Test driving the Peterbilt 579

By Suzanne Stempinski, Land Line contributing field editor | 11/4/2014

All I want for Christmas is a shiny new truck. So what should it be? It has to get great fuel economy, have a quiet ride, be comfortable both behind the wheel and in the bunk, offer plenty of bells and whistles, and make me smile whenever I look at it. If I’m going to spend a lot of very hard-earned money; it has to make great business sense.

Fortunately, all the original equipment manufacturers have been working hard to build trucks that work for and with their owners and drivers. Celebrating their 75th Anniversary is a big milestone for Peterbilt Motors Co. And after all these years of building trucks for almost every Class 6 through 8 application, once again Peterbilt has offered a collection of trucks to seriously consider.

Courtesy of Suzanne Stempinski

Land Line Field Editor Suzanne Stempinski gets ready to take the Peterbilt 579 for a test drive around the Denton, Texas, area.

On a bright sunshiny morning in Denton, Texas, I arrived at the Peterbilt plant and there it was, waiting for me. I took a long look at the aerodynamic lines of the red Peterbilt 579 with the latest enhanced EPIQ package. Designed for maximum fuel economy, many of the features on this truck came as a result of Paccar’s work on the SuperTruck project spearheaded by the Department of Energy.

Every refinement to the EPIQ package is intended to build fuel economy. Even small improvements, when added together, combine to make this truck up to 14 percent more fuel efficient than before.

The mid-roof sleeper is fitted with a roof fairing; sleeper side extenders, chassis fairings, wheel closeouts, a bumper dam and bumper-to-hood seal -- all redirecting air. Low-rolling-resistance super-single drive tires with wheel covers and the SmarTire Active Tire Pressure Monitoring System that sends real-time information to the driver are additional parts of the package.

After spending plenty of time on the exterior of the truck and trailer, I climbed into the cab and surveyed my domain. The ergonomic dash wrapped gently to maximize my view of the gauges and information at my fingertips. A touch screen driver information center. The Bendix Wingman Advanced Collision Mitigation System to keep me on the straight and narrow. A one-piece windshield was my window to the world. Door-mounted mirrors are big. The new design keeps all the wiring inside. Roof-mounted antennas are small but powerful.

The Evolution LX seats were generous and comfortable with great lumbar support and plenty of adjustment options. I’m fairly short (5 feet, 3 inches on a good day), and the bottom cushion reached the back of my knees. The seats can easily adapt to a larger body profile as well. I took a few minutes to check out the sleeper. Good cabinet space, fridge, desk, under bunk storage. It’s a smart design where need and comfort coincide.

Photo by Suzanne Stempinski

The Peterbilt 579’s interior got a thumbs up on LL’s test drive with adjustable seats, room in all the right places, and a “smart design.”

All this and more before I even turned the key. I made all the necessary adjustments, strapped in, and fired up the Paccar MX-13 engine. Oh, there’s nothing like the sound of a diesel engine coming to life.

Programmed for 455 horsepower, 1,550 to 1,750 lb-ft of torque with a 2.64 rear axle; this is all about efficiency. The Fuller Advantage 10-speed automated transmission awaited my command. A RNDL shifter moved gently into D; I released the parking brakes and began my journey.

My brief stop for a go-cup of coffee took a little too long, and the anti-idle system worked as it should and turned the truck off. I rebooted and was ready to roll.

Hooked to a 53-foot Utility van, we were grossing about 77,000 pounds and headed toward Interstate 35 North. The engine skip-shifted up or down as necessary as I maneuvered through traffic and headed out for a stroll.

On and off the throttle, cruise control yes or no, playing with the engine brake, drifting too close to the edge of the road in order to engage the collision avoidance system – the truck performed seamlessly.

One big irritant – the navigation system will not allow you to add an address while you’re going down the road. It won’t allow your co-driver to do it either. That means when dispatch calls and reroutes you, you’re about to kill 30 minutes pulling over. Arghh. I understand it’s all about safety, but it’s annoying just the same.

As we crossed the Red River into Oklahoma, I found myself looking for my notebook to jot the mileage. Old habits are the toughest to break. Trusting the truck’s programming and engineering to be smarter than my foot, we cruised up and down rolling hills. When we stopped at our midway point, I was getting approximately 8 mpg. The breeze picked up as I made my way back toward Denton and, while I could really feel the push, the truck rolled rock solid.

If a good-looking, solid-performing truck is in your future plans, take a look at the Peterbilt 579 with the enhanced EPIQ package. You won’t be disappointed.

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