Looking at the International ProStar as it re-enters the Australian truck market, this is clearly an American truck and also clearly a modern truck, but there are also enough cues to the traditional design of trucks, to keep a retro feel. The US, it seems, will never move away from the maxi-brake, no matter how old hat it becomes. A modern electronic switch can have just as many failsafe systems.
However, this is what the conservative US truck driver likes, and also what a lot of conservative truckies in Australia also hang onto. Just look at the dominance of Kenworth in the heavy vehicle market to demonstrate how strong the sentiment is for a traditional style.
Outwardly, the ProStar doesn’t have a look which suggests the traditional aspect of the truck. It is a swept back aerodynamic design which has been shaped to save fuel, and it clearly does. The LED lights make for a contemporary look to go with the clean lines.
However, the vertical bars in the grille suggest past designs and the mirrors are hardly cutting edge, although they do have an aerodynamic shape. There is a vertical exhaust up the back of the cabin, but it is masked by the high sleeper and the aero kit on the trailing edge of the cabin.
The interior is modern with the sweeping grey lines of the 21st century. The controls are from an older generation. The dials and switches are the standard US style, plus there’s the maxis, which will never change. The entertainment system has a large bright and modern style, most likely a retrofit in Australia.
The instruments straight in front of the driver sit on a white background and are well arranged in a semi-circle but hardly contemporary. The LCD information screen is small and positioned low down with minimal information, the gear engaged, a trip meter, odometer and the outside temperature.
Expecting more from a truck like the ProStar is to misunderstand where it comes from. This truck was designed by Navistar to compete directly with the all-conquering Freightliner Cascadia in the US market. It needed to be light cheap and fuel efficient to suit the big fleets of North America who chase low fuel consumption above anything else. In the US, the ProStar, now named the LT, is usually fitted with a 13 litre International engine and sold as a basic spec in large numbers.
The Navistar team based in Dandenong in Victoria have taken the elements available to them in the International catalogue and come up with a truck which gets close to where the Aussie truck buyer wants to be.
The driveline is familiar and capable of handling the job. The cabin is well-designed and a comfortable place to spend the night. The bunk in a B-double prime mover is rarely spacious, but International have done their best with the dimensions available. The design seems to be sensible and pragmatic, with items like the fold-away controller for the AMT.
This truck is a good solid performer. It works well without fuss and is predictable. The ride is excellent with the Primaax air suspension making the best of rough roads like the uncompleted sections of the Pacific Highway. It has the North American look without the disadvantages like non-integrated sleeper or high levels of wind drag.
This is not a hero truck, in the US the LoneStar does that job for International, and that model is not coming here any time soon. This is the hardworking prime mover which will ply the highways day and night and it has the driveline to do the job with minimal fuss.
The overall impression is of a truck which does the job, but is not going to set the world on fire. It has a number of things going for it. It is an International, and that still counts for something in Australia. It’s also a conventional, this also counts for something in Australia, and also improves aerodynamic performance.
The entire design has been created to minimise fuel burn, and all indications are this set-up is not too thirsty, but newer frugal models are arriving in the marketplace all of the time. The driveline fitted in this truck is close to the default options for many fleets, when buying trucks from truck brands without proprietary drivelines.
Could it set the world on fire? It is hard to tell, but putting this product out into, what is already, a very competitive marketplace is going to be hard work. It’s all about getting the truck out there in the right numbers, the right locations and in the right condition. At least we know the truck itself can do the job with little fuss, that’s step one.