Quick Spin: International's Refreshed LoneStar

October 2017, - Test Drives

by Jack Roberts, Senior Editor - Also by this author

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Internationl demonstrates that technology and style needn't be at odds with its revamped LoneStar tractor. Photo: Christina Hamner
Internationl demonstrates that technology and style needn't be at odds with its revamped LoneStar tractor. Photo: Christina Hamner

The International LoneStar is one of those trucks that incites passion both for and against it. The drivers and fleet executives I’ve talked to over the years either love the truck or loathe it. There’s seemingly no middle ground when it comes to the retro design – and no looking away when one's comes down the highway, either.

Through one of those weird little quirks that befall all of us from time to time, I’d never had the opportunity to drive a LoneStar all these years. So when International offered me a chance to take its latest iteration for a spin following the North American Commercial Vehicle Show, I jumped at the chance – even though it meant another drive back to Atlanta.

For the record, count me as one of LoneStar’s fans. If you follow me on Twitter – and you should, @By_JackRoberts – you know that I’m always posting pictures of classic cars and trucks. So I find the LoneStar’s overt, throwback styling highly appealing.

The LoneStar’s exterior lines borrow heavily from the Art Deco styling that was prevalent in the 1930s and into the ‘40s. Those lines remain some of the most evocative in the entire history of the automotive age. But the fact that those lines were inspired by early attempts at streamlining both cars and trucks is often overlooked. International engineers were able to build on those early design efforts and leverage modern computer design to produce a truck that is both striking to look at and capable of holding its own in today's race toward 10 mpg. It’s one reason some fleets are perfectly happy to offer LoneStars as prestige trucks for valued drivers: Good looks and good fuel economy in one complete package.

Still, with almost a decade under its belt, International knew it was time to freshen things up a bit for the LoneStar. And with its defining exterior look nailed down, it’s not surprising that the bulk of these new upgrades are focused inside the cab or under the hood.

A Touch of Technology

The bulk of LoneStar’s upgrades are focused in the all-new, “driver-centric” cab. The first thing I noticed climbing into the truck was the solid feel the steps, ladder, and doors all have. The overall arrangement of steps and grab-handles is logical, and the door slams shut with a nice, hearty thump.

A quick scan around the cab reveals a thoroughly modern interior with a well-lit sleeper behind. Everything is tamped down nice and tight, and the door seals do an excellent job of minimizing outside noise. I’m a fan of the new dashboard and instrument panel. The layout allows for a quick scan of all gauges, and the graphic display is easy to read even in bright, mid-day sunlight. All switches and knobs are within easy reach and clearly marked for quick identification. The dash has a sort of terraced design, which provides lots of handy ledges and storage pads for phones, tablets, billfolds and all the other stuff we carry around with us.

A new dashboard features crisp instrumentation and graphic displays with plenty of places to stow your stuff. Photo: Christina Hamner
A new dashboard features crisp instrumentation and graphic displays with plenty of places to stow your stuff. Photo: Christina Hamner

October in Georgia can be hot. And the interior of the truck was pretty warm when I climbed up inside. But the newly upgraded HVAC system was more than up to the challenge. Even in 90-degree heat, the AC was so effective I had to cut the fan speed down and divert the air vents after only a couple of minutes.

Getting down to business, the views over LoneStar’s dramatically narrowed hood are outstanding. The powered rear-view mirrors adjust quickly. And mirrors themselves are solidly mounted to the cab, which means there’s almost no vibration evident as you’re cruising down the highway.

A couple quick adjustments to the highly comfortable driver’s seat and steering wheel, and I was set to go. My test truck was equipped with an Eaton Fuller 18-speed manual transmission and a 605-hp Cummins X15 engine rumbling away up front. That’s a lot of old-school power on hand, and the LoneStar doesn’t disappoint if you decide to put the hammer down. The truck has plenty of low-end grunt and accelerates nicely once you flip into High Range on the manual gearbox.

Forward views over the LoneStar's dramatically narrowed Art Deco hood are excellent and welcome in heavy Atlanta traffic. Photo: Christina Hamner
Forward views over the LoneStar's dramatically narrowed Art Deco hood are excellent and welcome in heavy Atlanta traffic. Photo: Christina Hamner

Truck cabs are getting quieter these days. And International clearly wants in on that trend. Its engineers focused on reducing cab noise levels with this refresh effort. And overall, the effort seems to have paid off: There’s almost no road or wind noise evident inside the cab at cruising speeds. The predominant sound is the big Cummins diesel lugging away in front of you. But even the sound levels on a big-bore like the Cummins X15 have been tamped down to levels where conversation in a normal tone of voice is possible.

Laterally and longitudinally speaking, the LoneStar is one stable tractor at highway speeds. This is a truck that doesn’t float around on you or feel top-heavy during lane changes or on freeway ramps. It’s also an extremely comfortable truck to drive thanks to the interior layout – notably the perfectly sculpted elbow ledge on the driver-side door.

If you’re a LoneStar fan, there’s a lot to like with this recent slate of upgrades. The truck is comfortable, quiet with an interior totally centered on driver comfort and productivity. It’s a modern truck in every sense of the word with a style and stance that sets it apart from the crowd. The LoneStar isn’t a truck for everyone. But, then again, it was never meant to be a truck for everyone.


  1. 1. Joe Zsigmond [ October 06, 2017 @ 06:45AM ]

    I am not a huge fan of International, but I am a fan of the Lonestar; its a neo-classic design that dares to stand apart. I love classic cars and trucks, from an age when vehicles were designed not with computers, but with heart and soul. I own a PT Cruiser and an HHR, not because they are outstanding automobiles, but because I wanted to reward Chrysler and Chevy for having the courage to come up with something different. We live in a day and age when automotive design is largely void of imagination, most cars look like half-melted ice-cream cones, and most fleet trucks are indistinguishable from each other. At least truck makers understand that they need to have a premium flagship model, and that inevitably gravitates towards classic design. Kudos to International for having the courage to come up with the Lonestar.

  2. 2. John Baxter [ October 06, 2017 @ 06:56AM ]

    Nice road test, Jack. Seemed totally personal and quite sincere. I'll bet you enjoyed that chance to jam gears like real truck drivers do, too!

  3. 3. Russ [ October 14, 2017 @ 08:42AM ]

    A couple years ago I told my buddies my new made up word to describe modern trucks, Intervolfrekenbuilts. If you put the kenworth models t680 and t880, the volvo, freightliner, International and peterbilt 579 in a row, and drove past them at 40 miles per hour, you wouldn't know what dealership you past, much less be able to tell them apart when you pass them going opposite directions on the freeway. The lonestar definitely gives the driver a little class by setting him apart from the run of the mill steering wheel holders. Hopefully they keep the forward looking radar, collision avoidance and lane departure systems out of it, those are dangerous.

  4. 4. Brian [ November 24, 2017 @ 07:48AM ]

    I love the look of the Lonestar. But the problem is that its built by international. With a Cummins powerplant, you have over heating problems. With a International powerplant, you have no HP, no TQ, and -0- reliability. Its a shame that Detroit went brand specific. And by the time you include all the EPA BS, you end up with a truck that looks good, but sits alot at the dealer. We have 2 internationals in our fleet. The older 07 with the Cummins never seems to die. The 2015 we bought late last year, International bought back (it was a absolute POS). The 2016 we replaced it with, International bought back (another absolute POS), We tried 1 more time with 1 more International, this time with a Cummins, and once we got past the initial purchase check engine lights, it has ran better. But we have only had it in our fleet for 3 weeks now. Pretty sure thats the last international we will EVER buy.


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