by Paul Abelson, technical editor
If I learned one thing driving the Peterbilt 379X, it’s that you can’t be shy behind its wheel.
If you are shy, you’d better turn your CB off, and avoid stopping at truck stops, rest areas or anywhere else where you might encounter other truckers. This unique tractor draws a crowd whether you’re running 65 mph down the Interstate or sitting still in a parking space.
From a distance, the 379X looks just like any other long-nosed Pete. Its 127-inch bbc and 70-inch Ultracab sleeper create the classic silhouette of near-perfect proportions. But as you get closer, especially on a bright, sunny day or under parking lot floodlights, you see this gloss-black truck’s most notable feature, its highly polished aluminum front fenders. Those fenders are the most obvious cosmetic features, but not the only noteworthy ones.
Complementing and highlighting the fenders, a Texas-style chromed steel bumper shines down low, just as a highly polished stainless sun visor does up above. Completing the square, as seen from the front, polished stainless air cleaners, mirrors and large-diameter exhaust stacks seem to glow in the sunlight. When the hood is tilted, you can see the polished aluminum hood accent strip. With the hood closed, you notice the distinctive Peterbilt oval pattern grille.
Inside the 379X, the black-and-metal theme continues with brushed aluminum. The dashboard makes an aircraft-like background for the full complement of gauges, instruments and controls. Even the special steering wheel has a black leather rim and four brushed aluminum spokes arranged in an X. Interior and sleeper panels are charcoal and gray, with brushed aluminum trim throughout.
The 379X I drove had a 500-hp Cat C-15 “bridge” engine, made in 2003, but before the ACERT C-15 was EPA certified. Behind it sat an Eaton Fuller 18-speed double over, 3.55 Dana drive axles and tall Bridgestone rubber, 11R24.5 all around.
Looking good is nice, but livings are earned on the highway, not the parking lot. Thanks to Peterbilt and their dealer, Quad City Peterbilt of Davenport, IA (I-80 exit 292), we obtained a shiny black trailer to simulate a real-world load. That gave us a combination weight of 76,000 pounds.
As expected, the well-proven specifications and the power of the big Cat engine made the limited amount of highway driving we had time for a delight.
The truck’s proprietary FlexAir Suspension ate up any roughness and irregularities in the road surfaces. Crosswind ride and stability were uncompromised. When I made lane changes faster and sharper than normal, prudent driving would dictate, the transitions were handled with minimal lean or sway.
I wish Peterbilt had put a CB radio in their demonstration truck, because drivers passing us honked their air horns and waved their microphones to get us to respond. I can only assume they had questions or comments about the 379X. That proved to be the case when we stopped for a late lunch at the Iowa 80. Derek Smith of Peterbilt was with me to answer the tough questions (ones about which I hadn’t a clue).
We parked as far from other trucks as we could, so there would be no dings or scratches on it. The “X” was to be on display for the next few days. When we got back to the truck, there were others parked around it, and a few drivers greeted us with questions about the truck’s features. I was glad Derek was along.
What more can I say about the Peterbilt 379X? It’s a truck that looks customized just as it comes from the factory. It’s traditional looking but loaded with lots of modern features. It has LED marker and accent lights, and an appearance that seems to shout that you have pride in your ride. Many of you know I like aerodynamic trucks, but driving this “large car” was a fantastic experience. For traditionalists, the 379X might just be the ultimate success statement.
Paul Abelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.