Photo by Tudor Van Hampton for ENR
GETTING IT DONE: Caterpillar still has some work to do on its first heavy-duty truck, but the CT660 is a solid start and a quick study on and off the road.
Photo By Tudor Van Hampton for ENR
The CT660 interior features a simple instrument layout and a quiet cab. Cat says it has muffled noise by 3 decibels, or about 50%, compared to other work trucks.

Traditional truckers may lament that their rigs feel more and more like cars, but a new heavy-duty rig, the Caterpillar CT660, makes no apologies about the comfort.

Available as a set-forward-axle Class 8 truck, the CT660 is Cat's “most intensely researched product,” says George Taylor, director of the Peoria, Ill.-based company's on-highway group. ENR recently had the chance to test drive one at an event Cat hosted in Edwards, Ill.

In 2007, when Cat decided to offer a truck, it conducted focus groups and interviewed thousands of clients. One response was overwhelming: Trucks should appeal to drivers in a time of shrinking work pools and increasing risk. The answer? Make it easy to drive.

Although the CT660 has room for improvement, we think Cat has succeeded and set its product apart from the competition. Today, Navistar builds it in Garland, Texas, based on its WorkStar chassis and MaxxForce engine lines. However, it incorporates Cat's unique styling and features.

On the outside, everything from the windshield forward resembles the backside of a Cat wheel loader. The sloping hood provides excellent visibility.

You won't find flimsy plastic around the vehicle. The steel bumper is a three-piece construction, as is the grille surround, allowing faster and cheaper replacement if damaged. The composite fenders are sturdy. The cab is aluminum alloy, and the hood is Metton, a fiberglass alternative. The side mirrors, which include power control and turn signals, pop away if obstructions hit them. Piano-style hinges run the length of the doors.

Inside, the truck's cockpit-style layout, round gauges, leather-wrapped steering wheel and supportive seating reminded us of a Ford Super Duty, which is no accident, says Gary Blood, product manager.

“Some people grouse about how, over the last 10 years, pickup trucks have gotten more car-like interiors, but I really don't hear them complaining about the nice environment that they get,” he explains. "If we are headed on a path to take the same direction in the Class-8 vocational truck business, I'll be the first one to stand up and say, 'Yup, that's they way we'd like to take it because that's what our customers are really interested in.'"