In a soft sell approach, by bringing a truck in through the back door, the Western Star 2800SS model’s entry into the Australian truck market through Penske’s-house rental fleet, is a softly, softly approach. The trucks may be on our streets with Penske blue stripes on the body, but they are available to the average truck buyer through Penske dealerships.
The low-level entry of the new model is probably well advised. This model is sitting in the most competitive segment of the Australian truck market, one of the most competitive in the world. Up to 20 brands are fighting it out for market share here, and most of them have a model to compete as a 6×2 rigid distribution truck.
The 2800 is simple, no-nonsense, and does the job it’s designed to do. This is exactly what the US truck market desires from a medium-duty truck. We expect more from our trucks, and Western Star has specced this model up well above the kind of sparse cabin interior provided in the US.
The model used in the Diesel News test drive has a 315hp version of the ISB engine, the same engine sold on the US market today. It’s compliant with ADR 80/04, the emission rule slated to come into force in 2020 or later. It uses EGR and SCR, there is a 49-litre AdBlue tank alongside the 302-litre diesel tank.
The cabin is set low to the ground, ideal for drivers that are in and out of the cab all day. Being a conventional layout, the cabin floor is at chassis height. Open the door, climb up a couple of easy-to-climb, set-back steps, and the driver is ensconced in the cabin. There is a large handle on the outside and the inside of the B pillar, pull up and drop into the driver’s seat. The A pillar lacks a handle, as the cabin was designed as a left-hand drive. There is one on the passenger side.
Firing up the 6.7-litre engine and selecting ‘drive’ is simple enough. Then off comes the maxibrake – not so familiar in this size of truck. Hit the accelerator, and go. This truck is simple to drive and wouldn’t be too daunting for someone with little knowledge of truck driving.
The low driving position, combined with excellent visibility through the well designed, curved windscreen and large rear-view mirrors, makes for a good all-round picture. This is only improved by the dash-mounted monitor and an effective and clear reversing camera.
The six-speed Allison is plenty – the truck moves smoothly up though the gears, with minimal interruption of power. This kind of truck spends much of its life going from traffic light to traffic light. It’s simply a matter of hitting the go button, then the stop button, and so on.
This is a workhorse truck. There is no need for added sophistication. The driver is in and out of the cabin all of the time, and the working day, or night, normally ends with a return to depot.
Western Star has added some creature comforts to the interior. Between the seats for the driver and passenger is a useful module standing at a decent height. On top, it has an incongruous seat, with no seat belt. Lift this to reveal a well-sized storage bin.
There are also two sizeable drinks holders, plus another for odds and ends, mobiles, etc. Underneath, with front-facing access, is another large bin. In the middle of the dash, at knee height, are two more-substantial drinks holders.
The dashboard itself is basic, but more than adequate. In the centre of the truck, the top two air vents are either side of a double DIN entertainment unit. Below this is a sparse formation of switches, for less regularly used items like the DPF and suspension dump, plus the only controls to open and close the electric windows. Closer to the steering wheel, we find the controller for the auto box.
Directly in front of the driver is a clear and concise dash array, with LCD information screen at the top, speedometer and tachometer below and oil and water gauges to the left. The right-hand side has fuel and AdBlue levels, and two air pressure gauges. It’s all well laid out and simple to read. To the right of the steering column, we find the cruise control and light switches. One steering column stalk handles the indicators and wipers.