Prime movers revving up for long-haul duel

By: Matt Wood


It will be 'High Noon' on the highway as a Kenworth K200 and Volvo FH16 go head to head.

Prime movers revving up for long-haul duel
The ‘Woody Wagon’ will come in GMH Tiger Mica colours

 

During early 2015, we’ll be putting two of Australia’s best-selling heavy duty prime movers to the test, the Kenworth K200 and Volvo FH.

The idea is to shine a spotlight on two locally manufactured premium vehicles that have been borne of two very different engineering philosophies; European and North American.

The head-to-head comparison will take into account trip times, fuel economy, cab comfort, driveability, handling and character. Both prime movers represent the top end of the market and both will be rated at 600hp (441kW) and fitted with automated transmissions.

So, to get the ball rolling, I headed to my local Kenworth dealer, Melbourne Kenworth DAF in Laverton to order my truck and glean some insight to the Kenworth customer experience. I was effectively going to be custom building my own K200 prime mover.

Kenworth salesman Ron Ludbrook was on hand to advise, as he fired up Paccar’s Prospector software. Whilst I had a fair idea on what I was after Ludbrook proved an invaluable source of advice when considering some of the less-obvious components.

It was hard not to get just a little excited about speccing my own truck from the ground up.

The guys from Kenworth are keen to point out that it is a custom builder and, as we worked our way through the process, I couldn’t help but be surprised at the array of options I had when it came to various components.

In some cases, I tended to lean towards of over-specification, which is quite common on the Australian market where heavy vehicles tend to have a working life of 15 years or more.

Interestingly Australian Bureau of Statistics figures obtained by Kenworth show that 70 per cent of all Kenworths manufactured in Australia since 1971 are still registered, an amazing figure by global standards.

We quickly established that my K2 was destined for east coast B-double duties and had to fit within the 26-metre envelope. So my K200 will be sporting a 15-litre Signature e5 engine at 600hp that will develop 2,050 lb/ft (2,779Nm) of torque.

The FH16 that I will be using in the shoot-out will be fitted with an I-shift automated cog box so my Kenny will be fitted with an Eaton UltraShift Plus automated tranny to compare apples with apples.

I went all out on the cab opting for the 2.8 metre stretch cab for some extra room to boogie and a king bed to loll about in. I also ticked the boxes for a sandstone coloured interior and a 6+2 speaker premium sound system. To keep things kosher length wise and also to keep things a little more aerodynamic, I stuck with the standard FUPs bar rather than the bull bar.

I figured a premium-spec truck also needs to look the part so I went for one of my favourite automotive colours GMH Tiger Mica which should give the cab-over a bronzed Aussie glow.

 I also ticked the bling boxes for stainless tank skirts, dual air snorkel shrouds and a little more chequer plate than standard. Diesel cab air conditioning was also added to keep me cool in my generous cot.   

Ludbrook and I debated gearing for a bit as I wanted to use a 3.9 final drive ratio as I reckon big horsepower and tall gearing are a good match for economy and performance. However, he talked me around to a 4.1 ratio, saying that this will suit the Cummins’ torque curve better and still provide a nice balance between the two.

The ‘Woody Wagon", as I’ve now dubbed it, will sit on Meritor all round with Kenworth Airglide 460 rear suspension. Out front, I opted for tapered leaf springs to provide a nice balance between ride and handling.

The detail provided by the Prospector system was impressive and if I tried to spec something silly, say like an Eaton Super 10 manual transmission, computer would indeed say ‘no’.

My order will be also checked and vetted by Kenworth engineers over at the Bayswater factory. If something doesn’t add up from an engineering perspective I’ll be the first to know.

I left the dealership with my 10-page purchase order and facing an impatient wait. The good news is that I’ll be able to have the Kenworth customer experience and see my prime mover take shape on the assembly line.

The bad news is that I have to wait a few weeks before that will happen, the experience does give a sense of ownership and I walked away feeling as if I’d not only ordered a truck but also entered into a business relationship with the dealer.

I now only have to sign off on the colours once the samples are sent out to me and the ball will be rolling.

Next cab off the rank will be the Volvo FH16 and I’m curious to see what the Wacol crew have in store.

Read more about the Kenworth v Volvo showdown in the October 2014 edition of Owner//Driver.

You can also follow our updates by liking us on Facebook