Cat CT630 6x4 and Cat CT610 6X4 truck review

By: Matt Wood


Cat has enjoyed mixed results since launching its trucks in Australia two years ago. With new models earmarked for release next year, Matt Wood takes the current crop for a testing Blue Mountains run.

Cat CT630 6x4 and Cat CT610 6X4 truck review
Cat CT630 6x4 and Cat CT610 6X4.

 

When the chance arose to drive the current model CT630 and CT610 trucks, I grabbed it.

Not only was this a chance to drive this model before the new ADR 80/03-compliant S and LS models arrive early next year, it was also a chance to try out the Eaton UltraShift Plus AMT behind the C-13 and C-15 engines.

My opinions have mellowed on AMTs but, rightly or wrongly, I’ve remained hard to please. I’ve driven a couple of UltraShift Plus-equipped vehicles since the release of the transmission with mixed results.

The gearbox was light-years ahead of the previous AutoShift, skip-shifting easily and precisely on most occasions, with only the odd hiccup on uneven road surfaces, railway crossings etc. However, I have been guilty of being critical of the boxes’ low speed manoeuvrability and clutch engagement.

This only came to light with one vehicle when backing onto loading docks as well as when hooking up trailers. The prime mover in question had a software upgrade a few weeks later rectifying the clutch engagement problem.

So, I was keen to see how the AMT performed behind the Cat powerplant. It proved to be the perfect opportunity to do so because what I was presented with at Westrac Parramatta was an UltraShift Plus-equipped CT630 truck and dog tipper.

If anything was going to test low speed manoeuvrability and clutch engagement on the transmission, manoeuvring a 45-tonne gross truck and dog at low speed would.

I should add at this point that, though I’ve steered a few different trucks over the years, I’ve never driven a truck and dog.

I was also about to get a crash test on reversing one as the truck had been nosed into its parking spot in the corner of the yard.

Engine

The first truck on offer was the CT630 6x4, hauled by a Cat Acert 15.2-litre ADR 80/02-compliant in-line six cylinder engine. The C-15 offers 550hp (410.3kW) of power at 1,850rpm and 2,509Nm of torque at 1,200rpm.

The smaller brother CT610 6x4 features a Cat Acert 13-litre ADR 80/02-compliant in-line six cylinder engine. The C-13 has 475hp (354.35kW) of power at 2,100rpm and 2,238Nm of torque at 1,200rpm.

Cat ,-CT630,-CT610,-truck ,-review ,-C-15,-C-13,-ATN4

 

Transmission

During testing, the gearbox performed well, progressive shifting at some points and jumping gears where possible, following no distinct shift and rpm pattern.

On most occasions, it just went for the right gear ratio for the load on the drivetrain, and importantly made the most of the Cat’s lugging characteristics low in the rev range.

Traditionally, the old three-pedal AutoShift performed best behind a Detroit engine, with hit and miss results when bolted behind a Cummins or Cat.

Both the red and yellow engines generated so much electronic chatter of their own, they didn’t seem to hear the gearbox Electronic Control Module (ECM) talking. The computer on the transmission has to talk to the computer on the engine and vice versa.

The old transmission spoke Detroit fluently but seemed to speak to everything else with a stutter.

But today, the UltraShift Plus, the Acert C-15 and Acert C-13 seemed to be on very good speaking terms indeed.

Cab and Controls

From a cab point of view, I do have to mention that it’s nice to see a cab from a left-hand drive market that has a proper driver’s foot well on the right-hand side without any major intrusion from the firewall.

Cat ,-CT630,-CT610,-truck ,-review ,-C-15,-C-13,-ATN3

 

Performance

Driving a truck and dog proved not to be too hard, but I have to confess I cheated and used the dolly lock to keep the trailer straight, but I flicked the lock off when I had to back around the corner to turn around.

It was this exercise that was probably the best test of the transmissions low speed capabilities.

Moving at just above idle, I was able to get the trailer dolly turning in the right direction and then apply a bit of throttle to chase the trailer around quite easily.

I must say, the clutch engagement was spot on with no grabbing or neutralising, just a minor jolt then a smooth application of power. Which, considering how green I am with a truck and dog combination, made the exercise a whole lot easier.

Rolling on the M4 and the 15-litre Cat certainly sounded the part as we headed west towards the Blue Mountains.

Smiling, I even had to roll the window down to indulge in the throaty sound of a 550hp (410kW) Cat cracking the morning winter sunshine with its distinctive note, and as we started to climb that exhaust note deepened.

By the time I was passing through Medlow Bath, I was impressed with the old-school Acert Cat and also the CT630’s handling on the road. Considering the tipper had a loaded dog trailer dancing around behind it, there was little that unsettled the truck while negotiating traffic and the visibility provided by that droopy bonnet was excellent.

The ADR 80/02 engine was a cool runner, with the engine fan only coming on when the temp gauge reached 103 degrees twice during the climb.

A little surprising given that between the charge air cooler and radiator there’s only 1,545 square-inches of combined cooling system surface area. But that was life before ADR 80/03 emissions reducing technology drove engine operating temperatures up.

Cat ,-CT630,-CT610,-truck ,-review ,-C-15,-C-13,-ATN2

 

After getting the nod from the weighbridge at the top of Mount Vic, as it’s known to the locals, I started down the mountain heading for Lithgow.

The Great Western Highway over the Blue Mountains is the main transport route to Dubbo out of Sydney. Every day and night the road is plied by dog runners pulling single road train trailers between Dubbo and Sydney.

Added to this traffic is the constant flow of tippers, tankers and floats all jockeying for space on the steep descent.

Old hands tell me that the road can be a dangerous and fickle one, with regular road closures during the winter months due to snow and ice. But, as a mate of mine said the previous day: "You’ll be right mate, plenty of arrestor beds on the way down".

I looked over at Eaton’s Ron Bohm sitting in the passenger seat who was putting on a brave face after I’ve confessed that I’ve never been over Mount Vic before. I gave him what I hoped was a reassuring grin as the terrain started to tilt dramatically.

By pulling the gear selector back into ‘M’ for manual, I was able to maintain full control of gear-changing duties as we descended with the engine brake howling. When driving the AMT in manual mode, the actual shift lever feels very much like manual gear lever in your hand.

With the up and down change buttons at the thumb side of the shifter resembling, both in practice and feel, the splitter button on the side of a standard manual Road Ranger gear stick.

It provides intuitive control when you’re busy keeping track of the road ahead and the traffic around you. While I doubt I did it with the finesse of a professional ‘mud-carta’, we made it to Lithgow with functioning brakes and Ron not reaching for the door handle once.

Turning around for the trip back I hopped out of the CT630 and swapped into the C-13-powered CT610 rigid tipper. The CT610 felt only slightly downmarket compared to its bigger sibling, with a slightly shorter snout but the same overall feel.

The little tipper was a veritable sports car without a trailer on the back. With 350kW (475hp) and 2,304Nm (1,700ft-lb) of torque shunting the Cat along, it was clear that a 21.6-tonne gross weight was not going to be much of a stretch for it.

The Acert C-13 made short work of the climb back up the hill, though there was a bit more engine fan action as the CT610 worked to get rid of some hot air.

Neither the climb nor the load was much of a hassle for the AMT and the slow descent back into Sydney’s western outskirts was an easy wander back into town. Again the engine brake and the manual mode kept things under control.

The lack of trailer axles helping pull the truck up had me pre-empting some down changes in spots, something easily done at the flick of a switch.

Cat ,-CT630,-CT610,-truck ,-review ,-C-15,-C-13,-ATN5

 

Verdict

The current Cat truck may have a face like a dropped pie, but it’s not alone in that regard, with many other American-designed conventional prime movers sharing a similar look.

In this day and age of fuel saving aerodynamics and visibility there’s a price to be paid for a towering radiator grille and air grabbing snorkels.

What both Cats lack in beauty they make up for in visibility, and the chances of leaving a shiny bullbar hanging off a concrete bollard at a tight delivery point somewhere are pretty slim. Funnily enough the more I drove the truck, the more I didn’t mind how it looked.

Beauty is only skin deep and both Cats had a heart of gold that beat steady and strong with the Eaton AMT behind it.

With new ADR 80/03 engines on the way as well as the B-double friendly CT630S and the line-haul spec CT630LS, NC2 may claw back some of its old territory. You never know, the old bug deflector slogans and sleeper cab murals may even make a comeback.

Specifications

Make/Model: Cat CT630 6x4 truck and dog tipper

GCM: Up to 90 tonnes

Engine: Cat Acert 15.2-litre ADR 80/02-compliant in line six cylinder

Power: 410.3kW (550hp) @ 1,850rpm

Torque: 2,509Nm (1,850ft-lb) @ 1,200rpm

Transmission: 18-speed Eaton UltraShift Plus AMT

Fuel capacity: 980 litres

 

Make/Model: Cat CT610 6X4 rigid tipper

GCM: Up to 57 tonnes

Engine: Cat Acert 13-litre ADR 80/02-compliant in line six cylinder

Power: 354.35kW (475hp) @ 2,100rpm

Torque: 2,238Nm (1,650ft-lb) @ 1,200rpm

Transmission: 18-speed Eaton UltraShift Plus AMT

Fuel capacity: 850 litres

 

 

You can also follow our updates by liking us on Facebook