A Ride In Style

Drivers and fleets hoping to maintain tight delivery schedules might want to refrain from ordering a International LoneStar — at least until the novelty wears off. Personal experience suggests this buggy has the wow factor to generate crowds like no truck we’ve ever driven.

While unloading in Montreal a few weeks back, even the warehouse staff and the roach coach driver were out snapping pictures of the thing with their cell phones. Same thing at the truckstops. Be warned: hours of service could be compromised if you don’t want to appear rude and aloof.

LoneStar isn’t style over substance. It’s a solid, well-designed working truck with a host of technical advancements in addition to groundbreaking aerodynamic styling and performance. There are of course a few little things the designers missed — like every truck out there. 

Tool Space Galore: There’s still more
than six feet of open frame space between
the fuel tank and the front drive wheel.

The bottom surface of the cubbyholes could use a soft rubber lining so the stuff inside them doesn’t rattle around on the hard plastic, for instance. There are other minor irritants, but not really much to whine about, and no deal breakers. And hey, it has vent windows! That’s worth more than a few points in my book.

Cab & Sleeper:

LoneStar’s cab is both elegant and functional. Gauges are all visible (depends how you adjust seat and wheel), and very easy to read. They’re gorgeously lit at night but they don’t follow the 12 o’clock normal protocol.

The 73-in. sleeper was in suite configuration, meaning it had a Murphy bed that folds down from the back wall over a very comfortable sofa.

This puts the bed a little higher off the floor than usual, but using that space for seating rather than a bed makes sense. It takes no effort or time to pull the bed down, and sitting on the sofa is more comfortable than sitting on the bed during downtime.
It’s very quiet in there, too. I had a reefer running behind me, albeit a pretty quiet ThermoKing SB-210, but I could barely hear it from inside with the engine shut off.

Drive Time:

Before I get into the pleasures of driving the LoneStar, thanks are due to Martin Fry of Carrier Truck Centres in Brantford, Ont., for setting up the ride, and to Jim Peters of North Shore Transport — also of Brantford — for letting me take his LoneStar on its maiden voyage. Jim was my dispatcher when I was a driver at Air Products and Chemicals, so I guess he figured I could be trusted.

I set out from Brantford to Montreal on a Sunday night loaded with 20 tons of frozen cinnamon buns, and ran smack into a blinding rain with the temperature hovering at around 3°C. The rain soon subsided, only to be replaced by a 40-knot headwind. Wind noise was virtually absent. 

The truck ran at 100 km/h at 1,275 rpm, right in the sweet spot of the ISX 455. At 150 rpm above the lower limit of the peak torque band, it was very driveable along Ontario’s Highway 401. A couple of pulls took me slightly below that point, but I let the engine lug and could really feel the torque rolling on as it crossed into the higher torque range above 1,100. That’s a sweet feeling.

The gear shifter has a heck of a dogleg to it,
and there’s ample room between the shifter and the seat.

Even with the relatively light load and with the engine running on the low side of the Intebrake’s retarding capability, it cruised down the hill on Highway 403 west of Hamilton in position 2. There’s limited retarding power at that rpm, but it was enough to maintain my road speed. I’m sure it would easily keep a heavier truck at bay on a larger hill at 2,000 rpm.

Full marks to LoneStar in the ride and visibility department. The curved and slightly sloped leading edge of the hood provided an extra measure of visibility on either side of the truck, and the slightly setback axle with 50-degree wheel cut made wheeling the thing around a joy. Even on Quebec’s crumbling Highway 40, LoneStar never lost its footing. The ride was great, with the suspension leveling out all but the worst of the potholes.

Generally, driving straight down the road was a pleasing experience, but it drifted a little from time to time — can’t say if it was my limited wheel time in the past 10 years, the wind, or the road. I’d rate the steering as easy and sure-footed, but it sometimes needed a little correction. It cornered well at high speeds and on the city streets. Very nice handling.

The LoneStar exceeded my expectations for ride, noise levels, roominess, and the intangible stuff like an attractive dash layout — especially at night — good body position while driving, and overall comfort.

Much of what makes it such a terrific truck was brought forward from the ProStar’s design work

Some have said, in a complimentary way, that it’s a ProStar with attitude. Ease of maintenance, structural integrity, and advanced electrics are but a few of the advantages passed down from ProStar. Driveability is another.

If you’re a fan of classic styling but fearful of the running costs, this is a terrific compromise. International claims LoneStar at its worst is still six-percent smoother than other classic-styled trucks, and could be up to 12-percent better when a few bits of aero trim are included. It’s classic through and through, with aero attributes that will please any cost-conscious operator.

Jim Park was a CDL driver and owner-operator from 1978 until 1998, when he began his second career as a trucking journalist. During that career transition, he hosted an overnight radio show on a Hamilton, Ontario radio station and later went on to anchor the trucking news in SiriusXM's Road Dog Trucking channel. Jim is a regular contributor to Today's Trucking and Trucknews.com, and produces Focus On and On the Spot test drive videos.

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