It was previewed at the Brisbane 2017 Truck Show; we saw it again at the Tokyo Motor Show and now Allan Whiting has had his hands on what UD justifiably claims is ‘the best Japanese truck in the market’.
The latest iteration of the UD Quon family integrates more of the Volvo Group technology than any of its predecessors. Despite that, the new Quon is hopefully more than just a cut-price Volvo.
UD once stood for Uniflow-scavenging Diesel, back in the marque’s two-stroke-diesel days and then became renamed as Ultimate Dependability. It will be interesting to see if this traditional reliability carries over into the new range.
The Quon range sits at the top of the UD family in Australia and is powered by Volvo Group eight-litre and 11-litre engines. The latest Quon 11-litre sixes are Euro 6 compliant and then some, meeting Japan’s pPNLT regulations.
As is the case with Fuso, UD can plug into its parent’s R&D results, giving it a distinct features advantage over less fortunate competitors.
Also out of the Volvo Group goodies bag are all-wheel disc brakes, electronic stability control, 12-speed automated transmission (still called ESCOT), advanced electrical system, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control and driver alert.
UD has more than doubled its market share in the last 18 months, by selecting market niches and filling them with ideal products, rather than trying to be all tings to all customers.
However, there’s an obvious need for an eight wheeler and UD has a plan to release eight-litre and 11-litre Quons with load-sharing twin-steer front ends within the next 18 months.
On the road in the new Quons
UD Trucks put on an excellent drive program for the release of the 2018 Quon range. Based at the UD dealership in Pinkenbah, Brisbane, the routes were a mixture of metro roads and freeway, over which the trucking press could drive seven different vehicle specifications.
The test trucks were all 11-litre GH11-powered, with outputs from 390hp to 460hp; all 12-speed AMT (Automated Manual Transmission) equipped and with gross masses from 17 tonnes to 60 tonnes.
All features were standard equipment, except for the Driver Alert function that is optional.
One truck was kitted out with a leather-bound steering wheel rim and woodgrain-effect dashboard and cabin trim. All the testers liked it and reckoned this package should be made optional across the Quon range.
My first mount was a rigid 6×2 CD25 390, with 287kW at 1600rpm and 1750Nm at 900rpm, and loaded to 17.5 tonnes. It was fitted with a 3.36:1 final drive ratio and felt a little weird on the metro section, where the transmission selected the appropriate gear for economy, but the box had to shuttle up and down to achieve response and gradeability in varying traffic conditions.
It felt more comfortable with the transmission in ‘power’ setting, where the box hung onto revs before upshifting.
However, on the freeway sections this truck was right at home, cruising at low revs at legal highway speeds.
My next drive was in the same rigid configuration, but with a curtain-side body, loaded to 22.5 tonnes. Significantly, this truck was fitted with a 3.70:1 final drive ratio and, despite the additional payload compared with the ‘quick-diff’ truck, felt much more suited to the metro task. It was happy to run in ‘economy’ mode and felt responsive at all times.
The next steer was in a similarly-powered Quon rigid, but it was a 6×4 CW26 390 model, fitted with a tipper body and hauling a tri-axle plant trailer. It was loaded to 34.2 tonnes and had stump-pulling 4.50:1 diffs.
Performance was impressive and, with the GCM at a reasonable level, I had the opportunity to check out the four-stage exhaust/engine brake that gave smooth, progressive retardation.
The Quon range has brake blending that automatically brings in exhaust and engine braking when the footbrake is depressed. Alternatively, the exhaust/engine brake can be brought into play by using a four-position steering column wand.
Then it was time to move up the horsepower scale: into a single-drive GK17 420 prime mover, with 309kW at 1600rpm and 1900Nm at 950rpm. This truck was coupled to a tri-axle curtain-side trailer, loaded to 31 tonnes GCM.
The extra power and torque let this prime mover happily pull 3.70:1 diffs and it felt at home on the metro and freeway sections, suggesting it should fit in nicely as a short-haul highway truck, as well as being an ideal town distribution machine.
Back into a rigid for my next drive: in a 6×4 tipper, hauling three-axle dog trailer at a GCM of 38 tonnes. The new 460hp at 1800rpm and 2200Nm at 1200rpm engine setting made this 11-litre-powered combination more than viable.
With 4.50:1 diffs the 460 was aimed at short-haul tipper work and it did the job easily. To make the 338kW engine work a little harder I diverted form the normal route and took it both ways over the steep Gateway Bridge climb. It held 55km/h in one direction and 60km/h the other way: impressive for a brand new ‘green’ engine.
The engine brake held legal speed on both descents, without recourse to the all-disc service brakes.
A similar-specification 460hp 6×4 prime mover was my next drive and its performance reinforced my growing impression that the new Quon lineup is destined for market success. At just under 40 tonnes it loped along happily in all conditions.
I’d deliberately saved the heavyweight, 59.8-tonnes B-Double combo until last, because I doubted the GW 26 460 would make a viable B-Double prime mover. I was wrong, with some qualifications.
Almost 60 tonnes didn’t faze the Quon in the metro and freeway drive sections and I didn’t feel the need to button into ‘performance’ mode at any time.
A typical Brisbane Friday afternoon traffic snarl dictated a diversion through some tight, twisty intersections and the sharply-turning UD made light work of tricky manoeuvring. That nimbleness should also be handy when backing into loading docks.
UD Trucks isn’t pitching the 460 at the B-Double linehaul market, because the Volvo Group obviously wants to reserve the upper end of the HD market for its highly developed Volvo and Mack brands. However, there’s a growing amount of intrastate, regional and metro B-Double work, feeding warehouses, factories and shopping centres, and the Quon 460 should be ideal for those tasks.
While driving these widely different Quons it was apparent that the brand has benefitted greatly from Volvo Group technology:
Engine performance was ideal and there was a marked ‘snarl’ in response when the ‘power’ mode was selected. My previous suggestions that Volvo needed to give UD the Group’s 13-litre have been largely answered by the 460hp addition to the 11-litre lineup.
All-disc braking was smooth and progressive, and blended with engine braking.
The automated 12-speed – still branded ESCOT (Easy Safe Controlled Transmission) – is way ahead of former efforts and I didn’t have a single incident where the box couldn’t find the right gear, or neutralised unexpectedly.
Ride quality, steering feel and ergonomics were excellent.
All the test trucks were equipped with the Volvo Group’s safety kit, including Traffic Eye Braking, Traffic Eye Cruise, Lane Departure Warning, Stability Control and Driver Alert. It’s obviously difficult to evaluate systems that come into play only in the event of accident avoidance, but I did get to play with the adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning: both very useful backups for those moments when a driver might be distracted momentarily.
UD Trucks has managed to improve a market share that was becoming depressingly small three years ago. The method has been to select market segments and spec’ perfectly to satisfy them.
The upgraded 11-litre engine range now broadens that scope and makes the new Quon the best-specified Japanese heavy truck. The opposition is on notice.