UD Quon GW 26 420 truck video review


Matt Wood test drives the UD Quon, an affordable Japanese truck that ticks a lot of boxes.

 

 

The UD Quon has been the best-selling Japanese truck over 350hp (257kW) for the past seven years running.

However, this is kind of like being voted Bachelor of the Year in the "paunchy blokes with hairy backs and a limp" category (and for the record — no, I don’t have a limp).

There just isn’t that much competition in this part of the market and it seems most Japanese manufacturers are prepared to leave heavy-duty to the European and North American manufacturers.

But in recent times there have been some quiet developments ticking away behind the scenes. Fuso has gained access to the Daimler global toy box and its heavy-duty FV prime mover now has a Mercedes-Benz sourced 12-litre engine and transmission. And UD has been given Volvo’s 11-litre engine and automated transmission package for the Quon.

Engine

The 11-litre market here in Australia is pretty small. In Oz, 13 litres plus is generally seen as a heavy-duty prerequisite but in the developing world, 11 litres is considered more than enough.

The Quon is available in both 11- and 13-litre guise.

The ageing GE13 engine is based on a Nissan diesel design that can trace its roots all the way back to Hino.

The 470hp (346kW) 13-litre Quon has been faithfully dragging B-doubles around our capital cities for a while now.

The G11, however, has power ratings range from 380hp (279kW) to 420hp (308kW) with torque peaking at 1,467ft-lb (1,990Nm) at 1,800rpm. The GH11 uses selective catalytic reduction (SCR) to handle emissions, which means it needs AdBlue as well.

Transmission

The 13-litre relies on Eaton for transmission duties, with either manual Road Ranger or autoshift. But the GH11 launched last year has its roots entirely in Volvo power train and is backed by the 12-speed Escot-5 automated transmission, which is essentially a Volvo I-shift.

The 11-litre Quon range is available in wheelbases ranging from 3.9m on air bags (CW 26 380), 4.4m on steel 6 rod (CW 26 380) and 6.5m on air (GK 17 420) and all are standard with the new AMT box. This leaves the GW 26 470 at the top of UD’s horsepower tree in Australia with the GE13 engine.

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Cab and Controls

The cockpit itself is very Japanese and as you would expect features some basic analogue gauges and a simple digital menu.

It is, however, very well laid out and there was very little reason to reach for most buttons.

The ADR42-compliant bunk is only really appropriate for a snooze during the day or to lose your newspaper and sandwiches in.

The air-suspended seat rode well but the padding was a bit firm which made for a numb bum after a few hours in the saddle.

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Performance

I’d already driven the 11-litre Quon on a Japanese test track prior to its Australian release, but I was keen to take the big UD for a drive on Aussie roads. And that’s how I found myself heading west out of Sydney behind the wheel of a gleaming silver GW 26 420 prime mover with a single trailer rolling along behind me.

The drive to Dubbo and back over the Blue Mountains was to give me a mix of city traffic, steep mountain climbs and descents as well as some good old-fashioned country highway driving. We were running at a gross weight of around 38,000kg in the form of concrete blocks on the deck.

I should point out that this kind of weight and terrain is not the usual kind of role for the Quon prime mover. It’s usually pitched at the local distribution sector. As I roll along the streets of Sydney’s inner west it’s easy to see why the Quon has made so many metro friends.

Visibility is great with mirror shrouds kept to a minimum size, and it handles well around town, very well. The steering feels very direct and it gives you a sense of confidence as you carve through the traffic.

As we gradually climbed out of Sydney town, I was struck by just how deceptive the GH11 is in terms of performance. The last time I came up this road I was behind the wheel of a 15-litre 550hp (405kW) beast, yet the performance of the humble Quon didn’t seem to be lacking. It was very bloody easy to forget there was only 10,837cc of displacement chugging away under my bum.

A lot of this of course can be attributed to the low flat Euro torque curve of the Volvo sourced engine. Peak torque runs from 900rpm to 1,400rpm; it’s always lugging along quite well regardless of rpm. As a result it’s also very quiet. The Quon rumbles along nicely while the automated cog swapper just does its thing.

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The first real test of the GH11 was descending the pass on the western side of Mount Victoria.

This grade is a tough test of heavier metal than our Quon, however, a shift into manual mode and selection of the appropriate gear made sure our descent was a controlled one.

The four-stage engine brake helped slow things down as well, but the modest size of the Scandinavian donk underneath meant a few stabs of the brake pedal were needed to keep the tacho needle from getting too high.

The gear shift uses a traditional stick and H-pattern but only requires a shift to the left then a forward movement to select a forward gear. As it’s an automated box, there’s no clutch pedal and the drivetrain will do the rest as you accelerate.

The splitter button on the stick allows you to select if you want the tranny to change up in whole gears or to split each one.

On level ground I might opt for the whole gear function but giving the transmission a chance to grab the right gear is the best way to go performance wise.

Once out on the highway towards Bathurst and then Orange, the terrain went from divided road to rural highway with plenty of ups and downs in between.

This is where some of the gloss wears off to a certain extent. The front end of the Quon seems to be lacking a little finesse in the ride department as it had a tendency to judder and skip on the road surface and it feeds this all back through the wheel.

There were a few rattles and clunks emanating from underneath the dashboard as the road got a bit bouncier.

The four-bag Hendrickson suspension on the rear provided excellent stability. Between the smooth performing drive train and the wellsprung rear end, the average rattle and clunk of the front-end stood out more than it should.

Batteries, air tanks and spare tyre are on the cold side of the chassis away from the turbo and exhaust, which helps on the maintenance and longevity front, and the battery box does have a neat little gantry for walking up onto the catwalk to hook up the suzy coils.

The problem is it’s on the left-hand side, and while this may be considered safer, the reality is many drivers will spring up onto the fuel tank rather than walk around the truck, which could result in damage to equipment and the driver.

A small step and grab rail on the right-hand side of the prime mover wouldn’t go astray.

What was interesting was the fuel economy the Quon managed — a little more than 2.2km per litre, which is pretty respectable considering the weight and terrain, and the fact I kept fiddling with the transmission.

I reckon someone really having a go would easily top my mileage on the 880km route.

On the way back, I considered the Quon’s many talents: it’s smooth, quiet and punches above its weight when putting power to the ground. Cab access is easy with plenty of grab rails so you’re less likely to plummet to the ground in an undignified manner.

When climbing back up Mount Victoria, it hung on to sixth gear and 1,500rpm for most of the climb — much better than anticipated.

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Verdict

As the entry level heavy-duty prime mover of the Volvo Empire, the Quon makes for great value. It’s the best Japanese prime mover I’ve driven to date — a great-performing package.

However, the model range available doesn’t reflect that as yet. The collection of steel and air-sprung rigid and prime mover models available are targeting local government, civil construction and mining. The Quon has more to offer, for example, town grocery deliveries.

Another role the Quon would shine in is in agriculture. Unlike many of its competitors, the Quon uses SCR rather than exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) to keep exhaust nasties out of the air. This means the truck has no active regeneration for the diesel particulate filter (DPF) which means it’s a lot safer to drive into a stubble paddock on a hot day during harvest, or when carting hay.

I’m not suggesting EGR is dangerous. I’m saying it’s just another thing to consider.

In Australia, however what the Quon needs is access to Volvo’s 13-litre power plant and transmission package. A bigger Viking heart would give the Quon the versatility it needs and maybe even change a few minds about heavy-duty Japanese trucks.

 

Likes

  • Great-performing engine and transmission package
  • Easy cab access
  • Excellent visibility

 

Dislikes

  • Front end doesn’t like rough surfaces at highway speeds
  • Poor stereo sound
  • No catwalk access on right-hand side

 

Specifications

Make/model: UD Quon GW 26 420

Engine: 11-litre GH11TC with selective catalytic reduction (SCR)

Power: 308kW (420hp) @ 1,800rpm

Torque: 1,990Nm (1467ft-lb) @ 950 to 1,400rpm

Transmission: 12-speed Escot 5 Automated with Escot Roll function

Rear Suspension: Hendrickson HAS460

Final Drive: 4.333:1

Gross Combination Mass: 55,000kg

 

 

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