Small But Perfectly Formed

There’s nothing better than a practical assessment of a new truck, and Lochmaben Transport’s Stevie Walker got just that with the new DAF 7.5 tonne LF Powerline.

I HAVEN’T had a lot to do with 7.5 tonners for many years now since, back in 1990 my dad, co-owner of a busy coal merchant business, acquired a couple of new Leyland Roadrunners for door-to-door deliveries.

I was at the tender age of 15, and they were impressive compared to the ageing Dodge and Leyland Terrier they were about to replace. Three years on from there I was able to get behind the wheel and they were fantastic little trucks with light steering, smooth gearchange and a punchy engine with bags of power and a great soundtrack.

I remember how open the walk-through cab felt with the small window at the passenger footwell and the big windscreen giving great light and visibility to the driver. It was with these vehicles that I cut my teeth in truck driving, with coal deliveries giving plenty of opportunity to practice reversing and manoeuvring in tight streets and farm lanes. The Roadrunners were the ideal vehicle for the job.

Roll on almost 30 years and I realise on invitation to DAFs impressive headquarters in Haddenham to test drive the LF model, this will be the first time I have set foot in a 7.5 tonner since then.

After a brief tour of DAFs HQ with Mandy Wannerton, DAFs press and demonstration driver, our attention turns to the test drive. The idea is to try and simulate a typical urban delivery route by weaving our way through some of the local Buckinghamshire towns and villages and get a feel for the truck in the environment they were designed for.

When it comes to choosing the right truck for the job it has to be horses for courses and the task for the morning is to see if the LF fits the bill.

DAFs distribution range offers a multitude of specifications to meet the needs of operators in the 7.5 to 19 tonne sector, and our LF is a 7.5 tonne gross vehicle weight version with the latest 210hp, 800Nm Euro 6 engine. It’s Paccar box van body complete with tail lift is loaded with about 1.5 tonnes of ballast to make for a smoother ride.

The LF is not a newcomer, its roots stemming from the aforementioned Roadrunner back in 1984. The latest incarnation is the result of many years of redesigns and facelifts, but you would be hard pushed to see many recent changes within this vehicle as they are not obvious.


The Air Intake has been repositioned to the left-hand side to accommodate a shorter route for the exhaust, this in turn allows for higher temperatures to improve efficiency for the exhaust system. 

The new single module after treatment improves reliability through reduced complexity, that will hopefully cut down on some of the warning lights which plague the industry. The after-treatment system is all neatly packaged on the chassis alongside the slightly larger AdBlue tank options that are increased from 25 to 30 litres and from 50 to 60 litres.

The latest PX-5 and PX-7 engine are claiming improved reliability by changing from VTG to Wastegate Turbo and eliminating exhaust gas recirculation and cooler.

Fuel economy is also boosted with the help of the after-treatment system with up to a claimed 3% improvement. However, the real upgrade to this vehicle and the main reason for the test drive is a little more obvious, as it is plastered all over the body. The driveline, which has had a bit of a makeover in the shape of a brand-new offering from the gurus at ZF; is the ZF Powerline.

This all-new gearbox, a direct replacement for the current six and 12 speed automated gearbox, is now eight speed with three torque ratings of 800Nm, 1,000Nm and 1,200Nm. Improved driveability, reduced maintenance, lower engine revs and a more responsive drive are some of the benefits being marketed by ZF.

A quick walk round the vehicle allows me to see first-hand some of the previously mentioned changes and to appreciate the quality finish of the Paccar body. Everything looks neat and tidy and well thought out apart from the slightly bulky wing mounted side marker lights which stick out a little too much and are a prime target to get knocked off. 

Aerodynamic side and roof wind deflectors are functional and help with the styling of the truck which is still a fairly pleasing looking vehicle. A gentle pull on the familiar solid door handle gives me a first look at a well sculpted hard wearing and functional interior. Perfectly positioned grab handles and a low step award easy access to the cabin without much buttock scraping against the seat material.

Easy access is a must for urban operations especially on multi-drop activities where a driver could be in and out of the cab a hundred times a day. The driver’s seat seems very comfortable and the seat material is stylish and looks fairly easy to keep clean.

The driving position is good and for a small cab there is plenty of room and it does not feel cramped in any way. Dashboard, steering wheel and switchgear are all similar to the CF and XF and controls are familiar for this reason with enough kit to make a driver’s day much more enjoyable.


With the engine started, first impressions are that it appears a little noisy on tick over, reminiscent of the old Leyland Roadrunners but Mandy is quick to inform me that things will quieten down when we are on the move and I have to remember that these cabs do not share the same levels of insulation as the bigger sleeper cabs.

Before I set off, I’m given a brief run through of the new driveline and how it differs slightly from other automated gearboxes where it requires no throttle input to set off, instead DAF describes it as ‘urge to move’, for this reason I am advised to use the handbrake at junctions and crossings in case a lapse in concentration could result in the truck creeping forward.

As I set off, the truck’s ‘urge to move’ is immediately noticeable but, although a little alien, it is not disconcerting at all, simply take your foot off the brake pedal and the LF is on the move, no delay, no time wasting, the truck is set to do its day’s work.

With 210hp on tap the LF can really get off the mark and wasted no time in getting up to speed as we headed out towards Aylesbury. The Powerline gearchange is smooth and precise with no unnecessary changes or confusion at all. Roundabouts are a breeze as the ‘urge to move’ means that there is no delay when a gap opens up in the steady traffic and with excellent all-round visibility you are given the confidence that you are not missing anything as you make a move.

Back up to speed again and rightly enough there is very little cabin noise, combine this with the comfortable seats, good driving position and light positive steering it makes for a very relaxing drive, yet it’s quite good fun as well, it seems keen to get on with a day’s work while doing its best to take some of the stress out of your day.

As we weave our way along the test route we pass through some of the many stunning villages. Built without heavy traffic in mind progress could be slow but the LF is of a size that commands a little respect whilst being nimble enough to squeeze through the gaps that open up.

The steering lock feels like you could turn the truck on a sixpence making it very manoeuvrable at some of the sharp junctions. As I pull away from pedestrian crossings and busy junctions I have the confidence that I’m doing so safely as the cab’s excellent all round visibility is aided by decent sized mirrors and a kerb view window fitted to the passenger side door.

The Powerline gearbox really comes into its own in stop-start traffic. Automated gearboxes are already a Godsend for drivers in city traffic, but the ZF Powerline is a cut above, progress is quite literally effortless in town traffic as it requires very little driver input to crawl along. Although it is good practice to use the handbrake at times to avoid the chance of unwittingly moving forward.

Back at base I realise that I haven’t had a clue where abouts I have been at any part of the test route but have enjoyed it none the less. Nice scenery, quaint villages and a cracking little truck to drive.


DAFs LF has been built with distribution in mind and its many improvements and facelifts along the way have resulted in a what can only be described as the right tool for the job. The latest version has ticked all the boxes; easy access for the driver, excellent visibility, bags of power and manoeuvrability, comfortable and practical whilst having plenty of bells and whistles to keep the majority happy.

It is on top of safety and emissions regulations and DAF has now rounded it off by offering the ZF Powerline gearbox which will take a lot of the strain out of urban deliveries allowing the driver to concentrate on steering the truck through the many obstacles in the way whilst going about this demanding job.

The combination of punchy engine and eager drivetrain give this truck so much get up and go, it’s like a terrier straining at the leash. This responsiveness will shave off so much time during a day’s work. Although there is no word of it yet, I would imagine the cab is due for an upgrade in line with the rest of the DAF range.

While I don’t feel that the current LF is lacking anything as this sector doesn’t require the same fineries that are now deemed essential at the heavy end of the industry, especially when urban delivery drivers spend as much time outside the vehicle as they do inside, it does not mean they don’t deserve the upgrade.

I can only imagine that the combination of engine, driveline and some XG equivalent styling will make what is already an excellent truck into something very special and I personally would love to see this become a reality.


Vehicle: DAF LF

Engine: LF 210 PX-5 4.5-litre four-cylinder diesel.

Power: 210hp.

Torque: 800Nm.

Transmission: 8-speed ZF PowerLine transmission.

Bodywork: Paccar Box van.

Chassis-cab only kerbweight: kg (no driver, full 110 litre diesel tank and 30 litre AdBlue tank).

The post Small But Perfectly Formed appeared first on Transport News.

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