UD Trucks has just launched its new PW range of 6x4 trucks. Aimed at almost any role in what UD Trucks Australia call the light end of the heavyduty market, the trucks have a GVM of 23,500kg and will meet Australia’s 32 tonne GCM category when towing a trailer.
UD Trucks New Zealand general manager John Gerbich says they can be ordered here now and he expects them to start arriving in March 2017. New Zealand Trucking was invited to the Mt Cotton test track in Queensland to test drive the new truck. UD Japanese and Australian managers explained a number of innovative features that have been incorporated in the truck to achieve high payloads, provide strength, and produce excellent driving characteristics with low fuel consumption.
The model’s development was remarkably quick by Japanese standards, and UD managers attributed this to the culture within the Volvo Group nowadays, which encourages flexibility and an agile market response. The time from concept to prototype was about 12 months and the launch was a little more than six months after the prototypes arrived in Australia.
UD’s PD model is a 6x2 based on the 4x2 PK, but with a redesigned chassis incorporating a full-length 6mm thick insert in the 250mm deep frame section. The 6x4 PW uses the same chassis; it means the deck height can be kept reasonably low without compromising UD’s legendary robust chassis and driveline.
The running gear is definitely different from what we would expect in a ‘heavy-duty’ truck, and the PW is unlikely to be described as such in New Zealand. A 7-litre 280hp UD engine powers it. While less than 10hp to the tonne is below the rule of thumb often applied, it has a torque figure of (883Nm or 651lb/ft), a figure that UD point out is understated by the time it reaches the rear tyres due to the use of a smart combination of transmission and rear axle ratio.
The only transmission available in the PW is a 6-speed Allison Generation 5, 3500 series automatic. While this sounds like a soft option it is probably the key to the truck’s potential success. The rear axle assembly is a Meritor MT 44-140GP, and the only rear drive ratio available is 6.14:1.
At first glance the lack of buyer choice around engine output, transmission types and diff ratios seems short-sighted, but the experts who designed this package explain it quite differently. They say the facts are that the three crucial running gear components are skilfully matched to form the optimum integrated package. In short, they reckon they have worked out the most efficient powertrain for moving several different load types in metro and urban transport roles.
The targeted market for the PW model is broad and the trucks we tried were equipped with different bodies, from fridges to tippers. The choice of either air or heavy-duty leaf spring rear suspension broadens the range of vocations the PW can work in and increases its market appeal. UD Trucks have designed their new model to be capable in all markets but those that require a 6x4 to operate at all-up weights above about 32 tonne or at the high-sustained average speeds expected in long haul work.
The automatic transmission helps make driving easy and is obviously a good option in heavy traffic. UD Trucks point out that autos are popular nowadays and demand for manual transmissions is dropping swiftly. The steering is nice too. But the entire in-cab package is driver-centric; an infrared reversing camera is standard and all the controls are easily reached. The exhaust brake interacts with the transmission, reducing wear and tear on the service brake system.
UD’s Fleet Max Plus telematics system is fitted. It’s a tracking and GPS system and each driver has a tag allocated to him or her. Data such as harsh braking, over speeds and fuel consumption are recorded and accessible to authorised users. The automatic is easy on the driveline too and without a manual clutch it’s more difficult for a poor driver to damage the driveline, something that can make a noticeable difference in some fleets.
We had the opportunity to try out a few differently set up PW 24 280 models around Mt Cotton test track in Queensland. Some had air suspension, but a couple had the heavy-duty 6-rod leaf spring set up and were suitable for the off-road track.
Photos: The centre control is for the driver’s Fleet Max Plus activation. The transmission control displays information such as oil level. It’s a typical UD dash.
On the sealed track the air suspended models were particularly stable. A soft loose metal side track gave us the opportunity to see how far it would drive before losing traction and needing the DCDL (driver-controlled diff lock) and IADL (inter-axle diff lock). The locks can be activated when the wheels are slipping. While traction appeared fine, without anything to compare it with in the unusual loose metal, we can’t be sure if it was better than others.
The track wasn’t an ideal place to find out how the truck would pull on long hills; while all the units performed very well, different weights and relatively short hills didn’t really provide an opportunity to compare them with, say a fully loaded 6x4 climbing the Bombays. But it was an ideal place for pushing the limits on handling and comfort, two areas where the PW excelled. Braking was great too.
Off road the trucks with the leaf springs were great, traction and axle articulation were excellent and for 6-wheeler tipper work or rural deliveries the trucks may well be ideal. The rough metal tracks threw the trucks around, and they even bottomed out on occasion, but it was much easier to stay in the seat than it is in most cab-overs.
The driveability of the PW model is exceptionally good. UD have clearly made it a comfortable truck for drivers, including those with relatively little experience. It’s likely to be comfortable on long highway journeys and when working off road. It’s driveability and cost-effective design will make it ideal in some situations, but we’ll make a final decision on performance when we try out a fully loaded PW on the Bombays.
PW 24 280 designation
UD Trucks reckon their factory, under Volvo Group ownership, is more supportive of individual customer needs. They point out that this is a significant and unique step forward for a Japanese manufacturer and has resulted in a surprising number of factory options being available in the new PW.
Choices of components such as suspension, fuel tank size, air tank locations, and tyres are all possible. Multi-colour paint options, including three colour schemes like Linfox’s, are available too.
UD Trucks staff and customers have been frustrated by the lack of an 8-wheeler over the past couple of years. The UD staff present couldn’t contain their happiness around the potential introduction of a new 8-wheeler. It appears that discussions are in the early stages and a truck is still some time off, but it will have a facelifted Quon cab and be powered by the Volvo Group 11-litre engine.