BUYERS GUIDE - MOTORHOMES
Earthcruiser motorhomes are now built mainly on the Iveco Daily 4×4 platform. There are short-cab and crew-cab versions.
Earthcruiser Australia previewed its 2021 EXP motorhome range in December 2020, built on the seven-tonnes-GVM Iveco Daily 4×4 that has a more powerful Euro 6 engine and a choice of eight-speed automatic transmission, or six-speed manual.
This development is long overdue, but don’t blame Earthcruiser. Iveco has had a double whammy that’s held up the launch of the 2021 Daily range: Covid-19 and some unspecified in-field issues with test vehicles.
Hopefully, all that will be behind us in mid-2021.
The 2021 model boasts a much stronger chassis and rear axle than its predecessor, making Earthcruiser’s motorhome build more straightforward than before, with no need for chassis extension and GVM upgrade. It also has up to 3.5 tonnes towing capacity.
The latest model also scores more performance from Iveco’s 3.0-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder engine that develops 180hp, with 430Nm of torque. Behind the engine sits the carry-over six-speed manual box, or an eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission.
The previous three-speed transfer case has been replaced by a more conventional two-speed box.
Although the 2021 model has independent front suspension and a lower entry level, it retains the former minimum ground clearance dimension and off-road ability.
Earthcruiser employs 17-inch forged aluminium wheels, each with a 2250kg load rating and 37-inch Kevlar-reinforced mud terrain tyres with a 2300kg rating.
The motorhome bodywork is moulded as a single piece for structural rigidity and features high-density thermal-foam walls, floor and pop-top roof to provide both strength and temperature protection.
The Daily cabin is modified to allow walk-through from re-profiled swivel front seats to the living area. A new double-leaf door opens up the living area, to enhance the sensation of a more spacious environment.
An integrated awning is fitted to the side of the body and there are three exterior spotlights and two opening side windows.
The roof houses an upgradable 270-watt solar panel system. There is an 1800-watt inverter/charger – also upgradable – and there are three 120-amp batteries on board. A touch screen monitoring system controls more than 80 electric and electronic functions.
A 100-litre water tank is standard and a 400-litre tank is optionally available. Similarly, the standard Iveco 90-litre fuel tank can be augmented by an additional 400-litre tank. Earthcruiser adds an upgraded 85-litre AdBlue tank, to extend the range to around 2800km between refills.
There are multiple configurations available, including single and queen beds, with plush high-density mattresses with memory foam topper and a fold-down table. Home comforts include a stainless-steel kitchen sink, inside and outside shower, slide-out internal toilet, fresh-water drinking fountain and upright fridge-freezer. The cook-top can be either induction or diesel powered.
There is also a continuous hot water service and a climate-control system. The array of optional extras is almost as broad as the imagination of would-be adventurers and includes detailed bar work, snorkel, toolboxes, winches, reversing and surround cameras, Bilstein shocks, air suspension, washing machine and air conditioner.
We had a short drive in the first 2021 Earthcruiser and found it a significant step forward for this quality customer builder. The top-shelf Earthcruiser fit, finish and attention to detail was as before, but the finished product felt more solid, on the road.
From the driving position the impression was that we were sitting ’in’ rather than ‘on top of’ the Daily 4×4. The independent front suspension gave improved ride, handling and steering quality.
We reckon the eight-speed option will appeal to most Earthcruiser customers, giving two-pedal control that’s car like. The shift quality was excellent. Also less truck-like was simple transfer case control, rather than the agricultural twin-lever system previously fitted.
The only downside we experienced was a noticeable ‘whine’ from the driveline, but this was expected to lessen greatly when the transmission ‘bedded in’. This machine has already been sold, so we’ll monitor the owner’s experience with it in early 2021.
Australian designed and made Earthcruiser motorhomes have found ready acceptance both here and in the USA. Customers vary in demographic orientation, but have one thing in common: the desire to travel into remote or difficult locations, with most of the comforts of home.
When we checked out the Iveco Daily 4×4 in 2012 we knew that it would be only a matter of time before bodybuilders found ways to set up this excellent off-road vehicle for working and recreational vocations.
In comparison with its Japanese light truck counterparts the Daily 4×4 had better ergonomics, better access, better on and off-road ride, handling and performance, as well as offering bodybuilders the option of a walk-through cab to body corridor. This latter feature wasn’t possible with Japanese vehicles that had the engine located between the driver and passenger seats.
The Iveco also had the option of a two-seat passenger bench, making the short-cab a three-seater.
As with the Fuso-based Earthcruiser the Iveco-based models had a fibreglass pop-top body, with inbuilt shower/toilet. Standard layout has an aft-set, transverse double bed, a dinette and an electric cooktop.
In 2013 we checked out the first Earthcruiser Iveco prototype, based on a long wheelbase crew-cab chassis. This vehicle served as an evaluation unit, so production models varied in detail from the vehicle in these photographs.
A major change involved moving the shower/toilet module to the doorway, forming a ‘wet-entry’ into the living space. This was a practical change that meant wet boots and rain gear could be left in this draining area, rather than trudging mud into the cabin.
There have been many detail changes to Iveco Earthcruisers since 2014, but the proved layout continued.
In 2016 Iveco introduced its Euro 6 compliant model, with revisions to the cab ergonomics and seating. This dictated some interior changes to the Earthcruiser models, but essentially the current model has similar on and off road manners to the post-2013 range.
Pricing for an Earthcruiser model started around $280,000.
Check out our walk-around video with Earthcruiser principal, Mark Fawcett:
The Expedition 440T Single Cab was the second Earthcruiser Iveco Daily model, following the initial crew-cab version that could seat up to seven. It was built on a long wheelbase and there was a short-wheelbase model as well.
Earthcruiser’s 2014 model featured a larger interior, achieved by maintaining the overall height (still allowing for containerisation) and lowering the floor closer to the chassis.
Lowering the floor didn’t impede wheel travel and the integrity of the chassis was maintained through the use of a kinetic body mounting system.
The lower floor height allowed walk-through from cab to motorhome section and swivel seat mounts were introduced to create
a sitting and dining area. The Iveco seats were lowered to provide a more comfortable seating position.
Seat belted camper seats were added to allow the single cab to carry four people in certified seats.
Earthcruiser created new interior layouts to optimise the vehicle’s space. The entry doubled as a ‘mud room’ and bathroom, featuring a space-saving electric slide-in/out toilet.
Bench tops were extended, storage space above and underneath the bench tops was increased and the rear locker was larger and accessible from either side of the vehicle.
Wiring was upgraded and purpose-built touchscreens were employed to control more options, including electric awnings on one or both sides of the vehicle.
The touch-screens monitored water in the fuel, dimmed the lights, operated the fridges remotely and viewed three external cameras.
One system controlled and monitored the entire camper, with multi-access points conveniently located in the truck cab and in the camper. The touch-screens replaced more than 40 switches.
Other conveniences included electric spare wheel carriers, LED trailer light compatibility, and up to 1000 watts of walk-on mono-crystalline light weight panels.
Earthcruiser specified its own lightweight heavy-duty aluminium wheels and lug-nuts to suit the Iveco Daily: believed to be the only ones available in the world. These were fitted with Toyo Open Country Mud Terrain 37×13.50R17 tyres using internal stainless steel balance
beads which do not clump, turn to powder, absorb moisture or require special valves.
Earthcruiser also achieved certification to increase the Iveco’s GVM to 6000kg, allowing for more payload. Purpose-built shock absorbers for overland travel were standard.
The Earthcruiser options list is constantly growing and includes generators, boat racks, LED light bars, towing hitches, roof mounting tracks, satellite TVs and portable multi-fold solar panels.
On and off road
We had a brief on and off road drive in both 2014 Earthcruiser Iveco models, on roads and tracks not far from the company’s southern-Sydney factory.
The crew-can model was the original prototype unit, fitted with standard-height front seats and prototype shock absorbers. The short-cab model had Earthcruiser’s lowered seat height and stage two shock absorbers, and both changes made a big difference to driveability and ride quality.
We’ve criticised the standard Iveco Daily 4×4 suspension for being harsh and underdamped, but the Earthcruiser’s additional weight and improved damping gave the short-cab model 4WD wagon-like ride. The lowered seating was much more ergonomic than the standard arrangement.
Both motorhomes handled steep, rocky fire trails with ease and, thanks to the relatively narrow wheel track of the Daily, fitted into ruts made by LandCruisers. Ground clearance and chassis angles ensured that nothing but the tyres touched the ground.
The Daily’s turbo-diesel performance and three-stage reduction gearing made light work of steep climbs and engine braking on descents was excellent.
The short-cab’s motorhome section was beautifully finished and well laid out. A couple would have no trouble living in this vehicle for extended periods and the four-place seating would make it possible to have friends or family aboard.
Earthcruiser can accommodate clients’ individual needs, so the interior of the test vehicle is only a guide: colours, bench layouts and bed configuration are flexible.