Living large

In 2010, the Cascadia will replace two of Freightliner’s well-known models, the Columbia and Century Class.

“A natural progression.” That’s what longtime Freightliner owner and 2007 Overdrive Trucker of the Year Henry Albert calls Freightliner’s new Cascadia Class 8 on-highway tractor. The truck, which will replace the Columbia and Century Class models in 2010, is “a step up but not radical enough that you wouldn’t know what its lineage was,” Albert says.

The name Cascadia refers to Freightliner’s headquarters in Portland, Ore., not far from the foothills of the Cascades. But Albert, a North Carolinian, didn’t have to go that far to preview the truck; Freightliner invited him to its Cleveland, N.C., plant for a brief test drive before the model’s introduction to the trade press in May.

Albert, who drives a 2001 Freightliner Century Class XT mid-roof, appreciated the Cascadia’s quiet operation. “When I fired the truck up cold, it was ungodly quiet – especially since I fired it up inside the building,” he says.

Freightliner attributes the reduced vibration and noise to double door and window seals, improved engine and cab mounts, additional insulation and a hydraulic clutch Albert calls “a joy.” When he shut the Cascadia’s door, “it felt more like the door of a luxury car than a Class 8 truck,” he said.

Built on an entirely new platform at a cost of $400 million, the Cascadia offers a 3 percent improvement in fuel economy over previous models, Freightliner says. It will accommodate DaimlerChrysler’s new global heavy-duty engine platform, designed to meet 2010 U.S. environmental regulations. Detroit Diesel, owned by Freightliner, will launch the platform late this year.

To achieve the improvements in fuel economy, Freightliner invested more than 1 million engineering hours, including 2,500 hours in its full-scale wind tunnel. “Apparently tiny tweaks in the design made possible by our unlimited use of our own facility can save owners hundreds of dollars in fuel consumption over the life of their truck,” said Chris Patterson, Freightliner president and CEO.

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In addition to aerodynamics, the truck’s fuel-saving features include an integrated battery-powered auxiliary HVAC system and an engine cooling system that minimizes engine fan and air-conditioning compressor up-time.

Because today’s average driver weighs 230 pounds, 17 percent more than in 1983, Freightliner made the Cascadia cab 20 percent bigger. It has larger door openings, more head and belly room and easier-to-use switches and climate controls. The extra cab width accommodates three levels of seats, all about 2 inches wider, 2 inches longer and 2 inches taller than traditional seats, with longer armrests.

An automotive-style wraparound dash, which Albert found “somewhat different but still familiar,” puts switches and controls well within reach. Visibility is improved by redesigned aerodynamic mirrors, mounted on both doors and the fender, and a larger windshield with better upward sight lines.

Freightliner’s rack and pinion steering system, which Albert said has “a real nice on-center feel,” is designed for quicker response with less effort while being even more durable, thanks to lower system pressure and temperature. Redesigned front and rear cab mounts also improve the ride while adding a better sense of stability and connection to the road, Freightliner says.

Service-related features include improved diagnostics, breakaway side extenders, a roped-in windshield that can be changed in 16 minutes, extended-life headlamp bulbs, easier access to engine and accessory components, and an HVAC system designed to reduce the frequency of repairs.

Available for order now, the Cascadia will roll off production lines in August.

BBC: 125 inches
SLEEPER: 72-inch raised roof
GVWR: 35,000 lbs. to 71,000 lbs.
ENGINE: Detroit Diesel Series 60 (standard), 425 hp to 515 hp; Caterpillar C15, 435 hp to 550 hp; MBE 4000, 370 hp to 450 hp
TRANSMISSION: Eaton Fuller 10-speed manual (standard); UltraShift or AutoShift optional
FRONT AXLE: 12,000-pound single
REAR AXLE: 40,000-pound tandem
FRONT SUSPENSION: Taperleaf 12,000-lb. (standard); 14,600-lb. spring optional
REAR SUSPENSION: AirLiner 40,000-lb. (standard); AirLiner 21,000-lb. optional
WHEELBASE: 232 inches