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First Drive: International MXT

During the Chicago Auto Show last week, Mike Hanley and I were lucky enough to get to test-drive the new International MXT. This uber-truck is going into production as we blog this post today, and will start at $89,500 for the basic 4×4 pickup and upward of $130,000 for the luxury-appointed Limited model out later this year.

We drove the truck around the back of McCormick Place and up through the back streets that connect Soldier Field, the Field Museum and the Adler Planetarium. These are pretty small streets, and I thought the MXT would hog both lanes, preventing anyone from passing us. To my surprise, though, the large truck hugged the yellow lines well, and it was easy for me to see the corners, at least up front. For someone who hasn’t driven anything larger than the average Silverado or Suburban, this was a new experience. I kept looking for a handle to blow an air horn.

The side mirrors were huge and gave good rearward views, but blocked the view directly to the sides. A rear-mounted camera also aided in backing up.

The hardest thing about driving the MXT was the hydraulic brake setup. Saying the brakes were a bit grabby is an understatement, but after a few stops I had figured out the gentle coaxing needed to bring the sucker to a halt. Mike didn’t have as easy a time with the brakes, extracting a few more lurching stops out of the ride than I did. Neither one of us had a hard time accelerating, though. The right pedal’s feel was much more carlike and easy to adjust to.

Engine noise was extreme up front, so much so that I couldn’t hear much of anything from the backseat. We were told there was an entire section of baffling not in this early test model. Yep, that would do it. Besides being a bit more nimble and easier to navigate than I first thought, the MXT drove exactly how I thought it would — like a really big truck.

Now, don’t think the MXT is for the everyday truck or SUV buyer; you better have a commercial purpose for this thing. It shares the same International V-8 diesel that Ford uses in its heavy-­duty F-Series trucks. Maximum towing is rated at roughly 17,000 pounds, with a payload capacity of 4,400 pounds.

The interior was comfortable everywhere but the driver’s seat, which seemed too high and close to the steering wheel for my thighs. In back, the bench fit three grown men without a leg touching. Now that’s manly.

At the International booth inside McCormick Place, an MXT painted in a Chicago Bears scheme was a huge draw, despite the team’s Super Bowl loss. I think you better have a business that will paint its logo on the side of this thing to make it a viable purchase, because finding a parking space for this bad boy at the grocery store might not be so easy. Still, it could be the ultimate vehicle for a Costco or Home Depot run. No matter where you park it or drive it, you’ll turn heads. Everyone we passed turned their head to look, even if it was only because the MXT blocked all else from their line of sight.

MXT Limited