Paccar is finally getting serious about its DAF brand in Australia with the launch of its latest generation models to Australia. That is the message that  the truck media got at  the launch  event for the new XF and CF models DAF in Queensland last week

It’s fair to say the DAF brand has lived in the shadow of its market leading sibling Kenworth and that the huge success of its US style trucks has meant that the Dutch brand has probably not received the focus and push needed to put it on an equal footing with  the likes of fellow Europeans, Volvo, Mercedes and Scania.

But with Paccar now assembling DAFs alongside its Kenworth products at Bayswater the gloves are off,  Paccar says it is finally getting serious about making its Euro products the main cab over offering, complementing its Kenworth conventional models.

Paccar management hasn’t come out and said it but clearly the boost for DAF will probably see the end of the Kenworth cabover K model in time, but there is no confirmation of that actually happening yet.

However, Volvo has been breathing down Kenworth’s neck in the heavy-duty sales race in the past few years, and in particular last year, where the Swede got a little too close for comfort. The Paccar management team knows that not every truck buyer wants an iconic Kenworth and that a lot more Australian customers are choosing European trucks than ever before, so it is logical that DAF should be promoted and aimed at the likes of Volvo, Scania and Benz.\

The increase in commitment clearly started when the company added a limited number of DAFs to the Bayswater assembly lines in late 2018, and that commitment is only going to increase as the extensive investment in the expanded manufacturing facilities continues over the next 18 months, with more models, greater local content and engineering input into the DAFs built and assembled here.

“It will be much more than just a CKD operation in time, and Bayswater will become the fourth global DAF plant along with Eindhoven (Netherlands) Leyland (UK) and in Brazil,”  Paccar Australia’s director of sales and marketing, Brad May told us.

“We are going to have a crack and take advantage of the potential that DAF has for us here, “ May added.

For an outsider, the biggest hurdle for Paccar management it seems, will be changing the culture at the Australian operation from one focussed almost entirely on Kenworth and making employees, dealers and customers aware of the opportunity DAF can deliver, because it has a huge upside if the company can cash in on it.\

Make no mistake, these are very good trucks, from a company in Paccar that has a reputation for getting things right and  which has remained profitable on a global basis every year for more than 80 years, so they should be good trucks. They are every bit as good as anything the other Europeans sold here in Australia in terms of dynamics, quietness, driveability and handling.

It’s taken almost two years for local Paccar product planning and engineering staff, headed up by chief engineer, Noelle Parlier and product planning manager, Ross Curaton, to make the new generation DAF CF and XF models right for local conditions. As well as this they had to make them compliant with Australian rules, adapting the normally 2.55metre wide truck for local 2.50 metre limits.  Despite the frustration of the wait and the spend required to adapt the 2019 International Truck of the Year, Paccar says it is committed to building DAF volume, at the expense of its Euro rivals and not its own Kenworth brand.

That wait for the new DAFs again says more about the tardiness and closed minds of our legislators tan about the speed of Paccar. Our government agencies seemingly are unwilling to give road users the benefit of the latest safety and efficiency improvements from European developed trucks, simply because of a 50mm or two-inch width difference in rules. This is despite Austroads recommending more than 27 years ago and again last year, to increase widths for trucks and buses on Australian roads. One day sanity may prevail.

The new DAFs certainly put the brand on an equal footing with its Euro rivals, with clean ergonomic cabins, extremely low noise levels in and outside, the latest Euro 6 drivelines with Paccar’s own MX 11 and 13 engines and  ZF’s TraXon 12 speed and 16 speed AMT (ZF’s AsTronic 12 speed is fitted to the MX11) as well as better aerodynamics and fuel efficiency.

The top of the line XF with its twin sleeper bunk and 530hp rated MX13 and the optional; 16-speed TraXon impressed in a preview drive around the Mt Cotton Diver Training Centre near Brisbane late last week, with Paccar giving the media, its dealers and customers a preview of the new trucks on consecutive days at the track. It was a huge exercise and underlines the new commitment to the DAF brand.

The trucks feature an all new grille and frontal appearance that set them apart from the other Euro cab overs and gives them distinctive appearance. You certainly won’t mistake a new DAF on the highway for one of the other cab overs.

Paccar is claiming the new DAFs will deliver a significantly lower fuel consumption on average thanks to a range of innovations including the new MX-11 (replacing the old 9 -litre engine) and the redesigned MX-13 engine. As mentioned, the 13 litre is mated to the new TraXon 12 speed AMT (with the 16 speed as an option).  New high efficiency rear axles with new faster ratios and advanced powertrain software feature also help the fuel usage along with a range of aero improvements.

Paccar says the MX engines have been improved with new more efficient turbochargers, a new EGR system and new valve actuation design.

Paccar claims thermal efficiency has been enhanced with an improved combustion system, with new pistons, injectors and injection strategies including increasing common rail pressure up to 2500Bar for better fuel atomisation, while the engines now have higher compression ratios.

There are also new high efficiency variable speed cooling, steering and oil pumps which reduce the load on the engine to achieve lower fuel consumption. Cooling capacity has also been increased and enabling fan engagement to be  reduced by 50 per cent lessening engine load.

Like many manufacturers  DAF has targeted engine ‘downspeeding’ as a key effort to improve fuel efficiency and lower consumption. In other words, taller diff ratios with more flexible torque delivery and better spaced gear ratios (something the new 16 speed TraXon delivers) to achieve consistently lower engine revs particularly at highway cruise speeds. Maximum torque with the MX-13 litre has been significantly increased with 2600Nm available from 1000rpm along with its improved 530hp output up from 510 hp on the old engine.

An example of how the downspeeding works is that with the new XF  and its 530 hp MX13 the truck we drove  was fitted with a 3.09:1 final drive. By comparison the previous truck  featured a 3.40: 1 final drive. The difference means a drop of about 150rpm at 100km/h. The new engine produces maximum torque at a lower rpm and that is part of the key to achieving the downspeeding.

“An important part of fuel economy comes down to how the driver operates the vehicle; the best possible driving delivers the best efficiency. The Driver Performance Assistance (DPA) feature offers constant feedback to the driver of his/her driving style and is effectively positioned so the driver can easily see the driving effects on fuel consumption,” May said.

With the latest gen TraXon AMTs as standard on the MX13 in  both XF and CF series (the 12 speed is standard and the 16 speed is optional) , the older ASTronic 12 speed is standard on the MX 11 engines.

The new MX-11 can be specified in 370, 410 and 450hp versions on the CF and the MX 13  can be specified in either 480 or the range topping 530 hp. Both versions are up 20 hp on the old MX13.

Paccar claims, and our all too brief drive confirmed, that the new TraXon transmission features faster upshifts, quieter and smoother operation and more precise clutch operation. It is certainly a lot quieter and totally fuss free in operation. Again we are looking forward to a longer highway drive to see how it works out in the real world rather than in Mt Cotton’s tight confines.

DAF also says the TraXon delivers lower friction losses and combined with the  faster upshifts helps contribute to the lowest fuel consumption.

DAF engineers have also developed an entirely new electronic architecture for the new XF and CF models with a new vehicle control unit for better driveline integration. Indications from our drive, including  virtually all the variants, was that the driveline integration, its smooth operation and overall quietness has a lot to do with that new electronic control managing every aspect of the driveline.

While the test track didn’t offer up much of an opportunity to really test the enhanced Paccar Engine brake, it showed enough to us to indicate it is very good. Paccar is claiming  the MX-11 delivers maximum engine braking  of 340kW, which is a 50 per cent improvement on the engine it replaces, while the MX13 delivers 360kW of braking power in the important 1,200 to 1,500 rpm range,  an increase of 100  per cent on the old MX-13.

Aerodynamics, have been dramatically improved with general manager  for DAF  Trucks Australia, Felipe Rubio pointing to a number of cab improvements  including  more rounded cab edges with corner deflectors that reduce the gap closures between the headlight and the deflector, and  new grille closures to further reduce drag, along with a new sub visor design. Out of sight and a little less obvious are new flow guides behind the grille on the XF  to optimise aerodynamics around the truck and through the engine bay.

Just like its Euro competitors the new DAF has been loaded up with the latest active safety suite with standard fitment of  Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) Forward Collison Warning  (FCW), Advanced Emergency Braking, Lane Departure warning and Vehicle Stability Control all as standard.

They used to say in the automotive business that safety doesn’t sell, but indications in recent times are that, when safety packages are bundled in as standard rather than being optional, that fleets are willing to pay a premium for a truck loaded with safety features.

Chain of Responsibility, corporate responsibility and OH&S obligations all feed into the attractiveness of safety packages, its being proven with Hino’s 500 standard cab, as well as with Volvo, Scania and other truck makers bundling safety as a no choice standard.

An interesting passive feature is a new cab mounting system DAF has introduced  called  Protective Cab Suspension Construction. It’s a proprietary technology that helps to absorb a significant part of collision energy  in case of a collision. The mounting system allows the cab to move back on the mount absorbing frontal impact, so the driver and occupants don’t. It also preserves the cab integrity enabling easy access for emergency services following an accident.

Inside that cab is a haven of quiet  and that is the first thing that is apparent when driving the new DAFs.  Fatigue has been proved to be accelerated in a noisy environment so reducing noise is a key factor in reducing driver fatigue and DAF has certainly tackled that in the new trucks.

The interior is a very comfortable and well designed, with the XF having a full flat floor and stand up cab, the CF a small step up over the engine tunnel, but still offering plenty of comport and roominess. Warm and tasteful colours on the dash, seats, curtains, mattresses, and walls make the interior an attractive place with a modern contemporary feel.

We had plenty of opportunity to test  the DAF’s new air conditioning and ventilation system, the warm and steamy February weather in SE Queensland proving a stern test for any cooling system. The DAF passed with flying colours and is both easy to use and very effective.

DAF says the new system also  contributes to improved fuel efficiency with the  new ‘smart controlled’ air-conditioning system consuming less energy as it only cools  the air down as much as is needed to reach the desired temperature. Intelligent control of the evaporator is also used to avoid unnecessary air cooling and it  uses residual heat from the engine for heating the cab during shorts breaks, further adding to fuel efficiency. There is also a controller on the rear wall so the driver can control temp while lying in the bunk.

Design of the dash and instrument panel is very good, neat, well thought out and easy to use. DAF has included what it calls an ‘Driver Information Panel’   which features, apart from all the other info, a tachograph countdown, which shows remaining driving and resting times, very useful indeed.  All speed-related functions, including cruise control and adaptive cruise control are intuitively grouped on the steering wheel for easy use.

The dash also features modular, configurable switches which means that if you want a particular switch closer or in a different spot, it can be removed from its slot and swapped with one of the other switch units. The electronic signal in the switches and multiplex architecture means they can be moved where you need them.

There is also a great new lighting system that is intuitive and easy to use, and this is positioned in the middle of the dash. The system delivers the possibility of variable dimming for ‘night drive’ and ‘relax’ modes as well as a full-on flood  of light when  you need to find something small and hard to see in the middle of the night.

There is also very good storage, a great new sliding table and large sliding stowage including an onboard fridge under the bottom bunk in the XF

It’s clear that DAF and Paccar Australia are serious about making the new CF and XF a much bigger part of the corporation’s sales volumes in Australia. DAF sold just 461 trucks in Australia last year (380 heavy duty) , fewer than any European brand on the market, in fact even MAN outsold it  2 to 1,  Mercedes 2 to 1, Scania by almost 3 to 1 and  Volvo by 5 to 1. If Paccar can deliver on the promise and take sales away from Volvo in particular, then it will not only earn Paccar more, but it will give Kenworth some clearer air in the conventional market.

One area where. The current DAF lacks compared to the likes of Scania, Volvo, Benz and MAN is in engine capacity and horsepower, with a top rating of 530hp and only a 13-litre when Volvo, for instance boasts a 700 hp 16-litre.

Quizzed about this, Brad May acknowledges it, and says that it may not stay that way forever, hinting that higher power and capacity power plants may be a part of the future. He also points out that the big banger engines only make up a small proportion of their opponents’ sales volume and that most of the trucks are sold with comparative power/capacity engines to the DAF offering.

Can they do it? Of course they can, however, as we said it’s going to take a change of culture and a new mindset within the Bayswater ‘Bunker’. Brad May and his team are determined and should not be underestimated. Only time will tell if DAF can tackle the Swedes and Germans head on, these new trucks leave no doubt they have the weaponry to do it.