With the arrival of the new cab in 2011, UD Trucks now has a vehicle for the 21st century: a modern package for the modern transport industry. This has not always been the case. In the past, the company has offered a technically able truck let down by an ageing cabin design. The MD-T cab sees UD getting closer to the ideal of producing a truck that goes well and looks good.
Prime Mover took the new UD Condor MK 11 250, loaded, around the streets of Sydney to get an appreciation of what a day’s work in difficult traffic conditions in a major capital city will be like for the driver of the new MK, fitted with the Allison 2500 Series automatic transmission. A day on the road in a city like Sydney can be hard work for a driver who is looking for delivery addresses, trying to keep to a timetable, avoiding careless or aggressive car drivers while getting a large vehicle through increasingly difficult traffic congestion.
First impressions of this truck are good. This new cabin is a vast improvement on the previous cramped version. The new design has greatly increased the total window area and, therefore, greatly improved visibility for the driver. The new cab is also aesthetically pleasing. It looks like a modern truck and takes its cues from the shapes of contemporary vehicle design.
The cabin interior feels well designed with simple, clean lines and a driver-friendly layout. Look and feel for the driver is similar to the new design introduced in the GW heavy-duty models several years ago. Instrumentation is simple and clear, with controls close to hand and in the right place. The introduction of the new infotainment system reinforces the modern look and feel.
One of the ongoing issues over many years for UD, here in Australia, has been driver’s seats, which were inadequate to cope with Aussie driving conditions and drivers. But with the release of this model, that has changed. Although these seats are not the best available in a medium duty truck, they are a huge leap ahead of those fitted in this truck’s predecessor. There is plenty of control and adjustment to keep most drivers happy and comfortable.
The cab interior is quite large. In fact, this cab meets ADR 42/04, making it compliant as a sleeper bunk with mattress. In effect, this ADR compliance means you have a truck cabin with a substantial parcel shelf. There is plenty of space in which to store equipment but this driver, for one, is unwilling to spend many nights sleeping in a cabin this size. The way we assess sleeper cabs may be in need of a rethink.
All-round visibility is excellent. It has become accepted that if it is possible to get the bottom of the cab windows at around knee height, all-round visibility is much improved. This is a genuine safety improvement and has been little heralded. Truck designers have increased glass in new models considerably and placed it where it adds most to safety and visibility.
The entertainment system, now fitted as standard on UD trucks, takes up two DIN spaces and includes an LCD screen. Once the Bluetooth connection was made with this driver’s phone, hands-free operation was possible and the phone’s music library could be played through the speakers.
On this demonstration model, a rear camera has been fitted to the truck body and when reverse is activated, the LCD screen shows a long wide angle view of the area directly behind the truck. On a number of occasions, in the centre of Sydney, this became very useful. Trying to turn a truck around in a narrow street where there may be bins, pedestrians or impatient car drivers, it’s a good idea to have a clear view of everything in that blind spot directly behind the truck.
If there is one element of the cabin layout which is not quite up to the same standard s the rest of the cabin, it is the controller for the auto gearbox. The large module and gearstick are placed where the manual gear stick is normally located but it probably takes up more room than the control it replaces. The auto gearbox controller impairs cross cab access to an extent.
The beauty of the Allison transmission is its consistent adaptation to the road conditions and requirements of the driver. There is very little need for a driver to intervene and make a manual change. If that is the case, why does the controller have to be close at hand at all times? This is supposed to be a set-and-forget auto box and, if this is the case, why not just make the auto controller a few pushbuttons on the dash itself?
For the driver sitting in the pleasant surrounds of the cabin in a comfortable seat, the overall driving experience can only be further enhanced if the performance of the engine and transmission are also designed to make life easier. If the engine has enough torque and power available at the right times in the right place then the Allison can make simple and well timed ratio changes to create a seamless driving experience.
The seven litre engine from UD seems to have the requisite performance to enable a driver in the city to forget about gear changing and simply use the accelerator to go and the brake to stop. With 700Nm (516 ft lb) of torque available from 1000 to 2000rpm, maxing out at 716Nm, there is plenty of torque available throughout the operating range. Power peaks at 245hp (180kW) at 2500rpm and increases steadily through the rpm range.
Since the introduction of electronic engines and a higher level of technology altogether being made in Japan, the kind of performance we can expect from Japanese engines has increased dramatically. In the past, many trucks were underpowered and produced a plodding performance, but now the overall standard of performance from Japanese engines is very high. The UD is no exception.
These are ideal conditions for an Allison 2500 Series transmission to perform. It needs a wide high torque band and a good power to weight ratio. Add useful electronic information supplied electronically from the driveline and the driver’s controls and the performance of the whole automatic gearbox is maximised. As with most systems that depend on electronic control, the more data there is available, the better the control systems perform.
The way this performance translates to the experience in the driver’s seat is that the driver soon realises they will not have to think about the gear they are in and whether they have enough power or torque to do the job. Just point the truck in the right direction, hit the accelerator and get on with the job of travelling from A to B.
The only time the driver may have to intervene with the controller for the Allison transmission is when driving a fully loaded truck down a relatively steep grade. In such a case, it is simply a matter of engaging one of the lower gears, turning on the engine brake and letting the truck make its way down the grade. The improved electronic control of the modern Allison gearbox means there is very little time during which the gearbox is not fully locked up so this means the retardation can be effective.
As a general rule, exhaust brakes in Japanese trucks have been regarded as relatively useless. To get any value out of them can be difficult when using a manual gearbox.
Quite often a driver may leave the exhaust brake on all the time or never activate it. However, the effective relationship between the automatic transmission’s electronics and the exhaust brake means ratios are shifted in order to maximise the retarding effect of the exhaust brake by choosing a lower gear and increasing rpm.
This means the exhaust brake is, finally, a useful tool in the truck driver’s kit. The recommended way to use it, according to UD, is to activate the exhaust brake when the driver clearly sees the need to retard the truck. In the city, during this test, travelling from a traffic light in heavy traffic saw this driver constantly activating and deactivating the exhaust brake. In the end, it just became easier to leave it on all the time. Perhaps if there was element of prolonged highway driving then it would be a good idea to deactivate it.
The combination of power from the SCR engine and transmission are very useful in these kinds of stop/go traffic conditions. Because this truck can keep up with the general traffic flow it fits right in with other vehicles on the road.
The right foot can easily control gear changing. Gentle pressure on the accelerator, when taking off, sees the truck picking up smoothly through the gears and changing gear at relatively low rpm levels. Press the accelerator harder when taking off and the gear changing becomes more insistent, pushing the engine to higher revs before changing. When travelling along at a steady speed, the driver may see a grade approaching and simply dip the accelerator just enough to induce the transmission to make a down change, getting the revs up before reaching the foot of the grade.
It is one of the cardinal rules for a truck to be used as an urban delivery vehicle to be simple to drive and effective. If the truck doesn’t have enough power or torque, the driver will be fighting the truck all day. If it is difficult to use, with a complex gearbox, they spend too much of their attention simply getting the truck to move from A to B and may miss events outside the truck, compromising safety.
In the case of the MK 11 250, UD has delivered a truck that is not only simple to use but has enough power and torque to get the job done with little fuss.
The company has finally brought its truck design to the point where it is not asking truck buyers to trade off comfort or safety in order to have a reliable vehicle. There is no need for any compromise in this design. It works and it is effective.