KW’s Next-Gen Aero T680 saves more fuel, offers enhanced lights, digital dash display

February 12, 2021

Tom Berg


Kenworth's Next Gen T680 daycab and sleeper
Next Gen T680 will have smoother lines, advanced LED lighting, redesigned interior and a large color info display in its dash. It’s slated for production in this year’s second quarter. The current model should be phased out by the end of 2021. Pictured are the Next Gen T680 daycab and 76-inch sleeper (Photo courtesy Kenworth Trucks)


Kenworth’s T680 is moving to a next-generation configuration with sleeker styling and better aerodynamics. It also has more powerful lighting, new interior panels and fabrics, and a “glass cockpit” digital display for road and engine speed and many other values, the builder’s executives said in an on-line unveiling held Feb. 11.

“The Kenworth T680 Next Generation has great innovations, new technologies and outstanding fuel efficiency, but this truck is all about the drivers,” said Laura Bloch, Kenworth assistant general manager for sales and marketing. “We built this truck around them and for them. The T680 Next Gen provides drivers with the convenient, next-generation SmartWheel, new customizable 15-inch digital display, excellent forward lighting down the road, additional advanced driver assistance systems, and, of course, a premium and extremely comfortable cab and sleeper.”

The new model is aimed at linehaul, pickup and delivery, and regional haul operations. It is available in daycab and 40-inch, 52-inch and 76-inch-sleeper configurations. New interiors will feature black panels with gray or tan inserts, and seats will come in a variety of vinyl and fabric coverings. It is standard with the proprietary Paccar powertrain featuring the 2021 MX-13 engine, 12-speed automated transmission and 40K tandem rear axles. Cummins’ X15 and Eaton automated and manual transmissions also will be offered.

New T680’s hood, more efficient engine cooling

For styling, the T680 Next Gen features new hood shaping with a narrower nose and grille to lower air resistance combined with a more efficient engine cooling system, and longer side vents on the hood. The bumper sits lower and has an improved profile to direct air past the wheel openings, and an air dam design guides and controls airflow under the chassis while providing protective coverage under the cooling module. It features an offset radar cubicle that allows center-mounting of a license-plate holder. Air vents at the rear of the fenders let air escape from the engine compartment.

“Any design change we made had to take into consideration aerodynamics and serviceability,” said Jonathan Duncan, Kenworth’s styling director. “We’ve always understood the true function of a truck is to make money for the operator, so our designers and engineers work hand-in-hand with our aerodynamics team.”

Compared to the current model, the new T680 will be up to 6% more fuel efficient, which is a function of enhanced aerodynamics and optional 28-inch cab side extenders that help shorten the turbulence-producing gap between tractor and trailer. The extenders’ latching mechanism allows the panels to swing open for access to air and electrical lines. These mean buyers can spec shorter wheelbases to cut frame weight and improve maneuverability.

Standard LED headlamps with eyebrow-like daytime running lights and “blade of light” side turn indicators improve visibility and alert drivers alongside of the T680 driver’s intentions.  Headlights have built-in heating grids to melt snow and ice from the cool-burning lamps.

Advanced driver-assistance systems

The T680 Next Gen offers a suite of advanced driver assistance systems, and introduces lane-keeping assist and torque-assisted steering as options for the first time in the Kenworth lineup. Lane-keeping sssist uses camera input to identify when the truck is departing the lane and provides a “nudge” to help keep centered in the lane and reduce driver fatigue and tedium. This feature requires Bendix Fusion. It also includes adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, collision mitigation and side object detection.

The 15-inch digital display replaces traditional electro-mechanical gauges and will show road and engine speed, an array of engine condition numbers, trip information, and many other items of information, said Joe Adams, Kenworth’s chief engineer. Using steering wheel-mounted controls, a driver can customize it from a basic “dark” design showing only the bare essentials to a multidimensional array, and can set colors to suit his or her tastes. The display is built to last the life of the truck, which for Kenworth is 1 million miles or more, but can be popped out of the dash for repairs or replacement.

The new model will go into production in this year’s second quarter at the Chillicothe, Ohio, plant, Bloch said. The current T680 will be offered as long as customers want it, but is expected to phase out by year’s end. LL

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Tom Berg

Tom Berg worked his way through college by driving trucks. Since 1978, he’s been writing about trucks and trucking. He holds a Class A commercial driver’s license and drives trucks as part of story research. While semi-retired, Berg still writes about semis as a contributing editor at Land Line.