This year marks the 55th anniversary of the Western Star brand, but never has a truck by that name been so lavishly dressed with driver comforts and advanced technologies as the new 57X.
The replacement to the uniquely styled 5700XE is more than a product refresh; it’s a redesign that brings Western Star’s highway offering to the front of the pack technologically while offering drivers a luxurious on-road experience.
“This is the most advanced and innovative on-highway Western Star truck ever,” said Anthony Pires, brand manager for Western Star Trucks, when offering journalists a sneak peek near Detroit, Mich., last week.
Added Steve Mignardi, vice-president – on-highway market development, “We listened to our customers and built the truck from the ground up.”
The 57X is the third and final product to make up the family, joining the previously released 47X and 49X, each with a more vocational flavor. The truck maker dubs these three trucks as: “The trilogy of tough.”
The goal, Mignardi explained, was to fuse in the best of Daimler’s over-the-road truck technologies to create a better driver experience. But there were also plenty of changes made to the styling.
The bumper to back of cab (BBC) has been extended to 129 inches to offer a longer, more aerodynamic hood, explained Ryan Major, product marketing manager – on-highway. Configurations will include: day cab; 60-inch mid-roof; 72-inch mid-roof; and a 72-inch Stratosphere sleeper.
Gone is the 82-inch sleeper offered on the 5700XE, but Major said the new 72-inch replacement actually offers 22% more interior space thanks to additional height and width. The shorter sleeper and X-Series aluminum cab with steel reinforcements shaved about 1,000 lb. off a 5700XE with 82-inch sleeper, Major said.
The front of the truck reveals a new two-piece aerodynamic bumper with air ducts to help direct air around obstructions and to where it can be used to provide additional cooling. Heated LED headlamps are standard, as is a three-piece hood.
The air intake and C-loop mirrors are carried over from the other X-Series trucks, and a new one-piece windshield is 28% larger than the two-piece found on the 5700XE. Frame rails have been splayed so the engine can ride lower for improved aerodynamics and visibility. A stainless-steel sun visor – optimized for aerodynamics – is a non-deletable feature. You’re getting one whether you like it or not, but few Western Star purists would complain.
For operators who take the truck onto gravel roads or rugged jobsites, a new ‘tough glass’ windshield that resists cracking and chipping can be spec’d. New chassis fairings have been added to the truck to improve its fuel economy. Aerodynamics, when combined with powertrain enhancements, will give operators a 5.8% fuel economy improvement over the 5700XE, Major said.
Inside the cab
A new e-vault houses all the truck’s CPUs and fuses behind an easy to remove panel on the passenger’s side of the dash. Drivers or technicians can easily access them from inside the cab for a quick diagnosis or replacement.
“The key is, they are all in one location,” said Major. “If you need to service anything, it’s all pretty much right there in the dash.”
Everything inside the 57X is new except for the center section of the steering wheel. A ‘smart’ wheel comes loaded with buttons to control everything from the music and 12-inch driver display, to the cruise control settings.
In addition to the vibrant, info-loaded 12-inch driver display, is a 10-inch touchscreen display on the B-panel, capable of running Apple CarPlay. Currently, that display isn’t compatible with any third-party electronic logging devices (ELDs) – a Ram mount can be used for those – but I’m told it’s something Western Star is looking into. Information on both screens can be displayed in French.
The steering wheel is now infinitely adjustable for improved comfort. Laredo leather seats with stylish cross-stitching can be ordered ventilated to provide heating and cooling, or to swivel.
The sleeper compartment is spacious and comfortable. Two seats and a table offer a comfortable place to work or eat. When it’s bedtime, those fold down and a Murphy bed can be lowered from the rear wall. The entire process takes seconds. Double bunks are available, but if only one is required, there’s tons of storage space where the upper bunk would be. If double bunks are needed, a telescoping ladder makes it safe and easy to access the upper bunk.
Airline-inspired storage compartments offer more storage options. A 2.5 cu.-ft. fridge comes standard with larger offerings available via the aftermarket, and there’s room for a microwave up to 1 cu.-ft. All interior lighting is LED and infinitely adjustable.
When the first Western Star trucks were built in Kelowna, B.C., in 1967 for loggers requiring a more rugged rig, the technologies available on the 57X would’ve been unimaginable. The truck can only be spec’d with a Detroit powertrain, including the DT12 automated manual transmission mated to a Detroit DD13, DD15, or DD16 engine.
New to the 57X is the Detroit Assurance 5.0 suite of active safety systems. Active Brake Assist 5 uses cameras and radar to detect hazards on the road and apply full braking if the driver doesn’t respond in time.
Adaptive Cruise Control maintains following distance and can bring the truck to a complete stop in traffic. Optional Active Lane Assist helps keep the truck centered in its lane. When it detects the driver has removed their hands from the wheel, it offers a series of warnings before it brings the truck to a complete stop after a minute of hands-free driving. This could be a lifesaver in the event a driver falls asleep or becomes incapacitated.
Active Side Guard Assist reveals objects – including pedestrians and cyclists – alongside the truck and/or trailer’s blind side. This feature will help save lives (and light posts) in urban areas, but will also warn drivers of smaller vehicles in their blind spot on the highway when they attempt a lane change.
Assurance 5.0 also offers speed limit sign recognition, and will warn a driver when they are 10 mph above the posted speed limit. If they don’t respond, the cruise speed can be reset to the posted limit. At 20 mph above the limit, cruise will disengage altogether. This is a feature the safety department will love, but many drivers hate. It can be overridden by the pedal, however, and fleets who find the interventions to be heavy handed can program it so that warnings are displayed but punitive measures aren’t taken.
The new Western Star 57X marks the completion of a complete product revamp for Western Star. The 5700XE that the 57X will replace, hasn’t been produced since the end of 2021. That means Western Star buyers looking for a highway tractor this year may have strayed.
“We really worked with our dealers to stay in touch with those customers,” said Major. “At that time, we couldn’t tell them [about the 57X]. You always want to go for the big bang when you release these, but we were kind of leading them on. ‘There’s something coming.’ ‘Hang tight.’ So far, in all our pre-series discussions with customers we’ve given them little snippets and sneak peeks to show them what it could look like. They are very excited.”
Of the three models that comprise the X Family, it’s the 57X that take the biggest leap forward in terms of styling and technologies. It’s a dramatic departure from the 5700XE and that truck’s distinctive hard edges have been smoothed out in the interest of fuel economy. They had to be. With fuel prices being what they are, and the cost of a new truck being what it is, aerodynamics and fuel economy just have to be a priority for a highway truck.
Yet, despite its more rounded form, the truck remains unique. It remains a Western Star. Just a markedly more comfortable and technologically advanced Western Star.
Western Star is now taking orders for the 57X, and production is set to commence in early 2023.
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