Test Drive

DAF getting up to date

cunninghams gap

The truck model which the Australian truck market examines most thoroughly is the B-double prime mover. Big Rigs drove the DAF contender in this fiercely fought market segment over a test route taking in the busy routes around Brisbane and the very demanding ascent of Cunningham’s Gap, where torque is tested to its limit.

The truck in question is the DAF XF, the brand’s flagship prime mover. This is a truck with a 13 litre engine, the Paccar MX rated at 530hp. At the moment this is as much power as you can get in this brand, there is no 15 or 16 litre engine offered in Europe by DAF.

There seems to have been a new trend in recent years. After many years of just going for higher and higher power rating putting ever more strain on drivelines. Some rationality is appearing with preferred power ratings lowering in some instances. Many fleets now run with horsepower in the 500s rather than the 600s, searching for a sweet spot in fuel consumption, cost and tare weight.

A truck like the XF looks likely to be a contender in this part of the market. It will also make an excellent top of the range single trailer prime mover.

Climbing up into the truck is a familiar experience, the Europeans seem to match each other in step heights and widths, almost to the millimetre. The new look of these models is much more modern than we have been used to from DAF. The previous model dated from the noughties and DAF in Australia have skipped straight over the first Euro 6 models up to the new models which won the International Truck of the Year for 2018.

There is no mistaking the smoothness both of the driveline and the ride in these latest models. It’s also very quiet inside the truck. The B-double was loaded to just over 60 tonnes and seemed relaxed heading out on the highway at Yatala, just South of Brisbane.

It has been quite some time since Big Rigs took a top end DAF truck out for a test, but this one does bring the brand into the same ball park as the other high performing Europeans, like Mercedes, Scania and Volvo.

Yes, there is only a 13 litre engine under the cab, but there is no sensation of a driveline being over worked as the truck winds up on the highway. The engine is the Paccar MX-13, 6 cylinder diesel engine with a capacity 12.9 litres. The power output of 530 hp (395kW) at 1,600 rpm is complemented by a maximum torque of 2,600Nm (1918 ft lb) available from 900 to 1,125 rpm. The fuel capacity on the truck is just over 1000 litres, with an AdBlue tank capacity of 85 litres.

On the rolling roads going West from Brisbane, this power and torque are more than capable of keeping up the momentum and making an efficient mile. The driving felt relaxed and by this time all of the various auto settings had been made on some of the many state-of-the-art electronic safety system included.

The features fitted on these new trucks from DAF include Active Cruise Control (ACC), Forward Collision Warning (FCW), Advanced Emergency Braking System (AEBS), Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), Vehicle Stability Control (VSC). This is the kind of level of sophistication the modern truck buyer is looking for.

The relaxed driving style needed to get the best out of the truck is simply a matter of pointing it in the right direction. This gives the driver the time to contemplate the next challenge, climbing Cunningham’s Gap with a fully loaded B-double.

As the grade increases, the truck is comfortable at 1500 rpm and holding the gear. The message it is on a grade is coming from the driver’s right foot and the reading from the inclinometer in the 16 speed ZF TraXon transmission.

DAF-XF-test-drive-pic-2The tachometer runs up to 1700 rpm when the grade eases off and then sits back comfortably at 1600 rpm. The system knows how much load there is on board, decides to keep revs high and changes according to its calculations. It is possible to develop a confidence in the system, which is borne out in practise on the climb.

The communication between the engine, gearbox and all of the other systems on this truck are one sophisticated whole which can be trusted to get the job done without fuss and without revving the guts out of the engine. Weight, incline, temperature and many other parameters are going into the calculation the truck is making many times a second.

The basic layout is little changed from previous models, but it has improved bit by bit and has a modern look. There are a few giveaways of the older design, the slide out tray at the top of the binnacle has not changed in nearly thirty years.

Two clever and good looking fold out drinks holders on the central binnacle are nothing like as fragile as they are on some trucks. The size is adjustable to take a larger bottle or smaller coffee cup with a an adapter which swings out of the way when not needed.

There’s a slide out fridge under the bunk, with the fridge on one side and a bin on other. There is an option to include a slide out fridge and a separate freezer.

Overall, this is a very easy to drive, smooth riding and quiet, European truck which should be capable of mixing it with its European rivals. It also has the advantage of being sold through the very capable Paccar network.

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