After a big presentation in 2015, the Western Star 2800 seems to have become a soft sell truck. It had disappeared from the radar, before reappearing last year, in the Penske Truck Rental colours. Diesel News puts the conventional light heavy rigid through its paces.
By bringing the Western Star 2800SS model into the Australian truck market through its own in-house rental fleet, Penske Commercial Vehicles seems to be taking a softly, softly approach to introducing the new model. 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 most competitive are the four Japanese brands, who all offer an array of choices at 6×2. None of them have a bonnet, though. This distinguishing feature has a lot of history in Australia and is attractive to many truck buyers.
Strong growth for the Japanese manufacturers and their pragmatic-but-reliable trucks – followed by an increasing share for European trucks – has seen the traditional preference for a truly North American truck decline in some sectors of the market.
What Western Star has here is a truly North American truck with a decent pedigree and adapted to meet the needs of the trucking industry in Australia. This is a US truck through and through, and it comes from a brand that has a reputation for uncompromisingly sticking to the North American truck philosophy.
What Exactly Is It?
The 2800SS is a Western Star version of the Freightliner M2 Business Class, a truck sold in large numbers in the US. Built in the Freightliner plant at Mount Holly in North Carolina, the M2 Business Class sells in big numbers – around 50,000 each year. It is the staple 4×2 truck sold in the US medium-duty market by Freightliner, and sells as a 6×2 to a certain extent. Its main contender for sales is a similarly styled International, the Durastar, as well as the bonneted Hino from the US, the 600 Series.
This 2800 is very much the same truck for the Australian market. The bonnet is different; it has been styled to suit a Western Star, with a more upright radiator grille and the large Star badge dead centre. It looks a bit beefier than its US sibling.
The standard truck brought into Australia is the 6×2, with a few 4x2s added into the mix. The lazy axle is not an aftermarket add-on, but fitted on the production line at Mount Holly.
In the majority of cases, the trucks have gone into the Penske Truck Rental Fleet, where they join the larger prime movers, MANs and Western Stars, all of which are sourced from Penske brands., They are, however, available for sale in Australia and have been sold to customers.
“Anyone can walk into a Western Star Trucks dealership and buy a 2800SS,” says Kevin Dennis, Managing Director of Penske Commercial Vehicles. “We have stock on the ground.”
It is fair to say this truck sits at the lighter end of the 6×2 segment. The Cummins ISB 6.7-litre engine puts out 280–350hp (206–239kW) at 2,300rpm and 705–976Nm (520–720 ft lb) of torque at a similar rpm level. This kind of power is a little below the levels offered by the Japanese opposition, but at an acceptable level for the kind of work it will be doing.
This power and torque drives through an Allison 3000 RDS Auto gearbox. The controller is the simple push-button one, preferred by those manufacturers building a no-nonsense truck.
The front and rear axles come from Detroit. This is pretty much standard across the Freightliner range in the US, but not seen so much here in Australia.