Truck tests may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of California’s Napa Valley, but there we were, in a spiffy new Freightliner Cascadia putting Daimler’s new DT12 automated manual transmission through its paces. The Ultimate Test Drive video crew and I spent the morning weaving through the vineyards and taking in the tasteful architecture of Napa and Yountville before heading out onto Interstate 80 and the hills to the east of Vallejo.
We have three videos in this series, each one focusing on testing different features of the new transmission in a variety of environments. In part one we wound up and down through the gears in the town of Napa to see how it managed stop ‘n go traffic, before exploring how creep mode and e-coast worked.
In part two we played around with the three operating modes – economy, performance and manual. One thing we discovered is that, while most of the time the transmission does just fine on its own, there are still situations where a driver can make better shifting decisions.
And finally, in part three, we ran a few loops up and down I-80 to see how well the DT12 managed climbing and descending Hunter Hill’s 6% grades in both performance and economy modes.
Even though performance is the DT12’s middle name, it’s really all about fuel economy. It’s a low-rpm shifter, and it sure likes to skip shift. Drivers will like the smoothness of the shifts, and the ability to manually shift two gears in either direction – for easier cruising at low rpm or for maximum engine brake output at 2,200 rpm at the opposite end of the scale.
I expected great things from the DT12, and it didn’t disappoint. In fact, I came away thinking it’s better than it needs to be. But in today’s competitive environment, better is only good enough for so long.
If you haven’t already, make sure to also check out the other test drives in The Ultimate Test Drive series.