IN THE CAB
One of the new features for the Pinnacle is a sweep-around dash behind the smart, engineered-looking steering wheel. The dash is unusual with its mixture of round gauges and driver information panels. McKenna said the shape of the upper panels was intended to maximize dash real estate, without having displays that get hidden behind the wheel. And it works, with the driver info panel front and center, and the engine coolant and fuel gauges right where you can't miss 'em. Idiot lights are in these panels too.
The driver display is a triumph of usability. The screens are clear and well-organized, with the information a driver wants to see. Moreover, the column stalk, with only an up/down rocker, plus enter and escape buttons, is so intuitive, anyone can use it within seconds of being introduced.
Other switches are where you expect to see them on the wing panel, where cruise, engine brake and so on are convenient to use. The light switch is low to the left of the steering column, where you can reach it from the ground (good for trailer hook-up.) The designers and stylists resisted putting the ignition key down there, where it is all too easy to break off with the left knee when climbing out of the truck.
Drivers used to a CH or even a Vision will be surprised by the seat adjustment. You can fling the seat all the way back and find you can't work the pedals – unless you're 6-foot-8. I had to pull it up several notches. Seats at this trim level and on this unit were inviting-looking, with lots of adjustment and heat as well. I should have spent more time adjusting the front bolster, because by the end of the second day I was sensing the seat was short. But that was my fault, because I failed to stop long enough to work out how to extend the seat to better support my legs.
The rich brown leather seats sit nicely far apart in this wide cab, so even with armrests, there's a full 14 inches of walkthrough to the sleeper. But the center console stack, which has big cupholders, a useful shelf and a big storage bin, means that the seats need to be pushed to the rear when standing up from either driver or passenger seat. Also, as a mid-roof cab, there's somewhat restricted headroom that requires a stoop when getting up from the seat.
There's the usual storage in the header and rather stylishly trimmed door pockets. The CB radio mount, though, sits on the top of the dash and is not as nice as some of the solutions we have seen in other new dash setups.
Mind you, considering this was not the top of the line trim, it was still very comfortable. The cab floor had a fitted, thick rubber mat that no doubt contributed to the low noise levels. Somewhat whimsically, the mat has embossed doggy paws all over, carrying through the Bulldog theme.
The rich leather of the seats is repeated in the crunched leather stripe that sets off the comfortable sleeper. There's full standing height back there for anyone up to 6-foot-3. Useful shelves that would accommodate duffels and sleeping bags are fitted high on each side, with provision on the passenger side for a TV and other electronics. Beneath this is a wardrobe with a shelf over, but under-bunk access to the baggage compartments was all the sleeper storage that was provided in the test unit, with precious little other provision for clothes or other personal effects.
As noted previously, this was a fairly conservative spec and was headed for a fleet operation. An individual could significantly enhance the usability of the sleeper by optioning many of the cabinets and comfort items in the data book.
ON THE ROAD
After a comprehensive walkaround, I took the wheel with McKenna beside me, looking forward to stretching out the 485 horses as we headed east out of Allentown. But first, some negotiation of the suburban neighborhood around Mack's headquarters showed the truck turned very well. The visibility forward and down to the road surface through the deep windshield is generous. The sides and mirrors to the rear are greatly enhanced by the side windows, which are devoid of wing windows and sweep down toward the front. This results in a very open feeling to the Mack Pinnacle and inspires confidence in the first few minutes of getting under way.
Heading out of Allentown, whether east or west, there's a strong pull out of the valley, but despite the 76,000-pound GCW, we made relatively short work of the grade. Much of the early going was in and out of the succession of hills and valleys that lead up to the Poconos. Once in the big hole, most of these grades took a single split down to breast, though sometimes lugging down to 1,100 rpm or even 100 rpm less. But the 13-liter remained strong even down below the flat peak torque that has 1,650 pounds feet between 1,100 and 1,300 rpm.
A few grades in the first stretch took a full gear down, but once in to the mountains, there was plenty of gearing down to make the significant grades encountered. The lowest we saw was two down in the lower split – or eighth in the 13-speed Mack transmission. This, by the way, is the absolutely bulletproof triple-countershaft box that has a very positive shift quality. It has a different rhythm than an Eaton Fuller, thus requiring a little extra practice to get the shifts right, and with only a couple thousand miles on the truck, it was a little heavy. Experience shows the shift eases up with more miles.