UD Quon truck review

By: Matt Wood


A new Volvo drivetrain is set to make UD’s heavy-duty banger, the Quon, a more competitive, economical and easier-to-live-with workhorse.

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On a recent visit to Japan, my first time there, I had a look at the latest Japanese heavy-duty offering, UD’s Quon, which has been given a new Scandinavian heart.

The Quon is already Australia’s best-selling Japanese truck in the 224kW-plus (350hp) bracket and has been for the past seven years.

But, to date, it has been reliant on the Nissan Diesel 294-246kW (400-470hp) GE13 engine as a power source, coupled with either a manual or three-pedal auto-shift Eaton transmission.

But it seems that UD’s place in the Volvo fold is paying some dividends in more ways than one, with Volvo Powertrain making its 11-litre engine available to UD as well as an I-Shiftbased transmission.

One look at the spec sheet and it’s clear the new truck has civil construction and local government tipper written all over it, with wheel bases ranging from 3.9m on air-bags (CW 26380), 4.4m on steel six rod (CW 26380) and 6.5m on air (GK17 420).

All are standard with the new AMT box.

This leaves the GW 26470 at the top of UD’s horsepower tree in Australia with the GE13 engine and Eaton cog-swapper for higher GCM roles requiring some extra oomph.

Engine

The new 11-litre GH11 engine is as you expect: a selective catalytic reduction (SCR) engine that uses high-pressure injection to deliver fuel.

It’s probably also worth mentioning the Holset variable-nozzle turbo, which is expected to dodge some of the longevity issues associated with variable geometry turbos (VGTs).

The engine will cover the lower power outputs of the Quon range from 279-309kW (380-420hp) while retaining the respected GE13 engine for 246kW applications.

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Transmission

Nestled behind the GH11 is the rather clunkily named ESCOT 5, 12-speed automated manual transmission (AMT), which brings along a couple of other nifty features from the Volvo group toy box, such as an easy hill start (EHS) function and a free-wheeling economy function called ESCOT-roll, which does rather sound like something you’d buy from a food van in the middle of the night and regret later.

However, you may be wondering what ESCOT stands for? It stands for ‘easy safe controlled transmission’ — doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, does it?

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Cab and Controls

What's under the cab may be new, however, it's probably worth pointing out a couple of features of the Quon cab. It's safe to say that there wouldn't be a cabover on the market that you can just saunter into, but the Quon is still a pretty easy cab to access.

Once seated, the new CVG seat appears to be the right unit for the job but the real test will be an Aussie road with a trailer on behind.

While many truck makers have opted for an integrated seatbelt system, UD has opted for a B-pillar mount.

UD Australia's Product Planning and Engineering Manager, Mark Hammond, defends this decision by pointing to examples where the seat base has come free of the cab floor in other vehicles, injuring the driver seriously or worse.

UD use what it calls a 'tension reducing seatbelt system' (TRSS) to reduce the possibility of a driver's internal organs being forced out of their ears while negotiating speed humps or rough roads, the usual result of an air-suspended seat and pillar-mounted belt anchor, but still effective enough to stop a driver from hitting the screen.

And to reduce the impact of an accident on a driver's knees, UD has incorporated a knee-level crumple zone in the dash panels that reduces the impact of a collision on the driver.

The gear lever for the ESCOT box is refreshingly just that, a gear lever which to my mind seems more intuitive to use than a push-button pad or T-bar. All of the stick positions are laid out in a H-pattern which also gives the whole installation a familiar feel.

The only thorn in the side of the rather neat installation is a button set inside the top of the gear stick. This is used for changing power take-off (PTO) speed in PTO-equipped trucks. Ideally, I think it would have been better installed somewhere on the dash or console of the truck because it just sits there saying "fiddle with this while you are sitting in traffic." It could turn out to be the gear-stick equivalent of constantly clicking a retractable biro when stressed. 

Performance

After seeing trucks being created, it was time to meet the new-ish Quon.

Behind the Ageo plant is a UD test track; while not huge it proved a useful facility to get to know the new drivetrain.

The first Quon I drove was the 4x2 CK17 380 loaded to a gross weight of 16 tonnes. As you'd expect from a Japanese truck with a Euro heart, the engine is very quiet and smooth, and when teamed up with the AMT tranny, the whole package performs very well indeed.

As I pulled out onto the track, the Quon just ambled up to speed without any fuss; the trucks we were driving were ADR test trucks so there may have been a few discrepancies in diff ratios.

But the initial impression was of a rather torquey little motor that spoke to the rest of the driveline clearly, while the Volvonian roots of the engine are clear with a nice flat torque curve that runs at peak from 1,000rpm to 1,400rpm.

The whole package was easily thrown around the short circuit, which highlighted a major improvement from the previous engine, or any other heavy Japanese truck I've driven - it has an engine brake that actually works.

By using the four-stage stalk control on the left-hand side of the steering column, it's possible to engage just the exhaust brake or exhaust pressure governor (EPG). The EPG uses exhaust backpressure to provide some braking effect but the higher stages of the engine brake also use the extra engine brake (EEB), which back pressures the engine cylinders.

The variable nozzle turbo makes it possible for this set-up to be used, as VGTs tend to not like backpressure. At 16 tonnes, the truck was hardly pushing its GVM envelope but at this weight the engine braking was very efficient.

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Verdict

Having a glimpse of the new Quon from behind the wheel gives the impression of a very driveable, neat package.

And to be honest, the truck appears to have much more potential than the value-pack tipper or glorified terminal tractor role that the Aussie-spec Quon will probably be destined to fill.

However, it's worth taking into account that both Asia and Africa are UD's biggest markets where the numbers of trucks sold are measured in the thousands rather than the hundreds.

As a package, the Quon appears to come up trumps. When it hits the market here in mid-2013, will anyone actually fantasise about driving one? In Australia the future's looking a bit cloudy on that one at this stage. However, across Asia and Africa that will most likely be a different story.

Specifications

Make/Model: UD Quon

Engine: 11-litre Volvo GH 11 SCR 380-420hp (280-308kW); UD GE 13 470hp (346kW)

Transmission: GH 11 — ESCOT 5, 12-speed AMT; GE 13 — manual/ three-pedal auto-shift Eaton

Wheel Base: 3.9m on air-bags (CW 26380); 4.4m on steel six rod (CW 26380); 6.5m on air (GK 17 420)

Other Features: Easy hill start (EHS ); easy safe controlled transmission (ESCOT ); tension reducing seatbelt system (TRSS)

 

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