Since its release in Europe, nearly 10 years ago, the DAF XF105 has been a great success as part of a truck range that outshines the other European truck manufacturers in many markets. As a heavy-duty prime mover, it has found favour with both the large fleets and the small owner operator. The reputation of the DAF brand for consistent quality and excellent engineering; plus a comprehensive and wide ranging dealer network has seen the Paccar-owned Dutch truck maker remain a strong European player.

It has been a long time coming to Australia, a delay which illustrates a certain reluctance on the part of the Paccar organisation here to release another cab over prime mover into a market already dominated by the Kenworth K 200. Now, in 2012, a niche has been found in the Australian market for this truck. With a maximum power of 510 hp it is not competing on the same playing field as the K 200, with its high power, high mileage and high tonnage spec. The XF105 is a highway prime mover, ideally suited to hauling semi-trailers and lighter B-doubles while providing an easy to use comfortable environment for the driver.

Prime Mover took the opportunity to drive a new DAF XF105 hauling a B-double set north out of Sydney to really stretch its legs and capabilities in a typical application to which it is suited. Fighting out of Western Sydney through the traffic madness which is the Pennant Hills Road and then on to the undulating F3 freeway before heading into the industrial area around Newcastle is typical of the kind of work these trucks will be expected to perform.

This truck is a step up from the CF 85 which has done well for DAF over the past 10 years in the Australian market. Not only is the power available from the Paccar MX engine cranked up to 510 hp for the XF105, but also the gearbox is the 16-speed version of the ZF AS Tronic automated manual transmission. It is also, physically, much bigger with a taller cab, higher driver position and flattish cab floor.

Climbing up into the cab is possible on wide safe steps and the grab handle on the A-pillar is well designed, coming up from below the dashboard and curving around it, the drivers right hand slides smoothly upward as they climb into the cab. These are the kinds of well thought out details we have come to expect to find on modern European prime movers, and this DAF is no exception.

Once inside the sensation of the space and comfort, even in the Space cab, makes the driver feel at home. The taller option being made available here in Australia is the Super Space cab, with even more headroom and plenty of room for double bunks. The smaller Space cab is likely to be the most popular model ordered here in Australia and it can compete for interior space with any of the standard prime movers on the market.

The Space cab still gets 1.8 m of standing height in the centre of the cabin floor while the Super Space cab has 2.1 m available headroom. There will also be a standard roofed option, the Comfort cab, still relatively roomy but without the massive headroom available in the larger cabs.

Start the truck up and the noise from the MX engine is discernible to the driver but never intrudes on their comfort and ability to hold a normal conversation in the cabin. The ease-of-use of this truck is clear. Simply turn the transmission control to drive, release the handbrake and ease on to the accelerator, the truck quietly takes off with little fuss and appears to be doing it easy.

Australia has known about the quality of this Paccar MX engine for some time since it has been fitted in the CF 85. It is also expected to appear in some of the Kenworth models soon. It is a modern engine designed to meet the needs of the Paccar Group globally, it is the Paccar ‘world engine’. Using compact graphite iron on the engine block to enable a lighter and more compact design, the engine also uses an SCR system to reduce exhaust emissions. Using SCR without EGR does mean it has a free running feel under the driver's right foot.

The 12.9 L engine develops maximum power, at 510 hp (375 kW) between 1500 and 1900 rpm, while the maximum torque at 2500 Nm (1845 ft lb) is available from 1000 to 1410 rpm. The flexibility of this engine, derived from its flat topped torque curve, combines well with the 16 speed AMT controlled by a sensitive control system picking the right gear at the right time, keeping the revs in the sweet spot for as long as possible.

Our industry now regards 550 hp plus to be where the B-double prime mover needs to be although many operators are running plenty of trucks at over 60 tonnes with vehicles at much lower power ratings. With 2500 Nm available for a great deal of the truck's operating range there is little problem getting up to speed in the stop/start Sydney traffic. Out on the open highway the truck matches most of its peers and it is only on the hard steep pinches where the lower power rating makes any difference.

On the evidence of the drive, it is clear the 510 hp being put out by the MX will suit this XF105 well. It gets the work done with such little fuss, as the ZF AMT goes up and down through the gears to maximise output, the driver can relax, even if it does take slightly longer to climb the long uphill grades. The standard rear axle ratio is 3.91:1 with 3.7:1 available to operators who may wish to reduce rpm at cruising speed. On this model at 100 km/h the tachometer sits at 1650 rpm.

The layout of the dashboard is logical and uncluttered. The switches not needed during driving are located on the centre of the console, accessible from driver or passenger seat and from the bunk. The central console section also includes a slide out table which is virtually strong enough for the driver to stand on.

The controls and instruments essential during driving, are on a dashboard with a tight curve around the steering wheel. The controller for the AS Tronic gearbox is simply a dial set into the dash to be turned from neutral to manual, drive and reverse. When the truck is in motion the right hand stalk on the steering column can be used to toggle between manual and automatic as well as intervening to go up or down the gearbox when the driver chooses.

The knob to control the driver information system, planted squarely in the middle of the dashboard directly in front of the driver, is simplicity itself. The driver scrolls through the menus by turning the knob and selects items by pressing it in. When the driver has read the information required they simply continue to press the knob until it takes them back out to the menu.

The controls and instruments all seem to be very close at hand and easily accessed without giving the feeling of crowding the driver in their seat. On the steering wheel itself are controls to handle incoming phone calls and the phone address book as well as a number of speed controls. It is possible to set a speed with the cruise control but also set a speed limit over which the truck will not travel. It is also possible to pick a speed when travelling down inclines and activating the engine brake.

Probably the word to describe the controls and instruments on the dashboard is utilitarian. They are simple but effective without looking cheap or flimsy. Where some of the other European truck manufacturers seem to concentrate on making their dashboard look stylish, DAF design seems to reflect a simple Dutch pragmatism. Everything about the design within the cabin itself does the job well and looks good without being overly elaborate or ostentatious.

In the model driven on this test drive the standard electronic control systems were available including things like hillstart aid, anti-slip control, lane departure warning etc. However, there are many more electronic safety aids available to be added if the owner so wishes. Apart from adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning there are also side view camera systems available. An area below the radio on the dashboard is available for a screen to be fitted as the driver interface for these systems.

To the driver's left and just behind the seat is a large pocket into which they can put a large drinks bottle or flask. Also here, sliding out from underneath the bunk, is a fridge, fitted as standard. From the driver's seat everything is very easy to access if it may be needed as the truck is travelling down the highway.

While this test trip is not making the truck work particularly hard, the trip computer came up with a fuel consumption figure at the end of less than 40 L/100km. Longer term testing will, of course, give us a better idea of exactly how well this truck can perform, but these numbers appear to confirm the ease with which this 510 hp engine allied with the responsive 16 speed AMT seems to handle the task.

DAF have taken their time in bringing this flagship European prime mover to our market but the range being made available here in Australia is clearly the finished product. Operators may feel the limitation of a 510 hp engine is an issue but this truck can handle the task well. Of course, we cannot expect this truck to be able to mix it with the really big boys but there is definitely something here for the right operator and the right operation.


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