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Sterling Bullet looking for a title shot

TORONTO, Ont. - There's a new light-middleweight in town punching above its weight class. The Sterling Bullet has just entered the arena and announced itself as a contender in the Class 4/5 division. ...


TORONTO, Ont. – There’s a new light-middleweight in town punching above its weight class. The Sterling Bullet has just entered the arena and announced itself as a contender in the Class 4/5 division. This newcomer fills the hole in Sterling’s lineup and gives it a full range of truck models from Class 3 to 8.

The CONV 5500 Bullet I drove was equipped with a “landscape” package: low-sided tipper box running on an aggressive set of Goodyear rear dualies.

Lots of snow on the ground in February and my ride had no problem tearing through the snow drifts in Mississauga parking lots. It was equally as comfortable and responsive on the highway, enhanced by the throaty Cummins 6.7-litre engine. This is a workhorse diesel that delivers 610 ft.-lb. torque at 1,600 RPM, and runs on ultra low-sulfur diesel, or B5 biodiesel.

The 305 horses should provide plenty of muscle for most applications. Standard equipment includes an ultra-low gear to help launch heavy loads – and an engine brake to help stop those heavy loads.

The CONV 5500 grosses 19,500 lb (a payload of about six tonnes), and can haul a trailer with a combined GVW of 26,000 lbs. The Class 4 CONV 4500 has a slightly lighter rear axle.

Just stepping into the Bullet on its 19.5-inch wheels, you know you’re getting into something serious. The front-end may resemble a pick-up truck but it’s more than that. It’s a formidable chassis-cab on a durable 50,000-psi frame, with the lines and components running along the underside making up-fitting fairly simple.

Sterling claims that the allaround disc brakes inside the big wheels will “increase braking power (and) extend lining life.” As well, the exhaust brake (supplied by Jacob) should also result in less wear on the brake parts.

The Bullet rolls off the same line as the Dodge Ram 4500 and 5500 series, in Saltillo, Mexico. But the difference is more than just a swapped grille and different insignia. The Bullet comes with a standard PTO package which can drive a medley of tools from a generator to a pump to a jackhammer, either remotely, stationary or on the move. And the landscape unit I drove could easily be adapted seasonally by adding a plow or sander.

My Bullet had an automatic Aisin six-speed transmission and ran on a 4.88 rear end. The automatic transmission was fine, but if I were doing some off-road stuff I’d prefer the standard-issue Mercedes-Benz manual six-speed. The Bullet is offered as a regular cab in four wheelbases or as a Quad cab in two wheelbases. It also can be had in two-and fourwheel drive packages with optional plow and towing attachments.

Was it a luxurious cab? No, this is not an SUV. But it has a decentsized fold-out two-cup holder (very important) And the basic comfort level is sufficient: a tilt steering wheel and two bucket seats in the front with six-way adjustment and a fold-down seat between them. Some storage space is available under the rear seat in the Quad cab. Mine came with the complete power package: windows, mirrors, keyless entry. But if you want to go nuts you can order one Bluetooth-enabled with navigation radio and GPS. The CD/MP3 player and electric plugin is standard.

The instrument layout is not fancy, but the six dials are wellpositioned. The cruise control switches are mounted on the steering wheel.

The engine brake is a nice touch, another feature that makes you feel like you’re riding in a big truck. The Sterling Bullet also comes with a seven-way tow plug. A 16-foot box can easily be mounted on the rails for light P&D work.

Otherwise, it’s fully-adaptable to anything from a tow truck to small crane to service truck to emergency services vehicle.

With the landscape box, I could easily see a contractor picking up a load of patio brick and a few skids of sod, along with four workers, and delivering them to the job-site. A tree cutter, on the other hand, might use it to tow a chipper and load up the logs from the dead oak he’s just felled, then deliver the firewood to a customer across town. Later, he can take the wife and kids out grocery shopping and still fit through a fastfood drive-through.

But perhaps the best reason to go with a Sterling is more peace of mind. You’re buying a Class 4/5 truck so you might as well buy it from a truck dealer.

Getting your service done by Sterling people means you’re more likely to find a mechanic and parts specialist in your corner who knows diesels and Cummins. And a commercial truck dealer’s service department stays open later and should be more sensitive to the needs of a truck owner with a business to run.

The light-and medium-duty truck market is an important commercial sector. Up to now the light-middleweight division has been dominated by Ford, GM and even some imports. But the Bullet has just entered the ring, and although it’s too early for a decision, it looks like this is one prizefighter who will have long career and win many championships.


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