TEST DRIVE: The new Mack Anthem – A classic in the making

By Suzanne Stempinski, Land Line contributing field editor | 9/21/2017

The trucks rolled out of Allentown, Pa. one after the other. It was a 10-pack of Mack trucks featuring the freshly introduced Mack Anthem (eight of them), a Pinnacle and a Granite; all headed for Atlanta. At the wheel, a bunch of CDL-wielding journalists and some Mack developers, designers and product managers were ready for an 850-mile adventure.

The Mack Anthem was introduced in September with much fanfare and enthusiasm, and with good reason. It’s a bold modern classic – big and square-looking, but with an emphasis on aerodynamics. The grille is tough and very structured, with pillars holding the word “Mack” as a bridge span.

The front fenders are large and flat like the old Superliner; the LED headlights are encased in a square. In fact, all the lights, exterior and interior, are LEDs. There are door mounted mirrors and hood mounted mirrors carefully lined up to create only one point of wind resistance. You can get them heated if you like. The hood release is in the front – like an old automotive hood latch.

For the first time, Mack offers a 70-inch stand-up sleeper. It has a one-piece composite roof with an aerodynamic sun visor. The three-piece bumper is big and bold. So is the three-piece hood. If there’s an event that requires repair or replacement, you can address only the parts that need attention.

Inside the cab, the dash is an ergonomic wrap with lots of switches and gauges to keep you busy. The driver display can be modified with the press of a button on one of the two moose-antler stalks popping out of either side of the steering column. There’s a 5-inch driver display in the dash and an optional 7-inch infotainment screen that can provide you with TomTom Navigation for trucks and satellite radio or other features. The steering wheel has a flat bottom – an industry first – designed to allow for easier entry and exit. The front windshield is available as either a one-piece or two-piece design, whichever you prefer.

There’s a serious amount of storage. Cabinets close with a solid “thunk.” Recessed lighting above the windshield in the deep storages areas in the front and sides of the cab creates an ambient glow at night without blinding you. The LED lighting is really bright – 66 percent brighter and whiter. Additional power outlets and USB ports have been added to accommodate drivers’ electronically charged needs. Sears seats with 30 combinations and configurations are waiting for you.

Under the hood lies the heart of the truck. An MP 7 or 8 engine with horsepower ranging up to 505 hp and the automated manual 12 speed mDrive transmission comes in a variety of configurations, including an HD or turbo compounding option, depending on the application. Disc brakes or drum brakes. The Bendix Wingman Fusion system comes standard with the Anthem (stability control, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning). Fuel economy is project to be a 3 percent improvement with the 70-inch sleeper, 1.5 percent improvement with the day cab.

Connected vehicles are the norm these days, and the Mack family of trucks has embraced the technology that puts data at your fingertips and keeps your truck on the road. More than 60,000 Mack trucks are currently equipped with Guard Dog Connect, which now offers Mack Over the Air remote updates, updated software for powertrain components and revised vehicle parameters for duty cycle optimization.

The Anthem will replace the axle-back Pinnacle when it begins production in the first quarter of 2018. Order books are open now, and the first day saw a record number of orders and inquiries on the books. This truck is intended to help Mack increase their Class 8 market share.

Behind the wheel
There’s no doubt that it’s a head turner. I was delighted to have the opportunity to test a variety of configurations during our 850-mile, two-day trek.

First up, I took a ride in the Anthem with a 70-inch standup sleeper, pulling a pneumatic tanker. With a load of sailboat fuel, we glided effortlessly up and down hills behind the MP8 with 445 hp and 1850 lb-ft torque.

I explored the sleeper – there was an abundance of storage and even a cabinet that might accommodate a portable potty (I am still waiting for the OEM who designs a sleeper to include one). The bunk was comfortable and a nap would have been easy. The lighting, temperature and stereo controls were easily accessible. The refrigerator, flat screen TV and pull-out desk were exactly what I expected to find. The first couple of hours flew by as we talked about the new truck.

I hopped out at the first break in Hagerstown, Md., and jumped behind the wheel of the Granite axle-forward daycab dump truck. I’ve been on a vocational truck spree this year, and when I close my eyes and picture the quintessential dump truck – this Mack is it. It’s big and tough and won’t back down from a challenge.

A partial load of gravel kept us hugging the road instead of bouncing and, along with my co-driver, Jonathan Randall, senior vice president of sales for Greensboro, N.C.-based Mack Trucks North America, we covered the next couple of hours in style. Switching from our convoy-channel on the CB radio, down to Channel 19, we listened to the comments as four-wheelers and truck drivers exclaimed over the trucks.

By the time we pulled into the Love’s Truck Stop in Raphine, Va., we were ready to stretch our legs and grab a quick lunch as the Mack trucks were swarmed by drivers eager to get a closer look at the trucks. Each one was somebody’s favorite. From the head-turning lead truck, “Black Dog,” to the 48-inch flattop sleeper pulling a flatbed, all 10 were different, a real mix and matchup.

I spent the rest of the afternoon riding and driving in the Anthem pulling a 53-inch van with a turbo compounding MP8/445 hp, 1860 lb-ft torque. We were grossing around 77,500. In economy mode, we didn’t set the world on fire going up the hills, but in performance mode, we made better time on the hills while sacrificing a little bit of fuel economy.

We wrapped up in Greensboro, N.C., lined up and ready for the rest of our journey after a good night’s rest.

Black Dog pre-production truck
Saturday morning dawned early and the trucks sparkled in the sunlight. I had my heart set on driving Black Dog. Not only is it a pre-production truck, it’s pretty bad ass. Where the other Anthems were either chromed or accented with plenty of shiny stuff, this truck just went dark. Black American Racing Wheels, blacked out grille pillars and Mack bridge. It was a special one-of-a-kind ride that appealed to my not-very-well-hidden show truck self.

It had everything you would look for in a reward truck: the 70-inch stand-up sleeper with roof fairing, the MP8 – 505 hp/1860 lb ft torque, mDRIVE 12 speed, 260-inch wheelbase, pulling a dressed and decorated van trailer. It had disc brakes on the front and Meritor drum brakes on the rear. We sat in top-of-the-line ultra-leather seats. The paint was black gold pearl.

Oh, and did I mention the powder-coated diamond plate fenders and tool boxes? Yep. This was the big dog.

It did not disappoint. The ride was smooth, the seats were easy to adjust, the visibility was terrific and the commentary as we went down the road made me wish (almost) that we weren’t done at the end of the day.

Our last stop was at the NexTrans facility in Atlanta. This new dealership has taken service to a new level. With 30 bays and a design that’s all about the customer, if you’re in Atlanta or anywhere they do business, check them out.

I could not get an answer to the question of price other than it will be competitive. Check with your local Mack dealer. If you want a truck that looks fierce with retro styling and modern amenities and aerodynamics, you’ll want to take a closer look at the new Mack Anthem.

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