Test drive: Mack composes its new Anthem

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Mack has wrapped one of the best drivelines on the highway in a chiseled and surprisingly aerodynamic package and thrown in added ergonomics and comfort not widely associated with the company’s trucks.Mack has wrapped one of the best drivelines on the highway in a chiseled and surprisingly aerodynamic package and thrown in added ergonomics and comfort not widely associated with the company’s trucks.

Mack Trucks last month introduced its Anthem, the company’s next-generation on-highway truck that offers a mix of legacy styling and modern engineering.

The Anthem will replace the Pinnacle axle-back models that have helped Mack carve out about a 2 percent share of the long-haul segment. While the exterior bears little resemblance to the model it will supplant, it does manage nods to Macks of years past. Anthem’s large, structural and beefy grille is reminiscent of a SuperLiner, and the truck’s flat, chiseled fenders are a throwback to the RD.

“We wanted a dramatic, new, efficient design that screams strong and hard-working and Mack,” says John Walsh, Mack Trucks vice president of global marketing.

The Anthem is available with Mack’s MP8 13-liter engine with up to 505 hp and 1,860 lb.-ft. of torque. The 11-liter Mack MP7 is available as an option, with up to 425 hp and 1,560 lb.-ft. of torque. Mack’s SuperEconodyne downspeeding packages are available with both engines.

The Anthem’s body lines reduce aerodynamic drag by 6 percent and help improve fuel efficiency by up to 3 percent versus a similarly equipped Pinnacle. Those flat fenders help throw air down the side of the trailer, decreasing drag. A deeply sloped hood tosses air over the truck and improves visibility. A roof fairing with an adjustable tab helps improve airflow from the cab to the trailer on the 70-inch stand-up sleeper.

A side view highlights the aerodynamic hood’s aggressive slope.A side view highlights the aerodynamic hood’s aggressive slope.

Hood-mounded mirrors sit high, decreasing wind resistance by pushing air around the door mirrors. The hood mirrors offer a wide panoramic view on either side of the truck, practically eliminating blind spots. You can spec the large hood mirrors off the truck, but I found them a handy complement to the door mirrors. Under most circumstances, vibration was minimal.

Anthem’s hood and bumper both feature a three-piece construction and not only improve aerodynamics, they also help cut service time. A new central hood-latch release eliminates walking from side to side to tilt the hood forward.

A close-out flange prevents airflow between the hood and bumper and helps move air around the cab. Covered tow hooks cut wind resistance, and the bumper and bumper air dam help reduce air drag.

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The result is a quieter interior, which made my two-day 850-mile drive from Allentown, Pennsylvania, to Atlanta feel less mentally taxing. You could talk in a normal volume and hear CB chatter and the radio without amping up the volume to obnoxious levels.

Anthem gets an LED makeover inside and out. New LED headlamps are 66 percent brighter, almost doubling low-beam lumens while providing a wider, whiter light with lower electrical draw and longer service life.

A spacious sleeper

An updated automotive-inspired interior design keeps controls close to the driver.An updated automotive-inspired interior design keeps controls close to the driver.

The Anthem, now available for order with production scheduled for January, is available in day cab, all-new 48-inch flat-top sleeper and 70-inch stand-up sleeper.

The 70-inch sleeper is eight inches taller than Mack’s previous mid-rise sleeper. Interior roof height is a foot higher – 6 feet 11 inches at the driver’s seat and 7 feet 1 inch at the rear of the bunk. It’s this large comfortable sleeper that Jonathan Randall, Mack’s senior vice president of sales, thinks will help the company gain consideration in the long-haul segment.

The 70-inch sleeper has 35 percent more space than previous models and an additional 27 cubic feet of storage, including a three-compartment set of bins under the bunk. A panel mounted in the sleeper features power outlets, USB ports and controls to sound, lighting and HVAC.

The bunk features dimmable pipe lighting, bunk task lights and overhead LED lights. Aircraft-style pulldown shades block 100 percent of the light. They’re screened, with the window tilting out to let air in but keep rain out.

The dash has a wraparound cockpit-type feel. The Mack mDrive automated manual transmission shift pad is pushed higher on the dash and closer to the driver. Laser-etched rocker switches also have been repositioned higher. Some switch functions, including the wipers and engine brake, have been eliminated and moved to stalks behind the flat-bottom steering wheel.

The USB charger-enabled dash tray is handy for keeping your cell phone out of the cupholder.The USB charger-enabled dash tray is handy for keeping your cell phone out of the cupholder.

That wheel, incidentally, makes it easier to swing in and out of the truck, especially when the seat is fully inflated. The flat-bottom feature also should allow larger-stature drivers to find a more comfortable driving position.

Mack’s updated five-inch Co-Pilot display provides vehicle information monitoring, including engine and oil temperatures, trip odometers, aftertreatment status and tire pressures. A Pre-Trip Assistant helps guide drivers through inspection points and includes an exterior light inspection mode, which will activate the truck’s lights.

Engineered for Mack power 

Under the hood, the 12-speed mDrive AMT comes standard. When fully integrated with an MP engine, the mDrive uses sensors to detect speed, load and grade to ensure optimal gear and shift points are selected.

Also available is Mack’s reinforced and ruggedized mDrive HD AMT with 13- or 14-speed variants that add one or two low-ratio creeper gears for low-speed maneuverability and lower rear-axle ratios for better fuel economy at highway speed.

Mack’s Predictive Cruise learns the topography of a given route and stores up to 4,500 hills in its memory for optimized gear shifts and downspeeding, helping improve fuel efficiency by up to 1 percent.

Also available is Mack’s turbo-compounding MP8, which captures and converts waste energy from the exhaust into mechanical energy that is fed back to the engine. Combined with the Anthem’s aerodynamic improvements, the turbo-compounding MP8 provides up to an 11.8 percent improvement in fuel efficiency compared with a baseline from previous Mack models equipped with GHG 2014 engines.

At 445 hp and 1,860 lb.-ft. of torque, it’s a solid performer. Fully loaded, I routinely got full torque at less than 1,000 rpm, and the reduction in the number of downshifts at cruising speed was noticeable. It’s a smart and intuitive setup that shines on long stretches at highway speeds.

Added connectivity and safety 

Anthem also will ring in the Mack Connect platform, which will structure current and future services under Connected Support, Connected Business and Connected Driving.

Under Connected Support, Mack GuardDog Connect monitors truck performance and notifies Mack’s Uptime Center when a potential issue is detected. Under Connected Business, GuardDog Connect can send vehicle data directly to Mack’s fleet management software partners. Connected Driving covers the truck’s information and entertainment options, including Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio and Apple CarPlay integration.

Also standard is Bendix’s Wingman Fusion camera- and radar-based driver assistance system that provides collision mitigation, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning.

Loaded to about 77,000 pounds gross, I drove for many long stretches with adaptive cruise engaged and was impressed by the system’s ability to make adjustments on the fly while maintaining my speed preferences. It was just another impressive feature in an overall impressive truck.