We tried the all-new XF, XG and XG+ on the roads of Spain to see if bigger really does mean better…

Back in September 2020, the European Commission brought in new regulations that enabled truck manufacturers much more breathing space in terms of cab design. The idea was that relaxed Masses & Dimensions rules would enable more streamlined cab profiles to improve fuel efficiency – and therefore reduce emissions.

Fast-forward to June 2021 and DAF stole the march on its competitors by being the first manufacturer to launch a brand-new range of long-haulers that lean into the new rules.

You might be wondering why DAF’s new trucks don’t feature lengthy elongated noses. Well, during development, DAF built a prototype truck with a nose cone that took full advantage of the extra permitted length – and surprisingly it only provided an extra one per cent fuel gain over an alternative design which only required an extra 160 mm at the front.

This latter profile, DAF said, achieved the best balance between aerodynamics, additional weight, visibility and manoeuvrability – so this is what the New Generation XF, XG and XG+ are built upon. Indeed, DAF reckons the new models achieve a remarkable 10 per cent boost to fuel economy over the current-gen XF – with two thirds of this down to aerodynamics.

The right profile

The range sports a new grille design and a 2.3 m2 curved windscreen (33 per cent larger than current XF), which has been extended downwards to aid visibility. Side windows also have lower sills, and conventional mirrors housings are slimmer and repositioned to reduce blindspots. (The three trucks we tested all had DAF’s new Digital Vision system instead, but we’ll get to that.)

The extra length has enabled corner panels to be tapered to aid air flow around the cab. This is further improved with a new roof shape and deflector, bottom plate with air deflector, tapered side walls, wheelbay deflector, aero seals on the bodywork and refined fenders and skirts.

Headlights are now fully LED as standard and the new trucks are packed with safety features. These include standard-fit Brake Assist, Lane Departure Warning and Emergency Brake Lights. Also onboard is Advanced Emergency Braking System 3 (AEBS-3), which can bring the truck to a full stop from 50 mph if it detects hazards up to 250 m ahead. Optional extras include a new Electronic Parking Brake, Low Speed Trailer Brake and Park Brake Assist.

The final third of the new DAFs’ efficiency boost is down to an updated powertrain. MX-11 and MX-13 engines enjoy additional torque in direct drive top gear, and the MX Engine Brake has 20 per cent more stopping power.

Manual gearboxes are no longer offered. Instead, all New Gen XF, XG and XG+ are fitted with upgraded TraXon automated transmissions. For further efficiency, the improved Predictive Cruise Control 3 features extended EcoRoll and Preview Downhill Speed Control.

Inside innovations

Standing height in New XF has been increased to 2075 mm (1900 if standing on engine hump). XG and XG+ have standing heights of 2105 mm and 2200 mm respectively, and both have been afforded 330 mm of extra length at the rear to really open them up as living and sleeping spaces.

DAF has loaded its new cabs with lots of creature comforts. Seat adjustment has been extended, and seats in XG and XG+ can rotate into a more comfortable position for breaks. The retractable table is larger, and either two drawers or one or two fridges can be slotted under a bigger bunk which is now 2220 mm long (and extended to 800 mm wide in XG and XG+). The bunk can also be adjusted for better head, back and leg support. All three models have automatic temp control as standard, while XG/XG+ have enhanced interior LED lighting.

Rounding things off is a new 12-inch digital dashboard and optional 10-inch infotainment screen on the centre console.

XG 450 FT Low Deck

In September, Trucking was given the chance to test drive the new vehicles in the mountains outside Malaga, Spain. This is real olive and wine country with twisting National Roads, undulating highways, small villages and long, steep climbs and descents.

Our first truck was a XG 450 FT Low Deck chassis. We’ve driven a fair few XFs over the years, and once we’d climbed up the three steps into the tall XG cab it was immediately apparent how much bigger it is in comparison. The sense of space feels luxurious, aided by the big windscreen and sensible lighting making the cab feel light and airy.

The quality of fit and finish is a step above the previous generation with top-quality materials throughout, quality stitching on the seats and headrests and an overall premium feel.

At 6 ft 4 inches, we found it easy to settle into the new adjustable driver’s seat with plenty of room to spare. Firing up the 449 bhp MX-11 (the new range still requires a key), the cab proved very quiet – even with the air con tackling Spain’s 30-degree heat.

The new digital DIP (Driver Information Panel) can be customised by the driver, who can choose from items such as mpg, fuel level, driving hours etc to display in bottom left and right areas. The middle section can be switched between safety systems, nav directions, music etc. It has two themes – Classic and Modern – plus a Night Mode which pares back screen items for a cut-back, less obtrusive view.

Digital Vision

The big XG was also rocking DAF’s new Digital Vision System. Much like Merc’s MirrorCam and MAN’s new OptiView, it enables the driver to set the end point of the trailer so the system can automatically follow the end of the trailer during turning and reversing. It also projects lines on the screen to show when it’s safe to pull in after overtaking.

Where it differs a from some competing systems is that alongside the two large rear-view screens on the A-pillars, it also includes Corner Eye, which replaces the kerb and front view mirrors. This is excellent – it gives a far wider view to the side, corner and front of the vehicle (270 degrees, to be precise) and is an unequivocable safety boon.

DAF also seems to be using better screens and cameras than some other marques – at least, to our eyes. Many drivers criticised MirrorCam’s performance in the dark, and we have not yet had the chance to see how DAF’s kit copes with low light. But what we can tell you is DAF’s system is unobtrusive, crystal clear and takes just a couple of minutes get used to.

Into the hills

We had to be careful pulling out of the truck park. The XG Low Deck – which was loaded to just over 33 tonnes pulling a 3 m internal height trailer with low-profile tyres and 2.05 rear axle ratio – required some extra clearance, so we raised the air suspension via a dash button to go over the bumps.

After squeezing through a narrow tunnel under the highway and going around a tight roundabout, we were onto the highway on-ramp. On went Predictive Cruise Control (PCC) to take us up to 85 kmh cruising speed. Even on full throttle, the XG cab remained super-quiet.

Our drive took about 1.5 hours and took in a range of highway, dual-carriageway National Roads and single-carriageway village streets. We encountered a lot of long climbs and the 450 bhp powerplant and TraXon gearbox coped very well. Shifts were smooth and quick, and the PCC made the most of free energy on the long downslopes to keep fuel use in check. Our XG was fitted with an MX Engine Brake and Intarder, which dug in very well indeed.

The wheel felt noticeably lighter than current-gen XF. DAF says new geometry has decreased steering forces by 20 per cent, and it shows. Honestly, it’s perhaps a bit too light for our tastes – but a regular driver will no doubt quickly adjust.

Our XG also had a Kerb Window installed which, when combined with a fold-up passenger seat, adds considerable visibility. The passenger window can still be opened about halfway (33 cm), and the Kerb Window can be removed for easy cleaning in between panes in case any debris should fall into it.

XF 450 FT

The next truck we took out was a new XF 450 FT tanker. This was filled to 30 tonnes with water and we could feel the slop as we crawled out of the parking area, heading for the highway.

The route was exactly the same as our previous run, so we could settle back and enjoy the ride. The new XF was noticeably noisier than XG, but not too bad. Again, the interior fit and finish is excellent and it gave a first-class drive around the Spanish hills and towns.

There’s no doubt the XF feels much smaller than XG – that reduction in roof height and 330 cm less rearward space is instantly noticeable (XG has 11.85 m3 of interior volume, compared to 9.73 m3 in XF). But unless a driver is required to live in the vehicle for multiple days, it’s probably not a big deal.

We could feel the water in the tank at low speed and on descents. Climbing up a long hill, a broken-down truck blocked the lane ahead which caused us to slow for the rest of the climb. Spanish law requires hazard lights to be activated if climbing under 50 kmh, so on they went.

It’s tricky to brake smoothly with a loaded tanker. With PPC controlling our long downwards run on the other side of the hill, the MX Brake rhythmically clicking on and off caused the cab to rock to and fro a bit. But generally, the XF behaved excellently.

XG+ 480 FT

We saved the range-topping XG+ for our last drive. We’d already sampled the cab at its UK ITT Hub debut, but coming to it from the XF, it feels ENORMOUS. The cab’s market-leading 12.5 m3 of interior volume and soaring headroom means it’s easy to stand with room to spare. If you’re a driver who frequently bemoans cramped quarters, prepare to be silenced!

Our XG+ had the 483 bhp MX-13 and was loaded to 40 tonnes. Over the same test route, the 12.9-litre engine provided noticeable extra grunt for the undulating highways, and we certainly didn’t have to stick the blinkers on during the long uphill stretch.

One thing to note, though, is this XG+ did not have an Intarder. This caught us out on the long descent using PPC, when the truck ran away and we received an overspeed warning at 100 kmh, whereas our previous test trucks managed to keep the speed bang-on the 90 kmh overrun limit.

Like the XG, the cab is really quiet – even on full throttle, which really adds to driver comfort. And back at base, a flump onto the new articulating DAF Relax Bed showed it’s as great for sitting up and reading as it is for sleeping.

Verdict

DAF’s exec director of product development, Ron Borsboom, told Trucking he feels DAF has “invented a new market segment” with its new trucks, as they are the only models (so far) that make use of the EC’s new M&D rules. In terms of interior space, there’s no comparison – XG and XG+ feel cavernous next to current competing cabs.

Their raft of new features will appeal as much to operators chasing efficiency (a 10 per cent fuel boost is remarkable) as it will to drivers. Tweaks like the susies now being mounted to the chassis rather than the rear of the cab, exterior lockers now having hinges at the top instead of a conventional barn door (offering some shelter when loading in wet weather), and wireless phone charging in the cab just make life easier.

Early signs point towards the new XF being the volume seller, as you’d expect – for fleets doing days out only (perhaps with the odd night thrown in), this is the DAF to buy. It’s still roomier than other long-haulers and the living quarters and bed are first class. There’s also plenty of storage. Basically, anyone who drives the new XF is going to be more than happy with it.

But if you’re spec’ing a flagship, the XG or XG+ will be hard to resist. Arguably there’s little need for them unless you’re doing lots of nights out – but as range-toppers go, they are superb.

There are some niggles. Lighter steering may take some getting used to, and burying the Lane Departure Warning toggle in menus will be annoying for rural drivers. And DAF reckons the MX Engine Brake’s 20 per cent more torque eliminates the need for an Intarder for many uses – but in regions where there are plenty of hills, we reckon spec’ing an Intarder is still the way to go.

Likes:

  • Superior sense of space
  • Plush new interior
  • Great handling & performance

Dislikes:

  • Steering can feel a bit light
  • LDW controls buried in the menus
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