March 2012, TruckingInfo.com - Test Drives
When I first saw the T680 on the show floor at the Mid-America Trucking Show, I thought, that's the same as the T700. That truck is only two years old, and I was wondering why the truck maker was introducing its replacement after such a short lifespan.
I had not heard any serious complaints about that truck, so couldn't see why Kenworth was rolling out another so soon. I wasn't at the press conference, so I hadn't heard the full explanation.
The T680 is not the T700 revisited. Far from it. While they bear some resemblance from a distance, the T680 will appeal to solo drivers who like larger cabs, but not necessarily the barn-like cab of the T700, which is very well suited to team operations. The cab is 83 inches wide, 10 inches more than a T660's, and about eight inches narrower than a T700. There's still 23 inches between the seats for easy access to the 76-inch sleeper.
This truck has all the room any solo driver could ask for and it sure wouldn't leave team drivers wanting.
The most striking thing about the T680 is the quiet. Kenworth claims in its press material there is 40% less interior noise -- compared to what I'm not sure, but its darned quiet.
When I say it's quiet, imagine driving down the highway at cruise speed in the rain, and the loudest sound in the cab is raindrops hitting the windshield. The rain was louder than the engine noise, louder than the road noise, and louder than the virtually absent wind noise.
Actually, the mixture of sounds the driver is exposed to is very nicely balanced. The low growl of the MX engine is clearly obvious, but not intrusive. In fact, it's quite pleasant.
Kenworth has done a lot of stuff right on this truck, from vastly improving the throttle pedal placement, angle and action, to the redesigned dash panel that's both easy to look at a perfectly functional. The larger windshield and narrower A-pillar improve forward and lateral visibility without leaving you feeling that you're sitting in an aquarium.
Driving the truck is a simply a joy. It's easy to maneuver, but very solid feeling. While it smooths out the bumps and jolts, it's not sloppy about it, and you never loose the feeling of where the wheels are on the road.
On the Friday afternoon of the truck show, I had a chance to put about 60 miles on a pair of T680s -- one a day-cab and the other an OTR-spec with the 76- x 96-inch sleeper. While you can't compare the two feature for feature, I can say the day-cab comes closer in comfort and amenities to its larger cousin that most other day-cab to sleeper-cab comparisons I could make.
And there's one development I'm pleased to report, Kenworth and Eaton have spent more than a little time getting the UltraShift transmission and the MX engine talking. The result is a terrific-shifting combo that skips gears as it should when it can, shifts at very low rpm, where it should, and downshifts very smoothly.
We'll have a full report on our T680 test drive in the May issue of Heavy Duty Trucking. But for now, I'll just say the T680 could well become the truck all the others are measured against. The Wow Factor on this one is a solid 10.