Features, Test Drive

Driving ‘old school’ in the Western Star X-Series

The big news for Western Star is that 1: The X-Series was recently voted Australasian Truck of the Year by industry experts and, 2: Supply lines are now strong, both good reasons to reacquaint myself with the product.

Western Star had the misfortune of launching their new range of trucks – the X Series – here in Australia in 2022, as Covid raged around us. 

As we all know, this caused world-wide shortages of just about everything and truck supply lines were as much affected as everything else.

At that launch I did a series of quick laps around Mount Cotton, outside Brisbane. 

Although the drives were short, I was impressed with the product and the efforts to which Western Star had gone to bring their trucks up to spec, and even surpass some of their competitors.

There are three models in the range: the 47X, 48X (designed specifically for Australia and NZ) and 49X, and all are available in a multitude of specification so I’d suggest going online or talking with a WS dealer to discuss your specific needs.

In a nutshell, the 47X with its shorter hood and set back axle gives it a great turning radius. Detroit 13-litre or Cummins 9-litre power is available, along with Auto or manual trannies.

The 48X is 6×4 only, and available with either the Detroit Diesel DD13 or DD16 engines, with power output ranging from 450hp through to 600hp. The model features a set forward axle and suits a range of applications right up to B-double work.

The 49X is the big banger in every respect, from cabin size through to road train application.

This time around I have a full day to play and have chosen the 49X for the morning and the 47X in the arvo, from Papa bear to Baby bear if you will. Not only that but I’ve elected to drive manuals in both versions!

The truck has an American-style dash layout with lots of dials and room for plenty more.

The above exclamation mark is there because in the 15 years I’ve been test driving new truck product (as in prime movers), every one has been an automatic. 

The last time I drove a manual was a trip to Sydney to Haulin’ the Hume with a couple of mates some five years ago. I’m a bit nervous that I’ll do an ACL on the clutch, but I’m confident in the knowledge every other truck journo there is in the same boat.

The 49X bonnet is wide but not overly long – certainly shorter than the Constellation is replaces – so forward vision is good. A big tick to the mirrors on their C mounts. Electrically operated and rock solid. Strong enough to hang off (I did), they offer good vision and are great to see around. 

The bonnets are injected resin and use WS’s ISO Tech suspension system to isolate it from the worst road conditions. Strong and lighter by around 45kg, the bonnet can be opened and closed with one hand with secure latches hidden behind the Western Star logos on the flanks.

The front is adorned with Western Star’s new signature, stainless steel grill. The design seems to be a bit polarising, but personally I reckon it looks great. There’s no mistaking this for any other brand.

The DD16 sits high but has everything you should check daily within easy reach. The radiator is huge, sits between the chassis rails and is over 800mm from the ground. If you hit a Roo (and you will) it’s not going to damage the cooler, and you’ll be able to drag Skippy’s remains out easily.

The cabin is aluminium with steel strengthening in all the right places to make it the toughest and most rigid WS has produced, including extra cross beams in the floor for the Aussie market. 

The 49X boasts an impressive 72-inch ‘dance floor’.

The cab is raised high above the tanks to aid air flow and cooling of both motor and cab. Some may think it looks a bit ‘tacked on’ but I didn’t mind it, and it’s designed like that for good reason.

This 49X has the 72-inch bunk. If you’re doing ‘The Paddock’, or similar, this is the one to have. 

There’s enough room to party all night long back there and it’s a breeze to walk past the gear shift protruding from the totally flat floor, which interestingly was covered in squishy thick rubber, like those mats made for standing on all day. 

I loved the feel and no doubt it adds to the effective isolation of engine noise from the cabin. There’s everything back there to provide for week/s away from home.

Shut the door, and then shut it again because the triple rubber sealing around it is so airtight that I reckon this truck would float if you ran it into a dam. 

You’ll know if it’s not shut properly because a warning that sounds like a German Police siren goes off. In front of you is an American-style dash layout with lots of dials and room for plenty more. 

The rows of switches are all plug and play, so you can move the most commonly used to a favoured position.

Western Star, by their own admission had a bit of catching up to do on the safety front and the X Series is now right up there with the best of them. It’s got ABS, EBS, Lane Departure Warning and every other safety device out there.

Time to drive and I snick the shift into first and idle away. Thankfully the clutch is light so the ACL remains intact.

From a shaky start and taking a few burrs off the cogs to make life easier for the next journo, I soon get used to the ubiquitous 18-speed Road Ranger and am having a lot of fun. 

For me, if I was a professional and had to do a lot of the city/suburban driving I’d go for the Detroit DT12 Auto, which I know to be a terrific ‘box, but here at ‘Playschool’ I’m loving renewing the acquaintance with a manual.

This is an easy truck to drive and, although set up for the heaviest applications – and me with only a single trailer behind me – the ride is very comfortable. 

The morning flies by and after lunch it’s time to hop in the ‘tiddler’ of the range, the 47X prime mover with single trailer attached.

The 47X with a single trailer attached.

This is the day cab version and at the outset let me say that I reckon it’s the best looking day cab on the market, from any angle. WS have got the proportions of the design just right. 

This model is powered by the DD 13 with 525 horses and 2500Nm so makes light work of the fully laden trailer. By now I’m so confident with the manual that, with apologies to Eaton, I decide to forego the clutch…and have trouble getting into the next gear. 

Ray Vella, my companion on this trip advises me to change cogs faster as the Detroit drops revs quickly. I do so and, again having smoothed out the edges of these cogs as well, the rest of the drive is relatively smooth.

If I had to come up with one word to describe the 47X, it would be ‘Chuckable’. That shortened wheelbase allows for tight turns in city/port applications but there no wallowing. 

The view over and around the sloped bonnet is great. As with the 49X the Jake brake is quiet compared to old school and will haul you up in no time.

The Isri seats are nice and wide and together with plenty of steering adjustment, everyone will find their perfect driving position with the Stick in just the right place.

I loved my time in the Big Banger 49X and if driving and living in a truck it is right up there. 

On the other hand, for day work and driving anywhere, particularly in built up areas, the 47X is a hoot! I think I actually loved that truck even more.

These trucks have come a long way on every front from their revered predecessors. Go get in one and try it for yourself. If you don’t, you are doing yourself a disservice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend