UD feeling oh so European

Tuesday, 19 February 2013 | Print

A sneak previous of the new Quon which will be unveiled at the Brisbane Truck Show in May. The day before visiting UD Trucks’ factory and head office a couple of weeks ago, I stepped off a bus at the fifth and highest level of Mount Fujiyama access road and felt I was in Antarctica. 


The magnificent scenery and landscape I’d been admiring during the 23-kilometre switchback suddenly changed from picture book beauty to a freezing reality that I could only endure for a short period before my ears started to burn. 

The new GW UD had a similarly dramatic but reversed effect. Outside it was virtually identical to the previous model – a solid, dependable and well-trusted truck that Australian fleets and owners had taken to, ahead of all the other Japanese offerings. But on the road, a tremendous transformation had taken place and, unlike my baptism of ice of Mt Fuji, this one was something I could live with for an extended period of time. 

According to senior vice-president of UD Trucks globally, Frenchman Loic Mellinand, it was the first time journalists had visited the Ageo factory and development centre at Saitama, a couple hours north-west of central Tokyo. 

A factory tour was followed by some laps around the short and tight test track, where development models are run for calibration and setting rather than durability. 

The focus of this visit was the biggest news for UD trucks in quite a while, and that was the almost complete takeover of the UD engine family by Volvo technology powerplants.

Among all UDs on the market in Australia, only the GW470 will retain a pre-Volvo Group motor – for now. 

The GW series heavy-duty trucks are already the most popular Japanese prime moves in Australia even outsell some of the Europeans. 

With all but the 470hp version sounding, feeling and driving like a pedigree from Goethenburg, there is likely to be some serious dents made to the market share of other, more popular cab-overs. 

Previously, the GW was available in two horsepowers, 400 and 470. The new 11-litre engine will allow a wider range of UDs that straddle the lower horsepower figure with 380hp and 420hp, plus a better choice of wheelbase and running gear options. UD sales people are going to be busy switching on to a lot of fleets where they previously just didn’t have the spec to do the job.

Linked to the 11-litre engine is the Volvo developed ESCOT-5 transmission. It’s a 12-speed single overdrive box that makes the US-based AMTs feel pedestrian. 

Included on the gearbox control panel are buttons for splitting the range when using PTO – useful for swapping fast tipping for spreader work, an ESCOT-Roll button which engages neutral when the truck is off throttle and on the flat, and the obligatory power/economy switch, which simply fiddles with the change points. 

I drove a range of models around the test loop at UD’s headquarters, but being located in the heart of urban sprawl meant it was just a flat concrete surface, just enough to get up to a suburban cruising speed. 

However, this UD is the most un-Japanese truck I’ve driven, with all the quietness and refinement of a European thoroughbred seamlessly integrated into the best driver and cab set-up of all the cab-overs. 

The engine pulled strongly from just under 1000rpm, with slick changes up the gearbox to 80kmh. 

I got just as big a surprise when I tried the new engine/exhaust brake. The new engine includes a sliding nozzle Holset turbo, and the Cummins technology allows a significant boost in brake backpressure when the exhaust brake is applied. 

It also operates when cold to speed the warm up. There are four stages to the auxiliary brake and unlike the exhaust brake on the GW470, which struggles to be more than useless with any sort of weight on board, this set-up is an excellent performer.

There’s a new driveline PTO that kicks out 650Nm of torque and its’ set with an SAE 1410 flange for maximum versatility. 

It’s also a dealer fitment, so no dramas in forward ordering. From the outside, this new UD looks much like the mobile whitegoods of its Japanese cousins. 

But I can’t speak highly enough of the on-road driving experience. I’m looking forward to  getting into one on our roads with a real load behind. If dealers can get prospective buyers behind the wheel, the deal will be well on the way to being done. 

Written by David Meredith – From Big Rigs, Friday, December 21, 2012. Page 37.

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