UD Trucks PK 10 Automatic truck review

By: Gary Worrall


Though wholly owned by the Volvo Group UD still builds a range of honest, dependable, no-frills work trucks that are earning well-deserved popularity with a wide range of customers, as Gary Worrall discovers

UD Trucks PK 10 Automatic truck review
UD Trucks' PK 10 Automatic.

 

After attending the UD launch in 2008, when the company teamed up with Allison Automatics to unveil the then-new MK and PK range of trucks, I was adamant that the company’s strength was honest, solid and dependable work trucks — no frills or frippery, just trucks perfect for a hard day’s work.

Despite only limited opportunities to take a UD for a run, mainly due to a lack of demonstration trucks courtesy of the global financial crisis, I have clung to this belief.

And now I am once more behind the wheel of a UD — this time one of the exciting new PK10 automatics, rigged as a 16-tonne GVM 4x2 pick-up and delivery truck.

Over the course of a coffee deep in UD’s Chullora bunker, I confessed my opinions to driver-trainer and test chaperone Graham Hannaford. He told me that since we were already on the same wavelength, the drive was going to go just fine.

With that affirmation ringing in my ears, we were soon off into the wilds of metropolitan Sydney traffic for a day of fun, relaxation and the odd interesting moment, all at the wheel of a fully-laden truck.

A lap of the truck for the light check only bolsters my belief that the UD is built for hard work.

There are no flashy bits of chrome nor excess aerofoils, it is just a bare bones white exterior that’s ready to take on the colours of the new owner. The bumpers are painted steel.

The bodywork is the aero kit on the PK.

The nosecone is a very slightly rounded to penetrate the air. This shaping is more noticeable in the rearward sloping windscreen that also curves away to the left and right.

The PK presents a rugged face to the world.

A simple U-shaped grille directs air across the radiator and is complemented by dual slots in the bumper.

The light clusters are equally simple, and effective, with combination park/low-beam/high-beam housings sitting above a bumper-mounted combined park/indicator set-up.

These are highly visible for oncoming traffic, so eliminating those I-didn’t-see-you accident claims.

This rugged simplicity is a big part of the PK’s attraction, it manages a timeless air so that even a three- or four-year-old versions don’t look outdated in the depot.

UD offers a slotted full-width sun visor that lifts airflow over the roof, as well as a roof-mounted aero cone to direct air up and over the body, helping to reduce fuel consumption.

Offered as a cab-chassis, the UD engineers have cleverly placed all the ancillaries, such as air intakes, exhaust pipes and fuel tanks inside the line of the body to decrease drag and thus fuel consumption.

The mirrors are single-piece European-style units that look right at home on the doors.

Complementing the main overtaking mirrors on each side, there are convex spotters, along with a downward-facing mirror on the passenger side to help with backing into docks and doorways.

The cab steps are outstanding, literally.

They are nice and wide and offer plenty of support. The slight offset on the lower step makes it more like a stair tread than a ladder rung.

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Engine

The Hino-sourced J08 six-cylinder engine releases a happy thrumming sound from under the cab on start up. The note settles into a business-like burble as the engine warms.

More importantly, while it is definitely audible, it is not overpowering — a sure sign some clever acoustic control is at work to allow the engine to give voice to its feelings without deafening the occupants.

The engine offers up peak power of 190kW (255hp) at 2,500rpm and a maximum 794Nm (586ft-lb) at a leisurely 1,500rpm.

The mill is a perfect match to the weighbridge ticket of 14.6 tonnes GVM.

Transmission

While medium-duty trucks have long been the preserve of manual gearboxes, with anything from five to nine speeds to choose from, UD is bucking that trend with the PK.

It has a six-speed Allison auto, with the pushbutton gear selector on the console beside the driver’s leg.

Cab and Controls

The PK is one of those rare trucks for which the inside directly reflects the outside. The rugged, built-for-work ethos continues in the cab.

The cab door opens a full 90 degrees, so there’s plenty of room to climb in and out.

The reach- and tilt-adjustable wheel swings up, out of the way, making it easy to drop into the driver’s seat.

I feel the grab-handles are a little low for taller drivers. They should either be about 10 centimetres longer or the whole handle should be relocated higher up the A-pillar.

The seat itself is comfortable, offering plenty of support to the shoulders, thighs and lumbar regions. Again, taller drivers might find there is not enough rearward seat travel.

Despite this, the driving position is well thought out. There is a clear field of view in all directions and no need for the ‘emu bob’ to see around mirrors or pillars.

The thick Euro-style mirrors provide plenty of vision down and along the body. The electric switch to manipulate them is fiddly but once they are in position you don’t need to constantly adjust them as you drive along.

The console for the Allison transmission is particularly effective. UD went for the push-button version with a digital display, which is backed up by a repeater in the instrument cluster.

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With such effort put into the cab layout, the park brake sticks out as probably the most annoying placement. The driver has to reach down and back to release it. The upside is that once the truck is moving the park brake won’t be needed until the end of the journey.

Regular drivers would soon adapt to the placement.

Forward of the driver is a simple, informative instrument cluster containing tacho and speedo, air-pressure gauges for the brakes, temperature and fuel level.

This is all the information needed for urban operations. There are enough distractions on the road without you needing to be glancing at the dash every three seconds to check gearbox or exhaust temperatures.

Behind the wheel are two stalks, one on each side. They look after functions including lights, wipers, indicators, exhaust brake and cruise control.

To the left of the instruments are the ventilation controls, including the airconditioning, as well as the AM/FM/CD stereo system.

Although not oversized, the buttons are big enough and easy to locate. Drivers won’t need to take their eyes off the road to make minor adjustments.

The sleeper cab fitted as standard offers plenty of space for all the little odds and ends drivers carry with them, particularly on urban pick-up and delivery (PUD) routes, including con notes, destination stickers, pens and run sheets.

While the cab seats three, most drivers will fold the middle seat down to use the work table on its back. Inside the cab there is also room for coffee cups and water bottles plus a small esky (even a fridge if needed).

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Performance

The PK’s self-deprecating claim to be ‘just a simple work truck’ is proved when it hits the road, but I don’t mean that in a bad way.

The simplest option is to put your foot on the brake to disengage the safety lockout, hit ‘D’, release the park brake, check the mirrors, accelerate and release the foot brake.

Next thing you know the truck is chugging down the Princes Highway at a steady 70km/h, keeping up with the traffic.

Avoiding the mobile chicanes called cars that seem hell-bent on throwing themselves under the truck’s wheels then becomes the driver’s main job.

This is all due to the auto transmission’s ability to handle full throttle gearshifts, there is no need to lift. The engine remains squarely in the power band and forward momentum is not disrupted for an instant.

As much as I am a fan of AMTs, I have to say that in traffic the auto is an absolute delight, and even managed to remove the jerkiness from the gearshift that even the best manuals, automated or not, suffer.

With a heavier load on than most PUD operators would carry for an extended time, it was off to the roller coasters, looking for a sequence of climbs and drops that would require up and down shifts from the auto box to keep the truck moving.

Not being terribly well acquainted with the roads of Sydney, I allowed myself to be guided by host Graham Hannaford’s encyclopedic knowledge of his home town.

Regardless of the challenge we threw at the driveline, it always had a response. More and more I was impressed with just how well the engine and transmission gel to give a comfortable ride around the hills and valleys.

The exhaust brake is another gem. Added to the engine-gearbox mix and you have a triumvirate that makes most manual transmissions options look outdated.

While the job of the exhaust brake is to slow the truck, the unit fitted to the UD has a party trick guaranteed to put a smile on even a jaded driver’s face.

With the exhaust brake left in the ‘on’ position, you can engage and disengage it via the accelerator pedal — it works particularly  well on long gentle slopes — and control the speed that way.

If the truck is slowing too much, just push the throttle a fraction, without opening the injectors and voila: the truck picks up speed without burning extra fuel.

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Conversely, to wash off speed, just a little lift of the throttle brings the exhaust brake into play and the truck slows with a muted rumble.

When required, the all-wheel drums do an impressive job of stopping the truck, particularly in combination with the exhaust brake. There is also the added safety of standard WABCO four-channel ABS if things get really nasty.

But by spending most of the time concentrating on what is happening outside, it is unlikely the driver is going to cop a nasty surprise (although car drivers are always on the lookout for new ways to be a nuisance).

Supporting a full load, the suspension offers a comforting ride. It is possible to detect some of the nastier potholes by paying attention to the messages coming up through the floor but, for the most part, the ride is smooth and unruffled.

UD fits a nine-leaf spring at the front, with two-bag Hendrickson air suspension at the rear. The cab sits on springs that have their own shock absorbers, these do quite a job of damping whatever the chassis suspension misses.

Add to that an air-suspension seat for the driver and there really is no cause for drivers to claim they are fatigued or worn out from the driving task.

While the clear view ahead has already been discussed at some length, it should also be pointed out that reversing is also easy. A couple of simulated drop-offs at suburban shopping centres showed how well the system works.

The hardest of our ‘drops’ was at a centre that requires the truck to drive past the loading bay and into the general carpark, then reverse into the dock while watching for cars entering the centre from behind.

While the combined mirrors of the UD made this one so easy even a journalist could do it (and then do it again), the architect responsible should be taken out and shot.

The steering is well-sorted, with only a tiny dead spot around straight ahead. After just a short time behind the wheel the steering becomes predictable, with no traces of over- or under-steer, even with the power assistance.

The power steering also contributes to the ease of operation. There is enough assistance to make manoeuvring stress-free but the steering retains enough weight, particularly at highway speeds, so that it is not vague or prone to wandering.

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Verdict

It has been a long time between drives. There is no doubt UD has done plenty to maintain its ‘work truck’ tag.

The PK is a solid and reliable place to do a job. It has no major vices and certainly no pretensions of being something it is not.

There are cheaper trucks on the market and there are better equipped and better looking ones as well, but there is a certain socialist allure — you could call it success through austerity — that the UD offers in a way no other else can.

 

Likes:

  • Plenty, this is a well-sorted truck with lots to offer
  • The combination of the engine/gearbox/exhaust brake make it very good to drive regardless of traffic conditions.
  • Well-sorted suspension.

Dislikes:

  • Hard to reach park brake.
  • The need for a longer, or higher mounted, grab handle could be fixed for when the PK goes ADR 80/03.

 

Specifications

Make/Model: UD Trucks PK 10 Automatic

Engine: J-08 six-cylinder, 7.7-litre, four valves per cylinder, direct injection, variable-nozzle turbo with intercooler

Transmission: Allison 3060P automatic six-speed, option of two PTO openings

Brakes: All-wheel drums, air-operated, 4-channel WABCO ABS

Power/Torque: 190kW (255hp) @2,500rpm/794Nm (586ft-lb)@1,500rpm

GVM/GCM: 16,500kg/20,500kg

 

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