As they come online this year, and the new Kenworth models start to appear in fleets around the country, the driving experience in a K220 will become a topic of conversations, around preferences about the mix of old and new technology.
The truck’s safety automated and safety systems can only handle what the Bendix Fusion system can see with the radar and the camera. It will head down the highway and travel, as instructed, at 100km/h, but when it comes up behind a slower vehicle, it will back off to maintain a safe following distance. If the vehicle slows even more, the truck will bring in the engine brake to slow it further and will apply the brakes if needed.
The engine brake on the X15 seems more effective than it has been in the past, when coupled to the Endurant XD. The retardation starts with compression braking on half of the bank of cylinders, this is followed by the full bank coming into play and finally the AMT changes down a gear and ups the engine speed another 200rpm to further increase retardation. These three retardation modes are available to the driver manually by pulling back on the right-hand steering column stalk as well as being utilised by Fusion.
There are times where driver intervention is needed. If the Fusion slows the truck, the driver can steer into the outside lane and the truck will continue at cruising speed. If there are upcoming opportunities to overtake, the driver takes control by just touching the accelerator and then moves closer to the vehicle to prepare to overtake.
The driver themself can choose just how much to get involved. the truck’s systems are not taking away the driver’s choices and autonomy, they are offering options to make their life a little easier.
Unfortunately, on this test, the truck was one of the original evaluation vehicles, used for the launch and initial road testing. Its setting wasn’t optimal and the system was the first fitting of the first generation of the system. It was clear what the system wanted to do, but it didn’t always get its timing right. By the time these systems are being fitted in the first run of K220s rolling down the assembly line in Bayswater, there should be a seamless feel to the driving experience as the different functions interact more precisely.
The K220 still has similar limitations to those of its predecessors. There is not a flat floor and while the raised roof design is a much improved one compared to the old Aerodyne, there is a feeling of more space. The geography of the cabin does not leave much room for moving around in the 2.3m cabin, but there is enough.
There is no getting away from the difference in ingress and egress from the cab. The need to climb up a ladder, shuffle across a step and then duck down into a door is far from ideal. The fold out steps are still an option, but one which a low proportion of customers take up.
There is no cab suspension on the K220 at the moment and it’s obvious from the ride that this is the case. The ride from the parabolic springs on the chassis is acceptable and is much improved over previous generations of the K Series, but not as smooth as its European rivals. There is an air suspension system under development by Kenworth and that should be available in the near future, stay tuned.
Cabins still come in the standard format of either a 2.3- or a 2.8-metre length, the offering is similar to that offered in the K 200. Sizes available vary from a 1.7m long day cab with a flat roof to the 2.3m sleeper with raised or flat roof or the 2.8m sleeper, only available with the aerodyne style roof.
Spending the night in the bunk of the 2.3m cabin was a pleasant experience, the wriggle room is comfortable and there is plenty of storage to suit the requirements of most drivers. There is an under-bunk fridge, the controls in the bunk work well and the bunk itself is very comfortable and large enough to make up for the layout, which can feel less spacious than the smaller European sleepers.