Say hello to the world's biggest production pickup truck
Jaws dropped when International Truck and Engine trotted out the enormous CXT four-wheel-drive pickup last fall. Even jaded truck people were astonished by the sheer size of the testosterone-oozing machine. Instantly, International cemented bragging rights that they now manufacture the world's biggest production pickup truck. There's no doubt that this semi with a pickup bed casts a domineering shadow over even the tallest street-legal four-wheel-drive rigs.
The backbone of the CXT is a massive frame with 10-inch-tall framerails. This is exactly the same frame that is found under many of International's hard-working commercial trucks like dumps, so you know it's strong. Powering the CXT is the 7.6L DT466 inline-six engine. Those of you who are familiar with heavy trucks will recall that this engine has been around for quite a while and has been used in a variety of applications. This specific DT466 engine, code 12NPM, generates 220 hp at 2,200 rpm and 540 lb-ft of torque at 1,400 rpm. Its features include electronic control; four valves per cylinder to improve engine breathing and produce better performance with lower emissions; new, quieter, digitally controlled G-2 electrohydraulic injectors that reduce emissions while improving fuel economy; dual censored timing control for more accurate engine timing; and a new EVRT electronically controlled turbocharger that provides responsiveness and boost needed at low speeds with a wide operating range.
Engine power is routed through a code 13AEG 2500 Series Allison five-speed automatic transmission. This transmission is no lightweight in either weight or capacity. It tips the scales at 330 pounds (dry), has a maximum GVWR of 33,000 pounds, and a nominal torque capacity of 550 lb-ft. From there, power is split to the axles by a gigantic Meritor MTC 4208 electronically controlled two-speed transfer case--the same as International uses in its four-wheel-drive fire- and utility trucks. Huge driveshafts carry the torque to the massive Meritor-manufactured axles. The front is an MX-10-120 that boasts a 10,000-pound capacity, air-locking differential, and a 13.25-inch ring-gear diameter. The rear axle is an RS-17-145 with a 17,000-pound capacity and 15-inch ring-gear diameter.
Between the huge axles and the gigantic frame is International's IROS suspension, which features parabolic tapered leaf springs with shock absorbers up front and airbags in the rear. International says that this suspension is specially tuned for the CXT's 14,500-pound curb weight. The CXT rides on 11R22.5 Goodyear tires (single front, dual rear) mounted on polished aluminum wheels. Air brakes with four-channel ABS are used to reign in the rolling mass.
Bolted to the frame is a 70-gallon polished-aluminum fuel tank, and since the CXT uses compressed air for a variety of components, there are a pair of polished dual air tanks mounted on the passenger side of the rig.
Department Of The Interior
The interior layout of the CXT is virtually the same as that of any other International medium-duty truck. It has air-ride front seating and its dash configuration includes all the standard gauges you need, plus air pressure gauges to monitor the two external air tanks and transmission temperature (100 to 400 degrees). What's different, however, is the trim level. International went into CXT development knowing full well that buyers want luxury in their haulers, so they rolled out a variety of options such as leather seating, an Alpine audio system with XM satellite capability, a rearview-mirror-mounted back-up camera, black-walnut wood trim, a DVD player with 10.5-inch drop-down screen, keyless entry, a deluxe center console with cup holders and LED storage area lighting, thick pile carpet, and ceiling-mounted limo lighting in the rear passenger area.
The CXT is available as either a Crew Cab or a 26-inch extended cab. Either way, the cab is air ride, just like the commercial rigs. It uses two airbags and a shock absorber at the rear of the cab and pivots at the front. An 8-foot dualie bed is standard (it's actually a Ford-sourced bed), but a tilt bed is optional. The cab sports all the big-rig stuff like large heated electric outside rearview mirrors, polished exhaust stack, and an air horn.
Driving The CXT
To prepare yourself for the CXT experience, you must have a clear realization of what it is. Quite simply, it's a four-wheel-drive, four-door semi-tractor with a pickup bed on the back. It easily dwarfs most every other 4x4 on- or off-pavement. Heck, it even stands taller than some semi tractors. The International press kit says that if you live in Illinois or Virginia, you must have a Class C Commercial Drivers License to drive it, and that means an air-brake endorsement as well. Because of what the CXT is, it boasts absolutely astounding towing and payload capacities, 40,000 and 11,400 pounds, respectively.
From the moment you climb up the two steel steps and slide behind the large steering wheel of the CXT, it's clear you've entered the World of the Big Rig. The big DT466 engine comes to life with a turn of the starter key, and in the huge outside rearview mirrors you can see a spurt of dark exhaust from the tall exhaust stack as the cold engine comes to life. At idle, the exhaust note and engine growl are much deeper than light-truck diesel engines, and this too reminds you that this is a serious pulling machine. Depress the brake, push the bright yellow dash-mounted parking brake in to charge the air brakes, and with a hiss of air you're ready to go.
We found that the CXT's size can be a bit overwhelming at first, but we quickly adapted to its 21-foot length, which is only 61/2 inches longer than a Chevy Silverado extended-cab longbed pickup. It's definitely wider than most other trucks on the road at 96 inches, but surprisingly narrower than a Hummer H1, which measures in with a mirror-to-mirror width of 101 inches. Height is where the CXT rules, measuring over 9 feet (not including exhaust stack). Naturally, this tall measurement requires the driver to be aware of what's overhead at all times.
On the highway, the engine loped along at 1,800 rpm when cruising at 60 mph. Without any sort of payload or trailer, the Allison transmission often downshifted from 5th to 4th gear to hold the 14,500-pound rig at speed on inclines. On a run to the Badlands Off Road Park in Attica, Indiana, the CXT averaged 8.5 mpg at 65 mph. The overall ride wasn't too bad, but rough roads sent the air-ride seats, and us, on a roller coaster ride. We're not surprised, considering the complete lack of weight over the rear axle compared to what the chassis was designed to haul. On dry pavement, the air brakes were quite effective, but on snowy or wet roads they weren't so much fun, exhibiting the vague then shockingly grabby feel of a semi-running bobtail. We're not so sure the ABS was working correctly on our tester, because it exhibited a fair amount of wheel lockup on snow, sand, and wet pavement.
Off-pavement, the CXT annihilates most obstacles placed in its path, but we'd be hating life if we got the 71/2-ton CXT stuck, that's for sure. The CXT is inherently torquey, and it's simply neck-snapping when the transfer case is placed in 4-Lo, generating a 37.1:1 crawl ratio. The framerails are high off the ground, and because of this we were able to confidently plow through 4-foot snowdrifts without fear of hanging the CXT on its frame. The curb-to-curb turning diameter is very impressive at 27 feet 7 inches, making the vehicle surprisingly maneuverable. By comparison, a Hummer H2's turning radius is 43.5 feet. There is a significant amount of cab-to-bed movement visible when the vehicle is driving on rough ground, which is at first unnerving but seems to be due to the natural movement of the air-ride cab.
Speaking of the cab, visibility in all directions is simply fabulous. We also must give praise to the overall interior layout, which seems to take advantage of every square inch to make the occupants more comfortable. The CXT's big truck heritage does come through at speed though, and there was a fair amount of wind, engine, and turbo noise permeating the cab.
The Bottom Line
International Truck and Engine has broken new ground with the massive CXT. That it comes standard with four-wheel drive is excellent in our opinion because it takes the CXT to a superior level of capability, no matter what the weather. The CXT is being marketed toward businesses with "extreme work and extreme play," but we're guessing that it's going to be embraced by those with lots of disposable income, heavy toys, and/or a penchant to make a statement.