Kenworth pulled the sheet off of its next generation of T680, unveiling an improved aerodynamic design that touts a 6% fuel efficiency increase over the previous T680 iteration (when spec’d with the PACCAR powertrain). The updates extend into the cab where the impressive 15-in. digital display offers near countless truck information customizations. The technology integrated into the truck goes even further with the announcement of Kenworth ADAS features, a system that combines lane keeping assist with advanced adaptive cruise functionality.
Let’s take the new features one step at a time.
Outside of the truck
The sleek new design is the first thing that you notice when you walk up to the Kenworth T680 Next Gen truck.
“We were able to get an 8-in. narrower hood compared to the previous T680,” explained Laura Bloch, Kenworth assistant general manager for sales and marketing. The narrower hood is paired with steep shoulders that leads to the new turning vanes on the pillars.
“Those allow us to grab the air and keep it hugging the side of the vehicle as it goes around the sides of the glass, and then down the sleeper into the trailer,” said Joe Adams, Kenworth chief engineer, Kenworth.
“One of the things that I’m most excited about: the high-ground-clearance air dam,” Bloch continued. “We’ve seen a lot of damage on competitor trucks when the air dams are really low. We did not want to do that.”
“They do that because they are primarily trying to move the air around the sides of the vehicle; they don’t want air to go underneath the vehicle. We use it as an advantage, managing the flow of air under the vehicle to reduce drag,” Adams explained. “We spent a lot of time and energy on computational fluid dynamics to find the best way to move air around the vehicle and reduce drag.”
Follow the eye line down the T680 Next Gen and you’ll see that the 28-in. optional side extenders also allow for a tighter trailer gap.
“What’s really cool with the 28-in. side extenders is that you have the optional ability to open it. This allows you to make the trailer gap narrow but still allows the driver to have the frame access that they need behind the sleeper,” Adams explained. “You can go down and inspect your air connections, to make your trailer connections, and to do other activities.”
The aerodynamics strategy continues into the wheel covers and associated fairings. While the new fairings boost fuel efficiency, Kenworth noted that they’ve made serviceability even easier. Take the side fairings where battery inspections take place, for example. “A lot of customers wanted the ability to get into the fairing and do their daily inspections, confirm the cables are tight and that there’s no corrosion. We have a handle from the back side of the plastic component that allows for battery access,” Adams said. “You can flip it open and have a nice window to see into the space where the batteries are located and do your inspections.”
Another stand-out external feature is the optional fully LED headlamps, a first for the Kenworth T680. “We partnered with a couple of our important lighting providers to develop a robust, commercial vehicle-grade, infrared heater technology that we use inside the lamp which gives us the ability to defrost and clear the lenses like a halogen,” Adams said.
Inside of the truck
Inside, the T680 Next Gen sports the same tried-and-true sleeper that customers are accustomed to, but it’s the 15-in. digital display screen that grabs your attention. It’s a high-resolution display that allows the truck driver to cycle through several gauge options. At its most minimal, it offers the speedometer and will pop up alerts if there’s an equipment issue. At its most informative, four panels spread out from the center speedometer display that tell you everything you’d need to know (and more).
“The maximum view puts all of the information into a single screen for the drivers that want that full suite of gauges to monitor all the activity on the vehicle. For nighttime driving, we have what we call dark mode with all of those gauges tucked away in the minimal view. All those gauges are still running in the background,” Adams said. “If something happens, then that gauge will pop up on the screen and give the information to the driver.
“We also built a ‘favorites’ screen so the drivers can configure where gauges are located if they have a very strong desire to see the information presented to them in a particular way.”
The steering wheel has also been updated with smart features and controls that integrated into the functionality of the new display.
“One of the things we wanted to do was make certain that we were giving drivers as much information and as much control as they need within a hand’s reach. We’ve got a list of different features that are on the Next Gen SmartWheel starting with our cruise control on the far left-hand side. Then we move over to the right-hand side where we have the ability to control the functionality with the instrument cluster,” Adams said. “It allows you to switch between the different display modes, select, and then a back button. We also have volume controls and other functions integrated into the SmartWheel.”
Kenworth ADAS safety system suite
With the T680 Next Gen, Kenworth is bringing its advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) to the market. Astute Kenworth aficionados would remember that the previous T680 came standard with Bendix Wingman Fusion ADAS system, which offered advanced braking assist features like Highway Departure Braking and Multi-Lane Emergency Braking. Those features remain in the next generation T680 as Kenworth built the lane-keeping assist system on top of the current Bendix Wingman Fusion. Adams explains:
“This is essentially a set of software algorithms and then a motor and steering gear geometry that allows Kenworth ADAS to apply torque into the steering shaft. The system monitors the lane positions with the cameras. When it recognizes that the truck enters a zone outside of the lane markers, the system will apply torque in the opposite direction and nudge the vehicle back toward the center of the lane.”
As you’d expect, the system would not apply torque if the driver has initiated a turn signal, and there’s also an ability to disable the lane-keeping assist for a short period of time in the case of a work zone or other instance where the lane markers are unusual.
The integration of the lane-keep assist system is developed in-house by PACCAR, but it integrates with the Bendix Wingman Fusion cameras. The Kenworth ADAS system adds a physical motor to the drive shaft and the associated integrated software to be able to steer the truck back into the lane.
“It’s an added technology to the Fusion platform,” noted Kevin Baney, Kenworth Truck Co. general manager and a PACCAR vice president. “Bendix Wingman Fusion is still standard on the T680 Next Gen. The Lane Keeping Assist is an optional functionality that you can add to that system.
“All of the ADAS information is integrated into this digital display,” Baney continued. “When the truck radar picks up vehicles in front of it using the adaptive cruise system, and when you’re using the lane-keeping assist system, you see it in the user experience in the digital display. For drivers, it’s all one system. They do not notice anything different [between the systems]. The driver doesn’t have to look at different places for the lane keeping versus the adaptive cruise control. It’s all integrated into the new 15-in. digital display.”