Following on from DAF’s extensive revisions of its general haulage range earlier in the year, construction, double-drive and multi-axle trucks complete the line-up. Trucking got to test-drive three new models. We opted to look at two Construction models – an 18-tonne LF and an 8×4 CF tipper – and a 6×4 CF tractor unit with tipping trailer.

These models all play an important part in British transport. The LF is the definitive skip lorry. The CF eight-legger has always been a solid performer, but there’s also always been room for improvement. DAF’s European management has been curiously oblivious, but even over a decade later the shadow of the old Foden Alpha still looms over the CF.

DAF’s 6×4 tractors have proven to be capable of gruelling landfill duties, popular with local authorities all over the country. It’s a tough job, and a competitive sector which the likes of Mercedes-Benz with its Arocs and Iveco with the Trakker joining the party in recent years.

DAF LF 290 FA CONSTRUCTION

I asked the same question I always do when confronted with a choice of trucks: “Got any manuals?” not expecting that there actually would be. Well, there was. Even better, it happened to be one of the models we wanted to cover in Trucking, namely an LF 4×2 18-tonner. This one has a tipper body, and you do sometimes see them in the UK in this sort of spec, deployed on road repairs, or perhaps with a demount so it can double up as a gritter in winter.

They’re most popular as skip lorries though – which is a tough occupation for both driver and truck. It’s fast-paced work, and trucks end up in all sorts of places from city centres, to driveways to farm tracks in the middle of nowhere. 

Manual ’boxes are still commonplace in this sector, and the LF comes with both a six-speed manual, along with a nine-speed four-over-four, which this model has, along with a grunty 295 bhp 6.7-litre PX7 engine. That’s plenty of power for 18 tonnes, and more than capable of running with a trailer.

I hadn’t driven a LF for years, but this new model couldn’t be easier to get comfortable in. This model was spec’d with a luxury air seat along with four-bellow air suspension on the rear, so it really took me by surprise as to how quiet and smooth it was. The test route selected was a twisting coastal road with hairpin turns and steep gradients. In fact, the road was so tight, there was a restriction preventing artics from using it – and with good reason. 

The range-change gearbox is excellent; the throw is short and accurate, the clutch light. I had no need to constantly stir the gears to keep the engine on song either. With reserves of torque available at low rpm, I could let it lug away a ratio higher than I would probably normally have selected. The engine brake – which is an optional extra I would recommend – is operated from a button on the steering wheel and works in conjunction with the footbrake.

VERDICT: Drives like a big car. The manual ’box is a treat to use and well matched to the torquey engine.

DAF CF 530 FTT 6X4

Double-drive tractor units tend to be the preserve of those involved in properly mucky work. The fit and finish and optional extras on this particular CF made me think it’d be a terrible shame to plough it up to its diffs in landfill! I’ve mentioned it before, but I do like the low-cab height of the CF, and it never takes me long to get right at home in the driver’s seat.

When I drove some of the new tractor units in Holland back in spring, I had an initial impression the TraXon transmission had been programmed to behave very sedately. There are in fact different maps available for the gearbox, the main two being Economy and Performance.

This CF felt particularly lively – helped of course by the powerful 530 bhp MX13 engine. I’ve not been keen on the previous Eco-mode equipped 510 versions, which restrict power in all but the top gear, allow the truck to slow down way too much before kicking down gears and constantly try to take back control of the gears from the driver. On the other hand, I think a Euro 5 510 with 12-speed manual is fabulous, but time moves on.

This CF was good. Very good. I can understand what it is DAF has been aiming at. At busy roundabouts it responded quickly to my throttle responses, and on the open road, the lightest feathering of the throttle instigated gearchanges at just the right time. At the start of a hill, it was a simple matter of hitting the Eco-mode button on the end of the right-hand stalk, and we were off. 

Predicitive Cruise Control was specified so it did smarty-pants stuff like detecting the crest of the hill, holding the gear (when I’d have definitely changed down) and then Eco-rolling down the other side.

Unlike the aforementioned Euro 6 510, the new 530 feels like it does actually have the bhp denoted by the badge. It makes a decent noise, and it really does have access to big dollops of torque at unfeasibly low rpms. It’ll take a bit of getting used to, letting your rev counter sink to 1000 rpm or even below – but when it does need to change down, the TraXon is lightning quick in shifting gear and low-speed throttle control when reversing or in tight spots is smooth too.

Mention must also go to the MX engine brake – which is basically a Jake brake in all but name. It’s a fine piece of equipment and held back the truck, freighted to 40 tonnes, effortlessly.

VERDICT: Impressive power and torque – DAF has a 13-litre to be reckoned with again. TraXon ’box was quick and responsive, will be interesting to see how it does off-road with the double-drive set up. Exclusive interior trim lovely.

DAF CF 480 FAD 8X4

This eight-legger isn’t British spec – it’s too heavy for our 32-tonne operations, but it’s close enough to get an idea of what we’ll be getting. CF 8x4s sold in the UK will almost always have the MX11 fitted, which offers a weight saving of 200 kg over the MX13. Furthermore, the new 450 bhp 11-litre produces the same torque as the old 460 bhp 13-litre. The truck here also has nine-tonne front axles (instead of our light 6.5-tonners) and hub-reduction – which is ideal for extreme operations, but UK operators don’t tend to bother for general-purpose eight-wheeler tipper work.

It’s a bit of a tank really, this CF. It’s fitted with the TraXon ’box, which comes standard, but there’s good news for those who prefer a manual as you can finally order a CF 8×4 with a 16-speed manual transmission without having to spec hub reduction. The CF has been crying out for this option ever since the Foden Alpha was discontinued over 11 years ago!

I took the 8×4 on the same test route as the artic. This model is the 480 bhp version, so you’d expect it to be lively at 32 tonnes, but I reckon the 530 freighted at 40 tonnes would have had the edge on it. I don’t know if there’s different software between the two trucks’ transmissions, but the eight-wheeler felt less responsive and was slow to pull away. When I was turning the truck round on a gravel area, it moved away in first, and as I turned the steering – which was pretty heavy – it changed up gear and ground to a halt.

I wasn’t convinced by this one, and out of the three I drove it was the one I liked least. It’s not an eight-wheeler as I’m used to it though, so I’ll reserve judgement until I get a drive in a proper UK version (auto and manual – very excited about the new 16-speed!). As with all the others, the driving position, fit and finish were really good.

VERDICT: Curiously unwieldy, and lumbering. It’s designed to handle weights way in excess of 32 tonnes though.

More information: http://www.daf.co.uk

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