Western Star 4700 truck review

By: Greg Bush


A combination of an Australian initiative and United States expertise has resulted in Western Star’s newest, and smallest, member of the team, the 4700.

Western Star 4700 truck review
Western Star 4700.

 

Portland, Oregon was a fair hike to travel for a sneak preview of the new Western Star 4700 model. Especially when Illawarra-based Cleary Bros had already taken delivery of the first 4700 to hit Australian shores in early November 2012.

While the source of the idea is being debated, Western Star Trucks Australia (WSTA) General Manager Sales and Service Doug Shand is convinced he was the one, the development of the steel-cabbed Western Star 4700, enigmatically dubbed the ‘Zodiac Project’, has been an ongoing joint venture between WSTA and Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA).

The first pre-series units for Australia started production mid-2012. The North American version of the 4700 was introduced into that market at the end of 2011.

As far as Australia is concerned, the full build of the 6x4 and 4x2 right-hand drive versions of the 4700 series commenced in January at Western Star’s manufacturing facility in Portland. Meanwhile, the 8x4 was scheduled to commence a full build this month, with a 4x4 version coming in the second quarter of 2013.

"We’re looking at, certainly initially in Australia, the cement agitator market, and we’ve already had interest from tilt tray guys, pumper units, tippers, delivery prime movers, container haul, spreaders and of course mine service and water truck type work," Shand says.

"The market for 260 to 400hp truck is about 2,500 units."

Senior Manager Chassis Engineering — Western Star Frank Schulz says differences between the 6x4 and twin steer 8x4 models are minimal.

"The only difference really is the second axle," he says. "We do of course have a second steering gear in the front, so there’s one on the left and one on the right.

"But the intent was not to change the 6x4 and the 8x4. Engine offerings and cooling packages are the same. Under the hood, there’s no cab height change either.

"So from the front of this vehicle to the cab, everything under the hood is the same."

Moreover, Shand says the Australian version of the 4700 has much in common with the 4800 and 4900 Constellation models.

"We started out with a list of options miles long, and we had the ability to tick the box and achieve certain commonality with what we have, which makes it easy for us in Australia in terms of stocking parts and service training and all that sort of thing," Shand explains.

While the setback front axle and swept fender and bumper are designed to make the truck more productive from a weight distribution viewpoint, it also adds to the 4700’s manoeuvrability in tight situations, especially in the agitator sector.

Also, the threaded spring pins, stationary grille and outboard cab mounts add to truck’s drivability, as does the cab and engine tunnel insulation, designed to make the new Western Star one of the quietest vocational trucks on the market.

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Engine and Transmission

Shand says the 6x4 version will come in at close to 6.9 tonnes, while the 8x4 will be around 7.9 tonnes. The 4700 comes in with a short 110-inch (2,794mm) BBC, with 47-inch (1,194mm) setback axle. Unlike its United States counterparts, WSTA will only be offering the Cummins ISL 8.9-litre Euro 5 selective catalytic reduction (SCR) engine, with a power range from 275hp to 400hp (202kW to 294kW).

Other technicalities include the industry-standard, agitator-spec, rear engine power take-off (REPTO), 1,150 to 1,300ft-lb (1,559 to 1,763Nm) of torque, the choice of Eaton Fuller manual and UltraShift Plus, as well as Allison transmissions, Meritor and Dana axles, Airliner TufTrac and Hendrickson suspensions.

A large 1,300 square-inch (8,387 sq-cm) radiator is the mainstay of the Western Star 4700’s cooling package. In front, the stationary chrome grille covers a galvanised e-coated stainless steel bug/rock screen, capable of keeping stray rocks from penetrating the truck’s cooling module.

Fuel storage ranges from 189 litres to 378-litre single or dual tanks, as well as a tank for up to 50 litres of diesel exhaust fluid.

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Cab and Controls

Senior Manager Engineering Platform Management — Western Star, Scott Robinson, says the cab mounts up front are similar to the 4900, although the 4700’s cab height comes in at around 3 inches lower.

Drivers who need that little extra space will be pleased at the large door openings with three point egress and entry, which is mandatory in Australia. Ground level daily checks are also conveniently located.

According to Robinson, Western Star’s new rear cab suspension was developed especially for the 4700.

"It’s a dual air over shock design, and the suspension has been separated from the back of cab cross member," he says.

"That has been done for some of the larger transmissions that are being released by some of the manufacturers now."

Behind the wheel, the sloped hood has been designed for improved visibility without compromising strength and durability.

Product Strategy — Western Star, Dan Silbernagel, says the bonnet was benchmarked against the best trucks in North America.

"It’s a pretty dramatic improvement over our 4900 product, and also our competitors’ products," Silbernagel says.

"One of the best features we’ve applied to this new design is robotically applied fibreglass, which helps provide uniform quality of the thickness of the fibreglass to ensure the durability of the product," Robinson adds.

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Performance

The best evaluation is the open road, or in this case, a local airstrip near the small city of Madras in Oregon’s Jefferson County.

This involved a two-and-a-half-hour trip through the snow-covered regions surrounding the dormant volcano, Mt Hood, south east of Portland.

Despite the wintery temperatures, Madras was a welcome relief after the almost incessant wet weather which Portland is known for during that time of year.

The airport itself was a former training ground for the US Army. Nowadays, it’s a regular airport servicing Madras, although it has a drag strip at its southern end. In addition, a short drive across the tarmac revealed a testing track used regularly by DTNA.

Three trucks were made available for the media to drive around the circuit, one of which, a bright yellow unit, was laden with concrete blocks on a flat-bed trailer. Unfortunately, this was the only truck permitted to take the testing route of various undulations, including a cobblestone-type section which was parallel to the straight and even bitumen track. It was also the only truck of the three which was in the ‘not for sale’ category.

With only the cab and chassis on the other two trucks, both distinguished by their standard white colour, it was merely an exercise in grunt and manoeuvrability. Certainly the turning circle, which comes in at under 25m, was impressive. The manner in which the 4700 accelerated down the straight section of track would also please those who would be keen to use the truck for urban deliveries.

As the two unladed trucks had already been signed off to Australian customers, at this stage the intention was to keep them fairly well wrapped in cotton wool.

One particular oddity was in the spec for one of the models.

The purchaser, for whatever reason, had decided to request an electric window on the passenger side only, with a mechanical winder on the driver’s side. No problem here, apart from the winder being cramped uncomfortably close to the side of the driver’s seat.

The concrete-laden truck, however, was shaken from pillar to post as it made its way through some purpose-built irregular road surfaces. It would be a scenario that the Western Star 4700 is bound to encounter through its various vocations, but coped with the buffeting in its stride.

In fact, at no stage was it likely that the steering wheel would be ripped from the driver’s hands and lose control of the vehicle, even in the most extreme cases of irregular speed bumps.

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Verdict

Western Star Trucks Australia has, with the 4700, added a tough, solid day-cab unit to its repertoire of hard-working trucks. There’s little doubt that WSTA is keen on taking on Mack’s Metro-Liner, and perhaps even entice the discerning buyer away from Japanese trucks and into a bonneted US-built workhorse.

The sales figures within the next 12 months will tell an interesting tale.

Specifications

Make/model: Western Star 4700

Configuration: 4x2, 6x4, 8x4 (4x4 in April/May)

Engine: Cummins ISL 8.9-litre Euro 5

Emissions control: SCR

Power: 260hp to 400hp (194kW to 294kW)

Torque: 1,150 to 1,300 ft-lb

Transmission: Eaton Fuller manual and UltraShift; Allison Auto 3000 and 3500 Series, 6-speed

Steer axle: Single steer — Meritor FG-941 6.5t (6x4); Dual steer — Meritor MFS 14-143A 13.4t (8x4)

Rear axle: Meritor RT-23-160 R Series (10.4t); Dana Spicer DSH-44P (20t); Meritor MX-40 14XGP R-Series (20t); Meritor RT-46-160GP R-Series (20.9t)

Front Suspension: Taper leaf 6.6 single steer; taper leaf 13.2t dual steer

Rear Suspension: AirLiner 10.4t to 20.9t; TufTrac 18.1t to 20.9t; Hendrickson 20t to 20.9t)

 

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