Test drive: International’s medium-duty workhorse gets a new heart

Updated Mar 3, 2014

DSC_0020International’s Class 6 DuraStar 4000 is a medium-duty mainstay in fleets all across North America. And this year, it’s a truck with a new engine option.

You can now spec a DuraStar with a Cummins ISB diesel engine in addition to International’s long-standing International DT and MaxxForce 7 and 9 diesel options. The reintroduction of Cummins power — and the brand-new ISB option —  is part of International’s well-publicized move to Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) emissions control systems. The company has stated publically its goal to incorporate Cummins power throughout its vehicle portfolio. And the DuraStar is the latest truck to enter product with those iconic red engines under the hood.

I traveled to International’s award-winning Mississippi dealership, Waters International for a test-drive of the new ISB-equipped Durastar starting and finishing at their Columbus, Miss., facility. One of Waters’ premier sales professionals, Rip Fowler, gave me a pre-trip walk-around in which he pointed out the main features of the vehicle and its ISB engine.

My test vehicle was a straight truck equipped with a 275 horsepower engine and a typical box body. When the DuraStar was designed, Cummins was still an on-the-books option for fleets, so it was no surprise to see the engine fit perfectly under the hood with plenty of room for maintenance work and easy daily checks. In fact, most of the re-engineering required to put Cummins back under International hoods focused on the SCR exhaust after-treatment systems – primarily working out routing and mounting arrangements – and the DuraStar is no exception.

The truck was designed with city driving in mind. To that end, massive frontal glass area – to the tune of 2,000 square inches – an aggressively-sloped nose and deep, 55-degree wheel cuts work to help drivers clearly see their surroundings and easily maneuver the truck in tight urban environments. To further ease the driver’s workload, this particular DuraStar was equipped with Allison’s excellent 1000 Series automatic transmission. All told these features make the DuraStar a very easy truck to driver both on highways and in the city.

Climbing into the DuraStar cab is a snap thanks to the large, well-positioned grab handles and no-slip steps. Once in the cab, the solid, dependable DuraStar cab is comfortable and remarkably free of rattles and squeaks. As noted, visibility is excellent. Instrument and gauge placement is outstanding and highly configurable: Thanks to International’s ground-breaking multiplexed electrical system, fleets can easily add, remove or reposition gauges, switches and other vehicle controls with a minimum of fuss.

On the road the Cummins ISB provides plenty of power for inner-city driving. It accelerates quickly and is remarkably quiet at cruising speeds. The engine matches seamlessly with the Allison automatic for smooth shifts throughout its torque range. Inexperienced drivers (particularly non-CDL holders) will find this a remarkably easy truck to handle. The long DuraStar wheelbase translates into a truck that is highly docile at highway speeds: The truck refuses to wander out of its lane – even at Interstate speeds – and is surprisingly sure-footed on the narrowest country back road.

As it’s presence in medium-duty fleets shows, International’s DuraStar is an already-dependable and efficient urban hauler. The Cummins ISB option only enhances this truck’s reputation and provides even spec’ing flexibility for medium-duty fleets nationwide.