Kenworth pushes new boundaries with wide-cab appeal

By Steve Sturgess09 July 2021

Washington state-based truck manufacturer’s technology advancements make newly launched vehicles more often comfortable, fuel efficient and safer.

Kenworth kept a few members of the trucking press busy over a two-week period with the launch of their ultra-efficient T680 Next Generation truck, which was quickly followed by the introduction of the new range of wide-cab medium-duty Class 5 through “baby 8” trucks.

This development of these new trucks was a five-year program, and well worth doing as they will eventually replace were introduced almost 30 years ago.

The wide cab is the same as Kenworth uses on the bigger, heavier Class 8s. The 2.1m aluminum cab rings in several changes, most notably in the scaled-down digital dash. In most other respects these cabs are identical although they sit lower, especially on the small Class 5 chassis.

Kenworth medium-duty trucks Kenworth’s new medium-duty trucks - T180, T280, T380 and T480 - meet urban restrictions on emissions and noise

The four all-new models are the T180, T280, T380 and T480. The T180 has GVWR of up to 19,500lb (about the weight of a school bus) and the T280 to 26,000lb. The bonus factor is that both can be driven by non-commercial drivers.

The Class 7 version of the T380 has a weight rating up to 33,000lb. The “baby 8” with tandem drive axles starts at 33,001lb and, depending on lift axles or boosters, could scale up to 80,000lb.

Kenworth, who specializes in production of medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles. said that the “baby 8” is unlikely to go all the way to this maximum as the biggest engine available in the new vehicles is the PX-9, Paccar’s 9.0L six-cylinder diesel with a 380hp rating for the top model.

According to Kenworth, customers who want the heavier weights and horsepower are likely to step up to the full size vocational T880 with available 13L or 15L power. The Class 5 and Class 6 wide-cab models are powered by the 7.0L Paccar PX-7 rated 300hp or 325hp and is the same as the Cummins B6.7.

The T480 at the drive featured a McNeilus transit mixer installation and was one of five demonstration models at a trucking press event in Phoenix, Arizona.

Also on hand was a T180 with a stake bed body, a T280 with 26ft dry van box and an ultra-short wheelbase Class 6 T280 water truck. Stepping up a class to the T380 was an Altec aerial utility truck and at the top the mixer chassis T480. I drove all but the water truck.

The majority of the 15-minute drive took in central Phoenix, with the addition of a short stretch of urban freeway to stretch out to the speeds that could be reached. Some of the city streets were extremely rough, which gave the suspensions and cab air ride a proper workout, and the short freeway allowed for a quick dash up to 50mph or 55mph.

Typical meticulous design from Kenworth
All five had the detail design, fit and finish that are hallmarks of the American-based truck manufacturer with finely trimmed though practical interiors and all single-drive-axle trucks.

Yet the Class 5 T180 had cab suspension, air ride seats and air ride drive axle suspensions. The tandem of the T480 was suspended on a high-stability Hendrickson HMX460 rubber block for high load capacity and stability with a decent ride.

Steve Sturgess Steve Sturgess is an independent trucking writer and consultant based in Corona, Calif.

The first truck I tried was the Altec utility bodied T380. It was representative of all, with the wide-cab appeal of the T880 with available three-across seating. Conversation was easy with the low noise level. Because this was a Class 7, it had the 9.0L engine at 300 hp coupled to Allison’s latest 3500RDS transmission. This transmission is claimed to be highly fuel efficient so with the PX-9, it should be an economical set-up going down the road. The Class 6 and 7 trucks incorporated the new Paccar eight-speed, which is based on the just-introduced ZF automatic transmission.

The premium vinyl seating was both comfortable and attractive. The roof height was the lower of the two available but still there was good storage all around the cab. The vertical document storage slot on the passenger side of the dash provides a particularly useful feature that should please the driver/operator of any of these trucks.

Another desirable feature that comes from the T880 is a claimed exclusive in medium-duty ─ a temperature-select heating, ventilation and air conditioning setup, which allows a driver to select a comfortable temperature rather than fiddle with the controls to get comfortable.

All in all, these new KW mediums have a very driver-oriented cab and controls that make the truck feel more like a large car than a medium-heavy commercial vehicle.

Click here to view features of new Kenworth medium-duty trucks

Click here to view Kenworth T680 Next Generation truck

This story first appeared in the June issue of Diesel Progress. For a free subscription, click here.

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