Highway Heaven ROAD STAR

Monday, February 26, 2018

Photo: Star Road Star. Now you can have it all.

Western Star’s 4964FXT Road Star is the latest limited editionvehicle to roll onto Australian highways and it boasts a long list of five-star features commemorating Western Star’s50th anniversary in 2017.

“You’ll be impressed when you see inside,” Western Star’s Pat Cook said as he passed the keys to the Road Star.

We’ve been keen to see this limited edition truck since rumours about its impending release some time back. Now, here in the foyer of Western Star’s Australian HQ at Wacol, Queensland, brochures of the new Road Star certainly painted a glamorous picture of a machine that would more than stand out in the crowd.

As you open the driver’s door you’re greeted by the custom black leather door trim with a lavish white leather inlay paneland 6” top-of-the-range Alpine speakers that form part of the 5.1 surround sound system. Then as you step up into the cabin you notice the synthetic wooden floor. The seats are premium ISRI with matching upholstery.

One advantage for the interior designers is the Road Star is based on the 4900 series platform; consequently there is no engine intrusion into the cabin. Combined with the dash- mounted Eaton UltraShift PLUS transmission control panel, this means there is plenty of space to move around between the seats.

Photo: Oh, how truck drivers have changed. Sink and cupboards on the right-hand side, from top cutlery, plates and mugs, microwave and fridge below that. 

Photo: A 32" curved TV is mounted into the front of the Stratosphere sleeper

Photo: There's a couch against the rear wall. 

Photo: A fold-away desk and control console includes data inputs and the bed up/down switch

In commemorating the company’s 50-year heritage, the Road Star takes its name from two eras.

“Most blokes would remember the original Road Boss that was produced here at Wacol by the White Corporation before it evolved into Western Star. The model name draws on those roots with ‘Road’ from the Road Boss and ‘Star’ from Western Star,” Pat said.

According to Pat, the Road Star’s driver environment boasts a comfortable and practical living environment with all the features that modern drivers would typically use and need when they’re on the road away from home.

Standing between the driver and passenger seats looking into the Stratosphere sleeper, our first impression is of a spacious upmarket Winnebago motorhome. The interior of the 54” sleeper was customised by Gold Coast-based specialised off-road caravan-camper, motorhome and expedition vehicle manufacturer SLRV. The company builds high quality vehicles where spacious live-aboard facilities are required.

“When you visit SLRV’s facility and see how much attention detail they put into their vehicles it really instils confidence that their equipment in this Road Star is built much like our Western Star trucks and more than capable of enduring our Australian conditions,” Pat said.

On the driver’s side of the sleeper there’s a sizable counter top that houses a sink with a double tap which pumps hot and cold water as well as potable water. Underneath the counter is a set of drawers; the top drawer houses the cutlery, cups, glasses and plates. Below this is the door for the microwave oven, while a spacious 65-litre fridge/freezer fills the bottom slot. Located in the drawer directly behind the driver’s seat is just what every Australian truck driver needs, a coffee maker on a slide-out drawer.

All the drawers and cupboards are fitted with secure locks to ensure they won’t open while the truck is in motion.

Photo: New Zealand Truck Magazine's own Howard Shanks looking way too comfortable behind the wheel of the Road Star.

Above the counter and next to the rear sleeper wall is an upright cupboard and wardrobe space. Along the remainder of the rear wall is a stylish two-seater leather couch. On the left-hand side of the sleeper directly behind the passenger seat is another cupboard with a foldout desk that is easily accessed when seated on the couch. And it’s here where you find all the switches and controls required to operate the interior workings of the cabin. The controls for the hot water and chassis- mounted Ecowind auxiliary air conditioner are located above the counter on the right side of the sleeper.

Standing in the sleeper there is no visible bunk. However, look closely and there is a slight giveaway to its whereabouts. Three steel rods fixed between the counter top and ceiling are not merely to give the kitchenette a fashionable retro style look. These are the guides that the bed uses when it lowers itself from the ceiling.

To lower the bed, simply ensure everything is clear on the bench tops, and then flick the button on the console and the bed slowly lowers itself. In the process the wardrobe lowers into a hidden space behind the cupboards. The process takes a little over a minute for the full-size single bed complete with innerspring mattress to lower itself on to the counter top. A small slide-out stepladder conveniently located behind the driver’s seat provides easy access to the bed. With the bed lowered there is plenty of space around the sleeping area and no obstacles to bang your head on should you wake up suddenly in the middle of the night.

After the driver has had his required sleep, he simply makes the bed and flicks the switch to return the bed back to the roof.

However there’s more. After a long hard day on the road, you’ve cooked your dinner, washed the dishes, and now you can enjoy a hot shower. The shower cubicle can either be located on the ground beside the right-hand side of the sleeper for the not so shy, or on the deck plate between the trailer and sleeper for the more modest. No more disgusting truck stop showers.

Now you’re clean, you can sit in the lounge and use your laptop on the desk or utilise the on-board entertainment system. This system includes a number of different essentials to give the driver that extra feeling of luxury.

Fixed to the inside of the angled roof at the front of the Stratosphere sleeper is a 32” curved TV screen. Its location is perfect when the driver wants to unwind on the couch. While sitting on the couch the driver can insert a USB stick in the handy slot to their left and access its contents, whether audio or video, or slip a DVD into the Alpine player. The main control centre will also accept SD cards.

Drivers away from home can communicate easily with family or their trucking company management via the supplied keyboard with Wi-Fi capability, and easy connection to the internet. Below the curved screen there is a small camera, making Skype video calls possible from the truck’s cabin. The system also includes a hard disk where further media can be added. This means drivers can access their photos, music, or anything else that takes their fancy.

There is no shortage of speakers fitted around the cabin, including a discreetly hidden powerful subwoofer. When combined they deliver cinema style surround sound for watching movies.

Located in the overhead console, also viewable from the cabin’s lounge, is the main control module for the entire entertainment system. The good news is there is a Bluetooth keyboard and remote control for the sound system, which enables the driver to operate the system from anywhere in the cabin.

Photo: Clean factory-installed 5.1 surround sound AV system with DVD, USB, wi-fi and satnav capabilities

When the driver is at work behind the wheel, there is large LCD screen located in the right side of the overhead console. This screen displays a wide range of information, and when driving, the radio channel and volume can be easily seen and adjusted using the touchscreen. This screen will also display images from the GoPro camera that can be mounted in the middle LED light on the front bull bar, or images from the blind spot camera located under the left-hand air cleaner. The blind spot camera is activated when the left-hand indicator is turned on, to display a picture of what is in the truck’s blind spot.

Like most modern campers, this truck also catches its grey water, which can be discharged at the appropriate disposal stations. The rear left-hand 450-litre alloy tank traditionally used for diesel is split into two. Three hundred litres is used for fresh water storage and 150 litres for the Ecowind power pack’s diesel, with the grey water tank located underneath this.

There are two additional cell batteries located under the left side of the sleeper that power the internal workings of the custom sleeper, leaving the truck’s main batteries for operating the truck.

Under all the frills is a Western Star 4964 FXT, powered by a Detroit DD15, rated at 560hp (412kW) at 1,800rpm and putting out 2,500Nm (1,850 ft lb) of torque at 1,100rpm. The transmission is Eaton’s UltraShift PLUS transmission, with dash-mounted push-button controls. The rear axles are Meritor 46-160GP with a rear axle ratio of 4.3:1. The wheelbase is 5800mm with a 1475mm overhang at the rear. Up front is a custom-built bull bar from King Bars.

One needs to ask if there is a downside to this lavish machine, and while most folks would be hard-pressed to find any, from a management point of view, losing the left-hand rear fuel tank might be considered one. Also, a minor point might be for the inclusion of a floor mat to protect the wooden floor.

On the bling side, given the theme and roots of the Road Star, maybe a nice touch would have been to use the old retro Detroit Diesel badges rather than the current model badges. But maybe that’s just us being a little too nostalgic.

The Road Star goes along way towards improving the living environment and lifestyle for long distance drivers. It is certainly trucks like this that will attract more professional operators to the industry.

Photo: The disappearing bed and cupboard. As the bed comes 
down from the ceiling the cupboard disappears. A step-ladder pulls out from behind the driver’s seat to give access to the bunk. Below: A GoPro camera can be mounted between the LED lights in the centre of the bull bar. A blind spot camera is mounted under the air cleaner on the left-hand side. Images display on the screen in the overhead console.