Family Addition

Steve Sturgess | July 01, 2012

Cover Story

 

 

The Kenworth T680 draws upon T660 and T700 designs, but still has its own spacious flair

 

 

The number says it all. Kenworth’s new and best-kept secret T680 falls midway between the T660 and the year-ago-launched T700. The 660 has the traditional, narrow KW cab at 75 inches, the T700 has the 90-inch cab out to the full width allowed by regulation. The T680 falls in the middle with an 83-inch-wide cab.

The T680 launched at the recent Mid-America Trucking Show. Sister-brand Peterbilt shares the basic cab construction in its corresponding 579, also launched at the show. 

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Both are highly tooled stamped aluminum structures with complex panels joined by Henrob fasteners to create a rigid aluminum cab structure. The rivets are blind and no heads stand out on the smooth cab surface except at the rear corners. This was a deliberate move to aid repairs there when drivers cut too tight and hit the trailer. In this, the T680 again falls between the T660 with its largely exposed Huck-bolt rivets and the smooth aerospace bonded structure that is underneath the sleek panels of the T700.

And in the same way as the T700 picked up strong styling cues from the T660, the new 680 is clearly recognizable as being from the same family DNA.

The new truck

Kenworth wants to appeal to buyers for whom the traditional narrow cab of the T660 is just too tight at the shoulders and too difficult to get back into the sleeper ­— the seats are necessarily pitched close together. It’s also targeting buyers who feel the T700, as a team truck, is just too wide with its attendant difficulty in seeing down on the passenger side making it more difficult in busy traffic.

The T680 is designed to have wide appeal with its stylish update of the now-established corporate KW look, the extra accommodation over the T660 without the vastness or the T700 and a comprehensive rethink of the all-new interior.

In the concept phase, more than 850 drivers were interviewed and asked to sit in an adjustable cabin space. Engineers varied the cab’s width, length, seating position and so on. The ideal was found to be the 83-inch cab that falls squarely between the existing models.

With a “driver-first” mentality, Jim Bechtold, Kenworth director of product planning, said the goal was to optimize comfort, usability and visibility for a wide range of driver types and sizes.

The resulting 680 is available as a day cab or as a fully integrated sleeper. Worthy of note: The Peterbilt, with significantly different external sheet metal, is available as a day cab or with its Unibilt bolt-up sleeper.

Gauges that previously had migrated across the dash are now reconsolidated and clearly displayed within the arc of the steering wheel.

It remains to be seen whether Kenworth’s customers will be loyal to the existing brand and convert to the T680, cannibalizing sales of the existing models, or whether the new truck will appeal to a whole slew of conquest customers currently buying other brands. Most likely, it will be a bit of both.

At the T680 launch, Kenworth announced it had already pocketed an order for 1,000 T860s from TransAm Trucking of Olathe, Kan., a Kenworth account running T660s. All, incidentally, will be PACCAR-powered.

Engineering

The T680 cab features highly tooled door opening pressings and triple-sealed doors that guarantee excellent fit, yet with a pressure relief valve included, finger-only closing door effort. Styling lines in the panels guarantee integrity of the cab and structural stiffness; deep side window provide great visibility to the sides and, through the excellent new mirrors, to the rear.

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