Freightliner Cascadia First Drive Review

freightliner cascadia day-cab

There’s change in the works at Freightliner with the brand preparing to launch an all-new model into the Australian market – Cascadia.

Replacing Argosy, Freightliner is currently testing two left-hand drive pre-production Cascadia trucks in Australia.

When done in 2021, the trucks, along with some right-hand drive variants, would have covered more than a million miles (1.6 million kilometres).

Freightliner say they’re determined to get the new product right before it hits the local market in 2020.

Find out more about the local testing that Freightliner is putting the Cascadia through here.

This week we got the chance to take a good up-close look at the two test trucks, and to do a few laps on a private test track near Melbourne.

The test included 5% grades, as well as simulated highway conditions.

Both trucks are fitted with day-cabs, the new RHD vehicles coming to join the local testing program will include different cab variants (but exactly which cabs hasn’t been confirmed).

One of the trucks has the 13-litre Detroit Diesel engine, in this case producing 505hp, the second test truck has the larger 16-litre capacity and produces 600hp.

Both trucks were in B-Double configuration, the smaller capacity truck was shifting more weight – 60.5 tonnes, a full one tonne more than the more powerful offering.

What was interesting though was that the 13-litre truck was running in Economy mode, the 16-litre unit was in Performance mode.

I’m sorry to tell the die-hards who are rusted on to the older tech and bigger capacity/horsepower at all costs that, in this test at least, modern, smart and efficient is the way to go.

Sure, the AMT in the truck with the lower output had to change down more quickly when faced with an incline, however I believe this actually made for a smoother, easier drive.

Even with the heftier load on-board the 13-litre unit pulled easily up the 5% hill from a near standing stop with ease, I was very impressed.

I felt the engine was also quieter too.

freightliner cascadia interior

Early days still, but here are a few other observations that I made from my drive of both Cascadia trucks:

The cab, with its flat floor, is above my expectations for fit, feel and finish.

There wasn’t a rattle to be heard (the trucks have each covered over 30,000km, so a bit early to make a final judgement here).

The cab is quiet and obviously well sound-proofed.

The layout of the dash is what you would expect to find in a European truck, I particularly like the full-colour driver info screen (controllable via steering wheel mounted buttons).

Visibility from the driver’s seat is excellent, it takes some getting used to though as you really are out on the extremities of the cab (perhaps exacerbated in feel on the test-drive by being a LHD vehicle).

The main cab mirrors aren’t huge, in my opinion they wouldn’t want to be any smaller.

Only the main mirrors are electronically adjustable.

The three-stage exhaust brake provides excellent range of control with the full-on position offering impressive compression braking.

The 12-speed AMT is a winner. It changes gears smoothly and responds quickly with some right-foot input. Makes you wonder why anyone would want to do it themselves in 2018!

I also thought the Freightliner Cascadia displayed nice steering weight with good take-up off centre too.

As I said, early days and the test was somewhat artificial being on the test-track. I’m sure that as the testing regime goes on we will get more opportunities to sample the new Freightliner offering.

From what I experienced though, yep – they’re on a good one here I feel.

freightliner cascadia dashboard and instrumentsCheck out more details on the Freightliner Cascadia here and stay up to date with the latest Freightliner News here at

About Joel Helmes 1676 Articles
Joel is the founder and CEO of Heavy Vehicles. With more than 20 years experience in the media, including more than 10 years heading up the car publication - Behind the Wheel, Joel is passionate about bringing a fresh perspective to the Australian road transport industry. Prior to his media career Joel worked for a number of years as a bus, truck and delivery driver.

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