Test Drive: Giveaway DAF XF 105

By: Steve Skinner


American truck enthusiasts might scoff but the DAF XF105 really is a terrific prize, so get in quick before our competition closes. Steve Skinner writes

I’d never driven a DAF before climbing aboard the brand new XF105 in Wodonga on the New South Wales-Victorian border, to drive it up to the Brisbane Truck Show.

While my first experiences weren’t good, with some issues around a faulty door latch and difficulty locating the trailer brake, after hitting the road for the trip along one of the roughest stretches of supposed ‘highway’ in New South Wales — between The Rock and Yerong Creek between Albury and Wagga Wagga — the DAF, hooked up to an empty single promotional trailer, just soaked up all the bumps.

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It was amazing.

The comfort continued on and off for the next few weeks as I also drove it across to the Toowoomba CRT FarmFest and then down the Newell to the Alexandra Truck Show before returning it to Melbourne.

The massive award-winning Super Space cab was my ‘apartment’ for a total of about a week, and I honestly slept better in it than at home — even at a busy truckstop on the Pacific Highway at Grafton. The sound insulation when both driving and sleeping is outstanding.

The only annoying sound was from the lane departure warning system, one of the many safety features of trucks like the DAF.

While it’s a good thing when you’re feeling doughy in the early hours of the morning on the freeway, having it on all the time is a little grating. Good thing you can turn it on and off as you need.

But of course comfort, quietness and safety don’t mean much without performance, which was difficult to judge with an empty trailer. So, I just had to put up with a few jibes from drivers of big American bangers, a couple of whom declared they wouldn’t enter the competition as a matter of principle.

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"How stupid is that?" I thought — after all, if you’d be so embarrassed about being seen driving a big yellow European truck, then you could probably have other issues.

Anyways you could always sell it and pocket the quarter of a million bucks it’s worth.

This truck must be good. After all, DAF is the biggest-selling model of heavy-duty prime mover in Europe, and the XF105 was the 2007 International Truck of the Year at the Hanover truck show. In 2012 it took out Truck of the Show at the Melbourne Truck Show (ITTES) as well as an Australian International Design award.

It’s got the MX 13-litre motor which they’re trialling successfully so far in the Kenworth T403 and T409, so it can’t be too bad. But the nagging suspicion remained that the XF105 with only 510hp (375kW) — but a fairly impressive 2,500Nm of torque — may not have enough grunt for really hard yakka pulling B-doubles in Australia.

Wally Cox Tries out the DAF XF105

Then, I just happened to be chatting with Wally Cox about an unrelated technical matter. Cox used to operate a workshop in regional Victoria and is a previous winner of the Australian Trucking Association’s (ATA) Craig Roseneder Award for technical and maintenance excellence. He knows what he’s talking about when it comes to trucks; and you’d be a very brave person to call him a pansy for driving a European rig.

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As it turns out, Cox has just notched up 12 months in a DAF XF105 running ‘the paddock’, pulling a B-double across to Western Australia for Willaton Transport of Morwell in Victoria.

The DAF has clocked up 240,000km during the year — still on the original drive tyres — and Cox is so happy with it that he recently knocked back the offer of a new truck.

He says it pulls up to 68 tonnes without any problems at all; is rarely rounded up; and climbs the hills fine.

"If I had 600hp, I might be quicker getting to the top, but who cares?" Cox says. "It doesn’t matter about being the first bloke there; it’s a matter of being there every week. Profit is relevant to reliability, not horsepower."

Service intervals have been 80,000km using Conoco synthetic oil, and last timeCox only had to add an extra 5 litres. He even reckons the XF105 should be rated to more than 70 tonnes so it can haul double road trains — he suspects the Kenworth Airglide 400 suspension would have to be upgraded to Airglide 460 first, though.

As for fuel economy, Cox says the DAF has averaged more than 58 litres per 100km since the beginning, and he estimates that about 60 per cent of the time the gross weight would have been in the 62 to 68 tonne range.

He says the 16-speed ZF AS-Tronic automated manual transmission is "programmed to perfection".

Factory spec v Wallyspec

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It wasn’t all peaches and cream when Cox first climbed into the DAF though, and he’s had to do a fair bit of ‘Wallyspec’ to it.

"The locker boxes have huge doors but the hole is too small, and the doors took considerable effort to close," Cox says, blaming the problem on a lack of pre-delivery adjustment.

"The headlights were crap, and I actually stopped because I thought the right-hand low beam was out," Cox adds.

"The lights were so poorly adjusted that it took two nights to get reasonable lighting.

"With a bit of tampering I achieved all high beam lights operating together.

"The bumper mounted lights that have since been knocked out by a 200kg roo trying to stick its head through a 4-inch hole, have not been replaced as I feel they don’t justify the expense.

"And low beam headlights perform better than fog-lights in my opinion."

Cox says at first the steering was "exceptionally heavy" for low speed manoeuvring, but felt very sure and stable at driving speed.

"Eventually, a new pump was fitted and while I feel steering is on the heavy side, it is now acceptable," he says.

"The wide profile steer tyres rolled for 180,000km before new ones were fitted."

Also in the early days, the heater needed constant adjustment, but the thermostat has been raised 10C.

"The heating system now remains constant and is effective," Cox says.

"A heater duct directed to the floor in the centre of the cab would be a welcome addition, though."

Fuel capacity has been increased with a 200-litre auxiliary tank on top of the chassis, giving a useable capacity of 1,000 litres.

"The upside to the fuel capacity issue is that I use fuel top-ups as rest breaks and purchase fuel at cheaper outlets," Cox says.

It’s taken four joiners, a metre of hose and "several beers" to relocate the air tanks to the fuel tank brackets, which then meant making a bracket to incorporate the batteries and a base for the spare wheel carrier.

Cabin specs that Cox would like to see coming out of the factory include a passenger air seat — after all, there is a double bunk; the radios mounted in the dash and not the upper console; proper cup holder (not on the fridge drawer); extra power sources for an on-board camera, phone, laptop, TV etc; and switches in "more relevant" positions (he’s done most of these things himself.)

Win the DAF XF105

-Entries are now closed as of October 31-

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Specs

Make/model: 2012 XF105 Super Space Cab

Engine: Paccar MX 13-litre 6 cylinder, turbo intercooled

Power: 510hp (375kW) @ 1900rpm

Torque: 2,500Nm (1845ft-lb)

Emissions: Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR)

Transmission: 16-speed ZF AS-Tronic overdriven AMT

GCM: Up to 70 tonnes

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