Photo by Tudor Van Hampton/ENR
The CT680 comes in two trim packages; this tractor has the L trim with chrome brightwork.
Photo by Tudor Van Hampton/ENR
The cab is quiet and comfortable, and the switches are easy to operate.

Caterpillar’s new CT680 rounds out the manufacturer’s construction-truck offering since it first moved into the category, in 2011.

“We’re now expanding into Puerto Rico and Mexico,” said Ron Schultz, sales and product support manager, on May 14 at Cat’s demonstration and training center near Tucson, Ariz.

The set-forward-axle truck joins Peoria, Ill.-based Cat’s set-back-axle CT660 and the industrial-styled CT681. The CT680 has a bumper to back-of-cab (BBC) clearance of 124 in., more than the short-nose CT681, which provides 114 in. and is only available as a heavy vocational truck. The CT680 is offered in truck and tractor configurations.

The CT680 comes in two different trim packages: L and LG. The first includes an upscale three-piece Metton hood, three-piece chrome bumper and stainless-steel grille surround. The latter comes with a more utilitarian, one-piece fiberglass hood and blackout bumper.

A 13-liter Cat CX13 diesel engine is standard on the truck, but the manufacturer says that, later this year, it will announce details on an optional 15-liter engine. The 13-liter can be configured in three horsepower ratings of 410, 430 and 475 hp. Cat currently designs and builds the trucks—they are assembled in Escobedo, Mexico—in partnership with Navistar.

Customers Prefer Automatic

Cat offers a variety of Eaton manual transmissions and an optional Cat CX31 six-speed automatic. Eaton’s Ultrashift Plus automatic transmission is optional, as well. Cat expects its automatic transmission to represent the majority of CT680 trucks on the road.

Since the CT660 was introduced in 2011, “over half the trucks going out today are CX31,” said Dave Schmitz, vocational truck product manager. “We anticipate it will be just as popular on the 680.”

During a quick off-road test drive of two 13-speed manual, CX31-equipped trucks at Cat’s Tinaja Hills demo site, the CT680 delivered a refined ride.

The air-suspension seats equipped on both trucks (several options are available) included side and back lumbar supports, and the standard leather-wrapped steering wheels included standard tilt-and-telescoping capability. We did notice some noise and shaking of the trucks’ Metton hoods over rugged terrain, but the cabs were otherwise quiet enough to hold a normal conversation.

The day cab includes nice details, such as a center stack angled toward the driver and trimmed with a diamond-plate-patterned plastic shell. All switches and buttons are built for gloved hands. Ample legroom is available around the seats, and the pedals are sized right for work boots. Cat also provides plenty of storage room around the dash and behind the seats.

In terms of ride quality, Cat’s new truck benefits greatly from a parabolic, taper-leaf suspension that adds extra cushion to the front axle, especially when unloaded. It became available as an option last year on the CT660 and is standard on the CT680. Acceleration with both manual and automatic transmissions was reponsive and quick, but the automatic was, especially for this novice driver, far easier to operate due to its simplicity.

Cat has tried to make service simple on its new truck, too. For example, no tools are required to change headlight bulbs or wiper blades. Some 90% of components are common to the CT660, and the entire truck can be repaired at Cat dealerships.

“It’s bumper to bumper when it comes to the Caterpillar truck,” Schmitz said, speaking of dealer service.