Kenworth’s new medium-duty lineup of vocational trucks features a “car like” driving experience,...

Kenworth’s new medium-duty lineup of vocational trucks features a “car like” driving experience, more room and a host of new safety options.

Photo: Jack Roberts

Refusing to cede the spotlight hot on the heels of the launch of the new, Next Generation T680 highway tractor, Kenworth has announced the launch of an all-new medium-duty truck line. The new line of trucks will cover Classes 4 through 7, with a new “Baby 8” configuration for mixer and dump applications.

The new line includes both straight trucks as well as tractor models and is the OEM’s first update of its medium-duty offerings since 2007 and the introduction of the first all-new models in almost 30 years.

The launch also marks the North American debut of the new Paccar TX-8 medium duty automatic transmission, an all-new ZF-designed gearbox that features a torque-converter and a robust, yet lightweight design that has been optimized for a wide range of applications from pickup and delivery to utility service and a variety of vocational applications.

The new models are the Kenworth T180 (Class 5), Kenworth T280 (Class 6), Kenworth T380 (Class 7) and Kenworth T480 (light Class 8). In addition, for customers needing FEPTO, full parent rails and fixed grille, Kenworth added the Kenworth T380V and Kenworth T480V with a vocational hood.

Medium-duty options for fleets now include both tractors and trailers, and “Baby 8” vocational...

Medium-duty options for fleets now include both tractors and trailers, and “Baby 8” vocational applications.

Photo: Jack Roberts

Kenworth showed the new trucks to U.S. journalists at a ride-and-drive/reveal event in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, on April 1. Speaking to journalists before the drive portion of the event began, Kenworth General Manager and Paccar Vice President Kevin Baney noted that the medium-duty lineup featured “car-like” driveability and safety features.

“These Kenworth models possess excellent versatility and maneuverability, spacious 2.1-meter wide cab, exceptional visibility and driver-focused ergonomics, and new Paccar TX-8 transmission,” Baney said. “The new trucks are designed to serve an expansive variety of applications including cargo and reefer van, beverage, tow and recovery, utility and government, fuel oil and propane, landscaping, fire and dump and mixer.”

The trucks may be specified with either a standard low roof or a raised roof option. The low roof is 63 inches tall, 4 inches shorter than the raised roof, making it ideal for height-restricted applications, Baney said.

An All-New Automatic Transmission

According to Joe Adams, chief engineer for Kenworth, more than 500 people participated in design studies to help the medium duty design team define the dimensions and fine-tuned ergonomics of the new models. Perhaps most noticeable is the new, wider cab with three-person seating with the bench seat as standard for the Kenworth T180, T280 and T380 and optional for the T480. Customers also can select various seating options featuring high- or medium-back seats for a comfortable ride.

Another prominent new feature is the larger front windshield, which Adams said enhances driver visibility by nearly 17% compared to the previous models. Sightlines to the front of the new trucks are also aided by the new hood’s steep slope. Driver safety is also boosted by new interior noise reductions, which Adams said is 50% quieter than the previous medium duty lineup.

He noted that Kenworth also lowered the cab by up to 2 inches – depending upon configuration, a new feature that that benefits in-city drivers, who may climb in and out of their truck up to 60 times daily.

A new dash features conventional instrument displays as well as highly programable screen...

A new dash features conventional instrument displays as well as highly programable screen display and information options.

Photo: Jack Roberts

Also new is a high-visibility center-dash instrumentation cluster with a 7-inch high-definition digital display centered between four standard analog gauges -- speedometer, tachometer, oil pressure, and coolant temperature. Baney confirmed that this new dash was developed concurrently with the T680’s new display cluster, although the medium-duty version retains conventional gauges for the speedometer, tachometer, temperature and oil pressure, as opposed to digital representations of those displays as in the larger truck. Baney said customer focus groups determined that the medium duty market still liked conventional instrumentation in addition to configurable digital displays.

As with the T680’s display screen, the integrated Kenworth Digital Display allows drivers to personalize information on the screen to match their preferences. The 20 physical tell-tales and variants support either standard or metric units. Additional “virtual tell-tales” are available. Within the digital display, drivers can choose from a variety of screens that show specific vehicle information, trip information, gauges, and more. The display also enables drivers to customize the digital gauge layout view from the many accessory gauges, and intuitively integrates advanced driver assistance (ADAS) features, when specified on the truck.

Kenworth’s new medium-duty vehicles are available with the model year 2021 Paccar PX-7 engine rated up to 325 horsepower and 2021 Paccar PX-9 engine up to 380 horsepower, depending upon BBC. With the introduction of the new medium-duty vehicles, Kenworth offers -- for the first time in its medium duty trucks -- the near-zero emission Cummins Westport L9N natural gas engine that delivers 320 horsepower.

The new Paccar TX-8 automatic transmission is listed as standard equipment for the Kenworth T180, T280, T380 and T480. Adams said the new gearbox provides smooth performance and enhances fuel economy and has been optimized for a wide range of applications from pickup and delivery to utility service and a variety of vocational applications. When matched to the Paccar PX-7 or Paccar PX-9 engine, the transmission has a maximum torque rating up 1,000 lb.-ft. of torque and a 57,000-lb. GCWR.

Engine access is simplified, with either Paccar mid-range diesel engines, or Cummins Westport...

Engine access is simplified, with either Paccar mid-range diesel engines, or Cummins Westport Natural Gas engines available.

Photo: Jack Roberts

Featuring an aluminum enclosure, the Paccar TX-8 transmission utilizes twin torsional dampers that enable smoother shifts, Adams said. It also has first gear lockup – a feature that locks the torque converter at low speeds to improve fuel efficiency and driveability. For vocational applications, especially in construction or aggregate and dirt hauling, the transmission’s ‘creep mode’ provides a low, consistent pace for even material spreading. The transmission also features a hill start aid to help prevent unintended vehicle roll back or roll forward.

A Multi-Skip Shift function provides quick and direct downshifts from any gear with immediate acceleration and speed control. The transmission’s Adaptive Start Gear optimizes the launch gear selection to reduce shifts while improving fuel economy, while Neutral Idle Control will shift into neutral when the brakes are applied.

Additional features and details in the medium-duty lineup include:

  • A new “aero” grille, constructed with bright, annealed stainless steel for increased durability and protection from the elements. Crowns are available in chrome or in-mold dark gray. An external winter front or bug screen can be attached to the front of the grille.
  • A new, engine-mounted, air-intake system features an automotive-style flat panel filter design with a one-piece intake pipe and optional, remotely controlled inside/outside air control. The system is compatible with a pre-cleaner/ember separator. The new design reduces cab noise, offers ease of service, and cuts the cost of replacement filter elements.
  • An air-assisted hydraulic clutch for trucks spec’d with manual transmissions reduces driver fatigue through a pedal design that better matches a driver’s foot angle when engaging the clutch.
  • Three new bumper configurations, including a standard one-piece bumper, or an optional three-piece breakaway “aero” bumper; or a rear-mounted one-piece channel bumper; and a vocational bumper with options for a tow hook, fog lights, headlights, daytime running lights (DRL) and other mounts.
  • Redesigned DEF tanks provide improved thawing time, which reduces emissions and helps to increase fuel economy. There are various DEF options for a variety of body types.
  • New exhaust options, including right-hand, under cab DPF/SCR that optimizes cab access via a robust step and cover design. An underframe DPF/SCR is available for clear BOC and provides an improved diffuser design. Benefits of this configuration are a shortened wheelbase offering a gain of 5 inches and additional flexibility for under cab components.
  • A new hydraulic brake with performance and feel similar to engaging a brake in a passenger vehicle. The brake better matches a driver’s foot angle to further reduce driver fatigue.
  • The optional Kenworth SmartWheel steering wheel controls for the Digital Display provide automotive-level functionality. The multi-function wheel features scroll input that keeps allowing for quick fingertip control.
  • A new, standard steering column is designed to extend ergonomic range of motion, reduce driver fatigue and enhance overall comfort. It features full-tilt and telescopic position capability, self-canceling turn signal capability and column-mounted shifter.
  • Kenworth TruckTech+ Remote Diagnostics, an optional system which enhances vehicle diagnostics by providing engine health information from new Kenworth medium-duty trucks to fleet managers and Kenworth dealers. The system diagnoses the issue and provides the recommended solution to the driver and fleet manager.
  • Steering and front suspension with deep 50-degree standard wheel cuts for standard-track vehicles and 55-degree wheel cuts for wide track vehicles. Both designs deliver optimal maneuverability and turning radius in urban work settings. The axles are compatible with a wide range of tire sizes (225/70R19.5 – 425/65R22.5). Lighter weight mono-leaf front springs (8K lbs., 10K lbs. and 12K lbs.) are available.
  • Throttle pedal: The new durable, hanging throttle pedal offers an automotive feel to Kenworth’s medium duty trucks. The new pedal helps reduce driver-fatigue and features a slip-resistant surface.
  • Transmission shifter: The enhanced column-mounted shifter provides improved ergonomics over the former pushbutton controller.

Baney said Kenworth was conducting validation builds on the new truck line, with production slated to begin in the third quarter of this year.

Originally posted on Trucking Info

About the author
Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts

Executive Editor

Jack Roberts is known for reporting on advanced technology, such as intelligent drivetrains and autonomous vehicles. A commercial driver’s license holder, he also does test drives of new equipment and covers topics such as maintenance, fuel economy, vocational and medium-duty trucks and tires.

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