Ride & drive of Kenworth's 'aero' designedT680

Ride & drive of Kenworth’s ‘aero’ designedT680

Kenworth's T680, introduced in March, offers a truckload of futuristic features that boost economy, improve driver comfort and enhance safety.

The benchmark for impressing jaded trade journalists with new truck technology has risen steadily since the dawn of the “aero era” about 27 years ago. Kenworth’s T680, introduced in March, moves the mark even higher now, with a veritable truckload of futuristic features that boost economy, improve driver comfort and enhance safety.
Kenworth's T680
The T680 was designed and built to bridge a perceived gap in the manufacturer’s lineup. With a cab that’s 82.7 inches across, it’s wider than a T660 (74.8 in.) but narrower than a T700 (90.6 in.). This midsized model is intended primarily for solo drivers in longhaul operations.

Beyond mere cab dimensions, the T680 is packed with the latest mechanical and technological goodies from the house of PACCAR. These include:

• An air-assisted hydraulic clutch pedal that requires about half as much pressure to operate as that of a traditional heavy-duty clutch pedal.

• A larger, rounder and more slanted windshield that offers expansive frontal vistas and contributes to the truck’s aerodynamic efficiency, said to be much better than even the company’s other slipperiest models: T660 and T700.

• A redesigned dash in which the most important eight gauges are clustered directly ahead of the driver. This space also includes a new “driver performance center,” a 5-in. display that offers a wealth of details about real-time operating conditions, trip progress, diagnostics and alerts. Even more information and connectivity are available if buyers spec Kenworth’s NavPlus system. Mounted to the right of the steering wheel, NavPlus is sort of a Swiss Army Knife of Bluetooth-enabled vehicular electronics. 

• An interior capable of holding a lot more stuff, thanks to a creative redesign of cabinets, drawers and shelving. The space also includes a revolutionary (literally) table that pivots 180º. It’s perfect for paperwork or dining. If buyers spec the optional rotating passenger’s seat, the table would make a great platform for playing cards or arm wrestling.Aerodynamic side mirror

• Larger doors that open wider to facilitate ingress and egress. These are constructed of stamped aluminum and triple sealed to quell outside noise and prevent air and moisture leaks. A new pressure-relief valve in the cab greatly reduces the effort required to close the doors when the windows are rolled up.

• A fully stamped aluminum cab, which is a first for Kenworth, that uses self-piercing fasteners for greater structural strength and improved fit and finish.

Kenworth engineers spent about four years and nearly $400 million developing the T680 and its robotic assembly line in Chillicothe, Ohio. That investment seems to be paying early returns. One customer reportedly ordered 1,000 units soon after production began earlier this year.

The truck is now available as a daycab and 76-in. high-rise sleeper. Other configurations will follow. And it’s likely that all future Kenworth Class 8 models will incorporate many of the T680’s components.

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