Driving New Cascadia

Diesel News’ US Correspondent, Steve Sturgess, driving New Cascadia from Freightliner in the US, took the truck on a 125-mile route heading out into the Mojave Desert to the south of Las Vegas, then looping back around to join the main artery into Las Vegas from the south (Interstate-15). This loop encountered Interstate and two-lane driving and a significant climb over the mountains at Crescent Peak. The Cascadia is scheduled for introduction into the Australian market, in the next couple of years.

This requires a stiff pull up from the desert floor at around 2,000 ft (600 m) to close to 5,000 ft (1,500 m) and a long and relatively steep downgrade which was a good test for the three-position engine brake on the 400-hp/1,750-lb-ft (300 kW/2,372 Nm) DD 15 engine.

The fuel economy was not rigorously tested but we did take readings from the dash which showed a remarkable 9.6 mpg (24.5 l/100km) at the turn in Searchlight. This had deteriorated to 7.2 mpg (32.7 l/100km) when we did a driver change after scaling the mountain, still very creditable. We did a driver change with the second truck going from a 6 x 2 to a 6 x 4 yet despite this managed to roll back into the Resort hotel with a 10.2 mpg (23 l/100 km) on the dash.

Most impressive is the low noise level at cruising speeds of 65 mph (105 km/h). At full bore, the noise rises only about 2db(A) on my test meter to a 62 db(A) reading. The new door seal and quiet package really do the job. Also the softer ride for the front suspension contributes to the comfortable driver environment.

The really cool thing about the revised control layout with the controls on the steering wheel and the adaptive cruise control, it’s possible to drive without using other hand or foot-operated controls, maybe with exception of the retarder. But even this is located on the manual override shift on the steering column. Being able to dial in the three levels of retardation made negotiating the steep downgrade from Crescent Peak a safe, fade-free experience despite being at the States’ rather silly 36-tonne gross combination weight.

The two interior trim levels , Elite and Professional, provide driver-friendly comfort with either easy clean-out or car-like levels of luxury accommodation. The automated DT 12 transmission makes progress down the road both easy and safe, allowing you to concentrate on the size of the truck and its position on the road without the complication of shift decisions and the practice of shifting.

The removal of the windshield splitter and the side-glass channel may seem trivial, but on the road count for much improved visibility. And the repositioning of the new mirrors also gives a comprehensive view to the rear, complemented by available bonnet-mounted safety mirrors.

The new Cascadia features a new layout of gauges and switches in the driver compartment to a more convenient configuration in the sleeper area, including a new Driver’s Loft configuration.

The wraparound dashboard includes switches and more steering wheel controls to allow drivers to work without leaning and stretching. In the instrument cluster, digital smart gauges and driver selectable information displays keep drivers involved as they drive.

Improving on the Classic Cascadia Evolution, one of the quietest trucks on the road in the US, the new Cascadia is even quieter, thanks to new noise abatement technology in door sealing and sound deadening materials. To further improve the truck’s interior sound level, Freightliner engineers have developed an optional insulation package using 3M Thinsulate technology.

Additionally, a new engine mount design provides better vibration isolation and the engine tunnel cover is now constructed using Quiet Steel technology.

Available in a variety of cab configurations, the new Cascadia is all about customisable living-space options to address the realities of drivers while they’re on the road. The sleeper area has been redesigned to include more cabinets, as well as larger spaces to accommodate standard appliances.

For entertainment, a television swivel bracket can hold up to a 26-inch flat panel TV. Double-bunk and dinette options are also available. A new cargo shelf option allows drivers to store containers or duffle bags easily. If an upper bunk is spec’d, it will come standard with an easily released telescoping ladder, making getting into the upper bunk much easier than the step built into the cabinets.

A new sleeper design, the Driver‘s Loft, features a dinette table/work table and opposing seating set at an angle so that legs won’t tangle under the table. Table and cushions can easily be folded down flat to allow for a murphy-style bed to swing down in as little as six seconds in the launch demonstration. The Driver’s Loft also comes standard with aircraft-inspired LED ambient lighting on a dimmer switch so drivers can set their own light levels.

Cascadia’s all-LED lighting includes the low beam, high beam, daytime running lamp, park lamp and turn signal lamp. All LED provides an impressive field of view in nighttime and bad weather conditions, says Freightliner.

The one-piece windshield design increases wiper coverage by 12 per cent over the current Cascadia, and is specially constructed to provide increased resistance to breakage. Both the one-piece windshield and one-piece door glass provide an unobstructed view to the mirror and road.

What is the most significant feature of the new Cascadia? My response was, who are you asking? Maintenance staff will respond to one feature; drivers to another. New owners will like the operational opportunities from the new connectivity. And everyone will love the eight per cent jump in fuel economy. The real success of the new model is not the new, sharper styling but all the fleet-wide deliverables under that sharper look.