DAF LF 280 4x2 truck review

By: Matt Wood


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DAF showcased the new LF platform in Brisbane this year. So it’s off into the concrete jungle with the fresh faced baby of the range

  

I am a bit out of touch with the round town scene. Day in and day out, trucks of all shapes and sizes do battle with the urban bump and grind as consumer goods find their way to retailers and construction equipment is delivered to site.

It’s been a while since I’ve had to thread a truck of any size through the Melbourne CBD on a week day, however, there’s no time like the present to get back on the horse.

The truck engine idles quietly under my seat.

Beside me a tram driver dings repeatedly as he crawls past, tram mirror missing mine by seemingly millimetres, I inch forward with the traffic.

Pedestrian heads bob along the bottom of the windscreen as they scurry across the road, darting like schools of frightened fish.

In my mirrors, a taxi tries to squeeze alongside me into a turning lane; he doesn’t have a hope in hell and sits right on my rear bumper with his high beams on.

A cyclist dodges tautliner buckles on the other side, scowling with effort.

Horns toot, trams ding and people jostle, all a part of the rich urban transport tapestry.

Among all the city chaos though, there is however a place of calm; an island of tranquillity. That’s inside the cab of the newly released medium-duty DAF LF.

I’m idling through the urban crawl nicely insulated from the outside world as I take the British built jigger for a squirt in the city for the first time.

The new LF uses the current Euro 6 platform and cab while retaining the Euro 5 driveline from the previous model.

The result is a fresh new look and some extra kit inside and out.

The old Leyland factory that now builds DAF trucks for right-hand drive markets stopped making the older Euro 5 platform, so the Aussie market now benefits from an upgrade in kit and styling.

The relative peace of the cab gives me space to ponder the DAF brand on the Aussie market.

The company kicks plenty of goals on the European market and the flagship XF105 is a big seller. But the brand struggles to gain traction in Oz.

There’s no lack of technology or safety features and as with its other Euro competitors the cab is well appointed, if a little short on depth.

Paccar ownership gives the brand a massive well located dealer network yet DAF seems to spend more time living in the shadow of its Kenworth stablemate.

It’s a big brand in its own right yet it’s often maligned as the poor cousin to the Bayswater brand.

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The Kenworth brand image of bulldust and bling doesn’t gel with the smooth Euro DAF.

It would be fair to say that the Kenworth heavy-duty image would still play a big part in selling little T359 rigids.

Yet there’s no brand image to capitalise on when it comes to DAF in Australia, it’s still embryonic, a work in progress.

No doubt a 15- or 16-litre engine would help on the heavy-duty XF side of things.

A horsepower rating to go toe-to-toe with the other Euros in the lucrative B-double line-haul market would also help inject some life to the DAF brand image.

The baby LF, however, is another beast altogether. As a general rule, Aussies don’t really get the European way of doing medium-duty.

All the Euros do a premium medium-duty but the market overwhelmingly votes for the Japanese manufacturers.

Market gardeners, removalists or plant operators may be lured by a swankier ride. But the value for money equation and lack of brand passion in this part of the market makes light- and medium-duty a tough place to do business, especially as competing offerings become more refined and offer higher levels of equipment than ever before.

European operators tend to cover more ground in their medium-duty trucks. Often using them for long-haul work, and as a consequence the level of spec inside is often more akin to many line-haul prime movers. And the LF is no exception.

Quiet, refined and with plenty of bells and whistles, the little DAF is touted to be a premium answer to the medium-duty task.

I took to the road to find out just how the DAF handled both on the highway, but also in the hurly burly of metro Melbourne.

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Engine and Transmission

The little DAF uses a 280hp (209kW) 6.7-litre Euro 5 Paccar engine for power and a 6-speed ZF automated manual transmission (AMT) to handle gear changing duties.

The 7-litre engine has been carried over from the previous model and should be an able performer especially in this 4x2 model.

The AMT as with most offerings from ZF is a very nice little unit and it skips though the ‘box smoothly without any need for intervention.

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Cab and Controls

The new look cab moves away from DAF’s previous generation of boxy styling, which gives it a much more contemporary look.

Inside as with the rest of its Euro competitors the cab gets a premium feel with simple well laid out controls and block style switch gear.

Inside, an easy to use digital menu is joystick controlled and is nestled between the analogue tachometer and speedometer.

This can be scrolled through to monitor vehicle and driver performance and styles.

The Driver Performance Assistant can even give you a scorecard of your driving abilities at the end of a shift.

There is also the option of a reasonably sizeable flip-down bunk for those that make a mile on occasion though it does require some rearranging of the seats to get it into place.

In cab storage is impressive with compartments lining the rear wall of the cab as well as the usual hidey holes dotted around the cockpit to hold coffee cups, bottles and paperwork. There’s also the option of a fridge if required.

There are 12- and 24-volt power outlets to charge today’s plethora of devices on the go. However the closest one to the driver is a 24V, which isn’t so useful.

The most striking thing about the new cab from my point of view was the ease of entry.

The narrow cab allows for well-spaced steps and grab handles are easy to access.

Combined with the low cab height of the LF it should be a hard truck to fall out of.

Springing into the LF cab is a cinch.

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Performance

My truck is loaded to a gross weight of 13.7 tonnes. The 4x2 tares off at around 7 tonnes with a body fitted and provides a GVM of 18 tonnes and a GCM of 22.5 tonnes.

This LF rolls nicely out of the dealership and into the traffic.

The LF is available in 4x2 and 6x2 guise and the baby of the DAF range has been given a boost by the launch of PacLease which has seen it become a part of the Paccar rental fleet.

Putting the foot down encourages the little power plant to work. While peak torque starts low from 1,200rpm the engine seems happier at the top of the curve at 1,800rpm.

While the cab is extremely civilised, the engine is a little coarse sounding in comparison, which seems at odds with the driver environment. However, it scoots along the urban freeway with ease and the climb over the West Gate Bridge and into the city is a walk in the park.

Once in the heart of the city it handled the start-stop of traffic without any clutch engagement lag. Just in case someone stops right on my bumper at an intersection the hill start function takes care of any rollback.

Visibility from the air suspended driver’s seat is excellent. A low cut windscreen makes sure humans can’t slip past the front of the truck unnoticed and large mirrors give ample view down both sides of the vehicle.

The only downside to the large mirrors is that they do occupy quite a bit of window space which is a common trade-off with many vehicles. But poking through the CBD is quite an easy task and all obstacles — moving and stationary — are easy to spot.

Kerbside parking was also quite easy.

It proved quite manoeuvrable as well when rolling through the city streets. The only real jarring note was a rattle from the top of the cab. However on closer inspection it appeared that a loose nut on the aero kit was to blame.

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Verdict

The DAF LF is a comfy well-appointed office and, as with the other premium Euros on the Australian market, spoils the driver in terms of comfort and safety.

It’s a nice fit for distribution roles that rack up the miles on the open road yet it’s equally at home in the metro bustle.

The DAF brand does deserve a place in the sun in its own right.

 

Specifications

Make/Model: DAF LF 280 4x2

Engine: 6.7-litre turbo-intercooled with selective catalytic reduction (SCR)

Power: 280hp (209kW) @ 2,100 to 2,500rpm

Torque: 750ft-lb (1,017Nm) @ 1,200 to 1,800rpm

Transmission: 6-speed ZF AMT

GVM: 18,000kg

GCM: 22,500kg

 

 

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