DAF ‘Re-Newell’

At the National launch of the new DAFs, a passing almost flippant question from the brand manager, Tim Car asked when we would like to have an extended drive of the new truck. It turned out that Paccar needed one of the launch trucks back in Melbourne in a fortnight’s time and that seemed like a perfect opportunity.

Ten days later we found ourselves in Brisbane late in the afternoon, heading to the Brown and Hurley Paccar dealership at Darra, to meet up with Paccar driver trainer Brad Crockett. Brad had prepped the truck and would accompany me on the drive south to Melbourne on the Newell over a couple of days in late February.

Having Brad along was a bonus for us. The chance to have a highly credentialed and experienced driver trainer offering tips and advice to improve our skill set during an intensive two days of driving was a real plus. That, along with the fact that having a decent amount of seat time in the new DAF, to understand its idiosyncrasies and really appreciate its improvements, meant we were looking forward to the drive immensely.

After checking the load and doing a once over of the truck, as well as filling out the work diaries, it was time to hit the road pulling out into Brisbane peak hour traffic on the Ipswich Motorway around 5pm in the afternoon.

The smoothness of the new DAF and its ZF sourced 16 speed TraXon AMT was a real plus in the stop start traffic for the first few kilometres before we gained some clear freeway running, as we pointed the new machine towards the equally new, Second Range crossing, and the new Toowoomba bypass. It was a chance to see both what the new road was like and how the 13litre 530 hp MX13 diesel would cope with the new climb.

For this new model the MX-13 litre has seen torque significantly increased with 2600Nm available from 1000rpm while its improved 530hp output up from 510 hp on the old engine also makes a difference. We pretty quickly selected the adaptive cruise and headed west into the setting sun, the MX13 humming along nicely and the AMT smoothly selecting gears.

While the new Range crossing does not seem as steep as the old approach to Toowoomba, it is a long and hard grind up into the Great Divide, with spectacular viaducts and cuttings and with two lanes each way to allow plenty of passing opportunities. The new DAF took the climb in its stride pulling well up the hill, cresting the summit at about the same time as the sun slipped below the horizon ahead of us. Apart from anything else the new Toowoomba bypass will make truck driver’s lives a hell of a lot easier, avoiding the myriad traffic lights and congestion, benefiting both time efficiency and fuel economy.

Heading into the growing darkness, our mission was to make Moree late that night, where Brad would grab a motel bed and I would camp in the DAF’s capacious sleeper. However there was still a few hours of driving ahead of us before we could enjoy some shut eye.

While the new Range crossing was all smooth tarmac, the Gore Highway south to the NSW border was nowhere near as nice, with bumpy surfaces, broken edges and a pile of road works and automatic traffic lights enforcing one way traffic at dormant work sites. All of which the DAF managed with ease and handled with confidence and aplomb.

The well laid out dash and instrument panel is very good, neat, well thought out and easy to use. DAF has included what it calls a ‘Driver Information Panel’ which features, apart from all the other info, a tachograph countdown, which shows remaining driving and resting times, very useful indeed particularly on a long trip down the Newell.

All speed-related functions, including cruise control and adaptive cruise control are intuitively grouped on the steering wheel for easy use.

The dash also features modular, configurable switches which means that if you want a particular switch closer or in a different spot, it can be removed from its slot and swapped with one of the other switch units. The electronic signal in the switches and multiplex architecture means they can be moved where you need them.

The terrific headlights, and high mounted driving lights, set into the front of the cab above the windscreen line, lit up the road ahead as we headed for a light, late evening meal in Goondiwindi.

As we munched down some food the skies were lighting up to the south with a spectacular light show courtesy of a thunderstorm off on the southern horizon, which also indicated a potential downpour before we reached our overnight stop another 130 odd kilometres down the road.

We weren’t disappointed, as the storm swung through bringing sheeting rain and swirling winds, however the DAF cut its way through the treacherous conditions, sitting firmly on the road with the large sweep of the wipers doing a great job to keep vision reasonably clear.

By the time we reached Moree the storm had passed, washing the streets clean and leaving everything looking like a newly mopped floor. Brad headed across the road to his lodgings and I closed the curtains, rolled the sleeping bag out and checked out for a good six hours of nigh, nigh.

The DAF’s flat floor and spacious interior layout makes it easy to organise yourself for bed and to prepare for getting back behind the wheel when you awake. There are also plenty of little ‘nooks’ for storage around the bunk and the lighting is excellent, not only in the strength and location of lights, but also in the flexibility and control it offers.

The DAF’s new interior lighting system is very intuitive and easy to use, and the central control positioned in the middle of the dash allows the possibility of dialling up variable dimming for ‘night drive’ and ‘relax’ modes as well as a full-on flood of light when you need to find something small and hard to see in the middle of the night.

There is also very good storage, a great new sliding table and large sliding stowage including an onboard fridge under the bottom bunk in the XF, so in terms of living in the truck day in day out on the road, it is a very comfortable environment.

Along with that, the newly designed interior is finished in warm and tasteful colours across the dash, seats, curtains, mattresses, and walls, making it an attractive place with a modern contemporary feel that is pleasing to the eye, as well as practical.

The Motel DAF proved a very comfortable and very practical home for the evening and awaking before dawn, the bedroom was made up and converted back into a truck cab ready for Brad to arrive. A quick coffee and a bacon and egg roll prepared us for the long day ahead as we mounted up and headed down the Newell.

All along we were monitoring the efficiency figures working hard to get our score up to the holy grail, which was a score of 100 per cent driver efficiency. The efficiency rating monitors a number of criteria. Including fuel usage, anticipation as well as smoothness of acceleration and braking, basically just the overall efficient operation of the conveyance.

As we headed south through Narrabri and Coonabarabran the efficiency numbers were rising and the delightfully flexible and efficient 13 litre was just humming along, taking on the undulations of the Newell along the edge of the Pilliga, all the while delivering a smooth and comfortable ride and a level of quietness that is truly exceptional.

The new DAF also features a major improvement to its Paccar engine brake, and as we descended down the ranges south of Coonabarabran it showed its efficacy and ease of operation. The improved engine braking impressed us at the DAF launch in Brisbane back in early February and on the road it was even more impressive, retarding the truck extremely efficiently. Paccar claims the MX13 delivers 360kW of braking power in the important 1,200 to 1,500 rpm range, an increase of 100 per cent on the old MX-13 and it certainly worked well for us, not just in descending big hills but also in towns where it could be used to slow the truck with minimal use of the service brakes.

Aerodynamics have also been dramatically improved with a number of cab improvements including more rounded cab edges with corner deflectors that reduce the gap closures between the headlight and the deflector, and new grille closures to further reduce drag, along with a new sub visor design. Out of sight and a little less obvious are new flow guides behind the grille on the XF to optimise aerodynamics around the truck and through the engine bay. This certainly was contributing to the impressive fuel readings we were getting on the dash information read out, with the figures hovering around the low 2 km/litre bracket, which was to improve further as we went. We reckon this also adds significantly to the quiet inside the cab of the new DAF with less turbulence and wind noise making it a more pleasant place to work in.

On the approach into the sprawling rural city of Dubbo the driver efficiency score hit 98 per cent, almost the holy grail, however the joy was short lived. A couple of traffic lights turning red at inopportune times and a baulk or two by car drivers, and our figure dropped a couple of basis points, which only had this driver all the more determined to make up for that efficiency loss.

Parkes gave a mid-afternoon opportunity to stop for a shower and a quick bite to eat and our stop again underlined, the very ordinary facilities for trucks and drivers at many road houses around the country. Note to fuel companies you really have to do better!

Back on the road the hot afternoon outside the DAF was not reflected inside the cab, where the climate control air con was keeping Brad and I chilled and relaxed as we headed for Wagga Wagga and on to our overnight stop in Albury. We had plenty of opportunity to test the DAF’s new air conditioning and ventilation system, on the warm February day through the middle of NSW, proving a stern test for any cooling system. The DAF passed with flying colours and is both easy to use and very effective.

DAF says the new system also contributes to improved fuel efficiency with the new ‘smart controlled’ airconditioning system consuming less energy as it only cools the air down as much as is needed to reach the desired temperature. Intelligent control of the evaporator is also used to avoid unnecessary air cooling and it uses residual heat from the engine for heating the cab during shorts breaks, further adding to fuel efficiency. There is also a controller on the rear wall so the driver can control temp while lying in the bunk. The DAF was doing it easy and so to were the occupants of the truck, chatting easily as the truck ate up the miles in the quiet ambience of the cab.

By the time we reached Albury the sun was setting, and it was time to head for a hotel to write up some notes and attend to emails before a meal in the pub dining room and a night in a proper bed. We would have stayed again in the Motel DAF, with its wide and comfy mattress, but the need to get some work completed on the computer, meant a proper room was the necessary requirement for the evening.

With the sun yet to rise, we struck out early the next day for the 300 km run into Melbourne. We found that the DAF easily gathered speed to the 100km/h limit and comfortably sat there, cantering down the Hume Freeway with consummate ease. The efficiency figures continued to improve, and our fuel usage was at around 2.2km/ litre as we crested Pretty Sally on the Hume and glimpsed the outskirts of Melbourne for the first time. The driver efficiency rating had also climbed back to the 98 per cent mark after losing some efficiency points in the ‘traffic’ of Dubbo, Wagga (which he encountered around afternoon knock off time) and Albury Wodonga.

A truck magazine road test, by its nature, can be a little unreal compared with the real world nature of piloting a truck for a living and meeting the deadlines and practicalities of life on the road. Most drivers don’t get to have a night in a motel and have to use the bunk day after day and also would not have the luxury of stretching a Brisbane-Melbourne run out over two nights and the best part of two days as we did in this drive. But most road tests don’t get to stretch out to 1800km, so this was a good test and gave us plenty of time ensconced in the comfortable and well-appointed DAF cab.

While we were impressed with our initial short drive at the launch, our longer road test left us even more enamoured of this Euro Paccar and further convinced that it could be a winner for the company in Australia. That’s if they put their minds and focus into using it to win over the Volvo, Scania, Benz and MAN buyers who they need to attract.

With Volvo breathing down the neck of Paccar’s Kenworth brand in the battle for heavy duty market supremacy, Paccar needs to make this new DAF a go to alternative for Volvo buyers in order to defend its heavy duty market lead, and there is no reason why it shouldn’t.

DAF has a winner in the new XF and our time in the new truck on this extended road test only underlined that belief.

Story by Jon Thomson

Article reproduced courtesy of Transport & Trucking Australia (Issue 130, 2020)

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