Jul 07, 2023

Street Smarts: Beloved classic gets an update

By Jack Roberts16 August 2023

When you’ve got a modern classic on your hands, you have to be very careful not to upset that delicate balance between style and functionality. That task is made even more difficult when you’re taking about a truck that, in the minds of many, is the defining image of American trucking, and has legions of discerning fans across the globe who are exceedingly particular when it comes to messing with their beloved, iconic highway cruiser.

That’s why it took Peterbilt engineers 10 years to update its classic, long-nose Model 389 Class 8 tractor. “We knew we had to get it right,” Jake White, director of product marketing for Peterbilt, said. “Our customers are passionate about this truck. Which is why if you’re standing in a big truck stop parking lot, you sometimes can’t tell the difference between it and its Model 389 predecessor. And we’re very happy about that.”

Not about aerodynamics

In an age of aerodynamic trucks, the most immediate question is why Peterbilt still builds a long-nosed conventional tractor. The reason is simple: Peterbilt still sells a lot of them.

“Not everyone in this industry needs an aerodynamic truck,” White explained. “We have a lot of customers who spec Model 389s as premium work trucks in small and regional fleets. And we sell a lot of them into applications where aerodynamics aren’t a must-have feature – wreckers, tankers, work trucks and so on. So, for us, the beauty of this truck is really tied in with its function. They work hard and perform great. And there’s a very strong residual when the owners decide to sell that really drives their value proposition.

“The Model 389 accounts for about 20% of our annual truck builds. So, this is not a niche product by any means.”

Cab-driven design

The main driver for the development of the Model 589 is the Paccar 2.1-meter cab that the truck has been engineered to accept. This is the latest and most modern cab offered by Paccar. It’s wider and taller than the cab on the Model 389 and features modern composite materials that make it strong but also extremely quiet on the road. The new cab features a comfortable, quiet, interior, White said, and can be spec’d from 36 in. in height up to Peterbilt’s new 80-in. high-rise sleeper.

Model 589 interiors feature several trim packages in both sandstone and Alpine gray color schemes. Amenities include heavy bright work accents on the dashboard, burled-wood steering wheel with integrated controls and two-tone leather seats. Ample storage in the roomy sleep compartment is a given, of course. Driver-oriented touches include a full-length wardrobe cabinet, dedicated space for a 22-in. flatscreen TV, a mini-fridge, room for a microwave oven and a mattress measuring a full 80 in. in length. Additional amenities include ample power ports strategically located throughout the cab and sleeper, as well as a pull-out desk for eating and working.

The exterior features an array of bumper options, LED running lamps, 15-in. stainless steel air cleaners, West Coast-style rear-view mirrors and dual, chrome exhaust stacks. There’s also a new sun visor design and bullet-style marker lights that are twice as bright as the lights found on the Model 389. On the side of the truck, you’ll find a new battery box with easy access to the exhaust aftertreatment system. A spacious toolbox is integrated into the battery box assembly, as well.

Host of options

The Model 589 definitely looks like a holdover from trucking’s Golden Age. But in reality, it’s about as modern, safe and comfortable a truck as you’re likely to find anywhere. The placement, lighting and graphics on the gauges and controls could not be better. Every switch, dial or lever can be quickly ID’d and reached by the driver. Everything has an intuitive, easy-to-use feel to it.

You can spec your Model 589 with a host of different trim levels, all the way up to what Peterbilt calls the “Legendary” package, which features unique interior appointments and color schemes, as well as the old school Peterbilt “script” logo prominently displayed on the grill and sides of the hood.

Engine options include both the Paccar MX-12 and Cummins X-15 diesel engines. And you can spec up to four different transmissions, including manual gearboxes as well as Paccar automated or Allison automatic transmissions.

Not about aerodynamicsCab-driven designHost of options