Delivering on Its Promises

| August 01, 2005

The VT 880′s interior incorporates state-of-the-art design. Ergonomic seats have multiple adjustments, conform to any body shape or size, and I can attest to the fact that they minimize the aches and stiffness that come from long hours behind the wheel.

The dash switches are large and easy to identify, reach and operate. The steering column adjusts to the driver’s size, and the steering wheel has headlight, directional signal and radio controls built in. The cruise controls are built into steering column levers and are finger-touch operated. The driver can also choose between light on dark or dark on light instrument lighting schemes, and a wealth of trip, fuel, engine performance and diagnostic information and even messages from dispatch can be easily brought up on the dash screen.

A climate control thermostat maintains steady inside temperature, and the stereo has multiple-CD, cassette tape and speaker options. I had no trouble reaching door, overhead and behind-the-seat storage spaces from the seat, and the CB radio mounts overhead and close by. The driver can set the intermittent wiper control to any interval, and headlights can be set to turn on and off automatically.

Most importantly, at least to me, Volvo’s improved cup holders keep beverages off the floor and in the cups.

In short, the VT 880 offers traditional looks and styling, but it still comes with the advanced technology.

This includes the cab and sleeper interior styling. Part of ergonomics is the mood created by interior designs. Volvo offers lighter-colored leather and cloth interiors, along with the larger windshield, side windows, skylight and four sleeper windows that allow more light as well as ventilation. The result is an overall brighter, friendlier mood that’s reinforced by spaces for a refrigerator, microwave, TV/DVD, a sink and more than enough storage for two. The larger berths are about the size of standard single beds with an optional dining table that seats four and converts to the lower berth. Both berths have light, ventilation, clock and radio controls.

With 374 cubic feet of sleeper space and more than 520 cubic feet of total living space, the VT 880 is also roomy. Two full-sized adults can walk past each other without turning sideways inside the cab. There’s room to stand, stretch, move around and – with an optional surround speaker system – dance, if the mood should arise. A handy folding ladder makes climbing into and out of the top berth respectable, and it also folds and stows securely. I liked the high ceiling, additional light and overall size of the cab because they eliminate the “closed in” feeling.

We used shore power, but, if it is necessary to keep the engine running, at a 600 rpm idle the D16 burns .5 gallons per hour and murmurs unobtrusively.

The next day we swapped trucks again, and I was looking forward to the last leg of the road test: the Black Mountain down slope on I-40 east of Asheville. With more than nine miles of grades up to 6 percent, Black Mountain has earned its place in trucker lore, and more than one experienced driver has reached the bottom with shaking hands, badly smoking brakes and sincere prayers of thanks. This hill and the 78,000-pound load would tell the truth about the D16′s Volvo Engine Brake (VEB).

It was another dry, sunny day, and on slick roads all bets are off. But simply stated, if the D16 represents the future, then the drama is about to go out of taking heavy loads down long, steep hills. In 15th gear with the VEB activated, Saxman and I chatted calmly in the climate-controlled elegance of this VT 880′s salon-like interior while the truck rolled uneventfully down the hill. I kept the truck close to the 45 mph speed limit by pushing lightly on the brakes exactly 12 times. The sound of the VEB was barely noticeable inside the truck.

Volvo has invested more than $67 million to make the VT 880 its flagship tractor. The company has put millions of lab and on-highway test miles on the truck and, says senior VP of marketing and sales Scott Kress, “It passed with flying colors.”

I drove the VT 880 about 540 miles and took it up and down grades that will get any professional driver’s attention. I pushed the truck hard. In my opinion, the VT 880 and D16 do everything Volvo claims they’ll do.

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