Is the International CXT an alternative to Unimog? Or is it too ridiculous?
Super size me
By Jay Leno
I'm not really a pick-up truck kind of guy. But I guess however
many million owners in the States can't all be wrong. So I thought I would
give them a go.
There's nothing particularly sophisticated about these vehicles.
They are meant to go 300,000 miles with no more than rudimentary
maintenance. In the Midwest, where you find most of them, there are no
corners to go around so you don't need independent suspension to aid
handling and you're not really planning on stopping, so the brakes you've
got are probably okay.
In short they're big, dependable, unbreakable Tonka toys. You
could hit these things all day with a hammer and I don't think you could
screw them up.
In the US the pick-up has come to symbolise the American spirit
of adventure. I remember the early adverts used to show six horses, a guy
and his truck; then about 10 years ago it was two horses, a guy and his
truck. Now it's just one horse in the background, a guy and his truck. The
trucks have taken over from the cowboy and his horse in personifying the old
values of rugged reliability and frontier adventure.
Of course today big trucks are everywhere in America. The whole
SUV thing started because the US government, about 15 years ago, put a tax
on luxury automobiles. Anything above $30,000 paid a luxury tax, but trucks
were exempt. So America, being an enterprising country, said: "Why don't we
just make a luxury truck?" They started making trucks with heated seats,
surround sound and fancy wood finishes. You could get the luxury car for
$40,000 or you could get the truck with the same amenities for about
$34,000. It was simple: get the truck.
The International CXT is the ultimate evolution of this. There
is no bigger pick-up truck in the world. It's huge. It weighs 14,500lb
empty. It's so big it doesn't fit in any known garage. In fact, when I drove
it home it didn't even fit in my driveway. So I decided to park it at my
mother-in-law's house down the street.
As I pulled into her driveway I said to myself: "Oh look,
a ball on the roof of her house." Then I thought: "I've never seen that ball
up there." In fact I've never seen her roof before. The CXT's cab height is
9ft. The bed height - the flat rear section - is nearly 5ft, making it
virtually impossible to load anything heavy on your own, and the whole truck
is over 21ft long.
When you are sitting 9ft off the ground, with
a huge steering wheel in front of you, no matter how ridiculous you may
think it is you just can't help but have a huge smile on your face
It's just ridiculous. It doesn't make any sense at all. In fact
it reaches new levels of impracticality, which of course is what makes it so
much fun. I don't know where you would go in it. I don't know what you would
haul in it. I don't even know what sort of people you could drive in it
while keeping a straight face. But that's the beauty of it: when you are
sitting 9ft off the ground, with a huge steering wheel in front of you, no
matter how ridiculous you may think it is you just can't help but have a
huge smile on your face.
And it has all the proper truck extras, too. It has that metal
thing you have to have on the top of the vertical exhaust pipe that opens
and closes as the exhaust smoke pumps out, and goes clang, clang, clang,
clang. You gotta have that. It has that big pshshshshshsh sound with the
It actually handles pretty good. There's a lot of play and
a lot of movement in everything. It's very honest and it's somewhat
reassuring. It's also pretty manoeuvrable. I even managed to spin it. I was
going down the road in the pouring rain, there was nobody around, so I hit
the brakes, turned the wheel and pulled off a perfect 180-degree spin;
turned it right around and went back the other way. So in my book that makes
it really controllable, even in bad weather.
At the time I was driving it we had just had some pretty bad
flooding in LA. Nothing like the New Orleans nightmare but cars were
literally submerged. One time I went through a particularly bad patch where
I could see just the roof of a Honda Accord from my cab - or maybe it was an
Acura - and the water wasn't even up to the tops of my tyres.
The International people told me the CXT is based on a 20-ton
hauler platform they use for "severe service" trucks, like snowploughs. It's
got four-wheel drive and an Allison 2500 HS five-speed automatic. Put that
all together and it means this thing'll go just about anywhere.
But at a cost. The base price is $90,000, and you can option it up to
$115,000 with individual leather multiposition front seats, a rear-view
camera and a 10Εin drop-down rear DVD screen. Then there's the fancy stuff
like walnut wood trim and a custom Alpine XM satellite radio. I think it
will pick up stuff other than country and western, but I wouldn't advise it!
I think it comes from the manufacturer tuned that way.
Most vehicles have cupholders that carry 8-12oz cups. The CXT has a
cupholder that will take a 44oz Super Big Gulp bucket of drink you can get
from convenience stores. That's bigger than your bladder.
There are advantages to having a truck like this. Like pulling up alongside
beautiful women in convertibles. You get that cleavage shot that you can't
get in a normal pick-up. But the CXT is not just a ticket to play at being
trucker. Driving it you really are a trucker. I filled it up at a station
that has two separate pumping areas. The regular diesel pump is next to the
petrol pump for cars. Then off to the side is another pump marked "Truckers
Only". When I pulled up to that one the guys in the 18-wheelers came over
and gave me the thumbs up and the old nod, like, "Bear in the air,
breaker-breaker, 10-4, good buddy." You also get to eat in the truck-stop
restaurant. You pull in with this rig and you just know the waitress is
gonna slip you some extra hash browns.
Mind you, that's all we need. Americans are getting more and more fat-assed.
I mentioned on my show recently that the big thing when they remodel
American homes these days is to put a small kitchen in the master bedroom.
What is the reason behind that? Walking, at least from the bedroom to the
kitchen, was the most exercise most Americans ever got. Now you just sit in
bed and reach over and eat.
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You could put a small kitchen in the back of the CXT. Heck, you could put a
large kitchen in the back. That compartment is really as big as some
one-bedroom apartments. It's one of the few vehicles I've had which, when I
take people out in it, I have to look around the entire truck to see if
there are people in seats I've missed. I took some friends to lunch and I'm
going, "Where's John?" "Over here!" "Oh jeez, in that little corner down
there." It's that big inside.
It's a car that really doesn't fit anywhere other than Texas. It pulls into
town and makes all the right noises and people kind of gravitate over to it.
"Wutcha cawl that thing?" When I think of Britain I think of Minis and this
is what you think of when you think of Texas. Everything's bigger in Texas.
My dream would be to take this truck to England and drive around the
Cotswolds and stop the most English-looking person and say: "Excuse me,
Americans. Is there a McDonald's near here?" If you parked this on the
street and asked someone who knew nothing about it where it was from they
would say America. I mean, you know it's American.
But I think the CXT is the end of the road as far as pick-ups go. Other than
something with 18 wheels, I don't know how you get any bigger. I haven't met
an owner yet, but knowing Texans that's only a matter of time.
Model International CXT
Engine 7600cc, six cylinders
Power 220bhp @ 2200rpm
Torque 540 lb ft @ 1400rpm
Transmission Five-speed automatic
Fuel 8-10mpg (combined cycle)
Acceleration 0-60mph: N/A
Top speed 70mph
Verdict One big truck
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