Test-Driving the Kenworth 2006 T300
BY DAVID KOLMAN
Thanks to the fine people at Kenworth Truck Co., I was given the opportunity to drive a 2006 Model T300, provided by Ron Champion at MHC-Kenworth in Fort Worth, Texas. I got behind the wheel on a swelteringly hot day in Dallas, and put the vehicle through its paces along congested city streets, crowded highways and wide-open interstates. And I must say, the premium medium-duty truck impressed me with its roominess, comfort, service features and driveability.
As is my practice before taking any truck out, I performed a pre-trip inspection. The hood, which was rather easy to pull open after releasing the paddle-type latches, tilts a full 90 degrees for greater access to the engine compartment. All of the fluid level checks and fills are located together in one easy-to-reach place on the driver’s side and can be efficiently checked and maintained, simplifying the pre-trip.
It was reassuring to discover an anti-blow-down locking mechanism that keeps the hood opened and prevents unintentional closings.
I noticed that the engine sits high in the frame and is totally ahead of the cab for complete access. As a side benefit, I figured this positioning would help keep the cab quieter — and I was correct.
The batteries are also readily accessible, located within the driver’s side steps in a special compartment.
Checking underneath the truck, I saw that the T300’s frame is made of two parallel continuous straight steel rails with clean top flanges from back-of-cab to end-of-frame. This makes for easier body and equipment installation. Air and electrical lines are neatly mounted high in the frame channel to be away from dirt, water, road chemicals, etc.
Wiring is color-coded, labeled and numbered, making for faster circuit tracing and troubleshooting. The fuse panel is dash-mounted and easy to access.
The 2006 T300 has a number of exterior enhancements, including a wire mesh grille with polished stainless steel center trim and standard complex reflector headlamps that provide a 50 percent increase in illumination.
Climbing in and out of the cab was effortless, helped by the cab’s lower profile, step arrangement (the first step is only about 21 inches off the ground), well-placed grab handles, traction-grip steps and wide-opening bulkhead-type doors. With all the ins and outs of beverage delivery that tend to fatigue a driver, this is a big plus. Another nice feature is that the steps are mounted to the chassis so they are particularly sturdy.
Cab ingress and egress is more difficult for a helper on the truck I drove. I found entry and exit through the passenger door awkward. However, this could be solved by spec’ing the optional inside grab handle.
Like all Kenworth Trucks, the T300 is solidly built. The cab is constructed of aluminum and fiberglass to better resist corrosion. Huck-bolts are used, rather than rivets, to make the cab stronger, tighter and more durable.
And talk about tight. Unless I cracked a window first, it was difficult to shut the door. The cab is air-tight, and that helps make for a quite environment.
The mirrors are cowl-mounted rather than attached to the doors. As such, the mirrors stay better adjusted because they are unaffected by door closings, and I continued to see rearward as I opened the door.
Settling in behind the wheel, I had excellent visibility afforded by a large wraparound one-piece windshield, 20-degree sloped hood with sleek, integrated rounded fenders (which helps optimize airflow for reduced drag and increased fuel economy), standard DayLite door windows and a peep window in the passenger door.
The cab sports a stylish, fully trimmed and well-appointed interior with ample room, helped by no footroom intrusion. I found it a driver-friendly environment and ergonomically designed. The truck I drove had the optional tilt steering wheel so I could position the wheel to my exact liking.
Controls and switches are conveniently close at hand, well marked and comfortably visible. The dashboard has a wraparound instrument panel with large, easy-to-read gauges and a warning light module. I found this module difficult to read, especially in bright sunlight, as the lights were not bright enough for me.
The truck had the standard fully trimmed durable vinyl interior. I discovered firsthand that it is easy to clean. The coffee that spilled on top and down the passenger side of the dashboard wiped up nicely and left no trace, I’m happy to report.
The Kenworth T300 was a delight to drive because it handles well and is responsive. It provides a nice ride without a lot of bounce, even with no load. Maneuverability is superb, due in part to the steering gear being located ahead of the front axle and a 50-degree wheel cut.
The 7.2-liter Caterpillar C7 ACERT diesel engine, backed by an Eaton Fuller UltraShift six-speed transmission, provided enough pep for all traffic and road conditions. The engine’s HEUI fuel system decreases engine noise and helps lower emissions. For greater performance and reliability, the C7 has electronic controls with features typically found only on heavy-duty engines.
The UltraShift six-speed transmission has no clutch pedal or shifting because it is fully automated. The transmission’s electronics make each shift at the proper engine speed for faster, smoother, easier shifting that you can feel. There are button controls on the dashboard that allow the driver to hold a gear or manually select the appropriate gear for road conditions. The gear display shows what gear the transmission is in.
Being a long-time “gear jammer,” letting the computer control the shifts took some getting used to. I can’t tell you how many times I instinctively went to grab the non-existent shifter and push in the absent clutch.
Once I got used to the UltraShift, though, I found it made driving simpler and less stressful. Since I didn’t have to worry about when to shift I could better concentrate on driving. Think about the benefits of an automatic for your less proficient drivers.
Automatic transmissions can boost productivity for beverage delivery and pick-up applications because they provide quicker acceleration and no power interruption, allowing a driver to cover more ground in a day with less effort. Compared to the more complicated manual transmissions, automatics have reduced scheduled maintenance requirements, can extend component life and can help increase fuel economy.
I would suggest that the Kenworth T300 is more than just a vehicle. It is a business solution package. Its driveability and performance can serve as a driver recruitment tool. The truck’s design makes it more dependable, durable and efficient. The ease-of-serviceability features will help service technicians more quickly complete maintenance, service and repairs. That, in turn, will help reduce service costs and downtime. The overall result: lower truck lifecycle costs for an improved bottom line. BI
2006 Model Kenworth T300 Medium Duty Conventional
Configuration: T300 straight truck with 24-foot supreme van body
Wheelbase: 260 inches
Cab to Axle: 192 inches
Axle to Back of Cab: 68 inches
Engine: Caterpillar C7 ACERT diesel; 250 hp at 2,200 rpm
Transmission: Eaton Fuller F08406A-ASW UltraShift six-speed
Front Brakes: Dana Spicer ES 16.5x5
Rear Brakes: Dana Spicer ES S-CAM 16.5x7
Front Axle: Dana E1202I 12,000-pounds gawr
Rear Axle: Dana 21060S 21,000-pounds gawr
Suspension: Hendrickson HAS210 20,000-pounds with shocks
Frame: 10-5/8 inches by 5/16 inches
Tires: Bridgestone R250F 295/75R22.5 14PR
Wheels: Accuride 28408RPW 22.5x8.25 steel painted
Interior: Pinnacle Vinyl (slate gray)
Seats: Kenworth Air Cushion Plus
Steering: Power; single-gear TRW TAS65
Fuel Tank: 50-gallon, right-hand mounted
The T300 is available in Class 6 and 7 configurations as a straight truck or tractor in a variety of wheelbases with single or tandem axles, air or hydraulic brakes and gross vehicle weight ratings from 25,000 to 54,600 pounds. Optional corner windows are available to aid in backing up and negotiating tight spots.