Cat's quiet cab contains easy-to-learn controls, and switches are just the right size for gloves. Though we liked the upright seating position, we thought the pedals were a bit chunky, and our feet needed time to adjust to them.

Designers paid special attention to the main instrument cluster, which is stuffed so tight that no less than nine gauges are visible through the top half of the steering wheel. To achieve this, the speedometer and tachometer were combined into a single, central gauge—the tach needle moves counterclockwise opposite the speedo's clockwise turn. It looks a little wacky, but Cat says focus groups weren't bothered by it.

Hardware mounts and other decisions—such as the use of shock-absorbing compacted graphite iron in the engine block—led to a 3-decibel reduction in overall cab noise, or about 50% less than normal work trucks, says Blood. However, we were disappointed to hear the power steering pump shriek loudly when we tugged at the wheel.

The truck still drives like a big truck, though Cat has re-engineered the steering for a tighter turning radius, which helped us make a successful U-turn on a dirt road without backing up. Available under the hood is an 11-liter diesel engine with up to 390 hp and 1,450 lb-ft of torque or a 13 liter offering up to 475 hp and 1,700 lb-ft of torque. A 15-liter with up to 550 hp and 1,850 lb-ft of torque will be available next year.

We drove a dump truck with the 13-liter and Cat's proprietary CX31 six-speed automatic transmission, which is standard. The CX31 shifts smoothly and downshifts at the appropriate times to provide engine braking. The truck has low-end grunt for heavy hauling, but we longed to pull away a bit faster from a stop. Buyers can specify a number of automatic and manual Eaton transmissions, as well.

We estimate the CT660 will cost 5% more than Mack and about the same as Kenworth or Peterbilt. So, a chassis would ring up between $125,000 and $135,000 or, with a dump body, between $145,000 and $160,000. Other bodies and trims are also available.

As an incentive, Cat is throwing in three years of its web-based Product Link telematics service. It normally costs $30 to $40 per month per asset. For folks who already are wired into Cat's fleet-tracking network, that may sweeten the pot.