In the Driver’s Seat: Test-driving the Peterbilt 335

Recognizing the importance and potential of the beverage distribution market, Peterbilt has intensified its marketing to this vocational segment. And its new medium- duty model — the 335 — is a solid fit.
It provides a comfortable, safe and ergonomic environment for the driver, enabling better levels of productivity. For the service technician, the numerous ease-of-serviceability features speed maintenance and repair. This helps reduce service expenses and decrease downtime, and what distribution/transportation manager doesn’t appreciate that? Furthermore, with the Model 335’s premium image, durability and low overall lifecycle costs, it helps provide a positive impact to the bottom line.  
I discovered all this firsthand, thanks to the fine people at Peterbilt Motors. They offered me the opportunity to, as the saying goes, get up-close and personal with the Model 335 in both its configurations: truck and tractor (available in both Class 6 and Class 7).
Climbing behind the wheel of the 335, I was pleasantly surprised by the excellent visibility. The sloped hood and integrated, sleek rounded fender design maximizes visibility while optimizing airflow for reduced drag.
I found that while driving, the design enabled me to better see the front corners of the vehicle and provided better clearance during very tight cornering. The large windshield offers an expensive view and the split, two-piece design reduces glass replacement costs.
The standard convex mirror over the passenger door is a very helpful feature. It, along with the 85-percent larger passenger door side-view window, provided a great view of the vehicle’s right lower side, effectively doing away with the blind spot.
The 335’s larger side-view mirrors have been repositioned from the doors to the cab for a sturdier mounting, unaffected by door closings, and for enhanced rearward visibility. A 53-percent larger rear window is standard. This is particularly helpful when maneuvering a tractor trailer in congested areas.
Cab interior
The stylish interior of the 335 is ergonomically designed, comfortable and roomy enough for even the “largest” of drivers. Settling into the plush high-back driver’s seat with side bolster support, I surveyed the driver-friendly environment with its attractive standard two-tone, gray and black color pattern.
With the standard tilt/telescoping steering wheel, I was able to position the wheel to my exact liking — a very nice touch. The wood trim dashboard (also standard) has quick-to-view instrumentation. Controls and switches are conveniently close at hand.
Peterbilt engineers should be complimented on the 335’s cab entry and egress arrangement. It is effortless. So even drivers making frequent stops will not be fatigued.
Paddle-type latches make it simple to open the doors to their full 90 degrees. The sturdy, chassis-mounted steps are evenly spaced at about 16.5 inches in a stair-step arrangement. That, combined with the well-placed stainless steel grab handles, makes getting into and out of the cab easy as well as safe.
Engine access
As part of my pre-trip inspection. I opened the hood, which is constructed of Metton. According to Peterbilt engineers, Metton is “a state-of-the-art composite material that is lightweight yet highly durable and impact resistant, and should reduce repair and replacement costs.”
With the proprietary torsonial hood pivot and tilt assist system, it was fairly easy to pull the hood open to its full 90 degrees, providing easy engine access. Daily fluid checks are all within easy, clear reach. While the hood is open, an anti-blow-down locking mechanism keeps it positioned and prevents unintentional closings.
On the road
Peterbilt’s 335 is a delight to drive. Aside from the interior’s functionality and comfort, the lightweight, cor-rosion- resistant, high-strength, all-aluminum cab is noticeably quiet, due in part to the fully trimmed interior. Noise reduction is also attributable to the one-piece roof, lap seam construction and Huckbolt fasteners.
The 335 ride is smooth and is responsive. It handles well and maneuvers superbly, due in part to an up to 50-percent wheel cut. The air horn gives a strong, “big-truck” blast and the horn is loud enough to be heard over traffic noise.
The air conditioner was impressive. It kept the cab consistently cold during Denton, Texas’ daytime temperatures in the high 90s, even with my many in-and-outs.
I happen to truly enjoy working a manual transmission. The more gears the better. The 335 tractor has a Fuller 10-speed. It was easy enough to use, as long as the rpms didn’t drop too far between shifts.
The 335 truck had an Allison six-speed automatic transmission. I haven’t had a lot of experience with automatics in truck and wasn’t anxious to see how this one performed. It was unprepared for how well it functioned. It made trucking simpler and less stressful, what with having to worry about when to shift.
There were two minor things in particular that I did not like about the new 335. One was that the turn signals did not make noise when activated. I am used to hearing a click as a signal flashes, so I occasionally forgot to turn a signal off. A second annoyance was that the high-beams-on dash light indicator was not bright enough to be seen on sunny days. An especially nice feature is the new, enhanced forward lighting system.
Final thoughts
From my experience with the Model 335, it is obvious that Peterbilt has relied on its heavy duty Class 8 vehicle designs to make its latest medium-duty vehicle more comfortable, serviceable, durable and efficient.
I believe that with the 335, drivers will develop a “pride of possessionship.” They will be proud to be in such a stylish truck, happy with its performance and feel good about doing their jobs. BI

Model 335 Truck with van body
Year: 2004
Wheelbase: 220 inches
Overall Length: 288 inches
Body: 24-foot dry van with Waltco fold-out liftgate
Engine: Cummins ISC260 - 260 hp @ 2,000 rpm; exhaust brake; cruise control
Transmission: Allison MD3060P 6-speed automatic
Front Axle: Dana Spicer E1202I, 12,000-pound gawr; taper leaf springs
Rear Axle: Dana Spicer 21090S, 21,000-pound gawr; 5.29 ratio; Peterbilt Low Air Leaf suspension
GVWR: 33,000 pounds
Steering: Power
Tires: 14 ply 295/75R22.5
Fuel Tank: 23-inch aluminum, 70-gallon, right-hand side
Model 335 Tractor, Single AxleYear: 2004Wheelbase: 150 inches
Engine: Cummins ISC300 - 300 hp @ 2,200 rpm
Transmission: Fuller FR011210B 10-speed manual
Clutch: Easton Fuller 14-inch medium duty Solo
Front Axle: Dana Spicer E1202I, 12,000-pound gawr; taper leaf springs
Rear Axle: Dana Spicer 21090S, 21,000-pound gawr; 3.90 ratio; Peterbilt Low Air Trac suspension
GCWR: 50,000 pounds
Steering: Power
Tires: 14 ply 295/75R22.5
Fuel Tank: 23-inch aluminum, 70-gallon, right-hand side