Test Drive

Wheels on the ground

The UD Quon is a sophisticated truck and has quickly been accepted by the local market and Australian sales numbers were bolstered late last year with an order from Linfox for 120 of the 6×4 CD 25 360 Quon’s for its BevChain division.

After its Japanese launch in 2017 the UD engineering development team turned their attention to opportunities to expand the Quon offer outside of Japan with an 8×4 into markets such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

“The main driver for this project has been what are the opportunities to expand the Quon offer outside of Japan and the 8×4 sector showed the biggest numbers in terms of opportunity,” says David Moore, UD’s Vice President – Technology Product Project at the Ageo facility outside of Tokyo.

After intensive research, including extensive dialog with Australian engineers and operators it was officially decided by the Product Decision Body in 2018 to go ahead with the project which was logically titled ‘8×4 load share Australia’.

Tare weight is a critical factor with most 8×4 applications and weight became both a challenge and a goal for the UD team. Initially there was a theoretical tare weight of nine tonnes, which local UD boss Mark Strambi and the Australian team felt was too much, recognising the market would only accept a tare weight very close to eight tonnes. The first challenge was meeting the overall target for tare weight and the second was to address the weight distribution on the shorter 4500mm wheelbase which has become the standard for agitator trucks in Australia. The Japanese market typically specifies longer wheelbases of 5000mm and 5200mm for this application.

It is commendable that UD engineers have managed to pare the tare weight down to 8,005kgs (a mere 5kgs over the eight tonne target) without compromising durability. The non-use of inner chassis liners has avoided the weight and corrosion issues that typically affect double skinned rails.

Coming up with a twin-steer loadshare front-end involves much more than just drilling holes and bolting on components. As part of the global Volvo Group, the UD engineers in Japan were able to turn to the CAST (Common Architecture Shared Technology) for items such as fuel tanks and battery boxes from other parts of the group. Access to the CAST proprietary components means proven items as well as a financial benefit as the development costs have already been amortised.

There is an existing twin-steer air suspension configuration available for Quon in Japan but it only has a load capacity of ten tonnes. The availability of a full air front and rear suspension may have the desirable advantage of being capable of incorporating onboard weighing, but the Japanese setup is optimised for a ten tonne capacity and uses smaller axle spindles, so the Australian spec eight-wheel Volvo provided much of the inspiration.

The decision was made to use a leaf setup on the front with an eight bag air suspension at the rear. A leaf rear suspension was also considered but getting to a road friendly solution proved a challenge. Air suspension while providing more stability and an improved ride, is also fractionally lighter and has proven itself in roadtrain applications at GVWs of more than 100 tonnes. The 8×4 CG Quon has been engineered with large capacity airlines and valves on the suspension which provides more effective electronic stability control (ESC).

Agitator trucks are typically used in metropolitan areas and usually return to their depots at night, so it was unnecessary to incorporate long range fuel tanks and the 200-litre alloy unit should prove more than adequate.

While UD logically have their eyes on the agitator business which continues to grow in an otherwise constricting market, there are other transport sectors suitable for the 8×4 configuration such as crane trucks and refrigerated transport. To cater for these and similar applications additional wheelbases of 5000mm and 5700mm will be available for Australia.

At this point UD says there are no plans for a 8×4 short wheelbase prime mover or a 10×4 rigid chassis which would probably require a double skinned chassis.

To its credit UD Trucks has not taken a position of producing what they believe is the best truck (at a price) and have engaged a more consultative acceptance of customer’s needs across various markets.

“Other brands have trucks out there because customers want those trucks,” said UD Trucks Australia’s Brand Manager at the time, Tracy Griffin (who has since taken on a similar role at Volvo Trucks).

“It’s not so much saying a competitor has a certain truck and that’s what we need, it’s about recognising the customer has a need for a certain product and having customer conversations rather than responding to a competitor,” she says.

David Moore agrees.

“This was a project where we didn’t just talk about being outward-looking, we actually did something in consulting with various potential customers,” he says.

From those first conversations in the early stages, features such as factory fitted angle brackets have been implemented to facilitate the mounting of frameless agitator units.

Testing an unloaded cab-chassis on a closed track near Tokyo only provides a glimpse of how this truck will ultimately perform in the real world, but during our factory visit we take the opportunity to have a steer anyway and found little, if anything, to fault. This is a working specification pre-production unit and is not all prettied up like a road version although it does sport the same Alcoa alloy wheels as the local Quons. It has all the familiar features of a Quon with excellent access and comfortable seating position and the same smart steering wheel.

This is the first installation of an Allison transmission coupled to the eight-litre engine in a Quon. The transmission is controlled by the familiar Allison touchpad mounted on the console in a convenient position for the driver. We are impressed at how well the auto and engine work together and the effectiveness of the two stage exhaust/engine brake will be enhanced by the downshifting of the transmission to maintain exhaust pressure.

Other thoughtful inclusions are pre-wiring for a parking brake alarm and a beacon light is as simple as plug-and-play with the wiring harness already located in the roof.

FOOTNOTE: In the days prior to last Christmas, Volvo Group announced that it had signed a MoU with Isuzu to create a ‘strategic alliance’ involving the sale of the global UD Trucks business to the Japanese manufacturer. Local management have stressed that as far as the recent ‘Australianisation’ of Croner and the development of the Quon 8×4 for the local market are concerned the situation remains ‘business as usual’ and the planned rollouts will still take place. It is perhaps more than a little ironic that there is wide acknowledgement across the industry that the potential market gap left by the cessation of local manufacture of the ubiquitous Iveco AACO would be ripe for the picking by the successful Isuzu FY range. The introduction of the Quon CG 8×4 may prove an added complication to the situation where UD use a badge-engineered Isuzu as the replacement for the Condor in the Japanese domestic market.

 

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