Gaining an advantage: Kenworth’s updated T680 has integrated drivetrain, improved aerodynamics

KenworthKenworth recently sent its T680 highway tractor back to the drawing board. The resulting T680 Advantage builds on the truck’s already slippery profile while adding internal and external enhancements for increased efficiency and fuel economy in long-haul applications.

Brett VanVoorhis, Kenworth’s on-highway marketing manager, told me about the new model during a test drive out of Birmingham, Ala.

Most notable among the additions, VanVoorhis said, are the front air dam and larger side extenders, as well as a redesigned rear fairing and standard wheel covers. “These components reduce the trailer gap, move through the air more efficiently and combine to add just over a 1 percent improvement in fuel economy.”

Under the hood, Kenworth has embraced the new highly optimized integrated drivetrain trend, mating a Paccar MX13 diesel engine with an Eaton Advantage automated manual transmission to boost fuel economy via precise engine calibrations. “The shift points are extremely well-timed and factor in various load demands and engine output, so it’s also nice to drive,” VanVoorhis said.

Under the hood, Kenworth has embraced the new highly optimized integrated drivetrain trend, mating a Paccar MX13 diesel engine with an Eaton Advantage automated manual transmission to boost fuel economy via precise engine calibrations.

I took the T680 Advantage on I-65 North on a route I travel often and that offers some fairly steep grades.

At a glance, the truck does not look markedly different from a conventional T680 since Kenworth wisely opted to retain the original model’s excellent cab and sleeper amenities. A closer look reveals the more-aggressive aerodynamic panels that VanVoorhis mentioned, as well as the new wheel covers.

Throttle response was instantaneous with the MX13-Eaton Advantage integrated drivetrain, with aggressive and timely shifts. I was only a tad under 30,000 pounds, so acceleration also was impressive. Once I hit the governed fuel economy sweet spot of 68 mph, dialing in the cruise control was a breeze, and the truck effortlessly ticked along at 1,100 rpm.

It was a windy day, but minimal wind buffeting is an obvious bonus from the enhanced aerodynamics package. Combined with excellent views from the cab, tight handling and comfortable ergonomics, it made for an easy truck to drive.

The T680 Advantage isn’t a radical departure from anything Kenworth has been doing. Instead, it builds upon a solid aerodynamic platform and takes advantage of new engine technology to deliver better fuel economy in a way that also makes driving easier and safer.

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