Drivers

Test Drive: Western Star 5700XE

Western Star’s 5700XE might just be everything to everyone. It’s a big classic-styled truck with second-to-one aerodynamics.

November 2014, TruckingInfo.com - Test Drives

by Jim Park, Equipment Editor - Also by this author

SHARING TOOLS        | Print Subscribe

Powertrain & safety features

The engine-mounted air filter canister draws air from two hood-mounted intakes. Gone are the fuel-sucking external canisters.
The engine-mounted air filter canister draws air from two hood-mounted intakes. Gone are the fuel-sucking external canisters.

Since the 5700EX will only be offered with a Detroit engine, a high degree of chassis and powertrain optimization was possible. Customers will have their choice of DD13, DD15 or DD16 engines and a choice of DT12 automated manual or several Eaton Fuller manual transmissions. The really fuel-economy conscious customer can opt for the integrated Detroit Powertrain with a feature set called Intelligent Powertrain Management.

This has a downsped DD15 engine rated at 400 hp and 1,750 lb-ft mated to a DT12 direct-drive transmission with IPM and either Detroit 6x4 drive axles with a 2.41:1 ratio, or a Detroit 6x2 setup with a 2.28:1 ratio.

“This is our entry into the down-speeding realm,” says Brad Williamson, DTNA’s manager of engine and component marketing. “We offer a higher torque engine with a lower axle ratio, which allows you to operate at lower engine rpm for better fuel economy.”

The torque and horsepower curves show the engine produces its best torque between about 1,000 and 1,300 rpm, and close to peak horsepower between 1,300 and 1,625 rpm. Williamson says customers who operate in rolling terrain will see the greatest benefit from this powertrain choice, while those running in flat or mountainous terrain may prefer a more traditional powertrain option.

“DP15i uses preloaded terrain maps and GPS to look out about three miles ahead and then, with the help of load and grade sensors, fuels the engine according to need,” he says. “Once you have the system engaged, the driver doesn’t need to touch the brake or the accelerator. The system is managing everything as efficiently as possible.”

Williamson says the IPM will be standard on all DT12 packages beginning in 2015.

At the launch event, Williamson said the new powertrain packages could net certain customers using the 6x4 or 6x2 configurations efficiency gains of up to 5.2% and 7.6% respectively, compared to a baseline powertrain consisting of a DD15 455/1,550, a 10-speed manual transmission, and a Detroit 6x4 with a 2.53: ratio. As is usually the case, he wouldn’t discuss pricing during his presentation, so it would remain with the buyer to hammer out the ROI potential at the time of purchase.

Western Star has also added a few safety and driver convenience features. A new wood- and leather-wrapped steering wheel has thumb control functionality for navigating the driver display menus as well as headlamp and marker lamp interrupt (if anyone still does that little courtesy), cruise control, phone pickup and disconnect, volume control and mute.

“It’s not just a lapped on system,” Jesus Gomez Director of Engineering at Western Star Trucks. “We worked with WABCO to calibrate their system for the particulars of the Detroit powertrain and our braking system, so it behaves as you’d expect a Detroit product to behave.”

First impressions

The halogen projector-beam headlamps have LED accent and running lights, and they are a three-piece assembly for lower repair costs.
The halogen projector-beam headlamps have LED accent and running lights, and they are a three-piece assembly for lower repair costs.
You can’t tell much from the inside about how the outside is doing from an aerodynamic perspective, except to observe the noise. Non-aero trucks are pretty noisy, and that’s just from the eddy of air and the buffeting that a big square hood sets up. The 5700XE was very quiet. I checked my iPhone sound meter app, and saw 72-73 db. That’s very close to passenger car quiet, and the same reading I got from a recent drive in a Kenworth T680.

I’ve written before on how I feel about the DT12 transmission, and can find no fault with it. It’s relentless in its pursuit of skip shifting opportunities and it never misses a chance to grab the next gear as soon as possible. On several trips up a 6% or so grade, I found the DT12 upshifting at 1,400 rpm, which depending on the gear, landed me back at 1,000 or 1,100 rpm. That’s courageous.

On the opposite side, downshifting for rpm while using the engine brake, several times I was able to manually get the thing as high as 2,300 rpm. There’s some serious retarding capacity there with a 15-liter engine.

I struggled a little with the OnGuard collision avoidance system, probably because I wasn’t entirely familiar with the way it works. It restricts vehicle speed to a prescribed following distance (a customer preset option), and while driving north west out of Las Vegas toward the town of Beatty, I found myself pressing down on the pedal and wondering why I wasn’t accelerating. Truth was, I was coming up behind a slower car or truck, and the system is designed to maintain a set following distance. Once I figured out that changing lanes removed the threat from the radar’s eyes, away I went.

OnGuard braked and throttled the truck in harmony with traffic. It could be a very useful tool for a poor man’s platooning arrangement.

While gentle in its speed and braking management in most situations, a couple of stray four-wheelers with the annoying habit of braking in front of a truck got the system’s attention — and mine too — pretty quickly and the braking was pretty aggressive when it needed to be. Otherwise, the system was virtually transparent to me.

The cavernous Western Star interior hasn't changed, except for updated color schemes and LED lighting. It still boasts real wood cabinets and rich upholstery.
The cavernous Western Star interior hasn't changed, except for updated color schemes and LED lighting. It still boasts real wood cabinets and rich upholstery.

I find the Western Star cab beyond spacious. And it still is. It’s the same steel cab that goes back to the Constellation days in the late '90s. Tried and true, I guess, with little to improve upon. I’d prefer dashboard switches were spaced out more, or grouped into functions. Maybe it’s because I get to drive one so infrequently, I fumble around a lot looking for the right switch. Someone with more time-on-type might not have a similar complaint.

The ride and handling are what you’d expect in a premium truck. For as large as it appears from the outside and from the left seat, it’s still pretty nimble. The tried-and-true Airliner suspension provides a very good ride. Our truck had wide-base single tires with full-width axles so it felt very stable, even in a stiff crosswind.

The mirrors produced my only negative observation, and it’s a modest one. They are cab mounted, which restricts the door opening to somewhat less than 90 degrees. Also, with the window open, I noticed a lot of wind noise from the mirrors. My guess is there’s still some aero improvement to be gained by moving the mirrors back onto the doors.

Western Star GM Mike Jackson says the 5700XE is targeted at the classic truck guy who knows that in trucking’s game of pennies, aero counts. We couldn’t verify the aero performance in a quantifiable way on our run. Jackson says it’s second only to the Cascadia in the DTNA portfolio in terms of aero performance, and I have no reason to doubt him. It’ll be interesting to see some actual numbers emerge as these trucks enter service in the spring of 2015.

Overall, I was quite pleased with the truck, and ewxcited about the downsped and highly integrated powertrain. It really does offer the "large car" crowd the benefits of driving a "jelly bean," without sacrificing style. 


« Previous  |  1  2  |  Next »

Comments

  1. 1. Regis B BREEN [ December 02, 2014 @ 08:27AM ]

    What about a double sleeper model

 

Comment On This Story

Name:  
Email:  
Comment: (Maximum 2000 characters)  
Leave this field empty:
* Please note that every comment is moderated.

Newsletter

We offer e-newsletters that deliver targeted news and information for the entire fleet industry.

GotQuestions?
sponsored by
sponsor logo

ELDs and Telematics

Scott Sutarik from Geotab will answer your questions and challenges

View All
GotQuestions?

Sleeper Cab Power

Steve Carlson from Xantrex will answer your questions and challenges

View All