Hands-on experience

July 1, 2007
USING the sprawling 1,600-acre Las Vegas, Nevada, Motor Speedway complex as a stage, Mack Trucks launched its Mack Performance Tour in early June. Fifteen

USING the sprawling 1,600-acre Las Vegas, Nevada, Motor Speedway complex as a stage, Mack Trucks launched its Mack Performance Tour in early June. Fifteen Granite vocational trucks and 10 Pinnacle premium highway trucks are fanning out across North America to show off the new models, all equipped with Mack's US 2007 emissions-certified MP Engines.

The tour, themed “Breakthrough Innovation,” is intended to let truck users see and experience first-hand Mack's 2008 truck models, engineered with engine exhaust-scrubbing technologies to meet the more stringent 2007 federal diesel emissions regulations. Visits will be made to Mack dealerships throughout the US and Canada through the end of September. All of the tour trucks are loaded to capacity to give drivers a real feel for the trucks and engines.

With the 11-liter MP7 and 13-liter MP8 engines there is a “broader range of engine offerings than the previous generation of Mack engines, with more horsepower ratings, increased power, and exceptional low-end torque while remaining fuel-efficient and running cleaner,” said David McKenna of Mack's powertrain division.

“The MP8 has the highest horsepower range with the lowest emissions ever offered by Mack,” he noted. Horsepower goes from 415 to 485, with torque levels from 1,540 to 1,700 lb-ft. The MP7 is available in 325 to 405 hp ratings, with torque ratings from 1,200 to 1,560 lb-ft.

“The engines' higher power density makes it possible for customers in some weight-sensitive applications to select the smaller displacement MP7.”

Fuel economy

With improvements to the injection and air management systems, he said the new MP engines are expected to increase fuel economy by about 3% on highway and 6% for vocational use.

Mack plans to introduce fuel tank chassis fairings and other aerodynamic aids for its Pinnacle models. The fairings are expected to increase fuel economy about 1.5%, according to McKenna.

The new MP Engines incorporate Mack's Vehicle Management and Control System (V-MAC IV). This next generation of advanced electronics provides enhanced monitoring of the truck and engine.

Along with numerous programmable features, the system comes with DataMax, a trip recorder that captures vehicle trip histories, duty cycle information, and scheduled maintenance intervals, all of which can help boost productivity, efficiency, and profitability.

Mack has kept its three distinct engine families to address specific operating conditions: Econodyne — intended for typical highway-steady speed operations; MaxiCruise — for high-performance in rolling highway and vocational applications; and Maxidyne — optimized for maximum power at low-speeds in severe-duty conditions, especially in off-road applications. All of the engines work with a wide range of manual, automated, and automatic transmissions.

Little change

Having the opportunity to drive a number of the tour trucks — on Interstates, secondary highways and streets, I was pleasantly surprised, as there seemed to be no sacrificing of power or performance. Fuel economy was good as well, which I was able to track on those models equipped with real-time fuel economy displays.

The automated and automatic transmissions required much less effort than manuals. This allows a driver to better concentrate on driving. With less physical shifting, there is less fatigue after a long day.

While driving one of the Pinnacles, a warning lamp appeared on the dash, indicating that the diesel particulate filter needed regeneration — a process which burns off the trapped particulate matter. It took place automatically.

I had expected a drop in engine power and performance, but there was none. If I had not seen the warning light, I never would have known the regeneration took place.

Driver environment

Participating in the Performance Tour are a wide variety of Pinnacles and Granites in an assortment of axle-back and axle-forward configurations, cab designs, and a range of powertrains. The Pinnacles have a variety of sleeper designs and daycab models. The Granites are set up for a variety of applications, including roll-off, bulk, dump, and mixer.

The Pinnacles and Granites share the same cab, which “is the strongest, most durable cab that Mack has ever built,” said Jerry Warmkessel, Mack's highway products manager. “And there is an entirely new driver environment.”

The 116-inch bumper-to-back-of-cab (BBC) Pinnacle daycab and Granites have a four-inch increase in the depth of the cabs, providing more leg, knee and belly room, which “big and tall people” appreciate. Other nice touches include a seat angle recline of 21 degrees, up from 18 degrees, and well-placed grab handles and steps for a comfortable entry and exit.

The Pinnacle Sleepers come in a 48-inch and 56-inch flat-top, 60-inch and 70-inch mid-rise, and 70-inch high-rise with a 112-inch BBC. All are spacious with features and amenities that bring an extra measure of comfort to life on the road. Interior appointments and layouts are thoughtful and convenient, with an abundance of storage space.

There is a new wrap-around “cockpit style” dash, with a new primary gauge cluster and space for up to 25 switches. I found the gauges to be located for good visibility, and all controls and switches are closer to the driver for easy reach.

The standard driver information display is upgradeable to the CoPilot, a driver interactive expanded display that allows drivers to easily toggle through 50 screens that provide real-time fuel economy and trip data, detailed maintenance and fault summaries, and supplemental sensor readings.

Also new is a broadly adjustable steering column and driver foot pedal controls. All pedals are suspended, rather than floor mounted, and are on the same plane. I could leave my heel on the floor when switching between throttle and brake pedals.

“Combined with the standard clutch pedal air assist, the design relieves driving fatigue by reducing pedal effort and foot movement,” Warmkessel said.

The new trucks are quieter than their predecessors, thanks to new high-tech sound deadening material that has lowered noise and vibration, “making it the quietest cab in the industry,” according to Warmkessel.

“Taken as a whole, all the new features and changes have resulted in an interior environment that promotes safety, eases service, and provides a level of comfort that is sure to help attract and retain drivers.

Highway suited

“There was a perception that when we were made a sibling of our sister company Volvo, Mack would back out of the highway business,” Warmkessel said. “We have always been in the highway business, and as can be seen from our new Pinnacle models, we are in it to stay. We will be coming out with a host of new products and features specifically for this market segment.”

As a case in point, he pointed to Mack's new, optional seven-inch, full-screen, integrated navigational radio system by Lectronic. “It's like those found in many high-end cars.”

It combines AM, FM, satellite radio, weather band, CD, Global Positioning (GPS), and voice turn-by-turn directions with optical aids. The system also can get road conditions and locate points of interest, restaurants, gas stations, and so on.

The system has three-camera capability, allowing the placement of video cameras around the tractor to avoid blind spots.

Also through the radio system is wireless tire pressure monitoring, with the ability to set low and high tire pressure thresholds. A driver can toggle tire-to-tire to check tire pressure.

Another new option for the Pinnacle is the Idle Free Hybrid System, an anti-idling system that uses battery power to provide electrical power and to heat and air condition truck cabs.

This system, which provides either 12- or 120-volt power, has the ability to keep a truck cab and large sleeper air conditioned at 78°F for 10 hours with an outside air temperature of 100°F.

The Idle Free Hybrid System can be run off the batteries, be plugged into shore power (chargers the batteries at the same time), or the reefer link can be plugged into the trailer's refrigeration unit to run the system and charge the batteries. Mack is the first truck manufacturer to offer this system.

All of the tour's highway vehicles are equipped with the Mack Road Stability Advantage (RSA) by Bendix — a full electronic stability system designed to reduce incident potential, especially jackknifes, rollovers, and loss of vehicle control. Offered as an option on its highway tractors in late 2005, the RSA is now standard equipment.

Job specific

The Granite Series of lightweight, application-specific work trucks are now available in 10 Cornerstone chassis, including a triple frame version. The Cornerstone chassis, developed specifically for vocational applications, are all made from high-strength, low-alloy steel that's quenched and tempered (processes that increase hardness) to a minimum of 120,000 psi, said Steve Ginter, Mack's manager of vocational products.

The new Granites have improved maneuverability, a tighter turning radius and a better ride for harsh jobsite condition.

To reduce driver fatigue, Mack incorporated a new engine mounting system that decreases noise and vibration.

“A rubber cushioning system cradles the engine and promotes longer operating life,” Ginter said. “In addition, the cab rides on two cushions of air and two shock absorbers for the most comfortable ride available on a construction truck.”

Service enhancements

Mack's Granites and Pinnacles have design features making them easier to service and maintain, reducing downtime and maintenance costs. Especially convenient is an easy-opening hood that tilts out of the way for clear access to the engine compartment from both sides.

The MP Engine is set lower in the frame than previous Granite models, which enhances stability but still provides excellent ground clearance.

Fluid level checks and fills can be made standing on the ground, as can filter changes. Electrical systems have been designed for durability and streamlined troubleshooting.

Warmkessel noted that Mack's 2007 Pinnacle has received certification from the US EPA's SmartWay Transport Partnership, meaning its design and equipment help cut wind resistance and reduce fuel consumption. The partnership is a program developed by EPA and the freight industry to reduce greenhouse gases and air pollution, and to promote cleaner, more efficient ground freight transportation.

More information about Mack's Performance Tour, along with a complete tour schedule, can be found at: www.mackperformancetour.com.

About the Author

David Kolman