I got to take a big, yellow T700, powered by a 485-horsepower, 1,650-pounds-feet Paccar 12.9 engine, out for several hours for a test drive, which will be featured in the July issue of Heavy Duty Trucking. But here are some of my initial impressions.
Kenworth's new T700 - unlike its T2000 predecessor - is recognizably from the same stable as the highly popular T660. But the T700 is much more than a restyled full-cab aero replacement for the T2000. There's more room inside with a full-height cab, a whole new dashboard with multiplexed engineering, and new comfort features.
The T700 is Kenworth's answer for customers who want the best aerodynamcs with a full-width cab for maximum room for drivers who like space to move around and for teams that share the workplace. It is configured only as a high-roof 75-inch sleeper cab and thus is targeted at over-the-road fleets and owner-operators.
IN THE CAB
The main cab structure has not changed significantly from the T2000 to the T700. The new truck incorporates all the significant updates that over its 14-year life made the somewhat dubious early T2000 into a reliable and durable truck. The roof cap is all new, rising inside to 8 feet.
The dash is new in the T700, replacing the very dated instrumentation of the older truck. Now a multiplexed dash, it has the ability for instruments to be positioned wherever a customer might prefer. There are round dials with chrome bezels on the B panel and enough real estate to accommodate Kenworth's new NavPlus navigation and control system as it becomes available.
Inside, the dash is like other new Kenworths - modern, ergonomic and attractive. On the road, the differentiated switches in the center of the dash proved easy to identify without looking down at them. They were satisfyingly positive in the flip action as you'd expect in a Kenworth.
The tall interior means a driver can stand up straight out of the seat and walk back into the sleeper through the nearly 30-inch space between the seats. In the sleeper, the "cathedral" ceiling allows for a much more open top bunk that you can actually sit up on, and there's now storage on the back of cab for both upper and lower bunk. In all, there's more than 60 cubic feet of storage, which Kenworth says is an industry-leading figure.
ON THE ROAD
There will likely be a lot of T700s with the Paccar engine. While 485 horsepower and 1,650 pounds-feet isn't extraordinary on paper, the engine pulls like a train if you lug it down. The torque peak is flat all the way back to 1,100 rpms. Driving with a manual, as I did in a day-cab T660, it could be exploited for some really good fuel economy.
With the Eaton UltraShift Plus on this test model, rpms would rise to 1,650 or 1,700 before the transmission would shift - although an earlier shift can be encouraged by backing out of the throttle or bumping the "up" arrow on the keypad. That would save at least 100 rpms, and the MX picked up the next gear easily - even in the wider-step 10 speed.
This big yellow Kenworth was one comfortable, quiet truck to drive.
Customers who persevered with the T2000 finished up with a good, though slightly dated truck over the years. Some, though, who tried early T2s never came back. Now they have every reason to. This T700 not only looks a whole lot better, it IS a whole lot better.
Read the full Test Drive in the July issue of Heavy Duty Trucking magazine.