Slope-Hood International WorkStar Offers Nice View Ahead

By Tom Berg, Truck Editor | November 2, 2012
Slope-Hood International WorkStar Offers Nice View Ahead

The sloped hood on International’s WorkStar 7600 was first shown off at the World of Concrete show more than two years ago, but only now is becoming available. Curiously, it’s not obvious when viewed alone or even alongside a regular WorkStar. Get behind the wheel and look through the windshield, though, and you’ll see a big difference. The hood all but disappears, and you can see things on the ground much closer to the truck.

That was my experience during a recent Navistar International sales-training event in the Utah desert west of Salt Lake City. The company hosted nearly 800 dealer personnel for a Vocational Boot Camp where sales people were briefed on Navistar’s and competitors’ trucks and components to learn advantages and disadvantages of all of them. That way they can more effectively sell their products.

Workstar 7600 Test Set

  • Truck: 2010 International WorkStar 7600 SBA (setback axle) daycab, BBC 113 in., GVW 79,200 lb., w/ outside C-channel frame reinforcement
  • Engine: Navistar MaxxForce 13, 12.4 liters (758 cu. in.), 475 hp @ 2,100 rpm, 1,700 lb.-ft. @ 1,000 rpm
  • Transmission: Eaton Ultrashift Plus FO-17E308LL 10-speed automated
  • Front axle: 20,000-lb. Meritor MFS-20-133A w/ Sheppard M-100/M-80 dual hydraulic power steering, on parabolic taperleafs
  • Lift axle: 13,200-lb. Watson & Chalin SL 1190 Tru-Track Aluminite self-steering
  • Drive axles: 46,000-lb. Meritor RT46-170HP, w/ 4.78 ratio and locking diffs, on Hendrickson HMX-460-54 walking beam
  • Wheelbase: 226 inches
  • Brakes: Meritor Q+ S-cam w/ Haldex slack adjusters and long-stroke chambers, w/ Bendix ABS and traction control
  • Tires and wheels: 385/65R22.5 Michelin XZY-3 front, 11R24.5 XDA-5 rear, on Accuride polished aluminum discs
  • Fuel tank: Single 100-gal. aluminum
  • Body: 18-foot Goodwin Hybrid, steel frame/aluminum panels

And Navistar has placed a new emphasis on not knocking the competition—a surprise to us who’ve listened to executives’ sometimes nasty comments during the recent battle over diesels with and without selective catalytic reduction. Some dealers picked up on this, but they have to drop their negativism under the new Navistar doctrine.

Anyway, there are a lot of positives in a WorkStar no matter which hood it has. Parts include a tough steel cab, easy entry and exit, handsome instrument panel and dashboard design, nice big switches and knobs, plenty of leg and foot room, and large windows for good outward visibility. The chassis is purpose-built for severe service, and power trains are matched to the job. The cab comes from the medium-duty and relatively high-volume DuraStar line, so economies of scale enter into pricing. A WorkStar costs a couple of thousand less than a comparable PayStar with its aluminum cab.

This WorkStar has a 475-horse MaxxForce 13 linked to an Eaton UltraShift Plus self-shifting transmission, so it was both quick and easy to drive. We stayed on a course graded into a large field across from the Miller Motorsports Park. “We” included Michael Lamlech, Navistar’s vocational sales manager who was along as a guide and resource in case I had any questions. Actually, he asked more questions of me, like, “Which would you rather have in this truck—an Allison automatic or the UltraShift?”

I told him that for a lot of off-roading I’d probably prefer the Allison, but the Eaton was fine, too, especially since it’s now available with more programming that allows quicker upshifts. This one seldom revved the engine beyond 1,700 or 1,800 rpm, and with a light foot it was more like 1,500 at gear-changing time. That’s about how an intelligent driver would shift because there’s no good reason to over-rev the engine, which is what earlier UltraShifts and the old AutoShifts used to do. Eaton has made a lot of strides in this, which should serve everyone well.

Also, I said—just before he did—the UltraShift costs a lot less than an Allison, maybe $5,000 or so above a comparable manual tranny and less than half the price of an Allison.  At that price almost everyone should be able to afford an automated setup that relieves the driver of a lot of work and makes him or her more productive and safer. It also opens the pool of potential drivers to include people who’ve never double-clutched anything in their lives; some are women who, once acquainted with a heavy truck’s size and mass, tend to treat it more gently and still get the hauling job done. That’s what some fleet managers have told me.

Lamlech also asked me how I liked the Eagle interior package. That included leather-covered seats and burlwood trim on the dashboard. I thought it was pretty nice. This truck also had power windows and locks, with buttons conveniently located toward the front of the armrest on the driver’s door. The dash’s style was “automotive,” meaning inspired by what’s found in automobiles and light trucks. Fortunately, Navistar’s designers have stuck to gauges and controls that are logical and simple to use rather than the electronic wizardry that has taken over consumer-mobiles.

In this WorkStar, an array of gauges covered the panel around the speedometer and tachometer, and a few more were on a wing panel to the right, where the air brake valves were. Further down was a simple radio and the HVAC controls, which were large and clear rotary knobs. And at the base was the push-button selector for the UltraShift. A lot of thought had gone into all this,  and the result was a pleasant and sensible place to work.

There was a big doghouse that protruded into the cab, but it wasn’t so wide that it cramped my feet or lower legs. The housing can be disassembled to get at the rear of the engine, which sits back in the frame, though most of it was accessible when the hood was tilted. However, there’s a lot of stuff hanging on the engine, starting with splash guards that could end up tossed against a wall and not reinstalled unless a fleet’s shop force is respectful of equipment. Underhood clutter is a price that must be paid to get a compact nose like that on the WorkStar.

That the nose is lower is a definite plus and, because it’s a no-cost option, is something that every buyer can painlessly consider. But the tradeoff is that a front-engine power take-off drive is no longer available because the lowered radiator blocks the path taken by a front driveshaft. This is ironic, because snow plowing is among the applications that could really use the extra visibility, and many plow mechanisms are run from front-engine PTOs. But a rear-engine or transmission PTO could also drive a pump with long lines to the plow hoist. I’d sure look at that because the sloped hood is such a boost to visibility.

Then again, the standard higher hood is something a driver gets accustomed to right away and will compensate for by visually feeling his or her way around. And the higher radiator would be better if a lot of off-road travel over uneven terrain requires high ground clearance. The megabracket that supports the lower radiator seems beefy enough to plow some dirt, but it’d be better to keep everything above ground. Life’s full of choices.

By the way, I pushed the go pedal as much as I could along the bumpy course, causing Lamlech to hang on as we dipped into gullies scooped out of the earth for our driving fun and hit the bottoms with muffled crashes that pushed my seat bottom to its stops. Soon I eased up to give him a break and apologized for the rough ride. It would have been better for him if he’d have had an air-suspended seat, but his was on solid mounts, as it probably would be in a real-life truck. That’s what it probably is now, as Navistar executives intended to sell these demo trucks to dealers for resale to the trucking public. Who knows, maybe this one ended up with you. I hope you like it as well as I did.

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