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Test Drive
The New Volvo 660

The world in the palm of your hand

In October, I had the opportunity to check out Volvo's newest class 8tractor, the 660. Climbing aboard is easy, with the steps and grab handles well placed for my 5'6", so taller truckers should have no problems. Once in the driver's seat, I had to roll the window down a few inches in order to close the door. Speaking as a trucker who has had snow accumulate on my left leg while driving across Wyoming in the depths of winter, the tight cab of the 660 brings visions of toasty warmth in the worst weather.

The interior of the Volvo 660 is spacious and easy to move around in, with a roomy 30 inches between the seats. I was told the sleeper is 61 inches deep and a lofty 98 inches from floor to ceiling. There is a lot of storage, both in the bunk and over the visors. Both bunks have safety restraint harnesses, giving team drivers each their own bunk that can be utilized while the truck is in motion, instead of switching off in the lower bunk. However, when I opted to stow the upper bunk, I found it to be heavy to lift, and locking it in place requires standing on the lower bunk. Two windows and a skylight provide natural light for the sleeper, and there are also plenty of reading and general purpose lights. And Volvo did not skimp on comfort for the passenger occupying the right seat. There is plenty of leg room, convenient cup holders, and ample overhead storage.

Back in the driver's seat, I found the controls for National's Cushion Air seat simple to use and the seat itself very comfortable. There's enough travel roomfor the driver's seat that when I slid it all the way back, I was able to stand between the seat and the steering wheel. Still, I was able to easily position the seat to accommodate my not-so-long legs. I used Volvo's unique foot pedal to adjust the placement of the steering wheel to a comfortable position. This pedal also makes it possible to alter the angle and height of the steering wheel while driving without taking your hands off the wheel.

The dash is well designed with all gauges easy to see, and all switches easy to reach. There are two convenient cup holders. The day was a little warm, and the air conditioning system proved to be both very quiet and effective. Visibility is excellent thanks to the wide, one-piece windshield, large side windows, and the sleek aerodynamic hood's 18-degree slope.

This particular 660 was equipped with a Detroit engine and Eaton 13-speed transmission. There was no trailer to pull, a fact that disappointed me at first, but for which I was later grateful. My route took me through urban traffic, along an interstate highway, and over one of Virginia's infamous two-lane mountain roads. The cab is very quiet and the ride very smooth, unlike some class 8 tractors that can make bobtailing a bone-rattling experience.

When it came to tackling the tight turns on the climb up Little Mitchell Mountain, the Volvo 660 ably demonstrated its ease of handling. The 660's 50-degree wheel cut made even a narrow, 15 mph hairpin curve a simple maneuver. (It was on this particular curve I overcame my disappointment that I didn't have a trailer behind me.) I tried out the turning radius again in a small lot on the other side of the mountain. The 660 made the small circle with room to spare. The handling of this truck would be a definite asset in some tight places I've been in over the years. LL