One look at this truck tells what it is - a big hauler of large and dense loads - and what it's not - a posh over-the-road freighter.
Yet Mack's Titan is surprisingly quiet, comfortable and civilized, confirming that it's a modern machine little like the heavy haulers of 20 or 30 years ago. It's built only with a titan-sized engine, the 16.1-liter MP10 diesel with up to 605 horsepower and 2,060 pounds-feet of torque.

When Mack executives unveiled the Titan early last year, they recalled a predecessor, the RW Super-Liner, which came with a 998-cubic-inch E9 V-8 whose top rating was 500 horsepower. The modern 984-cubic-inch MP10 engine will produce 105 more horsepower and its exhaust will be 99.9 percent cleaner, said Steve Ginter, the builder's vocational segment product manager who headed the team that designed the new model. Titan is "our flagship, the top of the top," Ginter declared proudly.

The big new engine - the largest ever in a Mack truck - is an adaptation of the D16 offered by Volvo Trucks, Mack's sister company. But in a bit of one-upmanship, its top rating claims 5 more horsepower and 10 more pounds-feet than Volvo's version. Like other current Mack and Volvo diesels, the MP10 is made by Volvo Powertrain in Hagerstown, Md., while the Titan itself is assembled at Macungie, Pa.

There's a resemblance to Volvo's VT 800 series, which uses the D16 and the Cummins ISX. But there'll be no Cummins in the Titan or any other Mack model. By contrast, Titan's immediate predecessor, the CL, was powered only by the 15-liter ISX, because the E9 was long gone and Mack had no other big-bore engine.

It sure does now.

And it's got chrome and polished metal - gobs of it! Shiny finishes are on the "growler" air cleaner canisters, the sunvisor, 6-inch-diameter dual exhaust stacks, metal bumper with integrated driving lights, a stainless steel cover for the diesel particulate filter, and the tanks and steps. The large grille surround and headlight bezels are fashioned of chromed cast aluminum. "This is metal," Ginter declared from the intro's podium at the Con Ag/Con Expo show in Las Vegas. "We don't put plastic on the front of our trucks."

High and Mighty

Almost a year later, Mack made a Titan available for qualified editors during a recent industry meeting in Orlando. Hosting the drives were Dave McKenna, director of powertrain sales and marketing, and spokesman John Walsh. We met on a Saturday afternoon at Nextran Truck Center, the Mack dealer in the region. Once done with admiring all the chrome, I noticed that it's a long climb up to the cab. The first step is 23 inches off the pavement, the second is 21 and the third, to the cab floor, is another 17.5 inches up. That's because the cab sits high on the frame to aid air movement over the sometimes-hot engine just ahead.

Indeed, the entire truck sits high to allow plenty of ground clearance as it trundles over bare earth at job sites and rough logging and mining trails. Those are Titan's primary intended duties, and the first ones produced went to a coal hauler in Kentucky, McKenna said. The big tractor was shined up and hitched to a three-axle lowboy toting a Volvo front-end loader, because heavy equipment hauling is another intended vocation. Ray Erskine, a driver for Spiff Services, had taken care of that.

A Titan can be built for gross combination weights of 300,000 pounds, but anything over 80,000 means oversize and/or overweight permits, which the Mack folks wanted to avoid for this demonstration. Besides, Erskine said, you can't pull a permitted load on weekends in Florida. So our GCW was a mere 72,800 pounds. That was almost no weight for the 605-horse MP10, and I was hardly aware of the load, except of course for our overall length and watching where the trailer's wheels were during turns.

We departed and followed a route suggested by Erskine: west on the nearby 528 tollway a couple of miles to Interstate 4, southwest to U.S. 27, north to U.S. 192, east to I-4, and then a return to the dealership on Landstreet Road. That was about 100 easy miles, and it was uneventful except for the fun of chatting with McKenna, who was in the shotgun seat, and the pleasure of driving the Titan.

On the Road

The gearbox was an Eaton Fuller RTLO-20918B, an 18-speed that operated smoothly. I generally drove it like a 13, ignoring Low gear and shifting through 1st to 4th, then splitting 5th through 8th in High range, or like a 9-speed, ignoring the splitter switch. I tried to upshift progressively, below 1,500 in Low range and by 1,700 or 1,800 in the top gears.

The lever was a little rubbery going into the 4th/8th position, but I got used to it and then enjoyed it, floating the gears without the clutch some of the time. The tach said top-gear (18th-ratio) cruise speed was a lazy 1,360 rpm at 60 mph and 1,460 at 65, where hefty torque (as much as 2,060 pounds-feet) kept us rolling.

With the windows up the cab was very quiet, much more than I expected for a big ol' work truck, but of course it's absolutely modern and engineers had spent a lot of time attending to noise, vibration and harshness. Actually, I'd like to have heard more sounds from that big diesel, but cracking open a window let in some of the tunes from the exhaust stacks. There was enough weight on the fifth wheel to settle down any jouncing there might be in the tandem, and pavement in most cases was smooth, and so was the ride.

The galvanized-steel cab comes from the Granite vocational series. Its interior was nicely appointed in gray tones contrasted with faux wood facing on the instrument panels. All gauges and controls were well laid out and easy to see and use. I liked the simple design of the steering wheel - two parallel spokes at the 3 and 9 o'clock locations circled by a thick leather-wrapped rim. Cruise control and other switches were near the hub. The steering column was multi-adjustable and, along with multiple settings available in the comfortable driver's seat, I easily found the right positioning for me.

The high-mounted cab and large windows gave a good view of the road. I expected the tall, wide hood to block my view to the right, but it didn't. That's because the hood's edges are rounded, McKenna said. Each mirror had two panes, one of them with a convex surface, so I could effectively peer downward and to the rear. This was a daycab with a large window in the rear wall, so to run over something you almost have to do it on purpose.

This Titan had a 20,000-pound steer axle and beefy 425-series tires, which limit wheel cut. So tight turns must be planned for or maneuvered through with a series of ups and backs, as I found out while doing a U-turn. This is a tradeoff presented by any heavy hauling truck or tractor with this type of front end. And heavy hauling is the point of the Titan. A short 42-inch compartment is the only sleeper option now offered.

So, this is no "large car" with a long-and-tall sleeper and all the other OTR finery. If you want that kind of Mack, you'd pick a Pinnacle with Rawhide trim and set it up with a 70-inch sleeper. But if you're hauling lots of logs, coal, dirt or rock and will spend a lot of time off the pavement, and you want a Bulldog on the nose, then Titan's the one for you.

From the June 2009 issue of Heavy Duty Trucking.