There’s just something about looking out over that long nose. Sure, it’s a throwback in an age of sleek, aerodynamic trucks, but driving a long-nose conventional today is trucking’s version of cruising through town in a tricked-out ’55 Chevy. The “cool factor” will turn heads everywhere you go.
Peterbilt understands this, and the long-nose conventional is sacrosanct to the company, its designers, engineers and — of course — its customers.
For years, the Peterbilt Model 389 has been the OEM’s long-nosed flagship. But now, the company has updated the design with the new Model 589 Class 8 tractor.
It’s a truck that takes everything long-nose conventional fans love about the Model 389 and adds a brand-new, modern cab; sleeker, more refined exterior lines; and modern comfort and convenience features designed to keep drivers safe and focused on the road.
“Not everyone in this industry needs an aerodynamic truck,” Jacob White, director of product marketing, Peterbilt, tells me as we prepare to take a gleaming new Model 589 out on the Texas highways.
“We have a lot of customers who spec Model 389s as premium work trucks in small- and regional fleets. And we sell a lot of them into applications where aerodynamics aren’t a must-have feature — wreckers, tankers, work trucks and so on. And so, for us, the beauty of this truck is really tied in with its function. They work hard and perform great. And there’s a very strong residual when the owners decide to sell that really drives their value proposition.”
White says the Model 389 accounts for about 20% of Peterbilt’s annual truck builds, so this is not a niche product by any means.
“It has a large and passionate customer base that care deeply about this truck. And we understood that going into the design of the Model 589.”
All of which means that upgrading a beloved design like the Model 389 was a tricky proposition for Peterbilt designers. They had to modernize and improve the truck but retain the features, look and feel that are almost sacred to its customers.
“We spent over 10 years working on this design,” White says. “If you’re standing in a big, truck stop parking lot, you sometimes can’t tell the difference between it and its Model 389 predecessor. And we’re very happy about that.”
Modern Cab for a Classic Tractor
The key difference between the Model 389 and the new Model 589 is the modern, 2.1-meter cab. This is the latest and most modern cab offered by Paccar — a design that has proven itself for years on Peterbilt Model 579 and Model 567 trucks. It’s both wider and taller than its predecessor on the 389. Modern composite materials make it strong but also extremely quiet on the road.
“Our design theme for this truck was simple,” White explains. “We wanted to deliver a ‘classic’ truck feel with a modern cab that features a comfortable and quiet interior. And we have. You can spec this cab from 36 inches all the way up to our new 80-inch high-rise sleeper.”
Model 589 interiors feature several trim packages in both Sandstone and Alpine Gray color schemes. My test truck was a top-of-the-line Legacy Edition tractor with the Platinum interior trim and the 80-inch high-rise sleeper option. The interior featured heavy brightwork accents on the dashboard along with a handsome, burled-wood steering wheel with integrated controls and two-tone leather seats.
There’s ample storage in the roomy sleeper compartment. Driver-oriented touches include a full-length wardrobe cabinet; dedicated space for a 22-inch, flat-screen TV; a mini-fridge; room for a microwave oven; and what Peterbilt says is the longest mattress in the industry, measuring a full 80 inches in length. The interior features are rounded out with ample power ports throughout the sleeper, a pull-out desk for eating and working, and a large, “belt buckle” Peterbilt logo dominating the back wall.
New visual cues outside the truck include a wide array of bumper options, LED running lamps, 15-inch stainless steel air cleaners, West Coast style rear-view mirrors — “Just like God intended,” White quipped — and the obligatory dual chrome exhaust stacks. New roof components include a new sun visor design and bullet-style marker lights that are twice as bright as the lights found on the Model 389.
There’s a new battery box on the side of the truck as well. It’s fully integrated with access to the truck’s exhaust aftertreatment system and features an easy-access toolbox.
Tough on the Outside, Luxury on the Inside
If you’re a Model 389 fan, climbing up into the new Model 589 is going to be a very familiar and comfortable experience. That long nose is still out front. But visibility is better thanks to a new flat windshield design that is 2 inches taller than its predecessor. The new dash and center console graphics were crisp and clear, even in the bright light of a Texas spring morning.
The 510-hp Paccar MX-13 engine fired right up. The Paccar TX-12 automated transmission didn’t flinch when it came to getting our 65,000-pound trailer moving. The truck accelerated smoothly with slippery-smooth gear shifts and just the right amount of engine rumble bubbling up from the engine compartment.
The interior is surprisingly quiet, even when it’s accelerating at lower speeds. Noise levels at highway speeds are about as good as you’d expect from a high-end passenger car.
The Model 589 is rock-steady on the road. The ride is incredibly smooth and the suspension shrugs off potholes with a casualness bordering on disdain. The truck tracks true both in cruise mode and while braking. Even with that long nose out in front of you, views forward are extremely good. The same holds true to the sides and rear of the truck.
Ergonomically speaking, the Model 589 is like a spaceship compared to a vintage long-nose tractor. The placement, lighting and graphics on the gauges and controls could not be better. Every switch, dial or lever can be quickly identified and reached by the driver. Everything has an intuitive, easy-to-use feel to it.
The Model 589 may look like something from trucking’s Golden Age. But under its skin, it’s about as modern, safe and comfortable a truck as you’re likely to find anywhere. Peterbilt wanted a truck with a classic look and a completely modern interior. And that’s what its engineers have delivered. It’s got the traditional, tried-and-true, two-fisted stance and exterior that its fans love. But in the cab, it’s as modern and downright luxurious as any premium truck on the market today.
If you’re a fan of the Peterbilt Model 389, the new Model 589 is only going to deepen your affection for this class design. It’s everything you’ve always loved about a long-nosed conventional — made even better.