Kenworth  launched the latest version of its popular and much loved K Series cabover range, the new K220,  with a grand event at Brisbane’s Archerfield airport last Friday (3rd June) with more than 500 customers, dealers, industry associates and  the media attending the launch.

The K series  has been a staple of the Kenworth range, particular since the  B Double became a part of the Australian transport landscape era, and a trip up or down the Newell would evidence just how line haul operations have embrace the cab over.

The new K220 is a huge step up from the K200 it will replace, providing better cab ergonomics, an advanced CANBUS electrical architecture, a new digital ‘glass’ cockpit instrument display, a quieter cab and a smoother ride  with much improved steering. All of that brings the new truck, if not in line with contemporary Euro cab overs, then very  close to them.

The K Series  and the K220 in particular is arguably the last  remaining vehicle of any type that is still designed and manufactured in volume in Australia. For that we should cherish and embrace the job that  the local Paccar team have done to elevate it on to a similar level as the best Europe can offer.

Paccar has not produced a cab for many years in the USA, although its Euro subsidiary, DAF builds nothing else. As mentioned the desirable dimensions of the K Series for B Double operations, was what breathed life into the cab over and saved it from extinction down under.

While rumours abound that Paccar’s DAF cabin will be the longer term future for a  local cab over Kenworth, that concept will have been kicked further down the road thanks to the revitalised K220 launched last week.

Truck and Bus News had the chance to cast an eye over  the new truck and to grab a brief drive of a couple of different variants, both with the latest Eaton Endurant 18-speed AMT and with the traditional RoadRanger 18-speed manual. The  Endurant in particular was superb and makes the AMT option, in our opinion, the best option for anyone contemplating a new K220.

Paccar started the development of the K220 back in 2018, battling through the hurdles that COVID threw in its way, and for all of that the company has done a pretty amazing job in creating the package they have.

The truck they have created enables them to still appeal to its traditional Kenworth audience, without alienating them with styling that is too revolutionary, but which delivers more creature comforts, better performance and much improved ergonomics.

For  Paccar Australia’s outgoing director of sales and marketing, Brad May the new K220 project marks the end of his tenure in charge of the selling and marketing and  his newly announced role as the company’s chief engineer, which has been brought about by Noelle Parlier’s returning home to the US to take up the chief engineer role in Seattle.

May says the K220 celebrates Australian ingenuity to engineer a uniquely Australian product to optimise the capability of both owners and drivers to prosper in what is surely the world’s toughest but most productive transport industry.

“It is a development path that has been forged by an amazing collaboration between Australian transport operators and a dedicated and determined local development team that has spanned more than five decades,” said May.

“Nowhere in the world does such a close relationship exist between those who use the product and those who design it,” he added.

For her part Noelle Parlier  said that it became apparent that the focus for the local engineering team should be applied to providing greater driver comfort and technology integration for what she described as a more productive ownership experience.

“Although the K200 has benefited from many years of refinement, customers were able to give us several areas for product improvement”, said Noelle Parlier.

Parlier worked closely with Paccar Australia’s director of product planning, Ross Cureton and the engineering and planning teams to come up with the package and  the goal for the K220.

“The project,  beginning in late 2018, was driven by high levels of customer and driver input and we consider this to be a pivotal part of our development program, only then can we ensure that we’re giving operators exactly what they need,” said Cureton.

Externally, if the K220 flashed by on the highway, it would be difficult for most to instantly spot the differences between it and the K200 it replaces. However there are a number of tell tales that will make the new truck stand out for those in the know.

The K220 is more streamlined, particularly with the removal of the ‘vista’ windows from the roof of the sleeper and Kenworth has designed in ‘purposeful With its contours’, while there are new LED headlamps with integrated indicators and daytime running lights that can be paired with bright look bezels. However as Kenworth  says in its media kit, the ‘K220 is reassuringly familiar’.

The most significant exterior change is the new roof profile, which has been shaped with what  the Kenworth team say was the aid of computational fluid dynamics,  resulting in a four per cent improvement in aerodynamic efficiency, which in the world of aero is a significant improvement.

The noticeable absence of what used to be trademark vista windows from the roof profile, has allowed for improved insulation in the sleeper and better regulation of the cabin temperature. The move to delete the vista windows was Inspired by the success of the change Kenworth made on its T610.

According to Paccar, the new roof profile increases headroom and provides greater overhead storage space, which it says, is now triple the size of that available in the K200 and certainly the indications are that this is correct.

The lament of many past K Series drivers has often been about  the poor ventilation in the cabin but the new truck features a new climate-controlled HVAC system, which does provide significantly improved performance and cabin comfort in Australian conditions.  With more space, a quieter cabin, a better than 60 er cent increase in airflow from the new climate control system, it is going to be a much nicer drive for those paid to steer K models around the country.

The K220 does have a new grille and behind that, what Kenworth describes as a ‘more efficient fan,  which delivers ‘optimised cooling system performance and efficiency’, while there are also new wheel well shields which will protect the engine bay and critical electrical systems from road spray and debris. We can’t hep but imaging these also help reduce internal cab noise.

The K220  will be available in six major configurations, including, 6×4, 8×4, 8×4 tandem with lazy axle, 8×4, 10 x4 tandem with lazy axle and 10×6, with GCM starting nominally at 97tonnes and available up to 250tonnes GCM and beyond, through application approval.

Safety is a major priority for many fleets these days and the new K220  is being offered with the option of the Knorr Bremse Wingman Fusion safety systems which cn be ordered to deliver multi-lane Autonomous Emergency Braking and stop-and-go functionality to the list of systems.  This clearly fits with Paccar’s offer of allowing operators to option trucks with exactly what they want and safety tech is clearly one of those options.

Slip behind the steering wheel and the first thing you will see is the new 15-inch high-definition instrument panel.  The new panel is one of the best and easiest to use  instrument panels we have seen  in a heavy truck cockpit and is as Kenworth claims, ‘Intuitive and easy to read’. It is all of that and easy to scroll through various levels of information and different information.

The new digital instrumentation allows the driver to control how much information is shown when operating and this can be customised from driver to driver and trip to trip. Certainly our brief experience on the short drives we had in the new truck bore this out.

The instrument panel also displays critical alerts, including early intervention warnings  and vital oil, coolant and other information that requires urgent attention from the driver. Fortunately we did not experience any critical alerts during our drive.

The new electrical architecture has delivered a number of benefits including a single button system check, allowing them to check that all the systems are functioning and set for operation at the start of the working day.  Similarly at the end of the day the instrument panel will display a detailed trip and vehicle summary, including statistics such as, average fuel economy, idle time, cruise control usage and any potential mechanical issues.

The new truck also gets a new ‘Smart Wheel’  and better controls on the steering column stalks. Kenworth says this will minimise driver distraction  and after using it we can but agree. The wheel has well designed and laid out fingertip controls to handle the expanded range of vehicle functions and settings.

It also has a new and pretty good eight-inch AV and navigation across to the left of the wraparound cockpit, which delivers a good and relatively easy to access and use display with good controls that proved easy to use on the move. Just to underline its move into the 21st century, the system allows smartphone mirroring and Apple CarPlay functionality.

The system can also be integrated with up to six external cameras, giving drivers a full spectrum of visibility of what is happening around the vehicle.

Those steering wheel controls have also been integrated with the AV unit allowing the driver to access info and control audio etc without taking  hands off the wheel. There is now also a very well designed charging pad equipped storage spot for the  driver’s phone.

Paccar has also equipped every K220 with its proprietary telematics system offering live tracking and monitoring of the vehicle, driver, and fleet performance. Again like most things with Kenworth it has fully customisable dashboards while reports are in easy-to-read formats. The provision of such strong analytic tools will allow operators to continually measure and identify potential vehicle performance improvements.

The interior is definitely more spacious and quieter than ever before, with more space in the driver’s and passenger’s footwells  with the truck’s pedals being moved further forward, while there is a greater range of seat movement,  delivering drivers with more legroom.

There are somethings that don’t change and one of those is the cab interior décor. Kenworth’s traditional studded pattern interior trim look  the same as I the past although the company says trim colours have been updated and ‘brought in line with the contemporary range available in the Kenworth 2.1m cab range’.

Available cab options include, a 1.7m Day Cab, a   2.3m aerodynamic roof sleeper  , a 2.3m flat roof sleeper and the big daddy 2.8m aerodynamic roof sleeper

Both the 2.3m and 2.8m sleeper cabs offer a comprehensive range of sleeper storage and bunk options, while all cab options are available with side extenders and the 2.3m and 2.8m aerodynamic versions are available with roof fairings. A big plus will be the , as well as a 2.8m King single bed in the largest sleeper option.

Underneath the cab is the heart of the new K220, with optimised versions of Cummins’ X15 Euro 6 and Euro 5 engines, which as we mentioned earlier, can be coupled with either the traditional RoadRanger manual or the new 18-speed Endurant XD Pro AMT.

The Endurant XD Pro is an extremely good performer and certainly delivers the right mix of hardware and intelligence  ensuring drivers can be more confident particularly in challenging applications.

The Endurant XD apparently utilises Eaton’s extreme duty clutches, which have been designed for increased durability, reduced noise and vibration, and higher thermal capacity for better low-speed manoeuvrability according to Kenworth.  It’s also claimed that they ar now lighter, smoother, and are engineered to reduce fuel and maintenance costs. A longer drive is something we are looking forward to sample this first hand.

 Truck and Bus News is looking forward to that longer drive and a more complete road test of what on initial impressions, appears to be a vastly improved K Series truck.

For those in the truck business, we won’t be telling you anything you don’t already know, but the state of demand and supply means that, if you walked into your local Paccar dealer today, you probably shouldn’t expect your new K220 before well into 2023 or even early 2024, such is the nature of the market.

Having said that Kenworth will be going hard on a road show around the country to provide prospective buyers the opportunity to see and sample the new trucks with Kenworth dealers hosting local launch events across  Australia over the next few months.

So on the surface at least, it looks like Kenworth has done a pretty good job of creating a new and much better truck without the risk of ruffling the feathers of its loyal and very particular customers who have very firm views on how their Kenworth should look  in particular. The company has had very few missteps  over  the past 51years  operating in Australia and we don’t expect that there will be any with the K220.

Kenworth arguably knows its customers better than any other truck maker in Australia, and this was witnessed at the launch function in Brisbane where it was communicating directly with its buyers from around the country and if the reception it received is an indicator, then it will sell a lot of K220s.