Truck test: Cat CT610

By: Craig Silby, Photography by: Lyndsay Whittle

Cat CT610 Cat CT610
Cat CT610 One of the best features of the Cat CT610 is the LED headlights. You get panoramic viewsthrough the one-piece wraparound screen. Cat CT610
Cat CT610 A fuel-efficient truck even when the load is not aerodynamic. Cat CT610
Cat CT610 Pyramid Trucking B-train loaded up with bins of animal by-products and heading south from Auckland to Waitoa in the Waikato. Cat CT610
Cat CT610 Simple modern dash layout is easy to read and a pleasure to use. Eaton Ultrashift Plus control box falls easily to hand, but the rub against your left knee can become uncomfortable after a while. Cat CT610
Cat CT610 Storage bin above the screen tie in nicely with the central interior light pod and DIN-sized slot, which is an ideal place for the CB. Cat CT610
Cat CT610 Large flat mirrors feature integrated LED amber lights for a modern touch. Cat CT610
Cat CT610 Pockets in the door are minimal at best, but the design is tidy and easy to keep clean. Cat CT610
Cat CT610 Much of NZ driving is heading north or south , so you often have sun blasting in your door window. Twin sunvisors are a helpful solution to this issue. Cat CT610
Cat CT610 Sleek new Cat CT610 demonstrator tractor getting ready for action at Pyramid Trucking in Auckland. Cat CT610

Craig Silby takes the new Cat CT610 tractor unit on a real world test, travelling 496km over unfamiliar roads carrying unfamiliar loads. This will prove to be a test for both the truck and the driver.

Pyramid Trucking Ltd kindly allowed us to take over one of its flat-deck B-trains and do a typical run using the new Cat CT610 demonstrator tractor unit. Pyramid Trucking specialises in servicing the animal by-products industry, with an ever-growing fleet of stunningly-presented vehicles.

Gough Cat on-highway truck sales manager Richard Gordon explains, "The truck is set up as a fairly standard 6x4 tractor unit, weighing around 8060kg. It might not be set up exactly right for this type of work, but it should be close."

Starting in Auckland, I pick up four stacks of empty bins, destined for Rangiuru in the Bay of Plenty, then at another stop we fill the decks with bins containing freshly-cleaned bones and a few pallets of animal fat destined for Waitoa in the Waikato.

The cab

Climbing into the driver's seat wasn't as easy as expected. The right-side fuel tank is quite large, which means the tank-strap mounted steps are quite far apart. The grab handles are plentiful and readily encourage using three points of contact when climbing in or out of the cab.

In-cab storage is limited. However, I found the leather air-suspended Gramag driver's seat a revelation for a US-derived truck. It was comfy, quick, and easy to adjust to my liking, and there was a Gramag seat for the passenger too.

Cat _CT_0

The dash is clearly laid out in a semi-circular arrangement, with your typical US market preference for heaps of gauges and dials. The sweep of gauges is perfectly bordered by the shape of the steering wheel, so you nearly always have a clear view of the whole display, which includes an electronic readout for fuel economy, trip meter etc.

Another revelation for a US-sourced truck was self-cancelling indicators. Small things matter to drivers that spend long hours at the controls, and it seems that Cat Trucks offers more driver comforts than has been typical of US-sourced trucks in the past. This can only be a good thing.

Cat CT13 motor

To complement the new Cat CT13 motor, the demonstrator truck is fitted with the latest Eaton Fuller 18-speed, automated manual transmission, the Ultrashift Plus 2 pedal (AMT).

The simple push-button controls for the transmission sit in a pod protruding from the dash to the left of the steering column. This falls easily to hand, where you can readily call up shifts manually, or just select 'D' and leave the work to the truck.

After a few cycles up and down the box in the Cat CT610, I noticed this version chose ratios more wisely and seemed more intuitive than Eaton AMTs I've used before.

Taking off in second is quite annoying when you're light, so I bumped it up to fourth and from then on until we picked up some more weight, the truck defaults to fourth for take-off, which is great. It also skip-shifts up and down the box much better than I've experienced with Eaton AMTs in the past.

The view from the driver's seat is excellent. There was even a clever split visor solution to the sun blasting through your side windows. The sleek steeply-angled bonnet is all but invisible from the driver seat, and the mirrors are large and clear, with heated and electrically-adjusted main lenses.

One of the things I noticed when outside the truck was how quiet the new Cat CT13 motor is when idling. This was also the case inside, the Navistar-based cab did well insulating the outside noises. It was by no means European levels of quiet inside, but definitely not an issue, even when spending long hours in the cab.

What is amazingly quiet though, is the CT13 engine brake. It was so quiet that I reckon you could comfortably use it through towns and not be concerned about being a nuisance. It's a three-stage unit and when I came down each side of the Kaimai ranges, it held really well, yet retained a decent road speed.

The new CT13 engine meets or exceeds ADR 80/03 or Euro 5 using advanced EGR and an active diesel particulate filter (DPF), so there's no AdBlue to confuse the fuel efficiency figures. Climbing the Kaimai ranges each way was easy, I just kicked back and let the transmission software and the torque of the CT13 motor do its thing.

Cat _CT_3

With 475hp on tap and peak torque of 1700lb/ft delivered from only 1000rpm, it might be hard to justify the want for a bigger motor, especially when you get such good fuel economy. For sure, the unit didn't fly up and over the hill, but it got over it smoothly, quickly, and efficiently.

Driving at night

I believe Cat trucks are still one of the only brand of trucks available on the New Zealand market that come standard with full LED headlights. Well, my verdict is: LED headlights are fantastic! On low or dipped beam they provide a clear white spread of light that seemed to be very comfortable for my eyes.

One bugbear was that the steering wheel buttons were not illuminated and I had no idea which button did what for the cruise control settings. This didn't take too long to figure out, but seemed a bit of an oversight.

The verdict

The Cat CT610 truck is a good honest worker, and most drivers would be happy to spend long days in it.

The steering was positive and the unit was easy to position on the highway, but you had to constantly keep it in check. Sometimes much of this can be put down to new truck issues that I'm sure could be dealt with by the team at Goughs at the first service.

Operators that have tare weight sensitive loads or are looking for excellent fuel efficiency should look long and hard at the Cat CT610. With rock solid backing from the Gough Group of companies and the comprehensive nationwide service network, you'd be pretty hard-pressed to find a better solution.

Watch a video of Craig Silby taking the Cat CT610 for a drive here.

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