, Land Line contributing field editor | Friday, September 12, 2014
It’s hard to keep a secret going down the road. In fact, it’s darn near impossible. How do you deliver a new truck that no one sees? Answer: You don’t.
The highly anticipated Western Star 5700 XE was officially unveiled in Las Vegas to a gaggle of hungry vultures (trucking industry journalists). A robust truck with updated retro styling, it carries the rugged squared off-look that exemplifies the Western Star brand. At the same time, its aerodynamics will make it a hot contender in the fuel economy and cost of ownership battles raging for today’s increasingly pinched owner-operators and small fleet owners. The XE stands for EXtreme Efficiency.
LL Field Editor Suzanne Stempinski test drives the new Western Star 5700XE.
With the resources and technology of Daimler behind it, Western Star is able to capitalize on the power of the drivetrain, engine and transmission of Daimler and Detroit while maintaining the steel cab and honey-combed aluminum sleeper configurations that proclaim it a Western Star. Under the hood, it’s the first Western Star product to have the DD15 AT, along with the DT12 automated manual transmission. For those looking for a manual transmission option, it will be available with the Eaton Fuller manual with a range of configurations.
At first glance, it is sharp edges and tough lines. It has a big squared-off dual-air intake hood with stainless steel grill bars and fascia on the four-piece bumper, which includes a body-colored spear down the center and “fangs.” Traditional rectangular headlights include two projector beams (high and low) and a ring of LED running lights. And, yes, you can change the bulbs yourself.
The two-piece windshield looks almost vertical, and the visor leads you to a double dip cab and sleeper. The visor actually lifts air over the roof line. It looks like it should be a wind block, but it’s not. Roof fairings, side extenders and chassis fairings take the classic styling and give it an updated look. Extensive wind tunnel testing has resulted in an extremely aerodynamic tractor that’s also lightweight.
The configuration I test drove included super single drive tires, disk brakes and a 68-inch sleeper – empty weight 17,800 pounds. Pulling a 53-foot van tucked up tight and loaded, we were grossing around 65,000 pounds. I had to ask because I thought I was pulling a load of sailboat fuel.
It’s quiet going down the road. You can carry on a conversation with your indoor voice. In fact, I had a soft-spoken companion in the second seat and another in the sleeper, and nobody spoke above low conversational tones. We weren’t quite as hushed as if we’d been in church, but we sure weren’t at a ball game either.
The integrated transmission and engine combine to make driving easier than ever. Not even a PRNDL shifter – just turn the dial to D and put your foot on the throttle. I eased on down the road looking for things to talk about other than the weather and the traffic. And they were hard to find.
Sleeper configurations come up to 82-inch ultra-high as options. The cabinetry is all wood – real wood. No plastic and laminate here. Everything about this truck says “premium.” The gauges look analog, but there’s plenty of information available at your fingertips. There’s a full complement of Meritor WABCO lane departure, collision avoidance, and collision mitigation systems just waiting to help keep you safe.
And it’s smart, also featuring the DT12’s Intelligent Powertrain Management (IPM), which is standard on the 5700XE. IPM uses GPS and pre-loaded terrain maps to evaluate the road profile up to three miles in advance and determine the most fuel-efficient vehicle operation (including vehicle speed, transmission gear and engine rpm).
The ergonomics are good. Seats are comfortable and easy to adjust. The mirrors are cowl mounted.
So what’s the price going to be? Ahhh – we don’t have an answer for that quite yet. But, you can expect the price to be competitive with other premium brand trucks, according to the manufacturer. The Western Star 5700XE goes into production in Cleveland, N.C., in March/April 2015. Between now and then you’ll want to check with your local Western Star dealer to see when it’ll be available to preview.
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