By Paul Abelson
senior technical editor
Based on the success of its 82-inch standard Stratosphere sleeper introduced in 2003, and its 68-inch model introduced one year later, Western Star announced three new models at its annual dealer meeting this May in Phoenix. The new models are 40-inch, 54-inch and an Ultra High 82-inch.
Each is targeted to a unique market. The 40-inch is the smallest walk-through sleeper in the industry, designed for vocational applications such as logging, bulk hauling, construction, and towing and recovery. The sleeper is less than 500 pounds, lighter than most competitive models and its bunk is 31 inches.
Many hauling jobs require close maneuvering in busy locations, so optional windows improve vision, including a front Vista window, two side windows and a rear window, totaling more than 16 square feet.
The 54-inch Stratosphere sleeper features a 35-inch bunk and full aerodynamic fairings for over-the-road fuel economy. It targets heavy haul, regional haul, construction and other applications where length or payload affects specifications.
The flagship of the Stratosphere sleeper line is the 82-inch Ultra High model, for long haul. According to Western Star’s Matt Stevenson, manager of product strategy, an independent testing lab measured interior volume of the Ultra High and determined it has 15 cubic feet more than any of its competitors’ premium sleepers, including all 86-inch sleepers.
This is achieved by increasing height by 13.8 inches compared to the standard sleeper. From the ground, the Ultra High stands more than 13 feet, improving airflow with 13-foot-6-inch van trailers.
When asked about the usefulness of the increased interior volume, Stevenson described how the optional upper bunk could be left down permanently, while still allowing easy access to the optional dinette seating/lower bunk.
I verified dinette access in one of the display trucks. With the bunk down, using it was no problem. A 6-foot-5-inch media colleague “tested” the upper bunk. He had no problem stretching out, finding it “quite comfortable.” The dinette option converts to a bunk just less than 42 inches wide. The standard fixed lower bunk is 48 inches wide.
Storage abounds, commensurate with each sleeper’s size. Shelving and the dinette table in the Ultra High are made of wood with the finish and feel of a custom yacht. The interior was done in diamond-tufted vinyl. The last Western Star I tested was one of the first off the Portland, OR, production line. Fit and finish left much to be desired. The trucks on display in May were every bit as good as Western Stars from the now-closed Kelowna, British Columbia, plant.
We couldn’t take any of the trucks on the road, but I discovered one issue with the interior layout even without making a run. The dinette table is mounted only by a pedestal, and is free to rotate. The table was not fixed to the back wall, and it occasionally rubbed against the vinyl with an annoying, squeaking sound.
Marketing Segment Manager Stan Skrzypiec said company officials are aware of the issue and are working hard to solve it before deliveries start. Western Star is now accepting orders for 4900 EX, 4900SA and 4900 FA models with Stratosphere sleepers.
Paul Abelson may be reached at email@example.com.