Truck News

Feature  June 22, 2014 8:51PM

Driving Kenworth’s T680 Advantage, T880 heavy-hauler

The T680 Advantage is Kenworth's most fuel-efficient truck ever. And the T880 has come closer to overtaking the long-running T800 as Kenworth's most popular vocational truck.



CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — Kenworth has assembled a set of fuel-saving specifications that when ordered on the T680 highway tractor can improve its fuel efficiency by up to 5-6%.

The T680 Advantage comes in a 6×2 axle configuration, but since that spec’ is illegal in Canada, we’ll knock off a percentage or two. Still, the savings are significant.

“Through aerodynamics, powertrain efficiencies and other factors, we came up with the spec’ that will produce the most fuel-efficient truck Kenworth has ever built,” said Brett VanVoorhis, on-highway marketing manager with Kenworth. The T680 Advantage builds upon the popular T680, which has sold 15,000 units since its 2012 launch.

T680

The Kenworth T680 Advantage

Kenworth’s Chillicothe, Ohio truck plant is currently churning out 147 trucks a day, about half of which are 680s. The Advantage consists of improved aerodynamics (factory-installed components that streamline airflow and narrow the trailer gap); an optimized powertrain based upon the Paccar MX engine; the Eaton Fuller Advantage automated transmission; efficient drive axles that have eliminated the wet sump for a 1% efficiency gain; and low rolling resistance tires from the customer’s preferred brand.

To be considered an Advantage model, the truck must also be equipped with at least one of the following four options: wide-base tires; the Smart Wheel steering wheel; Kenworth’s idle management system; or a tire pressure monitoring system. If one of those spec’s is unlike the others, it would be the Smart Wheel. How exactly can a steering wheel contribute to greater fuel economy?

“Smart Wheel puts cruise control at the driver’s fingertips and encourages them to use cruise control while going down the highway more often than they would otherwise, if they had to reach to the dash,” VanVoorhis explained.

That could be true, though I hope we haven’t become so lazy that we won’t use a beneficial feature such as cruise control unless it’s within an inch of our fingertips at all times. Regardless, the Smart Wheel is just a really nice option to have. In addition to cruise control, it also places the radio controls at your fingertips so you can change the volume or toggle through stations without taking your hands off the wheel. I consider it more of a safety spec’ than a fuel-saver, but either way, it’s a great option that’s available for not a lot of money.

The Smart Wheel is a nice option to have and it could encourage the use of cruise control.

The Smart Wheel is a nice option to have and it could encourage the use of cruise control.

I drove a Kenworth T680 Advantage while in Ohio and my first impression upon approaching the vehicle was, Kenworth was right, this is a really green truck. Shamrock green, to be exact. I’d call it lime green but we’re splitting hairs, really.

Colour aside, the T680 Advantage really does scream fuel savings. The one I drove was equipped with every fuel-saving device imaginable, from aerodynamic wheel covers to a trailer tail (my first time pulling a tailed trailer, though it felt no different than any other 53’).

This is the type of truck you can feel good about pulling into a customer’s yard; even non-truck people can tell at a glance that you’ve done everything possible to maximize your fuel efficiency.

But most of the fuel-saving technologies are invisible. The Eaton Fuller Advantage transmission performed exactly like the latest-generation UltraShift Plus, but it is 75 lbs lighter thanks to a precision lubrication system that eliminated the need for an oil cooler.

The truck was powered by the Paccar MX engine, which put out 455 hp and up to 1,750 lb.-ft. of torque.

When switching from the original T680 to the Advantage version, no compromise is required from the driver. This is still the driver-friendly T680 that has proven so popular since its launch.

The fuel-saving aspects of the T680 Advantage will not diminish a driver’s satisfaction with their ride; they’ll be noticed only by the astute owner who carefully tracks his or her numbers.

The 680 Advantage drives like any other T680, and that’s not a bad thing. This was already one of the most driver-friendly trucks on the road today.

Visibility out of the T680 with its sloped hood and large one-piece windshield is excellent, and the aerodynamic design of the mirrors has done nothing to compromise rearward visibility.

Okay, so I was caught off-guard by the auto-shutdown feature, which killed the engine after five minutes of idling while I was preparing to head out on the road. But that’s on me, there was no need for me to be idling all that time in the first place.

For drivers who’ll be taking multi-day trips, the Kenworth idle management system can provide eight hours of cooling without idling. Every hour of idling that’s avoided is a gallon of diesel saved. Kenworth has proven in its T680 Advantage that you can have all the benefits of fuel-efficiency without any corresponding suffering among drivers.

 

T880 closer to overtaking T800

Meanwhile on the vocational side, the T880 is coming closer to overtaking the long-running T800 as Kenworth’s most popular workhorse. The new model now accounts for a little more than 40% of T880/T800 builds, which is impressive since it’s only been selling since January.

Eventually, the T880 will completely displace the T8, which has had a 27-year run and has developed a fiercely loyal fan base. But first Kenworth must ensure the T880 can be had in every configuration and with every option the T800 offers – and that will take some time, considering the versatility of the T8. Today, about 85% of the options available on the T800 can be had on the T880, according to Alan Fennimore, vocational marketing manager with Kenworth.

T880

The Kenworth T880

The T880 shares the same cab as the on-highway T680, but with some notable differences. It boasts a five-piece hood design so that individual sections can be inexpensively removed and repaired or replaced. Fenders, the most commonly damaged part on a vocational truck, are bolted on and can be swapped out in less than two hours, including the headlights, Fennimore said.

Having already driven and shared my thoughts on the T880 dump truck, I snatched the keys to a heavy-haul spec’. It had a Paccar MX13 engine under the hood, which produced 500 hp/1,850 lb.-ft. of torque and was mated to the Eaton MXP UltraShift Plus transmission. The T880 is an ultra-quiet vocational truck. Maybe it’s the MX13 or maybe it’s the sleeker design that cuts through the air more cleanly. Or, it could be the well-sealed doors or maybe it’s all of the above. Whatever the reason, the T880 is one quiet ride, even as a day cab.

Later, I hopped behind the wheel of a T880 flatbed with an Allison transmission and MX engine that put out 455 hp/1,650 lb.-ft. and it didn’t disappoint either, though it’s the heavy-hauler that best demonstrates the T880’s worthiness to displace the rugged T8.

Importantly in vocational segments, visibility was excellent, both out the panoramic windshield and also alongside the truck.

Kenworth gave some extra attention to the pedal placement and did a great job making the pedals more comfortable to operate. I also drove a T440 dump truck immediately after driving the heavy-hauler and the pedals weren’t nearly as comfortable to operate as in the T880.

All these little things – the quieter cab, the pedal placement, etc. – are supposed to produce a fresher driver at the end of a driving shift, and I expect that they will.

“People don’t realize how important the truck is to the driver,” Fennimore said. “If it’s easier to drive, it’s easier to get the job done and people are going to be happier, safer and more profitable for the company.”

Available on the T880 is a 52-inch sleeper cab, which Fennimore said is especially popular in Canada. It provides enough storage room and living space for the drivers who’ll be out on the road for several days, but also space to install ancillary components and various funky body types.

The T800 will likely be retired in another five to six years, and it will be missed. But put the two trucks side by side and it’s hard to argue the T880 isn’t an upgrade. The T880 offers a quieter, more comfortable cab and will soon be available in every configuration and with every option that’s currently available on the T800.

“Some guys just like the T800,” Fennimore said. “It’s going to be tough for customers to let (the T800) go. It has made a lot of our customers a lot of money for a number of years.”

However, he added customers who get behind the wheel of the T880 and then welcome one or more into their fleets are becoming converted.

T680 Advantage

The Kenworth T680 Advantage will be heading out on tour this summer.


James Menzies

James Menzies

James Menzies is executive editor of Truck News and Truck West magazines and equipment editor of Motortruck Fleet Executive. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 13 years and holds a CDL.
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1 Comment » for Driving Kenworth’s T680 Advantage, T880 heavy-hauler
  1. Jason Handley says:

    I would like to see you guys review some of these new trucks with western canadians in mind. You talk of the heavy haul with a 500hp 1850 ft/lbs of torque hauling light loads. Try running some fully loaded super b’s and let us know how they perform. 140,000 lbs gross / 63,500 kg. Also it would be nice if you reviewed them on some real highways and roads like throughout the BC interior, where we have some of the most challenging grades and mountains to deal with. I would love to see a review on driving from Vancouver to Kelowna and back which is usually a 9 hour round trip, but with some serious climbs and drops to put a truck through the paces of a western canadian driver.
    thanks

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