Remember that big yellow Tonka truck you got on your eighth birthday--the one you banged around in the backyard like it was indestructible? Well, International has built one you can drive. Weighing in at 14,000 pounds, measuring 22 feet from nose to tail, and standing more than nine feet tall, the International CXT is now the world's-largest production pickup truck, just waiting for the right buyer to come along who wants more than the standard one-ton dualie can offer.

Loyal readers may remember when we wrote about Big Red (September/October 2003), a monster pickup truck we found running around the International proving grounds. The corporate higher-ups told us the response to that story was so overwhelming, they decided to see if they could turn fantasy into reality and make a saleable version for the U.S. market.

The CXT will be based off the 7300 severe-service platform and be offered in four-door and extended-cab versions, both with full-size eight-foot one-ton dualie beds. In fact, International, which already has a relationship with Ford as supplier of the successful Power Stroke diesels for the Super Duty line, will be buying the one-ton dualie beds straight from Ford. Although not a simple bolt-on, it is a perfect fit.

Clearly designed to look like a personal-use pickup, the 7300 chassis is typically sold by International for cement mixers, tow trucks, big-city snowplows, and construction-site dump trucks. And where the original Big Red was a Class-8 rig that required a special commercial license to operate, the CXT isn't. Although it clearly has many commercial-truck attributes, the CXT has a rated GVWR of 25,999 pounds. That just happens to be 16 ounces less than the GVW cutoff that requires a special license certification in all (but two) states for an owner/operator. Lucky us. What's not so lucky is that International will most likely make fewer than 300 CXTs in the next 12 months. That means these will be rare, possibly adding a premium to the $100,000 base price of the CXT.

That's right--$100,000.

However, there are plenty of add-ons, potentially raising the price to $130,000. For example, for $10,000, we'd recommend the air-ride suspension to control the violent gravitational forces constantly doing battle under the cab. Although the cab and front seats are suspended with airbags and shocks, the standard leaf-spring suspension will torture the driver if left without several tons of payload in the bed to smooth out the ride.

In addition, CXT buyers will get a chance, for a relatively small fee of $4000, to have their cargo pickup bed turned into a dump bed with the addition of a powerful air ram. With commercial big-rig strength, the bed can dump its contents in seconds. According to the press material, the chassis is rated to carry just shy of 12,000 pounds of payload. Hmmm. Although we're told there's plenty of floor-strengthening done to the Super Duty bed, we couldn't see any additional side bracing. The weak link in this payload monster may be in the limitations of the bed itself and not the carrying capacity of the ruggedly stout frame and chassis. But then again, who's going to need to put more than 10,000 pounds in the pickup bed? Not many people we know are hauling barrels of lead. Truth is, there's more than enough GVW here to satisfy 99.999 percent of the buyers, so who cares?

Maybe more impressive than the chassis is the torque monster under the hood. You've likely passed a medium-duty or heavy-duty rig with one of these engines every day you've driven a public road. The DT466 is one of the most popular and robust diesel-engine designs in existence. With 7.6 liters of displacement, the precision-balanced I-6 weighs almost 1500 pounds dry, pumping out 540 pound-feet of torque at 1400 rpm, with more than 90 percent of that available just off idle. High-pressure (25,000 psi) direct injection, a variable-fin turbocharger, and an air-to-air intercooler play major power-producing supporting roles. Mated to this Hercules is an Allison 2500 five-speed automatic transmission (the next-stronger sibling to the Silverado HD Allison 1000) and a military-type Meritor 4208 (formerly known as Rockwell) two-speed transfer case (for severe-terrain towing). Considering this equipment, the power domination becomes obvious.

We can say the five-speed transmission is stunning at how it smoothes out up- and downshifts while battling between the weight of the truck and the forces generated by the engine output. We were surprised at the steering (quick and predictable) and excellent throttle response (electronically controlled), as they combine to make this truck, as odd as it might sound, fairly easy to drive in city traffic. The high seating position and gigantic mirrors offer tremendous visibility. From a fuel-economy point-of-view, we averaged right around eight mpg, city and highway combined. Not amazing, but there's a good argument to be made for a vehicle with a 500- to 600-mile range, and all this carrying capacity, not to mention all the "truck-envy" cache.

It took us some time recalibrating our ride height (your eyes are about 7.5 feet above ground level) as well as judging the width of the lanes, but a quick look into the huge sideview mirrors told us we had room to spare before our tires touched the white lines. In fact, the CXT doesn't drive any wider than a typical dualie and is less than six inches longer than any given longbed crew cab. However, the perks of the CXT are better than in a one-ton. We happened to have our truck during a small Southern California heat wave and loved the high seating position. We saw more cleavage on our drive home than in the last 10 years. Lots of convertibles around town made the trip even more enjoyable.

On the inside, the cabin structure and layout are exactly what you'd find in a commercial rig (gauges, curved dash, big-bus steering wheel); however, right off the line, International sends all CXTs to the interior supplier, who pads and improves the overall feel and look with upgraded materials. You can add a 10.5-inch drop-down DVD player, leather seats, wood trim, a storage unit that cools and heats, and even a pullout bed in the rear seating area. And don't forget the dump-bed option we mentioned earlier.

With just 200 or 300 units as the target for the first full year of production, these modest numbers don't come close to the 35,000 Hummers sold last year or the 300,000 Super Dutys that'll be sold this year. But the CXT will impress the neighbors and intimidate anyone you don't like. Expect the CXT to stay the largest production pickup in the world for a long time, but keep your eyes open for other plus-size vehicles from International (and other manufacturers) in the years to come.

International CXT
General
Location of final assembly Warrenville, Illinois
Body style Four-door pickup
Size class Medium duty
Drivetrain layout Front engine, 4WD
Airbags None
Powertrain
Engine type DT 466 I-6, cast-iron block/head
Bore x stroke, in 4.59 x 4.68
Displacement, ci/L 466/7.6
Compression ratio 16.4:1
Valve gear OHV, 4 valves/cyl
Aspiration Turbocharged with wastegate, air-to-air intercooler
Fuel induction Direct injection at 25,000 psi
Dry engine weight, lb 1425
Redline, rpm 2600
Oil capacity, qt 30
SAE horsepower, hp 220 @ 2000
SAE torque, lb-ft 540 @ 1400
Transmission type Allison 2500 HS
1st 3.51:1
2nd 1.90:1
3rd 1.44:1
4th 1.00:1
5th 0.74:1
Reverse 5.09:1
Axle ratio 5.33:1
Final-drive ratio 3.94:1
Rpm @ 60 mph 1800
Transfer-case model MTC 4208 (Rockwell)
Low-range ratio 2.06:1
Crawl ratio (1st x axle x low range) 38.5:1
Recommended fuel No. 2 Diesel
Dimensions/Capacities
Wheelbase, in 153
Length, in 258
Width, in 101
Height, in 108
Track, f/r, in 83/87
Ground clearance, in 12.0
Load lift height, in 55
Ride height, in 70
Bed size LxWxD, in 99x61x20
Base curb weight, lb 13,900
Payload capacity, lb 11,999
GVWR, lb 25,999
GCWR, lb 42,000
Towing capacity, lb 17,000
Fuel capacity, gal 73.0
Chassis
Suspension, f/r Live axle, leaf springs/live axle, leaf springs
Turns, lock to lock 3.5
Turning circle, ft 56.0
Brakes, f/r Air brakes
Wheels/tires Polished alloy/11R22.5 Goodyear Duals (41.0-in)
As tested fuel econ, city/hwy avg, mpg 8.5
Price
Base price $100,000
Options Air-ride $10,000; tilt bed $4000
Price as tested $129,000

A Family Resemblance
by Mark Williams

If the CXT looks familiar, it should. A few issues back, we highlighted an International platform used for the SmarTruck III, a military concept vehicle, and its commercial variant. Although both are on a completely different platform, they share the cab structure and look with the CXT. And we're told this is part of International's strategy. Our guess is this could be the next International product that works its way into the heavy-duty personal-use product line, looking to cut into the massive Super Duty, Silverado HD, and Ram HD sales.

Future Plans
by Mark Williams

Born from functional, utilitarian farm equipment, the International Harvester Scout was one of the first popular SUVs, offering much more utility than sport. Although the line was killed off for economic reasons (and an oil embargo), it seems that International is playing with the idea of bringing the Scout or Scout II back to market--maybe with a diesel. International has made the point that it still owns the Scout name, and although gasoline prices are up again, there may be life for a full-size, function-first SUV with a hybrid-diesel powerplant. This could be interesting.

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