We’ll soon see a new Class 8 highway truck cruising our highways and byways. You may have to look closely for the badge on the hood or the air intake cover to identify it. From a distance, you’d be forgiven for mistaking Western Star’s new on-highway flagship, the 57X, for another aero-tuned highway hauler. Truck designers are edging inexorably closer to the ideal wind-cutting profile, blurring the distinctive looks of yesteryear into vague similarity.
Get a bit closer, though, and it’s easy to see the Western Star 57X isn’t just another cookie-cutter aero truck. It’s got a solid, beefy look and several not-too-subtle styling cues to match the pedigree. Dig a little deeper, and the premium look and feel of the interior, coupled with some significant technology upgrades, say Western Star loud and clear.
Some dyed-in-the-wool traditionalists will turn their noses up at the 57X, but Western Star will win its share of converts, especially among those who understand the value proposition in a well-engineered premium highway truck. It still has to make money for its owner. You don’t get by on good looks alone anymore.
“Our customers demand more efficiency because the cost of every mile matters more now than ever,” said Anthony Pires, brand manager for Western Star Trucks, when introducing the 57X. “They need increased safety because they need that peace of mind for the task at hand. And let's be real, they deserve every creature comfort we can deliver in our products.”
The 57X offers plenty of all three.
Spec’d to Run
The 57X is targeted at interstate truckload haulers. “As for GWV limitations, we’re targeting anything 80,000 pounds lighter,” said Ryan Major, on-highway product marketing manager. “Anything heavier than that, we're recommending the 49X or 47X, depending on the application.”
That said, Western Star has included the DD16 engine at 600 hp/2,050 lb-ft of torque, along with a 16K steer axle and 46K drive axles, in the 57X data book. With those specs, hauling heavier than 80,000 pounds is still an option for folks in the West and up in Canada.
Also available are the Gen 5 DD13 in ratings from 370-525 hp and 1250-1850 lb-ft, or the Gen 5 DD15 at 425-505 hp and 1550-1850 lb-ft. Cummins is not included in the powertrain options.
Detroit’s DT12 On-Highway Series (direct or overdrive) is the standard transmission, but customers can opt for a 10-, 13-, or 18-speed manual model from Eaton Fuller. However, if you opt for a manual transmission, many of the Detroit Assurance 5.0 options and Detroit’s Intelligent Powertrain Management functionality will be lost.
Detroit drive axles are standard with 21K and 23K single-axles, and 40K-46K tandems of AirLiner suspensions. For steer-axle suspensions, customers can choose from standard taperleaf springs or air-ride options including AirLiner or Hendrickson’s Airtek suspension. Meritor and Dana Spicer supply the drivelines.
Style, Comfort & Functionality
I expected something special from a premium owner-operator-targeted truck from Western Star. The 57X didn’t disappoint. With three comfortable and spacious sleeper options available, customers can choose from 60- or 72-inch mid roof models or the very generous 72-inch Stratosphere high roof model. Gone is the enormous 82-inch option, but Western Star says the 72-inch model actually offers more cubic footage and a more open appearance than the great big bunk from the 5700.
“Even though this sleeper is 10 inches shorter, it’s actually 22% larger by volume compared to the [82-inch] model,” said Major. “There’s more head room and a lot more upper storage area than the 5700, and there’s a little more width in the base area.
“Our estimates suggest the 57X with the 72-inch sleeper will be somewhere around 1,000 pounds lighter than the 5700XE with the 82-inch sleeper,” Major added.
There are storage cabinets in the front portion of the sleeper, which open up to shelf that runs around back wall. When spec’d with the optional side or rear windows, it feels light and roomy inside.
Sleeping accommodations include an optional upper bunk accessible via a telescoping ladder. The single-bunk version can be complemented by the optional Driver’s Lounge dinette table and seats that we first saw in the 2018 Cascadia. With the Lounge option, the bed folds up into the back wall, vastly increasing the amount of functional living space in the sleeper.
Other sleeper options include a cabinet for a fridge, a mount for a flat-screen TV, and a pre-wired microwave cabinet.
If you opt for the optional idle-free battery-operated dual HVAC system, you get a factory-installed inverter with a shore power connection and a bank of four AGM batteries. These, Western Star says, provide up to 10 hours of cooling or 34 hours of heating from the optional Espar or Webasto heaters. Also included with the electric HVAC system is the premium insulation package, which also does a great job of keeping outside noise to a minimum.
Two trim packages are offered: the base model includes Mordura cloth seats, vinyl sleeper upholstery, and black-trim steering wheel switches and gauge bezels. The truck I drove had the premium package with Laredo leather seats, upgraded sleeper upholstery, bright trimmed control accents and upgraded LED lighting. Standard interior color schemes are quarry grey or charcoal black. The premium color scheme is Timber brown.
I like the cab and sleeper interior layout in the 57X. It’s roomy, functional, and easy on the eyes. I could certainly get used to flipping a couple of levers to get the Murphy bed down from its stowed position in the back wall. Having the table and seats back there would be a very welcome treat. There’s sufficient storage easily accessible from the driver’s seat, and it’s really quiet while driving.
Here’s a few other small but noteworthy items about the truck:
- The windshield is now a single piece of glass; it’s 28% larger than the 5700’s and it’s roped for faster replacement time.
- The doors swing open 70 degrees, and there are two sturdy grab handles on the A and B pillars as well as a very sturdy map pocket on the door in case you need another handhold.
- The cab side extenders are a full 24 inches, but the last 8 inches or so are plastic and held on with break-away mounts.
- The steering wheel is now fully adjustable, up and down, fore and aft.
- The headlight lens is heated to melt snow or ice or clear fog on really damp days, something LED lamps can’t do on their own.
In short, the 57X checks all my boxes for a great work environment.
Digital Dash & Detroit Assurance 5.0
Up front you’ll find a new dash panel. There’s a 12-inch glass display in the A panel, and a 10-inch display over on the B panel. All the primary and safety system information displays on the main panel, while a selection of secondary information, as well as the entertainment options and Apple Car Play or Android Auto, display on the smaller touch-screen panel.
With this truck, the digital dash is standard, while an analog dash similar to the one found in the 49X is optional. Western Star says if customers opt for the analog dash, the Detroit Assurance 5.0 display is seamlessly included in the center of the truck’s dash. It still contains all relevant information and displays all warnings and notifications for the driver at a glance.
Optical navigation controls integrated into the steering wheel allow drivers to swipe and click to change vehicle information and entertainment settings without taking their hands off the wheel. Drivers can also swipe their way through the menus on the B-panel display. The icons are large so they’re easy to see, and easy to hit with an extended and unsupported finger.
I didn’t have a lot of time to familiarize myself with the controls or the menus prior to my drive, so I can’t report on how easy it was to use. Exploring it while sitting still led me to believe that once you get used to the placement of the buttons, navigating through the options is easy without looking down at the controls.
I had no difficulty seeing the display in daylight conditions, but I can’t say how it might look at night. Most of the display is black or medium blue in color with the characters in white, so I don’t think it will be too glaring.
There might be a divergence of opinion on this new dash arrangement — and on the Detroit Assurance 5.0 suite in general. Owner-operators, broadly speaking, aren’t widely regarded as early or always willing adopters of such technology.
I found it curious that Western Star gave this active safety technology such a prominent place in the launch of a truck targeted squarely at the market segment least likely to embrace it. That said, in these litigious times, if you’re involved in a crash and don’t have this equipment or something like it, plaintiff’s attorneys will eat you alive. But the intent of the technology is reduce the likelihood of a crash with various interventions, or in the worst case, reduce the severity of an unavoidable crash.
While the Detroit Assurance 5.0 suite figured prominently in my test drive, I have to confess I’m still not sufficiently familiar with all the nuances of the system to pass trustworthy judgment on it.
There were some aspects I liked about it and others I didn’t, but I’ll refrain from elaborating too much because I may not have been using it properly. My two tour guides, Steve Mignardi, vice president of on-highway market development, and Alex Lee, Western Star’s on-highway marketing specialist, coached and cajoled me through various scenarios to demonstrate the system, but some questions remained. What I’m comfortable telling you is that is it works as advertised.
I learned a few new things about the suite during my drive. But I became more convinced than ever that drivers using Detroit Assurance (or any brand’s advanced safety system) would benefit greatly from comprehensive training on its functionality and use.
Daimler has produced a series of driver training videos and an app that allows a driver to plug in the VIN number of a specific truck to bring up training material relevant to that truck.
“Some fleets will have different generations of Detroit Assurance within the fleet, each with their own nuances [and not all fleets spec the full suite],” Mignardi told me. “We tied the training material to the specific truck to avoid confusion and to improve clarity for drivers.”
Western Star tells me that customers can opt out of Detroit Assurance if they are dead-set against it.
“The Detroit Assurance with ABA 5 Suite of Safety Systems comes standard on the Western Star 57X truck. If, for some reason, a buyer does not want to have the industry’s most advanced safety system equipped on their truck, they can deselect the system.”
And with the exception of Active Brake Assist 5 (ABA 5), all Detroit Assurance features can be temporarily disabled, officials told me.
For drivers who prefer to spec a manual drivetrain but would still appreciate the extra measure of safety provided by Detroit Assurance, most features can be included on 57X trucks with manual transmissions. However, there are a few features that differ due to the use of a manual:
- Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) will not operate down to 0 mph, as it would naturally stall at low speeds. The minimum speed down until which ACC will operate is gear dependent.
- Active Lane Assist (ALA) is not available with a manual.
- Brake Hold Mode is not available with a manual.
And due to the missing GPS module contained in the Intelligent Powertrain Management (IPM) module of a DT12 transmission, the following features are not part of Detroit Assurance when you spec a manual transmission:
- Traffic Sign Display
- Active Speed Intervention
Driving the Western Star 57X
I had a couple of hours at the wheel of a 57X during the pre-launch media sneak preview held at the American Center for Mobility near Ypsilanti, Michigan, in early August. The truck I drove had a DD15 505/1750 Gen 5 engine and DT12 transmission. It rode on a 12.5K Detroit Steer axle with taperleaf springs; out back was a 40K Detroit tandem on 40K AirLiner suspension.
Michigan highways are not renowned for their tidy smooth surfaces, but the suspension setup in the 57X did an admirable job taming the ride. Most notable was the solid handling of the truck on the pot-holed surface. I think some of the credit is due to the servo-assisted steering system that enables the Lane-Keep Assist feature. It also reacts to externally imposed steering inputs, such as potholes, and takes much of the jolt out of the steering wheel when you hit one.
That same servo motor, built directly onto the power steering gear, assists with the steering effort at low speeds, like while maneuvering into a dock. It makes that job a whole lot easier, but it stiffens up at highway speed, providing a nice sure-footed feeling to the steering.
There are no hills in that part of Michigan, so I can’t say we gave the DD15 much of a workout. It did a solid job of getting us up to speed, and the engine brake was equally effective at slowing us down for a freeway off-ramp. Other than that, dragging around about 45,000 pounds of baled cardboard didn’t prove very challenging at all for the Gen 5 engine.
Among the features I really liked were the very sturdy C-Loop mirror brackets, the really solid feel to the doors thanks to the top-notch rubber door seals (had to slam the door pretty hard to close it), the fit and finish of the interior, and of course the quiet environment. My truck had the premium insulation package, while likely contributed to the low in-cab noise level. There were, not surprisingly, no squeaks or rattles, no wind noise, and the sound of engine was pleasant.
So, a few final thoughts on the 57X. Aside from the overall recasting of the shape and styling of the truck, Western Star has made a lot of small but thoughtful upgrades to the truck that drivers and fleets are likely to appreciate, even if they don’t jump out at you. Examples include the e-vault firewall-mounted electronic center, the two-piece painted bumper, and window options for the sleeper. There are 12-volt outlets and USB charging ports all over the thing, and the sleeper has dimmable LED lighting.
I think it looks better than the 5700XE it replaces, and the company says the 57X is 5.8% more fuel efficient. How can you argue with that?
Spec Sheet: 2024 Western Star 57X
- Engine: Detroit DD15 Gen 5 505 hp / 1750 lb-ft
- Trans: Detroit DD12 12-speed AMT overdrive
- Front axle: Detroit 12,500 lb on taperleaf springs
- Rear axle: Detroit 40,000 lb tandem drive axle 2.85:1 ratio; Airliner 40K air suspension
- Sleeper: 72-inch Stratosphere high roof
- No-idle battery-powered electric HVAC system
- Driver’s Lounge dinette with fold-down bed
- Premium Timber brown interior with Laredo leather seats
- Full aero package, side skirts, cab fairings, aero bumper
- Detroit Assurance 5.0