UD kicks a goal with new PW model
The launch of a dedicated tandem-drive rigid model signals UD’s push for a stronger stake in the heavy-duty market. Steve Brooks puts the new PW 24 280 through its paces
Whereas its Japanese competitors founded their Australian operations on light and medium-duty trucks, UD from the outset built its business on the heavier end.
And it’s the heavier end of the rigid truck market now square in UD’s sights following the release of the impressive Condor PW six-wheeler.
First impressions from short stints behind the wheel of several versions at Brisbane’s Mt Cotton Driver Training Centre were highly positive, revealing a simple yet smart specification designed to satisfy a broad range of largely metro roles.
Often perceived as the ‘poor cousin’ alongside corporate cohorts Volvo and Mack, UD is in great need of a truck such as the PW for several critical reasons.
One is that it marks the push for a stronger presence and renewed focus on the heavy-duty sector. The other is that numbers don’t lie and no matter how they’re analysed or assessed, UD sales figures are modest. At best!
Yet despite the sales stats, there’s an energy and enthusiasm within UD ranks that’s entirely upbeat and right now it’s the new PW 24 280 model driving a high level of confidence that the future will be decidedly brighter.
According to UD executive Mark Strambi, Volvo production processes are being more widely implemented at UD’s Ageo plant in Japan, leading to much faster reaction times and greater consideration for the specific requirements of Australian customers.
It’s an important point, perhaps best highlighted by the assertion it took just 12 months to take the PW from design concept to production reality. Pushing the point further, UD is now able to supply a full range of cab colours – up to three colours per cab – direct from the factory for prices said to be far less than paint jobs done locally.
Showcasing UD’s intention to target a diverse range of niche applications with the PW, the five demo units at Mt Cotton were fitted with hook-lift, tilt tray, skip bin, flat-top with self-loading crane, and fridge pan bodies.
The PW specification starts with two wheelbase lengths – 5.3 and 6.71 metres – supporting a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of 23.5 tonnes and gross combination mass (GCM) of 28 tonnes. Soon to be added is a 32-tonne GCM rating for relatively light-duty truck and dog combinations.
Providing the punch is the same GH7 7-litre engine used throughout UD’s range of rigid models. Turbocharged and intercooled, it’s a Euro 5 engine using high-pressure common-rail fuel injection to dispense peak outputs of 206kW (280hp) at 2500rpm and 883Nm (651lbft) of torque at 1400rpm.
In a wise move considering the PW’s target markets, the only transmission is Allison’s widely regarded 3500 series six-speed automatic.
The Allison feeds into an industry standard Meritor drive tandem (MT 44-144GP) running a 6.14:1 final drive ratio equipped with power divider and a diff lock operating on the front drive axle.
One of the few variations in the driveline spec is the rear suspension where the 5.3-metre ‘P’ wheelbase uses UD’s well-proven and well-mannered six-rod mechanical suspension while the longer ‘W’ spread employs Hendrickson’s HAS 460 airbag layout.
Also differing between the two wheelbases is fuel capacity with the shorter ‘P’ version having a single 200-litre tank on the passenger side and its longer sibling running twin 200-litre tanks on the same side. In both cases a 50-litre AdBlue tank is also fitted on the passenger side.
The PW shares the same cab as its rigid siblings and typically, practicality rates high. For starters, it’s an easy climb in and out, all-round visibility is good, and the general layout of gauges and switchgear is functional and quickly familiar.
Still, there’s room for improvement. The absence of electric or hydraulic cab tilt assistance means it can be a hefty lift on anything other than a flat surface or with the cab facing downhill.
What’s more, while the standard fitment of automatic slack adjusters on the brakes is welcome, taps for air drainage are obsolete in this day and age of automatic air drain systems.
Even so, it’s a cab with plenty of modern features included as standard equipment, not least an ECE R29 crash strength rating, a driver’s side airbag, Wabco anti-lock (ABS) braking system, an on-board ‘Fleet Max’ telematics system, air-suspended driver’s seat, cruise control, touch-screen multimedia system, electric windows, and heated and electrically-controlled side mirrors.
Fitted with a skinny foam mattress, it’s a cab also deemed ‘sleeper compliant’ according to the relevant Australian Design Rule (ADR42). By any measure though, it’s far more suited to short naps than overnight snores.
On a return run from Brisbane to Toowoomba it was easy to conclude that if your daily grind is driving a tandem-drive rigid truck in and around a metropolitan area with an occasional regional run thrown in, you could do worse than the new PW. A lot worse!
On-road manners are impressive, highlighted by a steering system that’s both light and positive at all speeds, with an excellent turning circle for tight spots.
But don’t expect barnstorming performance, particularly in undulating country. With 280 horsepower and a somewhat timid torque peak, the GH7 engine is definitely at the upper level of its performance potential in the PW.
In a nutshell, the PW will handle regional runs but its true vocation is in metro work where it does the job with smooth, subtle efficiency.
As for fuel economy, UD’s telematics system reported a highly respectable average of 3.1 km/litre (8.76 mpg) for the 255 km round trip.
It’s a trip which obviously included the long, sharp drag up Toowoomba Range where the PW quickly settled into 2nd gear and was able to hold 30 km/h or thereabouts for almost the entire climb.
On the downhill run, 2nd was again the gear of choice. However, even with revs allowed to run high into the rev range to provoke maximum retardation from the engine’s exhaust brake, frequent jabs on the service brakes were still required.
The overall conclusion is that while UD’s new PW model is a fundamentally versatile truck with the potential for a wide range of roles, there’s no question it is best suited to short-haul slogs where driving ease, enviable efficiency and entrenched durability are the foundations for success.
From all appearances, UD has kicked a goal with the new PW and according to our sources, is lining up to kick a few more.
For the full review see an upcoming issue of Owner//Driver – and look out next week for the video of our Brisbane-to-Toowoomba on-road test.