DAF offers better traction, manoeuvrability and high payload for off-road operators with new double-drive XF480 FAW tridem. We put it to the test in the Forest of Dean…

Despite offering some unarguable benefits for weight-conscious operators who demand manoeuvrability, tridems are yet to really catch hold in the UK market. We drove DAF’s first specialist tridem demo unit, a CF440 FAQ 8×2, back in 2017 (Trucking, September 2017). However, the Dutch manufacturer said operator feedback was operators liked the tridem set-up, but still needed double-drive for better traction on site.

FAW was introduced in 2019 for CF and XF as an answer to this, and DAF has just spec’d up the UK’s first demonstration unit which, it hopes, will create a interest and encourage dealerships to consider suggesting a tridem when customers are in the market for a new 8×4.

Spec of this demo FAW is not all that representative of a working fleet truck. “An aggregate tipper with an XF cab is not really ideal for overall weight,” DAF’s product and legislation manager, James Turner, told us. “But this isn’t really the point of this vehicle. Instead, it’s being aimed at owner-drivers who are looking for a flagship. It’s also to give operators an impression of how an 8×4 with 13-litre engine performs, as it’s not something we’ve done before. All of our other eight-wheelers have been 11-litres. This is ‘caviar spec’, if you like.”

Tridem spec

FAW is available with CF and XF cab options and effectively offers a 6×4 wheel plan with an additional axle. This allows an operator to work at a larger gvw with additional payload, while benefitting from a similar level of manoeuvrability and site access as a 6×4.

The truck has a single-reduction double-drive tandem bogie (SR1360T) with a capacity of 26 tonnes. This is joined by a steered, lifting eight-tonne capacity trailing axle which boosts manoeuvrability, improves tyre wear and boosts fuel efficiency when running empty. All three rear axles are fully air suspended.

FAW’s overall gvw is 32 tonnes. In the UK, tridems have a legal limit of 24 tonnes across the rear three axles, so weight distribution is key. This test truck was loaded to pretty much bang-on that figure, with just over eight tonnes on the front axle and 23,800 kg across the tridem.

The front axle is actually DAF’s new 203N option rated at 10 tonnes, which means operators could fit a front-mounted crane if required, for example. It’s construction is similar to DAF’s nine-tonne versions in that it’s a steel-sprung, parabolic three-leaf suspension arrangement. DAF said operators have been calling for a 10-tonne front axle for a long time, and it’s a good fit for heavy-haulage, refuse collection etc – basically anything that will be heavily loaded.

Available powerplants

With a CF cab, FAW can be spec’d with 11-litre MX-11 engines at 370, 410 or 450 bhp; or 13-litre MX-13 at 430, 480 or 530 bhp. FAWs with XF cabs can be fitted with MX-11 at 450 bhp, or MX-13 at 430, 480 or 530 bhp.

The 11-litre is possibly the most sensible spec due to its lighter weight (the 450 bhp MX-11 is 180 kg lighter than MX-13). But there are still some operators who believe a 13-litre lump is necessary, which DAF said is the reason this demo truck is spec’d with the 480 bhp MX-13 with 12-speed TraXon gearbox.

FAW offers considerable turning ability. Where DAF’s conventional eight-wheeler (FAD) can go kerb-to-kerb in 20.3 m, FAW swings in at 15.4 m. This difference of almost 5 m can be a big advantage when operating on a cramped site.

FAW also has an electronic (ie, non-positive) steered axle, which affords a much greater steering angle (49 degrees, compared to FAD’s 43 degrees).

Payload on CF FAW is up to 22,480 kg. In comparison, CF FAQ tridem offers 23,040 kg, CF FAD offers 22,780 kg, while a 6×4 CF FAT can give up to 18,190 kg.

Cab options

This test FAW was fitted with a low-roof XF Comfort cab, which again is something of a rarity in the UK. Although it might look a bit unbalanced and front-heavy at first glance, it offers a lower profile that’s well suited to going down country lanes, squeezing under hoppers etc. It’s available by special order only, though lead time and cost is the same as a Space Cab.

Bigger cabs have gained favour with tipper operators in recent years. With drivers going further and further away from base, an XF cab will appeal to those spending time away from home. The engine tunnel in the CF can get in the way and cause inconvenience after an extended time in the cab, so XF’s lower engine tunnel profile can offer a more comfortable working and living space.

Out test truck was fitted with DAF Safe System, which factory-fits all components required for the vehicle to achieve the HGV Safety Permit to enter London (which kicks in on October 26). This includes nearside camera, audible left-turn warning, in-cab monitor, buzzer and LED warning lights. Forward-facing, driver-side and load-space cameras are available as options, along with a four- or eight-channel video recorder and rear ultrasonic sensors. DAF Safe System is fully Type Approved and all components are included within the vehicle’s two-year warranty.

On the road

For our test drive, we met the XF480 FAW demo truck on a bright August morning at DAF’s Motus Commercials dealership in Gloucester. Inside, the cab was decked out with Xtra Leather Air seats, leather steering wheel, Xtra Comfort mattress, underbunk fridge and Dark Sand interior trim. ‘Caviar spec’ indeed; it’s very comfortable.

Heading out of the industrial estate, we made for the A40 west towards Ross-on-Wye. Visibility from the XF Comfort Cab was good, and the 13-litre lump proved agile when negotiating the junctions and roundabouts that led us out of town and towards the Forest of Dean.

A left-turn at Huntley took us onto the A4136 towards Coleford, and soon we were weaving and climbing up through the valley. There are some tight bends and steep inclines on this road, and the FAW took it all in its stride – as it should with 15 bhp per tonne on tap.

Our destination was an old quarry in Whitecliffe, where we could take the tridem off-road for a play in the dirt. Though the weather was dry, rain the day before had left the track quite boggy – so we used FAW’s weight transfer system to dump air from the trailing axle onto the double-drive bogie when we entered quarry to boost traction (achieved at the press of a button on the dash). This was enough to get us in the door – and once inside, we switched the TraXon automated ’box to manual mode for some low-down fun in the mud.

The course we followed wound through dense bushes, up and down hills and around very tight bends – and we have to say the FAW did not seem to break a sweat. Indeed, it was impressive how we could swing around the tightest turns seemingly on a pin, such is FAW’s manoeuvrability. We’d never have been able to get a conventional eight-wheeler around them without taking a shunt.

After a good time in the quarry, we headed back to the main road for a loop home via the A4151/A48. This took us through a number of picturesque small villages with narrow high streets lined with parked cars and pedestrians, and the FAW was confident throughout.

Though we chose not to use the big DAF’s cruise control on this drive, we made plentiful use of the strong three-stage MX Engine Brake, which held us back effectively on even the steepest hills we encountered.

Verdict

Though this highly-spec’d demo FAW may not be that representative of fleet truck, its purpose is to target owner-operators looking for a flagship vehicle – and we reckon they would do well to take a closer look at this tridem. Where FAQ left some wanting more in terms of off-road traction, FAW with double-drive bogie provides and answer.

This tridem doesn’t handle in the same way as a conventional 8×4 and it will take drivers a bit of time to adjust. Driver training will be important – so helpfully, DAF includes a training voucher with each purchase to ensure drivers are properly schooled in how to get the best out of the truck.

A main difference with the FAW is that it’s on air suspension – so in an off-road environment, for example, drivers have other traction aids available to them rather than just conventional diff and cross lock. FAW’s weight transfer system effectively prevented spinning wheels during our time in the quarry, and we were also highly impressed with the truck’s tight turning circle.

To be honest, our one niggle with this XF is that when we parked up on a slanted slope to hop out and take some pictures, the driver’s door didn’t want to stay open on the notch. Other than that minor gripe, we were hugely impressed.

SPECIFICATION

Model: DAF XF480 FAW 8×4 rigid
• Technical gvw: 44,000 kg
• Test gvw: 32,000 kg
• Chassis: 4.55 m wheelbase, 2.05 m overhang, 430-litre aluminium fuel tank, 45-litre AdBlue tank
• Front axle: 10,000 kg
• Rear axles: 26,000 kg (air suspended double-drive bogie), 8000 kg (lifting trailing axle)
• Tyres: Goodyear 385/65R22.5 front, 315/80R22.5 (rear 1), 385/65R22.5 (rear 2)
• Gearbox: 12-speed TraXon automated
• Engine: 13-litre MX13, Euro 6d, MX Engine Brake
• Max power: 483 bhp
• Max torque: 2350/2500 Nm @ 900 rpm

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