there and had a sleep because I had to wait so long – an hour and a half – on a site.”

There’s a real wraparound feel to the extended dash, with a big turnout to the left carrying the infotainment screen, an R/T slot, aircon controls and the like. The turnout flows back past the mounting for the simple fore-aft ESCOT-VI mode shift lever, into a storage bin in the centre console, supplementing the stowage space provided by a locker up above the windscreen.

The tipper controls have been located high above the centre console – in a posi that best suits a shoulder problem Mike’s nursing.

Driver comfort-wise there are even little extras like a one-bottle cooler box – or drink warmer. Even the seemingly standard drink-holder will cool or heat drinks.

Mike reckons that the stereo and the aircon are “really good” and everything important in the way of controls is within easy reach – with multiple functions right on the steering wheel.

Controls for the cruise control and adaptive cruise (including setting the preferred distance to the vehicle ahead) are also on the steering wheel – along with one particular switch that Mike didn’t know about when he first got the truck.

“I was thinking ‘oh it’s actually quite gutless for a 460!’ And then a mate of mine, who’s got the previous-model UD, says ‘oh you really want to turn that economy mode (for the AMT) off.’ I said ‘oh, what’s that!’ ” The ECO Off button on the steering wheel is now pretty much engaged all the time.

The buttons on the right-hand side of the steering wheel control the five-inch colour LCD multi-display in the centre of the black and silver dash, between the speedo and tacho.

Vision of the dials is aided by the restyled steering wheel – its four spokes all in the lower half of the wheel. Mike also says that all the dials on the new dash are easy to see – as are the switches for various functions….except for the PTO controls. The saving grace there is that when they’re engaged that does show on the dash.

Forward and rear vision is also good, thanks to the large windscreen, the shaped A-pillars and good mirrors. Says Mike: “The mirrors? Yeah I love them eh – and the two top are electric.” He particularly appreciates the overhead mirror on the passenger side – “that’s handy” on tight work sites.

The headlights are good – even without Mike yet having had the opportunity (or the need) to use them on high-beam.

He runs through all of this a little like a proud Dad and you can sense that the purchase of this new UD is a big deal for the Steeds – second only to buying the business.

Mike had been driving for McAllister Cartage for seven years prior to Dion McAllister’s death and was initially asked by Dion’s Dad John to run the business for them…and soon after that was offered the opportunity to buy it.

He reckons he was shocked: “I said ‘geez, I can’t afford that!’ But he says ‘oh no – I think you can.’ And he told me the price, so I told the wife and she goes ‘oh well, we’ll have a talk about it and have a think.’ ”

He laughs at that and confesses that “by that time I’d already said ‘yes!’ Yeah, so I was trying to go to the bank, get a loan and organise things – and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, or who I had to talk to.”

He credits another Silverdale operator, Mark (Skip) Golden, with helping him – before he bought the business…and since: “I talked to Skip….and he put me onto someone. Like, he’s helped me out a lot man. A huge amount.”

He continues to sub-contract to Golden much of the time – including the run we’re heading off on in the new Quon, heading west to SH16 via Waitoki.

This is typical of the kind of work that the Quon and the other McAllister trucks do, five or six days a week – carting a lot of sand and gravel from quarries around this lower Northland region…and sometimes venturing as far south as the Hunua quarry.

Mike’s trucks help keep Silverdale Aggregates supplied with its full range of bulk products, they cart to residential and commercial subdivisions, to roadworks and other major construction projects and do a lot of work under diggers on jobs big and small.

Auckland traffic is something he has to live with, work around: If there’s a load of metal to be picked up from the Hunua quarry, south of Auckland, for instance, he’ll leave at 4am, to be there at five. Even so, “coming back…the motorway’s stopped at six o’clock.”

He regularly runs north to the Whangaripo Quarry, northeast of Wellsford, and gets some benefit out of the AMT and the adaptive cruise up and down SH1.

There was one technology glitch early on with the Quon – on its first metal spreading job: “They hadn’t reset the computer to tell it that it had a live-drive – so I couldn’t change gears with the bin up!” Making things really difficult, it was “way in the back-blocks. Gravel, mud….steep.”

A quick reprogramming quickly fixed that – and since then Mike’s been delighted with the ESCOT-VI: “It makes life so much easier when you’re spreading. Auto and that live-drive. You can just creep on up a hill. That just makes the day so much easier. No changing gears and stopping…”

As we drive, the AMT and the engine brake are mostly all Mike needs to slow for corners, roadworks and intersections. So how are the foundation brakes, featuring discs all around: “Good. Had a close call on the Dairy Flat Highway the other day. Someone decided to turn right, right in front of me….just over a bridge, just after a downhill. So there was nowhere to go.

“I thought ‘oh no, what’s gonna happen here!’ But I just pushed it (the brake pedal) to the floor and it didn’t lock up – nothing. Just come to a stop.”

There was, he remembers now, one other thing that had to be put right with the Quon’s electronics: A reset of its driver coaching and rating system that judges the fuel efficiency of your driving – providing current fuel economy offering advice on how to improve.

“For example, ‘Avoid heavy acceleration to save fuel.’ Or, when you put it in manual mode: ‘Use Automatic to save fuel.’

“When I first got it, where it tells you how good your driving is, everything was red – meaning you’re a bad driver!” Then he learnt that it was set for relatively flat highway running in Japan!

It takes us around an hour and a quarter to make it to the quarry at Port Albert, where things are pretty slushy on the quarry floor. An old Mack is parked up, with the cab slightly tilted. It looks like it’s come to grief – and an ominous oil slick suggests that’s exactly what’s happened.

Mike has his own concerns – like my request to do things with the ESCOT-VI in automated mode, as he eyes the slushy, steep hill out of the quarry: “We should get up that hill. Should be right. This is a good challenge.” He sounds a little like he’s trying to convince himself.

With 10.5 tonnes of lime rock loaded into the truck and 17.5t on the trailer, we’re at 44t all-up as Mike engages the diff locks and we ease off, the AMT holding in fourth gear at just under 2000rpm, at about 15km/h.

Happily it doesn’t try any upshifting – obviously sensing the demands of the load, the hill and the greasy surface: “It’s slippery,” Mike confirms. Even a minute into the slow climb out the wheels are “still slipping here a little bit.”

This, he says, is the second-toughest traction test the Quon has had so far: He has had to be towed on one steep, muddy site, but he’s very impressed that it gets up this quarry road no problem.

It confirms his impression that this has better traction than most other trucks he’s worked with and around. On a spreading job he did with the Quon at Bethells Beach the UD did it “so easy – even up steep hills. You just put the little bloody traction control in…lock the whole back end up. It doesn’t lose traction – at all.

“I was one of the only ones that did it….all the other trucks got stuck.” Some needed to be towed out, others just had to back up and try again – then made it: “But this just cruised on through. I just put all the locks in and you could feel when it was skidding a little bit, so you just eased off on the throttle.”

The AMT’s hill tests on our loaded run back to Silverdale are interrupted by news for Mike that his other two trucks are parked-up for the next one and a half to two hours: Rain has just forced the project manager on one site they’re working on to close the access for the day. And the digger at the other job they’re on has just broken down and is awaiting a repairman.

Mike reports that the trailer, old though it may be, tracks and handles well when loaded – even if it isn’t so user-friendly when it’s empty and on wet roads: “But that’s easily fixed – just back off a little bit.”

On a steep downhill closing in on Kaukapakapa, the engine brake – on the fourth and strongest stage – holds the combination at ninth, at 60k and 2000rpm….with just a dab on the brake pedal.

Mike rates the UD’s retardation as “bloody good.” It doesn’t match the 470hp Scania he was driving for Mark Golden until the Quon arrived – but then, that had a driveline retarder.

He likes the brake blending feature too – whereby a touch on the brake pedal sees the system use a mix of engine brake and the disc brakes for optimal retardation.

A stop in Kaukapakapa sees us resume, the AMT starting in second and taking two gears at a time up to eighth, then one gear at a time. The noteworthy thing is just how effortlessly the 11-litre engine manages it with 44t of weight to move.

One thing that Mike will have checked at its imminent first service (it’s done 5300 kilometres) is the AMT’s tendency to start in fifth gear, even when it’s fully loaded….and then, in the middle of a busy day, how it defaults to starting in first. He wants it reset to start in third all the time.

UD Truck Distributors NZ GM John Gerbich is “excited” about the Quon – and not only because it gives the make a heavy-duty 8x4 for the first time in five years. It’s also more than the fact that the Volvo Group is allowing an increase in horsepower – up from the former 420hp maximum.

Says Gerbich: “Well the beauty about this is we’ve been able to tap into all of the latest in Group technology. While they’ve capped our horsepower at 460hp maximum, we’ve been able to take everything else” – from the Volvo Group technology cupboard, that is.

“I mean, the ESCOT-VI is the latest Group transmission, the engine is Euro 6 – and it’s been our decision to take every single safety feature that was available to us as standard…

“It wasn’t a hard decision to make: As an industry we get a lot of bad press. I think that the features in these trucks will make drivers better at their jobs – make it easier to do their jobs.

“And price-wise – well, the UD product has never been the cheapest in the market. And surprisingly, while I’m not going to tell you what those extra features cost, they’re probably not as expensive as you think they are.”

Currently there are 4x2 and 6x4 trucks here in each of the power ratings – and 8x4s in 420hp only, so far. A 460hp twin-steer will become available in the third quarter of this year.

Already there’s a backlog of orders for the Quons and Gerbich says the company is budgeting on around 150 sales in the first 12 months.

So far as the ESCOT-VI’s performance during our test goes, Gerbich suggests that pushing the throttle hard to the floor, into kickdown mode on a steep hillclimb, will stop the transmission upshifting prematurely.

He accepts that, in getting the best out of the AMT, while in general drivers should “leave it alone to do its job….there may be the odd occasion where it may be better to drive it in manual.”

He points out that this transmission has been available in UD’s lower-horsepower trucks for about six years and typically many drivers initially prefer manual mode, but “once they understand that it’s a smart bit of kit they leave it alone. The Group’s got a lot of technology built into these trucks. It is a very, very smart transmission.”

But the last word on the new Quon comes from Mike Steed – the man who’s not much into technology…but who bought what UD reckons is the most high-tech Japanese truck available.

What, I ask, is he most happy with in the Quon? “Pretty much everything really! The comfort, the steering lock on it’s amazing. The gearchanging. I’ve noticed that everything is easy with this.

“Just because it’s got THAT (as he points to the AMT shifter). It’s made it so easy.”

And that sounds like a man who’s been converted. 



Pirelli Trevor Test

It’s a typical run for McALLISTER Cartage owner Mike Steed – up to Wellsford for a load out of Rodney Aggregates’ Whangaripo Quarry, and then back to Silverdale.

We meet Mike at Millwater, just off State Highway One north of Silverdale, for the run north for the load of GAP20.

It’s my second time in the cab of a new UD Quon, after an introduction day at the Pukekohe motor racing circuit, so I’m familiar with the layout of the cab and really looking forward to seeing how the new truck performs in real work conditions rather than just driving around a flat track.

Climbing into the cab is pretty easy with only a couple of well-spaced steps to negotiate and excellent grabhandles front and back. 

Once in the cab a quick look around confirms the handy placement of all the major controls and highlights the work that has gone into this model to improve the ergonomics.

The dash layout is very user friendly, with the speedometer and tachometer display immediately in front of the driver, with a digital information screen between them and gearshift information and engine brake display below. 


Controls on the steering wheel to the left cover cruise control and the distance selection switch for the Traffic Eye Cruise control and on the right, the controls for the digital display.

Steering column stalks control engine brake application, wipers, indicators, headlights etc.

It’s a very comfortable driving position for me – but maybe a bit tight for a really tall driver, with no further rearward movement in the seat from where I set it. However, there is really good legroom, with just brake and throttle pedals, so it’s easy to get comfortable.

UD claims that this cab has been designed for the driver and that shows in the simple but comfortable driving position and layout.

Our run north is a good chance to get to know the truck while it’s running empty and in very bad weather. The drive feels stable and there’s no significant bouncing, as is sometimes encountered in an empty truck.

As we enter the quarry there’s a slight slope, with a significant amount of pig-rooting bumps. But by easing off on the throttle the truck runs over them smoothly, with very good traction.

Mike says he’s consistently got in and out of sites where other trucks have become stuck, so he’s very confident in the truck’s traction and feels that the smooth delivery of power from the ESCOT-VI transmission is a major contributor to this.

Another benefit Mike has discovered is the UD’s great turning circle: He’s regularly able to get around in one turn while other trucks need to take multiple bites at it.

We quickly load and head off back at 44 tonnes all-up. The drive out to SH1 is a very winding road, with plenty of slow corners and I find it easy to control the entry speed into bends with the engine brake and very little need to use the service brakes. It’s a road that gets plenty of truck traffic so it’s not the smoothest of surfaces, but the suspension handles it well and the ride is very comfortable.

Steering is very positive, and it tracks very well, with very little correction needed on the straight sections despite the uneven surface. It’s not a wide road either but the mirrors give a very good view down the sides of the truck and trailer, making it easy to position them on the road. It’s the usual mirror setup with a large, flat upper mirror and a convex lower mirror to give added visual area.

Once out on SH1 we really get the chance to see how the GH11TD UD engine performs in league with the ESCOT-VI AMT. The engine’s rated at 460hp and develops 2200Nm of torque at 1200rpm.

We’re straight into Dome Valley and the truck quickly picks up speed to 80km/h, which is the speed limit through here.

We hit our first real hill at the southern end of the valley as we climb up and out of it. We drop back to 8th gear, pulling 1520rpm and doing 35k up the passing lane at the top of the climb.

Dropping down the other side towards Warkworth I use 8th gear and stage four on the engine brake for the descent and the retarder works well, needing only an occasional touch on the service brakes. So the old theory of going down the hills in the same gear as you go up them certainly works on this truck.

Warkworth produces its usual congestion, with the additional obstacle of roadworks on the main road, right in the middle of the town. This really makes you appreciate the AMT.

The gearshifts are quick and clean and I drive the whole trip in auto, apart from a couple of descents where I use manual to hold a specific gear as I trial the engine brake.

The next climb is up from the Redwoods onto Windy Ridge and once again it drops down into 8th gear, pulling 1500 rpm and 32km/h – slowly picking up a few more revs as we move up the hill. Dropping down off Windy Ridge we go to 8th – our go-to gear for hills obviously and we come down well under control.

The run back to Silverdale is along the Northern Gateway Motorway and we easily keep pace with the traffic. Noise levels in the cab are great, with almost no noticeable noise from the engine other than the fan kicking-in, particularly during engine braking.

Mike and I can easily hold a conversation without needing to raise our voices and despite the cold driving rain outside we’re very comfortable, with the cab climate control keeping us warm and the screen clear.

This new UD has certainly lifted the bar for Japanese trucks on the New Zealand market. We’ll see others bringing in offerings of this level in the near future, but at present it is possibly the highest-specced truck for safety features in this market.

It’s packed with many of the features we’ve seen in the parent company Volvo’s trucks.

Many operators are specifying advanced safety options for the trucks they buy and UD is catering for them with a very advanced package. It’s limited to a 460hp maximum rating – but that’s fine for this type of application. In fact, it’s a very popular rating with many NZ operators.

Not everybody needs 600hp-plus and the lower horsepower in the right applications will produce better levels of fuel efficiency. 







NRC

UD Truck GW 26 460 6x4