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Classic Mack, the Anthem hits all the right notes

When Mack Trucks first introduced the Anthem in 2017, it was to fill a perceived gap that existed in its lineup. The reality was Mack had an over-the-road tractor, the Pinnacle, but it just had not resonated with fleets and drivers the way the manufacturer had hoped. Successful, yes, but the company felt the need to develop a true long-haul tractor.

So Mack did something about it. It rethought the way an over-the-road truck should look and perform, but most importantly, the way it should become a home for drivers spending days or even weeks away from home. The Anthem was a smashing success with sales by mid-2018 doubling the number of on-highway Mack models sold in all of 2017.

Mack officials have pointed to the driver-centric focus in the design as a key. Start with the one-piece 70-inch standup sleeper (the vehicle is also available in 48-inch flat top sleeper and day cab configuration). The one-piece roof creates a solid, leak-proof sleeper. Mack eliminated the window in the sleeper roof, citing driver feedback that found they didn’t like to have to cover all the windows for a good night’s sleep. There are two side windows with screens to allow air to flow in, but keep rain out, and they also include aircraft-style built-in shades to completely seal out light.

Featuring a 70-inch stand up sleeper with a 6-foot, 11-inch roof, the Anthem provides enough room for a driver well over 6-feet tall to easily stand up out of the driver’s seat and walk to the rear of the sleeper. (Photo: Mack Trucks)

The 70-inch sleeper provides 12 inches of additional headroom (6-foot, 11-inch height) above the driver’s seat, allowing drivers well over 6-feet tall to easily stand up and walk to the back of the sleeper, which has an interior roof height of 7 feet, 11 inches. The sleeper can be outfitted with either a single or double bunk. Storage is ample throughout with three under-bunk storage bins complementing smaller storage bins located throughout the cab. There is enough room inside the sleeper to fit 18,000 golf balls in its 27 cubic feet of space, depending on configuration.

Other options include cabinets with a pullout work surface, wardrobe space, shelving, TV prep kit, refrigerator and microwave hookups. Little touches, such as controls for heating and air conditioning, are included in the sleeper as well as in the dash, and controls for the all-LED lighting (both inside and out) on the vehicle are conveniently located throughout the cab and sleeper. There are six dome lamps, pipe lighting, task and reading lamps, red wash lighting and red ambient floor lighting, all dimmable. There are even in-dash USB chargers for phones and tablets to recharge while driving.

The rear of the Anthem sleeper compartment includes either a single or double bunk option, along with ample storage bins, a foldout work station, optional TV and microwave hookups, and heating and air conditioning controls. Inside and out, the vehicle includes all-LED lighting. (Photo: Mack Trucks)

Improving the driving experience

In the cab area, drivers will find oversized cup holders for those larger drinks, along with additional storage areas for smaller items. Mack partnered with Sears Seating for 30 different combinations of seat styles and fabric options to improve driver comfort. Power windows, doors and mirrors bring a touch of the automotive feel to the Anthem.

Drivers are responsible for safely navigating the highways, but also for the condition of their vehicles before they hit the road. To help with pre-trip inspections, there is a Pre-Trip Assistant that is part of the optional 7-inch infotainment package. The Pre-Trip Assistant provides a checklist of tasks and will turn on all exterior lighting – including brakes – so drivers can easily walk around the vehicle and ensure all are in working order.

The cab of the Mack Anthem is designed to put all the primary controls within the driver’s reach. This includes infotainment controls on an automotive-style steering wheel. (Photo: Brian Straight/FreightWaves)

An ergonomically designed dash puts all the key information in front of the driver. Gauges on the instrument panel have been positioned higher for better driver visibility, while HVAC controls and the Mack mDrive automated manual transmission (AMT) shift pad have been relocated closer to the driver’s fingertips.

Rocker switches are laser-etched so they remain readable as they wear from use. Standard options include a tilt and telescopic steering column, digital analog gauges, air suspension driver’s seat, stalk-mounted engine brake controls and a standard 5-inch full-color Co-Pilot display, which was updated in 2017. Co-Pilot provides drivers with a convenient way to monitor vehicle information, including engine and oil temperatures, trip odometers, after-treatment status, tire pressures and more.

The steering wheel features a unique flat bottom to provide another few inches of space when getting into and out of the seat. The steering wheel also features automotive-style controls with phone and cruise control on the left-hand side. The infotainment package interfaces with the steering wheel buttons and includes satellite and weather band radio, TomTom navigation, Apple CarPlay and optional backup camera. An optional D-panel offers four auxiliary gauges. (If the D-panel is not installed, that space becomes storage and the gauges are included in the standard 5-inch Mack Co-Pilot display).

Other standard features include dual grab handles for three points of contact on entry and exit, aerodynamic side mirrors with built-in convex mirrors, close-out flange between the bumper and fenders, non-slip anti-ice entry steps, covered tow loops and a bold black exterior trim package.

Optional features include information and entertainment panels, microwave and TV prep kits, swivel seats, heated hood and side mirrors, factory-installed refrigerator, dimmable lighting and a Mack Powerleash engine brake.

Designed for work

As much as the Mack Anthem is designed to improve a driver’s life on the road, it is also a work truck offering power aplenty to handle any over-the-road task.

The base configuration features Mack MP7 (11-liter), MP8 (13-liter) or MP8-TC (13-liter) engines with horsepower ranges from 325 to 505 and torque output ranging from 1,260 lbs.-feet to 1,860 lbs.-ft. Transmission options include the Mack automated manual mDrive or mDrive HD, an Allison 4000 Series automatic, or Maxitorque ES and Eaton-Fuller manual transmissions.

Just behind the steering wheel and in easy sight for the driver, the Anthem features a display that provides a driver with key powertrain information, including speed, rpms, continuously updated fuel mileage and engine load. (Photo: Brian Straight/FreightWaves)

Fleets will like the efficient powertrain – up to a 3 percent increase in fuel efficiency over a Pinnacle model with a GHG17 Mack MP engine – and the connectivity, including Mack’s GuardDog and Mack Connect solutions, that will speed repairs and boost uptime.

The MP8-TC features Mack’s turbo compounding technology that captures lost energy and converts it into power, offering highway customers up to an 8.8 percent improvement in fuel economy over the Pinnacle Axle Back without sacrificing power.

FreightWaves experienced the Anthem’s fuel efficiency and performance during a three-day test drive in late 2018. Six Anthem sleepers with fully loaded trailers, each spec’d slightly differently and with a rotating cast of drivers, drove from Asheville, North Carolina to New Orleans and achieved an overall fuel economy of just over 8 miles per gallon (mpg) for the three days. A few of the vehicles, those with the turbo compounding engine, consistently achieved over 10 mpg.

Proprietary Mack, Meritor or Dana axles are available, and the base models come standard with the Mack mRide suspension.

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Of course, maintenance is a big concern for fleets, and Mack has done its part to reduce unnecessary costs. No longer will drivers clip off a mirror as spring-loaded mounts allow mirrors to rotate when hit, preventing damage to them and the cab.

The hood is a three-piece aerodynamic design with a one-point easy-open feature to make accessing the engine easier. A three-piece aerodynamic bumper allows for easy replacement of corners without the need to replace the entire bumper – saving both time and money. The same can be said for the two-piece windshield that comes standard.

Safety and aerodynamics

The Anthem is Mack’s most aerodynamic tractor ever built, even as it maintains classic Mack styling. Redesigned roof and chassis fairings help the vehicle achieve its fuel-efficiency boost over the Pinnacle model. The chiseled design pushes air around the vehicle, rather than over it.

Standard safety features include the Bendix Wingman Fusion collision avoidance system and Mack Bendix Roll Stability Advantage system. A Bendix stability system is an option as is the Mack Powerlease engine brake.


Brian Straight

Brian Straight leads FreightWaves' Modern Shipper brand as Managing Editor. A journalism graduate of the University of Rhode Island, he has covered everything from a presidential election, to professional sports and Little League baseball, and for more than 10 years has covered trucking and logistics. Before joining FreightWaves, he was previously responsible for the editorial quality and production of Fleet Owner magazine and Brian lives in Connecticut with his wife and two kids and spends his time coaching his son’s baseball team, golfing with his daughter, and pursuing his never-ending quest to become a professional bowler. You can reach him at