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Kenworth T180/T280 Review


By Jade Brasher

A complete overhaul of an entire medium-duty series of trucks requires time (about five years’ worth), a hard-working team of designers and engineers, a whole lot of customer feedback, and the backbone of a nearly 100-year-old truck brand. Combine those elements together starting from the ground up, and you’ve got Kenworth’s new medium-duty lineup featuring the T180, T280, T380, and the T480.

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For vocations that require medium-duty power without the resources of CDL drivers, Kenworth has a solution in its T180 and T280. These trucks are versatile enough for any job and feature a maneuverability that makes driving simple (believe me, I drove them all around Phoenix, Arizona, configured and upfitted for several different applications).

What sets these trucks apart are their spacious, comfortable cab, PACCAR-backed powertrain, and importantly, how similarly they drive compared to light-duty vehicles.

A completely redesigned interior features a 7-inch digital information cluster, climate controls that automatically maintain a set temperature, and a cab that is 8-inches wider than previous generations.


If there’s one thing I hear from drivers, it’s the importance of a comfortable cab. After all, many drivers spend countless hours in their trucks on a daily basis. And those who are using their truck as a tool to carry their equipment from one jobsite to another also appreciate a cab that’s easy to get in and out of and travels easily on streets, gravel, and dirt roads.

The Kenworth T180/T280 doesn’t disappoint. With a completely redesigned interior, the cabs of the trucks are 8-inches wider than previous generations. This extra space allows plenty of room for a crew of three and even their gear. The cab is littered with storage areas including door pockets, overhead pockets, and more. The bench seat even has a toolbox underneath for equipment and extra storage.

Along with physical comforts, the new Kenworth trucks also feature a customizable 7-inch, high-definition digital information cluster. Using controls on the steering wheel, drivers can toggle between truck information such as driver assistance, trip summary, and more.

Similar to light-duty vehicles, these new Kenworth models feature the ignition on the right side of the telescopic and tilting steering wheel and light controls on the left. Additionally, climate controls are also similar to those in a light-duty vehicle, with an option to set and maintain a certain temperature automatically.

Finally, Bendix Fusion is now available in the T180 and T280. This system uses radars and warnings to keep your drivers, the drivers of other vehicles, and pedestrians safe on the road.

The new PACCAR TX-8 automatic transmission is standard on the T180/T280.


Owners of any truck from the new medium-duty lineup will have the option of a PACCAR PX-7 or PX-9 engine. The PX-7 engine pumps out 200 to 360 hp and 520 to 800 lb-ft of torque. The PX-9 gives owners 260 to 450 hp and 860 to 1,250 lb-ft of torque. A Cummins L9N natural gas engine is also available in the T180/T280. This engine is CARB-certified and offers 320 hp with 1,000 lb-ft of torque.

Kenworth pairs the engine with a standard PACCAR TX-8 transmission. The new 8-speed automatic TX-8 transmission offers control and performance with a best-in-class power-to-weight ratio.

Something else worth noting under the hood of the new Kenworth medium-duty lineup is that all pre-trip inspection checkpoints are located on the driver’s side. Kenworth also repositioned the windshield washer fluid reservoir to the frame rail so that it’s in easy reach, as well. Engineers also relocated the air cleaner to above the engine; it was redesigned with a panel-style filter that’s easy to replace.

A Kenworth T280 out in the field used by Kirby-Smith Machinery. The company operates a fleet of more than 100 medium-duty trucks equipped with Auto Crane bodies.


One thing I always look for when reviewing a vehicle is how easy it is for me to drive. I’m not a CDL holder, so driving larger trucks isn’t an area where I’d consider myself a professional. I know that if I can drive a truck with little complications—especially on the city streets of Phoenix—then the truck must be considered an easy drive for folks who drive trucks as their career or as a component of their daily working schedule.

One thing I immediately noticed when I got into the cab of the truck was its similarity to my personal vehicle. With the information cluster, the infotainment system, the climate control knobs, and all other controls within half an arm’s length away, I didn’t have much trouble familiarizing myself with the cab.

As we drove on, I was a bit impressed with the truck’s visibility. I barely noticed the truck’s sloped hood, and the panoramic views allowed me to easily see the vehicles, pedestrians, and road signs that were in my path.

I first drove the T280 equipped with an unloaded Valew water tank. The truck’s 158-inch wheelbase was so easy to maneuver in Phoenix. I honestly felt as if I were driving a light-duty vehicle. The feeling is actually quite similar in the T180 equipped with a Valew 16-ft stake bed. The only difference was a longer wheelbase (205 inches) that I had to keep in mind when turning corners.


Overall, I’m thoroughly impressed with the new Kenworth medium-duty lineup—specifically the T180 and T280. With the current driver shortage, which doesn’t appear to be resolved anytime soon, the T180 and T280 are great “stepping stone” trucks for non-CDL holders that allow a driver to adapt to driving a larger truck fairly easily. The T180/T280 truly offer the drivability of a light-duty vehicle while also giving you the power of a medium-duty vehicle.


Jade Brasher is the editor of Modern WorkTruck Solutions magazine. A graduate of The University of Alabama, Jade resides in Kennesaw, Georgia, and enjoys writing about her town, travel, and of course, work trucks. Reach her at Find out more about the Kenworth T180 and T280, visit

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