Kenworth Trucks T403/T409/T609/K200 truck video launch review

By: Gary Worrall

Kenworth Trucks felt Alice Springs was a fitting location to release its range of ADR 80/03–compliant trucks in. Gary Worrall hits the road.


For Kenworth Trucks, a company that has made an art form out of minimalist modifications to trucks over the years, the arrival of ADR 80/03 emission regulations must have been a shock.

With these tougher emission regulations coming into force, Kenworth is renewing its entire model range - including the fitment of SCR engines and the addition of diesel particulate filters - to cope.

The company publicly launched its response to the new regulations at Alice Springs and the event was full of surprises. Even some seasoned industry observers were caught out.

Possibly the worst kept secret was the move to using Cummins engines exclusively in 2011. CAT engines will no longer be available and Detroit Diesel is restricting itself to supplying Daimler brands Freightliner and Western Star.

Kenworth ,T403,T409,T609,K200,-truck ,-Alice -Springs ,-ATN6


Kenworth trucks in Australia

Local production of Kenworth trucks launched in 1971, making the new models a 40th anniversary celebration as well as a regulatory update, a fact not lost on Paccar Australia boss Joe Rizzo.

Developing the new models was a 'multi-million dollar' investment, says Rizzo: with three new Aero models, an update of the traditional bonneted range, as well as a new cabover engine model, the K200.

The K200 will replace the K108 from April 1st 2011. Some attendees questioned whether this was a joke; but a close look at the display truck confirmed that this is the real thing.

With just 42 models covering approximately 45,000 finished trucks since 1971, Rizzo says the new models are 'Defining Tomorrow' as safer, easier, more comfortable and environmentally friendlier than their predecessors.

Although the move to ADR 80/02 forced a similar redesign of the product range in 2008, the tighter rules for 2011 impose even more restrictions on manufacturers, with the particulate filter posing a number of packaging problems for the engineering staff.

Also, because the cooled exhaust gas recycling system (EGR) generates extra heat as it cleans the exhaust emissions, the need to draw sufficient cooling air across the Cummins diesel engines set Kenworth engineers to do some head scratching.

The results are some of the best looking bonneted trucks to be produced in Australia, with a mix of traditional Kenworth 'bling' and aerodynamic efficiency.

Rizzo is unable to put a precise figure on the local content of Kenworth trucks. He does however say that to help generate local jobs Australian suppliers are used where possible.

"Bonnets and other body panels, lights, interior trims, where possible we support local industry, which in turn helps to keep our customers busy on the roads," Rizzo says.

Kenworth ,T403,T409,T609,K200,-truck ,-Alice -Springs ,-ATN2


New Kenworth trucks

The new aero models, the T403, T409 and T609 all feature a new take on the traditional Kenworth grille. It now resembles a set of giant nostrils, with either a body colour (T403) or chrome (T409 and T609) rings outlining them, that stretch from the bumper to the lip of the bonnet for maximum airflow into the engine bay.

The air intakes on the flanks have improved seals to prevent hot air from the engine bay being drawn into the engine itself.

This also reduces the volume of airborne particles entering the air intake, improving both the performance and service life of the air filter.

In keeping with the aero effect, the grille features a slight rearward rake, maximising the surface area for better cooling.

Straight lines are virtually non-existent, with curving bumpers, complete with cut-outs to force even more cold air through the engine bay, dominating the front view.

Above them, the light pods are swept back and faired-in for improved penetration. The wide-set wheel arches flow outwards from the engine cover, sweeping up and over the tyres and back into the faired-in cab steps, with the individual elements combining to make the Aero models as slippery as possible.

All this adds up when it comes to saving fuel, especially on long high-speed runs.

Kenworth has dug into the DAF parts bin for the mirrors, with the US chrome versions now consigned to history.

Instead, there are body colour Euro-style single piece mirrors, incorporating not just the main mirror but also the wide-angle spotter mirror, mounted on thick A-frame arms to help eliminate vibration-related blurring.

Engine choices are all of the Big Red variety: T609 buyers can choose between the ISX or Signature engines, while those opting for the smaller T409 or T403 models have to 'make do' with the Cummins ISX.

All engine choices employ EGR and the Cummins DPF to manage emissions. To deal with the extra heat generated by the regeneration of the particulate filter, the Aero models gain a factory standard 175mm (7-inch) wide exhaust diffuser, to allow cool air into the exhaust to control temperatures.

Kenworth ,T403,T409,T609,K200,-truck ,-Alice -Springs ,-ATN3


Kenworth K200

The biggest single surprise of the launch was the long-awaited debut of the K200, the truck Kenworth describe as a 'step change' in the design journey of cabover models in Australia.

With over 11,000 K-Series trucks built for the combined Australian and New Zealand markets, the K200 is viewed as the torch bearer for a new generation of truck drivers, a role marketing manager Andrew Hadjikakou does nothing to dispel.

While there is no mistaking the K200 as the latest in the K-Series family, as Hadjikakou points out, there are updates aplenty, including smoothed edges for better airflow, a larger grille and improved cab access. 

The K200 scores the same Euro mirrors as the Aero range of T models, while the cab access steps are deeper and feature improved treads for better grip.

While the launch truck retained the much-maligned 'monkey bar' entry of the current K108, Hadjikakou says this will be addressed before the truck goes on sale in 2011.

There are rumours of a Freightliner-style swing out staircase, but no one at Kenworth would confirm or deny this. 

To deal with the greater heat stress placed on the Cummins ISX engines under the 2011 rules, the K200, like all of its brethren, has had plenty of work done on directing cooling air into and around the engine bay.

There is also a new Charge Air Cooler for better cooling of the compressed air from the turbocharger, which is positioned to reduce its 'shadowing' or blocking of the radiator.

There is also a moulded fan shroud, to prevent air from leaking around the new nine-blade fan. Improved sealing around the radiator adds to the overall efficiency of the cooling package. As mentioned, Cummins engines are now the only choice for Kenworth buyers.

The K200 is available with either the Signature series engines or the ISX.

Kenworth ,T403,T409,T609,K200,-truck ,-Alice -Springs ,-ATN5


Eaton truck transmission

A big favourite with Kenworth buyers are Eaton transmissions, the K200 has the option of an 18-speed Road Ranger or the new UltraShift Plus for those wanting to ditch the third pedal.

Road Ranger customers get a fold-away gear lever to make moving from the driver's seat to the bunk easier. Compared to the current K108 the K200 cab sits 50mm higher, with the extra space used to improve the heat shielding of the cabin.

The engine tunnel and the cab floor have been double skinned for maximum heat and noise insulation.

Inside the cab the interior designers have had a field day, coming up with new colour schemes, as well as the use of padded vinyl from wall to ceiling.

Drivers will appreciate the seat and steering wheel being aligned, eliminating the previous offset position and also providing more shoulder room for the driver and passenger.

The passenger gets more leg room courtesy of a redesigned air-conditioning system.

While the Aero range and the new K200 usher in a new era, Kenworth, always with one eye on the traditionalists, has decided to retain the old-style workhorses of the range.

Although there are changes under the skin, Hadjikakou says the core values that attract operators to the brand must be respected to ensure the company does not lose the trust of its customers.

Among these core values, Hadjikakou says, is the ability to perform across the worst roads in Australia while hauling the heaviest loads combined with simplicity of servicing.

The major change to these trucks is in emission controls, with the T409SAR, T659, T909 and C509 models retaining the options of ISX or Signature engines, fitted with EGR and a particulate filter, as well as the 175mm diffuser exhaust outlet.

Despite facing the same issues of under-bonnet heat as the new Aero trucks (they run identical engines) the traditional 'wall of chrome' fronts allow for plenty of cooling air to pass through into the engine bay.

For the smaller, vocationally-oriented T359 models, these trucks become the first Kenworth's in Australia to be fitted with an AdBlue tank, courtesy of Cummins' decision to use selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology on its ISLe5 engines.

Kenworth ,T403,T409,T609,K200,-truck ,-Alice -Springs ,-ATN4


European trucks, Australian trucks

For some time now, European trucks have had the inside running when it comes to offering safety equipment in heavy vehicles. Hadjikakou says Kenworth is making up for lost time with these new models.

Aero range and K200 buyers will be able to specify the Kenworth EBSS Safety Package, with a suite of functionalities that includes ABS braking, Drag Torque Control, traction control and ESP.

In trucks fitted with the EBSS package, sensors measure and compare lateral acceleration, yaw rate and the driver's steering input to decide how much intervention is required and acts accordingly.

Kenworth is also offering Active Cruise with Brakes (ACB), which can act as a passive collision warning device when the cruise control is switched off, or when the cruise control is on, the system can use a mix of service and engine brakes to control the truck's speed relative to traffic conditions.

A display on the dash provides visual alerts to the driver if the system detects a slow-moving vehicle in front, prompting driver intervention when the system is in radar mode.

All models in the Kenworth range will also have Front Underrun Protection System (FUPS) bumpers as standard from 2011 onwards.

Kenworth ,T403,T409,T609,K200,-truck ,-Alice -Springs ,-ATN


Would I buy one of these trucks?

As always, the buyers will be the harshest critics in the transport industry. While new trucks may look, feel and smell wonderful when they are launched, it is the operators who run up and down the highways that decide if a trucks is a success or not.

It is clear Kenworth have invested plenty of time and money into the 2011 range, particularly the new models. On paper they appear to be competitive with what is available in the respective market niches.

One thing is for certain however, the bar has just been raised for bonneted trucks, but with new product arriving for Western star, Freightliner and Mack, not to mention the long-awaited debut of CAT Trucks, buyers of bonneted trucks have never had it this good.


Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up to receive the Trade Trucks e-newsletter, digital magazine and other offers we choose to share with you straight to your inbox

You can also follow our updates by liking us on Facebook


Trucks For Hire | Forklifts For Hire | Cranes For Hire | Generators For Hire | Transportable Buildings For Hire