In Las Vegas, a city renowned for its ability to render visitors unmindful of the real world, a truck event might seem to clash with the glamour and glitz.
But Mack, the most traditional of Class 8 truck manufacturers, played Pied Piper to a host of customers and trade journalists, who made the journey from the Strip to the speedway, just on the desert’s edge, for a ride and drive. Glitz was soon a smudge in the mirrors of 20 models and the reality of desert conditions crusted even the crustiest of journalists with information.
Being an old pedal pusher of the highway sort, I chose a Pinnacle, Mack’s entry into the burgeoning on-highway segment. Mack is a strong presence in many segments and wants to let everyone know its highway truck will always be a player. My ride out to the Arizona line and back was reminder enough that the Pinnacle competes stylishly with its brethren. Two new engines, the MP7 and the MP8, give added boost to performance, are 2007 compliant, and available in the Econodyne and Maxicruise configurations in the Granite and Pinnacle.
Interstate 15 runs north out of Vegas toward the Arizona line, about 80 miles distant. The landscape is lunar and the road arranged adequately with 4-, 5-, and 6-percent grades. I was hopeful the “mean and green” profile of the Pinnacle powered by an MP7 415c, would whet my appetite for the 485, the highest HP rated engine Mack has ever put out.
But power on uphills is not the single distinguishing characteristic of any truck. It is simply one indication of a truck’s ultimate worth. Still, nearly everyone judges trucks by their ability to ascend in rapid fashion. The 415c will please those whose first judgment is based on hill climbing. I thought I’d been given a 485 and had to ask. This performance is due to a great extent on a very broad torque curve that is matched to horsepower by the ten speed Eaton Fuller with gathered gearing. The 415c pulls all the way down to 1,100 RPMs before you need to grab another gear. And while plenty of trucks do that these days, the 415c seems to stretch the RPMs even further. You can maintain speed just a little bit longer and watch the sweet spot indicator, done up appropriately in dollar signs, showing just how much more green you’re getting from the mean. Torque is virtually flat between 1,100 RPMs and 1,900 RPMs so the sweet spot, depending upon speed, is easier to nail and keep nailed.
Green means money. It also means ecologically friendly performance. The tweaks to ’04 engines to meet ’07 requirements have given Mack and others an opportunity to tune performance while meeting environmental standards. Before I headed back, I began to see the Pinnacle as a truck that had managed to build upon real world testing over the past five years and improve because of new restrictions, rather than despite them.
I remember listening to the silence of the new turbos in ’04. There is even less turbo noise now and the truck as a whole is exceedingly quiet and tight. The proprietary engine retarder, the PowerLeash, is as strong as the engine and barely audible. The entire auditory environment makes a driver search for other stuff about which to complain, but the 98th percentile driver manufacturers are hoping to keep in the seat will find little. New improvements like making the brake pedal and the throttle the same height make so much sense no one else has ever thought of it. There is more belly room and a steering column meant to accommodate big guys or the occasional vertically challenged individual This means drivers can reach everything on the dash they needs to reach without undue stretching.
We pulled into the line back at the Vegas speedway weighing the same 72,000 lbs. we did when we’d left, minus a few pounds of fuel. I had the overall impression the Pinnacle with a new MP7 or MP8 would please plenty of fleets, especially those wishing to attract and retain good drivers. It’s got chutzpa, classic Mack styling and enhanced ergonomics that will keep the drivers in their seats and happy. It will sure make more money for a fleet than one of them thar one-armed bandits in Vegas.