Kenworth T680 Next Generation: Sleek and Sophisticated

“It’s striking,” said Jonathan Duncan, Kenworth’s design director. “When you look at the Kenworth T680 Next Generation, the first thing you notice are the headlights and the new hood and grille that set up the truck’s expression and feel. It really is a cool-looking vehicle.”

According to Duncan, the T680 Next Gen gave his design team “so many great elements to build upon,” when styling the new truck. “But as always, form had to follow function,” he said. “Any design change we made had to take into consideration aerodynamics and serviceability. 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.”

Duncan noted that truck design often focuses on developing a truck that gets the job done. “At the end of the day, however, there are going to be people who need to interact, operate and live in that Kenworth truck. Anything we can do as designers to raise the level of passion, interest and pride among customers and drivers, takes it to the next level of The Driver’s Truck and The World’s Best®,” said Duncan.

The teams combined to create a next generation T680 that cuts through the air with less resistance and aerodynamic drag. The new design, combined with a PACCAR MX engine, gets up to 6 percent* improvement in fuel economy. “It looks good doing so, especially in its signature Deep Cerulean launch color. We wrapped the body as tightly as we could to the mechanical components underneath, and sculpted the surfaces to look as if they were fine material draped across the ‘muscles’ and shaped by the wind,” said Duncan. “It hit our design goal of being sleek and sophisticated. The Kenworth T680 Next Generation is truly a world-class, high performance machine that is several steps beyond the original, standard-setting T680.”

The design begins in front with a new hood shape, which fits over a narrower and compact cooling module. “This enabled us to make the grille eight inches narrower than the previous version,” said Duncan. “It also permitted a more generous radii around the edges, which allows air to stay better attached as it goes alongside the hood. The bumper also has more generous radii on the corners providing the same benefit.”

Making the front “come alive” are the new LED headlamps. “They project a crisp bright light that is reflecting the next step in technology in the trucking industry,” said Duncan. 

The headlamps feature daytime running-light specific (DRL) LEDs that offer a signature look – making the headlights stand out even more. “The dynamic shape of the DRL light follows the curve of the headlight giving a distinctive look while tying into the shaped-by-the-wind fender surfaces,” explained Duncan.  “Inside, the glossy black housing with chrome bezels accent the high and low beam projectors – providing a sophisticated look just as you would expect on a premium Class 8 truck.”

Duncan’s team also lowered the fender tops and created a sharp cutoff at the rear that ‘releases’ the air cleanly in front of the steps. Side turn indicators run down the back of the fender “like a blade,” said Duncan, “to improve visibility and give the truck yet another distinctive styling element.” Kenworth’s aerodynamicist also developed a patented fender vent that lets air out from under the hood under certain conditions for enhanced aero performance. “This gave us an opportunity to turn the fender’s rear area into a dynamic styling element,” said Duncan.  

While the team created even more new aerodynamic touches from the cab back, it also redesigned the steps into the cab with a more stair-like entry. 

“Inside, we wanted to provide that same high-performance feel for the professional driver. Open the door of a T680 Next Gen with a Diamond VIT interior, and you’ll be greeted by a rich madrona (a warm, amber color) Diamond VIT insert in the door pad with black stitching to match the black door,” he said. “The Diamond sleeper interior features rich, black Diamond panels with madrona stitching, and the leather-wrapped steering wheel also includes madrona stitching. It’s really something.”

Duncan said the interior experience goes one step further with the new, large 15-inch Kenworth Next Gen Digital Display. “It is high-definition and high-performance,” he said. “Through extensive user research and human-centered design, we developed a system that provides drivers with the information they need and is flexible enough to be tailored to the individual preferences of a wide variety of users. We think this is a game changer when it comes to dash displays in the trucking industry.” Drivers can easily scroll up and down through this hierarchy using the standard Kenworth Next Gen SmartWheel®  with thumb-tip controls. 

Kenworth engaged with drivers from the beginning through Kenworth customer councils to help integrate the designs and provide input every step along the way, noted Duncan. 

*Individual fuel economy improvement will vary depending on use, road conditions and other factors.


From left are Kenworth Sales Company executives Trevor Pasmann, Corporate Sales Director; Kyle Treadway, President and Dealer Principal; Rick Greene, Chief Operations Officer; and Tucker Morgan, Corporate Parts Director. The group is shown with the crystal eagle Dealer of the Year Award.

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