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test-drives

TEST DRIVE: FREIGHTLINER CORONADO

Posted: August 1, 2014

Market research shows the Coronado is most popular with younger owner-ops.

Coronado hit the streets in 2003, designed to be the kind of truck an owner-operator moved up to. An “aspirational” model, Freightliner calls it. And they know full well the Coronado doesn’t appeal to everyone. Marketing research shows it’s more popular amongst younger owner-ops, and that Western owner-ops tend to prefer the Classic XL to the Coronado. As one of those older drivers, I confess I was a little less than enthusiastic when I first saw it, but it has grown on my tired old eyes over the past few years. As a tired, old — and widening — driver, I do appreciate the room between the seats as well as the easy access into the cab. I fit pretty comfortably into the Coronado, and that was really my first impression. Coronado isn’t exactly a new Freightliner model, but they remain fairly rare birds in Canada. Typically, they’re built on a longer chassis than is allowed in Canada — that is, something less than 244 in. With the long hood and the 70-in. sleeper, it just won’t work with our archaic length rules unless the frame is trimmed just a little. The truck I drove around Oregon late in October had a rather generous rear deck — more room than you’d really need — and Jennifer Harris, on-highway marketing manager at Freightliner tells us that’s where they make the 25-in. cut to get the trucks legal for Canada. Canadian owners wishing to install an APU or a genset might have to give up a little fuel capacity or some under-cab storage space in the form of the right-hand-side tool box. There are several design features to Coronado worth mentioning, like the two-piece windshield — they’re cheaper and easier to repair than a one-piece window. And the fenders are bolted to the hood, not molded, meaning they can be replaced inexpensively without major surgery to the hood. The headlights are a snap to replace, and you won’t need as much as a screwdriver to do it. In the cab, you’ll find the power distribution module located on the top side of the passenger dash, making it awfully easy to reset a breaker or change a fuse. The HVAC fan has — get this — eight speed settings. And the climate control system in the cab is separate from the sleeper, giving occupants of both full control. Creature Comforts Freightliner has always done a good job with the driver environment, I think, and Coronado is certainly no different. From the moment I put it in gear and left the Test Engineering center in Portland, I felt at home behind the wheel — especially with the pedal / shifter / steering wheel arrangement. This is where you spend the bulk of your time in a truck, so it needs to be right for you. It couldn’t be much righter for me. The shifter was right where the right hand naturally falls, and the pedals were very intuitively placed. I like to sit fairly far forward in the seat travel, and I felt like I was right on top of everything I needed to manage moment by moment. If I had any complaints about the driver’s perch, it’s that the dash lights are a little dim at night; and the little red night lights shouldn’t be spot lights, rather, regular flood lights. The 70-in. sleeper is worth crowing about a little, too. Getting up to the upper bunk wasn’t too much trouble, and the upper windows open for ventilation. Where I had trouble was getting down. There’s this seatbelt-type catch right dead center on the front edge of the platform, which, when a guy attempts to slide off of, tends to grab at certain body parts… I’ll say no more, but be cautioned. There’s a nifty little pull-out desk built into the driver’s side cabinet, and the cabinet top is a non-slip surface that really is non-slip. There’s lots of room back there for your duds and other stuff as well, and it’s pre-wired for an entertainment centre, fridge, and possibly a microwave if there’s an inverter installed. Two-Lane Time Oregon is home to some really interesting driving environments, and what a truck to be driving them in. I ran east out of Portland along I-84, past The Dalles, to Biggs, where I cut south on U.S. Highway 97. While the scenery along I-84 is nothing to sneeze at, the road didn’t offer much of a challenge to the Coronado. U.S. 97 was better in that it was two-lane, but darned good two-lane. The front-end geometry on the truck made U.S. 97 feel as smooth and straight as an Interstate anyway. Even the twists and turns were rendered nearly routine by the TRW PCF 60 steering gear and the Freightliner front suspension. I’d look for that set up on any truck I was buying. The front axle is set back slightly — 35.7 in. from the bumper — which improves the smoothness of the ride without any side effects in handling. That setup also yields a 50-degree wheel cut, which really narrows the turning radius. The real test of the steering system’s stability came later when I snuck down state highways 138, 230, and 62 around Crater Lake National Park and down to Grant’s Pass. That’s an awesome road for anyone who really likes to drive, and happens to be driving a truck that likes to be driven. There are some pretty tight curves and steep grades down there, but all were laid flat and straight by the Coronado and its standard 1,650 lb ft Series 60 (Cat’s C15 is optional). Heading north on I-5 toward Portland, one finds some long grades. Again, the 515-hp Series 60 took them in stride and all the while the cooling system did its thing without the aid of the big fan. Coronado is available in a day-cab configuration, or with a choice of two sleepers: a 70-in. mid-roof or the full height raised roof model. When the 2008 models hit the street early this year, you won’t see any changes to the outward look of the truck, despite a radiator that has grown from 1,500 to 1,900 sq in. The DPFs will be frame mounted, and the exhaust stacks will be routed much the same as they are now. Demographics aside, any driver would find the Coronado a good compromise between aerodynamics and traditional styling. The bright trim and chrome accents on the outside might appeal to a younger buyer, but like George Bernard Shaw said, “youth is wasted on the young.” There’s a lot to like about the Coronado: embrace change! SPEC SHEET Powertrain DDC Series 60-14.0L 515 Hp @ 1,800 rpm; 1,650 lb ft @ 1,200 rpm Clutch: Eaton Fuller 15.5-in. Ceramic Solo Xl Transmission: Eaton Fuller RTLO-20918B 18-speed Front End Meritor MFS-12-143A 12,000-lb axle; 12,000-lb taper leaf springs; Meritor LX500 Q+ extended-lube S-cam brakes; Meritor autoslacks; Haldex long-stroke chambers; TRW PCF-60 Power Steering; Goodyear G395 LHS tires. Rear End Meritor RT-40-145 R-SRS 40,000-lb tandem rears with 3.90 ratio; Freightliner Airliner 40,000-lb suspension; Meritor LX500 Q+ extended-lube S-cam brakes; Meritor autoslacks; Haldex long-stroke parking chambers; Goodyear G328 24.5-in. tires.

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