Daimler’s other US brand, Western Star looks like it is back in the main game in Australia, with its Australian distributor, Penske, unveiling the new X-Series  range to the trade press In Brisbane this week to much acclaim, in what is the first all new Western Star truck  to be developed from the ground up , since Daimler bought the brand in 2006.

Penske  executives were clearly wearing smiles on their faces, and so they should, the new Star 47X, 48X and 49X models demonstrated a significant and major step up in technology, performance,  safety and design, with the Penske team believing that these are the trucks that will take the brand back to double digit market share  in the Australian market.

Its fair to say that the ageing ‘legacy’ trucks that have underpinned Western Star’s offerings locally have been overtaken in the last few years by other US based brands in terms of technology, safety and design and that has been reflected in a diminishing sales volume as the likes of Kenworth have charged ahead with the likes of its T610 and T410 ranges.

Penske Australia’s executive general manager of on highway trucks, Craig Lee, says the new X Series models have taken some time to arrive in Australia, six years to be precise,  but now that they are here, he believes the brand will take back a significant share of  the conventional bonneted heavy truck market.

“We are thrilled to unveil the brand new X-Series to our Australian customers,” said Craig Lee.

“Our team has worked closely with Daimler Trucks North America on the design of these three models, including the 48X which is a global exclusive, to deliver a product that is bespoke to our local needs.

“We’re excited by what the X-Series means for Australian customers. We have passionate Western Star enthusiasts who will want a 49X 6×4 with the 600 hp Detroit DD16, drum brakes, spring suspension, and an Eaton Fuller manual transmission – a space in which we are renowned – and we can deliver that,” said Craig Lee.

“On the other side of that, for a fleet operator after a 47X or 48X to haul B-doubles with Detroit’s DT12 transmission and all the advanced telematics that comes with that, we can deliver that too,” he said.

“The Detroit DD13 13 litre engine in the 47X and 48X also open up new markets for Western Star, such as local distribution or B-double intrastate,” Lee added.

Lee and his team claim that this is the most tested Western Star ever,  and emphasised that the X-Series was designed from the ground up with the 47X, 49X, as well as  the  48X, which is exclusive to the Australian market and will not be available anywhere else in the world.

Although Penske execs were at pains to emphasise that the  X Series models are very much Western Star trucks and have their own character and appearance, the truth is they do share a significant amount of DNA  with the Cascadia, from fellow Daimler Trucks North America  brand, Freightliner, which is sold in Australia by the factory controlled subsidiary Daimler Trucks Australia.

Supply issues aside, the Cascadia sales numbers have been meagre  since the truck arrived here in 2019, however on viewing and briefly driving its siblings, we reckon that Western Star may have  cracked the recipe for sales success with the X Series, a recipe that has so far eluded the Cascadia.

Importantly the new X Series models have a better Bumper to Back of Cab (BBC) dimension than Cascadia and that, particularly with the 48X, will make it more attractive for a whole range of activities in this country than the Cascadia. But just as important is the X Series more aggressive design and presence on the road, which we reckon will make it more attractive to traditional Australian bonneted truck buyers, and is sure to win back many Western Star buyers who may have migrated to Kenworth in recent times.

The big shiny, silver grille and radiator surround gives the new Western Star’s a really aggressive look  which will satisfy a number of conventional buyers, but significantly the X series now has the safety tech, spread of drivelines and cab comfort to make it a real alternative to the  Big K

The new Western Star  range starts with the 47X, which Penske describes as ‘highly versatile’ and features  a short, sloped bonnet that delivers good payload flexibility, a set-back front axle, and a choice of a Cummins L9 or a Detroit DD13 Gen 5 as engine options. In terms of transmissions, it is available with the Detroit DT12 AMT,  the Allison fully automatic, or Eaton Fuller ‘RoadRanger’ manual options,  while there is also  a range of sleeper options.

As we mentioned earlier, Penske can rightly claim that the 48X was designed specifically for Australia, and is powered  by the  Detroit DD13 Gen 5 in a range of horsepower  specs from the 450-525 hp or with the  DD16 engine, offering between 500 and 600 hp. The 48 X features a set-forward front axle, and with that attractive 113.5 inches BBC measurement,  which will give it added market appeal as well as delivering a  range of flexible solutions.

The flagship of the new Star range, and what Penske is  declaring is  the ‘toughest of the tough’,  is the 49X , which is powered by the 500-600 hp DD16 16 litre, and , boasts a GCM capability of  200 plus tonnes. The 49X will also be available with multiple cabin options, including the largest cab on the Australian market, the 72” Stratosphere sleeper.

One of the real revelations at the  media launch was the latest generation DD13 engine, which is labelled as being GGH21, and is a later evolution of the Detroit 13 litre than is available in current Cascadias. The 525 hp versions we drove  were extremely impressive, grunting their way around the tight and hilly Mount Cotton facility on Brisbane’s outskirts, demonstrating a low flat torque characteristic and the ability to dig deep from 1000rpm even with a B-Double and 58.5 tonnes aboard.

The Penske organisation is saying the X-Series is underpinned by the legendary durability that customers expect from a Western Star but that fact that  it now features an integrated driveline, the advanced safety package, and  much better comfort,  particularly in the most rugged applications. will be the big attraction for buyers.

Penske Australia’s head of Western Star Trucks, Kurt Dein, says the new X-Series is lighter, safer, stronger, and more spacious than any Western Star before it.

“Ingrained with the tough Western Star DNA for which we are renowned, the X-Series-specific cab is reinforced with steel for added strength ensuring customers can continue to depend on Western Star in the most challenging of applications – whether that is heavy haulage on-highway or heavy haulage off-road,” said Dein.

“Inside the cab, premium noise and temperature insulation and triple door seals deliver a quiet and comfortable environment, and the multi-function steering wheel and primary instrument cluster result in a highly intuitive workspace,” he said.

“From the 36” mid and trench sleeper options to the market-leading 72” Stratosphere sleeper, the cabin options are unbeatable. The 72” Stratosphere is seriously spacious and includes a 65-litre fridge, generous storage solutions with microwave prep, and either a Murphy-style bed – with a foldaway dinette/work table – or a double bunk option.

“With Active Brake Assist 5, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise control, side guard assist, tailgate warning, brake hold mode, an improved visibility package, and a RollTek driver’s seat with rollover restraint and a seat-mounted airbag, drivers and fleet operators can have complete peace of mind that their Western Star will protect their most important asset, the occupants,” Dein added.

From our brief time driving the trucks and the very thorough briefing we received from the Western Star team on every aspect of the new trucks, we came away very impressed, not only about the new models themselves, but also about the clearly strengthened resolve on the part of Penske to take the Star back up the sales charts. As we told several of the Penske staffers at the launch, the new X Series means that there are now no excuses for not achieving renewed sales success in Australia.

We look forward to an extended drive in  the X Series in the near future