New Kenworth T680 offers creature comforts, power, aerodynamics — the whole package

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — A driver remarked recently that if commercial truck seats get any more comfortable they’ll have to put tacks in them to keep awake.

He was referring to the new Kenworth T680, one of several groundbreaking Kenworth models editors test drove at the Paccar Technical Center here Thursday.

It was clear from the get-go that whether test driving (or riding as a passenger in) a roomy and comfortable T680 with a 76-inch sleeper or a T680 in an extended day cab configuration (also surprisingly roomy), Paccar hadn’t skimped on what drivers want and need.

Remember the TV commercials featuring blind taste tests to determine which soda pop tastes the best?

In developing the interior of the T680 an ergonomics expert determined where the gear shift, the steering wheel and standard controls would be if a driver closed his eyes and reached to where he thought they would be, “and that’s how we built the T680,” explained Erik Johnson, Kenworth on-highway marketing manager.

The sleeper models had ample head room (enough to stand up by the dashboard without bumping your head), seats with the feel of one’s favorite lounge chair and a dash display with the most-used controls within easy reach and less used controls (manual shut-down for example), farther away but still very accessible.

Getting in and out of the truck safely was made easier by hand rails that were within comfortable reach and available all the way down until feet were firmly planted on terra firma.

The front window was wide and high, providing a panoramic view, and mirrors were solidly mounted and not subject to engine or chassis vibrations or to the wind.

The T680 is a “premium” model with advanced aerodynamics, ergonomics and creature comforts, including a spacious bunk that’s 42 inches by 80 inches and a personal area featuring full-sized drawers plus numerous nooks and crannies in which to put personal items.

The T680 is powered by the Cummins ISX15 485/1650 engine with Eaton UltraShift Plus 13 Speed MHP transmission; or the Paccar MX 455/1650 with an Eaton FRO 10 Speed; or a Cummins ISX15 485/1650 with an Eaton UltraShift Plus 10 Speed LAS.

The T680 also comes in a day cab configuration with the Paccar MX 455/1650 engine and Eaton RTLO 13-speed transmission.

All were smooth in both high and low gears and in between and the cab was considerably quiet considering the engines’ muscle.

The test day cab featured a stick shift and according to test driver Richard Harris, “the best mirrors I’ve ever seen in a truck,” and he’s been a trucker for over 30 years.

“I can’t say enough about them,” said Harris. “They don’t move and that’s what you want in a truck so when you look you can see everything.

“It’s [the cab] big and it’s nice and with the MX motor I think it’s the quietest motor on the market.”

Of course, being a test driver for Paccar might make Harris a bit prejudiced. But he knows what he likes.

On the UltraShift transmissions, some drivers said they sometimes still “grab” for gears to shift but added that the UltraShift is easy to get used to.

Among other Kenworths available for test runs Thursday was the handsome W900L extended day cab with a Cummins ISX15 600/1850 engine with the Eaton UltraShift Plus 18 speed MXP transmission, suited for heavy hauling — say a lowboy — and the extended hood gave the old school look many truckers favor.