YPSILANTI, Mich. — If brushed metal interior accents, digital displays, and the latest safety and connected technology sounds like an ad for a luxury SUV, think bigger. A lot bigger. Like Class 8.
On Tuesday, Western Star, the off-highway-focused brand of Daimler Truck North America, revealed the third vehicle in its X-Series lineup — the on-highway 57X that oozes luxury appointments.
It replaces the 5700XE model, introduced in late 2014 and little changed over the years.
The order window opens in the coming months. Full production begins in January in Cleveland, North Carolina. That’s the home plant of the 47X and 49X vocational trucks.
Toe-to-toe with Volvo
The 57X is not new from the ground up, but it may as well be.
It targets the owner-operator and business-oriented small fleet owner. They could drive a well-appointed Freightliner Cascadia, which shares a common chassis. But with the spacious, all-aluminum, steel-reinforced cab common with its siblings, the 57X is meant to stand apart. Its small production volume compared to the Class 8 market-leading Cascadia assures it.
Think of the 57X buyer versus a nicely specced Cascadia buyer like comparing the buyer of a Porsche to one of a Corvette. Both get the driver somewhere in a hurry. But the Porsche is, well, a German-engineered marvel. A feature-packed angular mid-engine Corvette is still, in its heart, a track and street beast.
Or consider full-size pickup trucks. Though they share practically everything under the sheet metal, you need to trick out a Chevrolet Silverado to match the standard content of a GMC Sierra.
The 57X has one head-to-head competitor: the Volvo VNL. Both start with a level of feature content that other trucks match only through pricey options.
Western Star dipped deep into alliteration to label its X-Series the “Trilogy of Tough.” The marketers also got into the act, describing the 57X as connected, confident and comfortable. But what does that mean?
“It shares the DNA of the X-Series,” Steve Mignardi, DTNA vice president of on-highway trucks, said at a July 27 media event at the American Center for Mobility about an hour west of Detroit. “It’s bold. It’s rugged. And it’s fused with the best on-highway platform that Daimler provides.”
While the Cascadia offers in-house Detroit engines and optional powertrains from Cummins, the 57X offers only Detroit’s DD13, DD15 and heavy-haul DD16. The power coverage overlaps enough to eliminate the need for a gap filler. Western Star pays homage to the old school by offering a manual transmission and the DT12 direct or overdrive automated manual transmission.
As an on-highway truck, the 57X needs fewer work options than the other X-Series models. Its 129-inch bumper-to-back-of-cab configuration is the longest of the X-Series.
It gets the three-piece aerodynamic hood and bumper with air ducts from its brethren. Chassis side fairings with flexible skirts help close gaps between cab and chassis, and add to aerodynamic efficiency. The single-piece windshield is 28% larger than on the 5700XE.
Axles are set back. Cab styles include daycab, a 60-inch mid roof and 72-inch mid roof or stratosphere. The copiously spacious cab from the X49 and X47 eliminated the need for the 5700’s 82-inch sleeper. The 72-inch sleeper shaves an estimated 1,000 pounds compared to the longer sleeper cab, said Ryan Major, DTNA manager of highway truck marketing.
“Even though it’s 10 inches shorter, the volume has actually increased,” he said. “The volume will be about 22% larger than the previous 5700s.”
The Detroit Assurance 5.0 safety and advanced driver assistance system that debuted on the 2020 model New Cascadia finds its way into the 57X, replacing the Wabco OnGuard system from the 5700XE.
Heated LED headlamps carry over from the family.
Optional content for aero gains
The 57X doesn’t make everything standard.
For example, the Stoneridge video mirror system, which can replace the bulky 50-inch outside mirrors and add a mile per gallon of fuel savings, is a $5,000 add-on. DTNA pre-wires the 57X for aftermarket installation but requires the owner to take responsibility for removing the legally required outside mirrors.
Aerodynamic chrome drive wheel covers from Flow Below as well as custom sleeper cabs, bumper guards and solar panels are also available.
Like the Cascadia, the 57X focuses on fuel economy. Aero and powertrain efficiency combine to boost fuel savings by 5.8%.
The 57X may be the worst-kept secret among new Class 8 trucks in a long time.
DTNA inadvertently revealed its existence in April as part of a recall for a defect in which part of the hood could become unglued and fall off. A few company-owned 57X salable models used in testing were caught up with sibling 47X and 49X trucks. Companies build prototype, non-salable and salable trucks before regular production begins.
Last October, the company canceled 200 to 300 orders for the 5700XE as part of an industry wide problem: accepting orders it could not build because of supply chain disruptions. DTNA said then that the cancellations were related to the discontinuation of the 5700XE at the end of 2021.
“At that time, we couldn’t tell [customers]. We were trying to keep this a secret and we always want to go for the big bang when we release these,” Major said. “We were kind of leading them on that something’s coming. Just hang tight.”
FreightWaves was the first to report the canceled orders, weeks before all manufacturers began to retime 2022 model orders for 2023, or cancel them outright as in Alex Kholb’s case.
Customers with dropped orders are at the front of the line when the 57X goes on sale later this year, a Daimler spokesman said
Kholb, who alerted FreightWaves to his cancellation, received few details when contacted by his dealer.
“The biggest vague thing was they were not sure what the pricing would be but stated Daimler did want to make it right to those customers and price it close or at the same price as last time,” Kholb told FreightWaves.
The purchase agreement for Kholb’s new 2022 model 5700XE listed a price of $165,497. DTNA does not talk about pricing or set a manufacturer’s retail price. Practically every model is specced at dealerships based on a customer’s needs and desires.
Test drive impressions
A couple of laps of the ACM ‘s 2.5-mile on-highway track found the interior of the 57X had a conversation-holding quiet interior, not quite the library quiet of an electric powertrain but none of the harshness and vibration of most Class 8 cabs.
Optional lane-keep assist is much improved from a 2019 on-road test drive experience in Florida. The lateral control system is much less obvious, even though lane departure warning remains a bit obnoxious by design. Adaptive cruise control that decelerates to zero will restart after a pause of less than two seconds but requires a nudge of the acceleration after a longer stop.
I took my hands off the wheel and foot off the throttle to experience self-driving, which is not recommended. But it works. Using the middle of three engine brake settings made a curved off-ramp a simple undertaking.
The fully telescoping steering wheel is the only carryover component from the 5700XE, and even that now has fingertip controls for a scrolling and programmable curved digital dash. The buttons for lighting and other functions are clustered by function below a screen that displays various truck functions.
For a non-CDL holder who spends little time in the cab of a Class 8 big rig, it was nice to see the 57X added a grab handle to the left of the cab as an additional tool for three-point entries and exits. A reinforced map pocket also serves as a grip if needed. And the C-shape integrated outside mirrors will support 300 pounds.
Radio speakers moved from the dash to the doors, where they are on most cars and light trucks.