Driving the Kenworth T680, T880

CHILLICOTHE, Ohio — A US$400-million investment by Paccar in the development of the Kenworth T680/T880 cab platform appears to be paying off.

“It has really revolutionized our business,” Kurt Swihart, director of marketing with Kenworth said of the T680 on-highway and T880 vocational models. The T680 was launched in 2012 and the T880 at the end of 2013. The two models now represent about 90% of the production at Kenworth’s Chillicothe, Ohio truck plant, which this week played host to a Right Choice customer event.

The Kenworth T680 Advantage
The Kenworth T680 Advantage

More than half the trucks Kenworth is building today are T680s, its flagship on-highway model. Additional sleeper configurations have been added to the truck over time, and that roll-out is now complete. The T680 can be had with a 76-inch mid-roof or high-roof, a 52-inch mid-roof or 40-inch sleeper. Swihart said most customers are ordering the 76-inch condo-style high-roof bunk.

But for those in tanker or flatdeck applications, the mid-roof can provide up to a 5% fuel economy benefit, while still allowing a 6’8” driver to stand upright.

The T680 Advantage is a fuel economy spec’ that was introduced in 2014 and now accounts for about a third of T680 sales. The Advantage comes with a series of fuel-saving specifications – chassis fairings, automated manual transmission and fuel-efficient drive axles – as well as the Paccar MX-13 engine. Swihart said it offers about a 10% fuel economy improvement versus a non-optimized spec’.

Subtle refinements to the package have been ongoing. For example, a new chassis fairing design is flared to better deflect air along the side of the trailer and away from the underbody. The new fairing replaced the previous one May 9.

A new flared side fairing helps direct air along the side of the trailer and away from the underbody.
A new flared side fairing helps direct air along the side of the trailer and away from the underbody.

More customers are spec’ing automated manual transmissions, Swihart noted, adding these now account for about 70% of T680 sales.

“A couple of years ago, maybe a quarter of T680s would get automated manual transmissions,” he said. “That has nearly tripled over the past three to four years.”

Kenworth has also added a battery-based idle management system to its portfolio to provide eight to 12 hours of air-conditioning. It can be coupled with an optional bunk heater and/or inverter for heating and power requirements. The company has supplemented this with a new auto start/stop system, which automatically starts the engine when the batteries need a boost. This new feature also monitors engine oil temperature and will start when necessary in cold weather to prevent fuel from gelling.

Also new to Kenworth is its TruckTech+ remote diagnostics platform, now installed on 10,000 vehicles.

“That’s the seed of a much broader connected truck platform,” Swihart said.

Another new offering is Bendix Wingman Fusion, a collision avoidance system that combines camera and radar technologies. Wingman is being ordered in about 30% of T680s, Swihart noted. The company is also enjoying a higher take rate for its proprietary Paccar MX-13 engine.

The T880 vocational truck is also enjoying an increased market presence. Kenworth still offers its predecessor, the T880, but most vocational customers have converted over to the new model.

Vocational buyers as well are showing greater acceptance of the MX-13, which can produce up to 500 hp and 1,850 lb.-ft. of torque. Complimenting the MX-13 is the new MX-11, which can provide a weight savings of 400 lbs compared to the 13-litre. Launched in January, the MX-11 can produce up to 430 hp and 1,550 lb.-ft., adequate for many vocational applications such as dump and ready-mix, Swihart said.

“The majority of sales have been in ready-mix applications,” he added. “But it’s also a great engine for dump applications, bulk haul – anywhere customers are looking for any way to be able to take weight out of the overall vehicle package.”

The 40-inch mini-sleeper.
The 40-inch mini-sleeper.

The 40-inch mini-sleeper was designed for vocational operators, especially those in the oilfield or in heavy-tow applications where the driver is only occasionally out overnight. It offers a 260-lb weight savings compared to the previously smallest available 52-inch bunk.

Turning to medium-duty, Swihart said Kenworth is coming off a record year in which it controlled 9.2% of the Canada/US Classes 6/7 segment. Sales were buoyed by the introduction of a new T370 configuration with 46,000-lb rear suspension rating.

“We think there’s a significant market opportunity out there,” Swihart said of the ‘Baby 8’ or heavy-medium-duty segment. It’s geared towards municipal, dump, tanker and other vocational applications.

A fleet of eight Kenworth trucks was made available for test drives. I spent time in the Kenworth T880 with 40-inch bunk, since it was designed with Canadian operators in mind. The T880 cab offers comforts and amenities that were carried over from the on-highway product and were once the exclusive domain of linehaul drivers. The sloped hood and expansive one-piece windshield offered excellent visibility.

The MX-13 engine with 500 hp and 1,850 lb.-ft. of torque was quiet to operate and pulled the 60,000-lb gross load uphill without any trouble. We were hauling cement blocks on a flatdeck trailer. The engine brake was remarkably quiet. The T880, much like its on-highway brother, was incredibly comfortable to drive. The 40-inch bunk featured a slim 24-inch mattress. You wouldn’t want to live in this truck but it’s a nice option to have when you’re making the occasional overnight run to someplace remote. Three rear windows offered visibility out the back and let in additional daylight. Extra storage can be found underneath the bed.

I also drove the T680 Advantage with 76-inch high-roof sleeper. This truck featured the new flared side fairing and was loaded up with safety options, including Bendix Wingman. It beeped at me when I followed too closely and would go so far as to apply the brakes while in cruise if necessary. I didn’t test that claim on this drive but I’ve seen it demonstrated before in controlled environments. It works well and should eliminate most rear-end collisions. Wingman Fusion now has the ability to detect stationary objects. That’s new. And its cameras can actually read roadside signage and tell on the driver who’s exceeding the speed limit.

Like the T880, the 680 offers incredible visibility and smooth, quiet ride. It was powered by the Paccar MX-13 engine rated at 455 hp and 1,750 lb.-ft. The 53-ft. van trailer was empty, so power was obviously available in abundance. Both the T680 and T880 have a nicely appointed automotive-styled interior. The high-def NavPlus HD screen can be used to display anything from additional gauges to turn-by-turn directions.

I also spent time behind the wheel of a T880 mixer and T880 super dump, two configurations that show off the versatility of this model.

The Kenworth T880 with 40-inch bunk.
The Kenworth T880 with 40-inch bunk.
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James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at james@newcom.ca or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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  • My company bought two of the T680’s and I was one of the unlucky drivers chosen to drive one.! They look great and with the Cummins, it runs fine, BUT the clearance lights are recessed and leak in heavy rain. It’s been in FIVE times for this problem! With water inside the cab lining comes electrical problems! Bunk lights turn on by themselves, auxiliary 12 volts power outlets blow fuses, truck batteries die over the weekend. Take my advice: by a Pete!

  • But a Mack they are the best good power an no trouble with wiring ride nice an handle very good in high winds kenworth is all over the place in the wind.They are nice looking truck but that;s about it.Volvo is the caddy truck of the road.

  • Bought a brand new 2017 t680 and it is a beautiful truck inside but nothing but problems and trash under hood. Isx cummins has givin me so many odd problems from injecter cups leaking coolant into them and replacing the whole fuel system to the truck overheating and on and on. Worst part cummins and kenworth have not helped and fought me every step of the way to warranty anything. Will never buy another one. Be Ware

  • Why is Paccar stingy with storage. Doesn’t matter if it’s the Kenworth or Peterbilt. Then there is the rubber on the bottom of the bumper & flaring. Unless you always have plenty of room for backing & never experience a dirt road or rutted dirt lot; yah just gonna rip it free.

  • Had a 2019 T680 mid roof with a 76 bunk, MX 510 hp 1850 lbs on a set of D46-170 drive axles 3:73 ratio with an 18 speed, pulling a set of Super B flat deck trailers in Canada 63,000 kg (137,500 lbs).

    Overall I’m impressed on the 13 litre pulling those weights, never had a mechanical issue thanks in part to my dealership preventative maintenance.

    Summer or winter from plus 40 to minus 40 degrees Celsius the truck worked flawlessly, only issue at the very beginning was an overly tight engine wiring harness causing an engine light reading but that was corrected.

    Otherwise nothing but regular preventive maintenance, the engine seems to work better past the initial 60,000 kms (40,000 miles) but maybe that was me learning the engine.

    I admit the MX is a little weak in the hills; Rockies and eastern Canada when averaging 125,000 lbs or more, it required a couple extra shifts.

    But the comfort and “quiet” operation really made the difference making the 13 litre shortcoming in steep grades a non issue for me.

    Only change I would make on the next one will be an air suspension on the front AG130 and stretch it from 232 to 240 inch to increase driver comfort

    I’m not a fan on over the top electronics like the new digital dash they’re advertising but am curious on what advantages it brings to a driver

    Definitely give it an A plus grading