Big Rigs' exclusive road test of the International ProStar
MUCH has been written about the reintroduction of the International brand to Australia. It's been a process of postponed promises and false starts.
But enough of that, the facts are on the table. The International trucks are here, and production models will be marching off boats through the first quarter of this year.
The ProStar in various configurations will lead the push in an attempt to reclaim the old International market.
The International brand has been held by Navistar since day dot, after all the former name of Navistar International was International Harvester.
Come the new sunrise a couple of years ago and Navistar planned the International relaunch within the umbrella of Navistar Auspac.
However the boardrooms in Lisle, Illinois and Turin, Italy late last year made the decision to give sales and distribution rights of the International models in Australia to IVECO.
All of which led me to a cold 2016 morning at Tullamarine when I pulled myself aboard the Australian prototype ProStar and a chance to see how it handles Australian roads.
The similarity to the Cat Truck is immediately obvious and with reason. Both the ProStar and the Cat Truck share the revised, or Australian-ised, Navistar frame and strengthened cab, with of course very different power options.
The strongest point of the ProStar, I think, is the engineering development done with the Australian version by Cat Trucks. The latest Cat Trucks have come a long way from that first batch that was parked up at Tullamarine half a decade ago.
And this was the truck I was sitting in as we ran through the security gate at Tullamarine, grossing 41.5 tonne, onto Melbourne's ring roads winding our way north.
The plan was to run up through Victoria, into NSW across to Broken Hill and back down to Adelaide, not a bad run for a test drive.
In moderate traffic running through rural Victoria, the immediate benefits of the ProStar as a driver's truck become obvious.
Firstly it's a sweet truck to drive. The 18 speed Eaton sings in harmony with the diff specs, throttle pedal and gear stick are all comfortably where they should be - no retraining of hand or foot required.
From the driver's seat there are no strange placements, no engineering idiosyncrasies. You just get in and drive.
The vision from the driving position, for a conventional truck, is simply great.
This cab/chassis combination, Cat badged or International, has copped some criticism for being a 'small' truck.
Okay it doesn't ride tall like a K200 or have the big presence of a Mack Titan, but the sloping bonnet competes with a cab-over for visibility and the driveline can be potentially specced to 130 tonne.
This truck might never be a bush basher, but for highway work it has to be on most operators' short list.
What can I say about this banger? It has a proven driveline - Cummins, Eaton, Meritor. We are told the 2017 production models will have the Cummins X15 engine (Euro V rated). The frame and cab engineering have had a six year development period on Australian roads.
That all looks good on paper and was reflected positively in the test drive.
As a purchase decision, there will be a dependence on what the IVECO dealers offer a potential operator in pricing, warranty and support.
In adding up this combination and there are significant savings over a similarly specced Kenworth, then it's worth a drive.