TOUGH: B-double spec, 600 horsepower from the Cummins X15, a tough truck.

New Kenworth T610 SAR: old-school goes hi-tech

Big Rigs

THEY reckon it's the best Kenworth yet or so the advertising blurb and the sales patter of the Kenworth marketers sing.

That's a big call when you think of the W Models hauling road trains with each trailer loaded to double or triple the legal load, the chiselled statuary of the old SARs pulling six decks of fat bullocks through a hell zone of bull dust and jump-ups, flooded rivers and drought struck plains.

Or the Silver Ghost over-nighters coming through the Putty leaning into the tight curves and exploding into the night with hundred-mile-an-hour running gear; the favoured poster truck on the kids' walls for the past 20 years, the cover truck that sells magazines and favoured click-bait in the world of Facebook likery.

Paccar's "best truck yet"? A big call.

The T610 and T610SAR are the trucks that now have to live up to these marketing claims. But the question is are they up to it?

At the Mt Cotton training ground in Southern Queensland, the southern truck journos are whimpering at the heat of the day as the needle climbs through the high 30s.

There are eight of the new trucks lined up across the skid pad outside the big air-conditioned tent - yeah, that's right, an air-conditioned tent.

The foundational bedrock of the Australian T610 line-up is the North American T680, bringing the new wider cab.

But there was no quick rejig of the Yankee version to "Australianise" it.

Brad May, director of sales and marketing for Paccar Australia, says the engineering development investment in the T610 is unprecedented with seven years and $20 million to bring the new line-up to our roads including millions of kilometres of test running with various operators.

The SAR designation was dropped by Kenworth more than 20 years ago and brought back to life a decade ago to fill the need for a forward-axle prime mover.

With the 610 series we see a split in design aesthetics. The straight T610 has the aero styling, the pinched in grille and sitting with a line-up of T409s and K200s the sibling nature of the trucks is obvious.

The styling of the new SAR is different with the set forward front axle, high set cab, sloping bonnet, external air cleaners and the squared off, tall rectangular grill that references KW history with the T909-ish look and a whimsical whiff of old-school W Model.

Of all the trucks lined up at Mt Cotton, only one of the Kenworths had a manual transmission, all others, showing the trends in our driver-hungry world and the hunt for premium fuel economy.

Driving the SAR:

Walk towards the red SAR it seems like a walk towards the future and into history at the same time. First impression is that it is a big truck, standing high with its bullish rectangular radiator grille.

The door closes with a satisfying click, a hard pull to shut against the internal air pressure. You'd never have to worry about that in an old W Model.

What can you discern from a few laps around the Mt Cotton track? Not a lot that relates to how a truck might perform over whole-of-life.

It's a taste test, but I have to say the SAR with a B-double set and a manual Roadranger tasted bloody good.

The steering position, the cab room, the height and breadth of it all are impressive while not being ridiculous like some might think some of the sky scraping Europeans.

Catering to basic human comforts, the air-con system pulled the temperature down quickly, a totally improved system apparently.

Hopefully the days of driving a T909 in the heat of the Top End with a broken air conditioner, with a trickle of coolish air trickling in from the sleeper with the IcePack screaming below are, if not over, at least reduced.

The cruise control, engine brake, in fact all controls are within easy and intuitive reach.

The only minor whinge I have is in the models with Eaton's automated transmission, the control module is close to the yellow Maxi button and I couldn't fit my knuckles in to make the pull - but maybe it's just what I'm used to.

The engine:

The SAR is fitted with the Cummins X15 with ratings availability up to 600hp and 2050lb/ft of torque.

ADEPT brings smart coast technology where a truck will sense the grade of the road and the speed that you are trying to hold and effectively disengage the gear box and let the truck use its own momentum to roll

"Intelligent angel gear is what the old-schoolers will probably call it," Brad May says with a grin.

You don't have to be much of a salesman to show a customer how that could save fuel when he is still doing 100km/h at idle.

The Smart Torque technology causes the engine to select a torque profile it needs for the load it's carrying. "A lightly loaded truck it doesn't need to be winding in 2,000 lb feet of torque, it can essentially pre-program itself dynamically on the run," Brad May says.

The main foundational difference between the T610 and the SAR is the front axle position.

The SAR's set forward front axle lends itself to particular applications such as 19-metre configurations meeting the bridging formula of various states.

"Traditional style with a modern feel," Brad May tells me and he explains that the Australian SAR is the only one in the world with external air cleaners.

With this truck now we've got capability so really there is no job that it can't do.

"Cutting edge stuff and brings the American trucks up to another level of technology."

The SAR was a pleasure to drive on the Mt Cotton circuit, the balance of the manual transmission with the power, steering and suspension created a driving harmony, making music to please most drivers, let alone the dyed-in-the-wool Kenworth buffs.

But of course a spin around Mt Cotton is no more than tasting a wine in one of those tasting glasses. How this truck will go over a lifetime is the question but it comes from a lineage of dependable trucks and while undoubtedly things will, at some stage, go wrong, the Kenworth Dealership network and Cummins have a history of sorting the problems.

Perhaps these are some of the best trucks Paccar has ever built.

Specs: Kenworth T610 SAR:

  • Configuration: 6 x 4
  • Engine: Cummins x15 15 litre Euro V rated at 600hp and 2050lbft of torque
  • AdBlue tank options from 100 to 225 litres
  • Manual Transmission: Eaton RTL016918B standard
  • Automated Transmission (option): Eaton Ultrashift Plus
  • Front Axle: Dana E-14021
  • Rear Axles: Dana DSH40P
  • Suspension: Kenworth Airglide
  • Brakes: Drum (Disk optional)
  • Sleeper: 860mm aero flatback



Paccar's Director of Sales and Marketing, Brad May, says there is no job this truck can't do.
Paccar's Director of Sales and Marketing, Brad May, says there is no job this truck can't do. Bruce Honeywill