BUYERS GUIDE - MOTORHOMES
SLRV Expedition Vehicles has fitted a motorhome body to the Hino 817 4×4 chassis, with mixed results.
When we first drove the Hino 817 4×4 light truck we thought it would make an excellent motorhome base, but the SLRV Expedition Vehicle we’ve reviewed is not the happiest marriage between body and chassis.
Before checking out this new motorhome our experience with the Hino 817 was confined to loaded tray-bodied vehicles with low centres of gravity that behaved quite well on fire trails and steep gradients.
The fact that the Hino’s double chassis at the rear made its frame height about 150mm higher than the Fuso Canter’s and 80mm higher than the Isuzu NPS 300’s shouldn’t be an issue, but this vehicle has a substantial suspension lift as well, making it sway-prone when cornering and off-road.
Yet another factor is SLRV bodywork that’s flexibly mounted. It suits flexible European chassis very well, but doesn’t meet Hino’s body installation requirements.
As a result, when SLRV put a motorhome body on the 817 chassis the company found that handling was less than desirable, with pronounced body sway in a standard lane-change manoeuvre that SLRV performs with all its motorhomes.
Several suspension modifications later, including leaf spring changes and the fitment of a rear anti-sway bar, the Hino behaved much better, but not to the same level as European models or the Isuzu NPS 300 4×4. SLRV told OTA that it doesn’t intend to do any more motorhome conversions on the Hino 817 chassis.
Sure, a motorhome wasn’t one of the primary vocations intended by Hino for its 817 4×4, but the truck’s leading specifications should have suggested its appeal to the motorhome fraternity.
Despite our urgings during 2016/7 Hino did no pre-release investigation of the effects a wide-single-tyre conversion would have on steering and handling, but Hino has now fitted four 285/70R19.5 tyres on ATW wheels to a development truck and we did a back-to-back drive with this modified truck and a stock standard one in March 2019.
On and off road
We conducted our own test on the SLRV-Hino, with the kind permission of its new owner and came away a little wary of what is still a work in progress.
The Hino’s specification list is ahead of the opposition’s, with traction control, stability control and four-wheel disc brakes as standard and that was the attraction for its owner. However, when we drove the vehicle its lifted and revised-rate suspension was still being refined.
The loaded machine tipped the scales at a shade under seven tonnes, so it deserved some respect through the twisty bits. However, the fitment of a non-standard anti-sway bar to the rear
axle kept body roll controllable.
The principal issue was steering action that was reluctant to return to centre after a turn. It was difficult to keep the truck on line during a right-angle turn, so the owner has to do some fiddling with steering geometry and free-play to get that sorted.
After driving Hino’s own truck that’s fitted with single 285/70R19.5 tyres front and rear, we think the steering eccentricities of this motorhome are related to the suspension height increase that has altered the front end steering geometry – particularly castor angle. The single-tyred Hino with standard
suspension rode, handled and steered very well.
Hino has noted the effects of the suspension height increase and intends to liaise with the owner of this motorhome to help have the problem rectified.
Off-road the Hino 817 was very capable and conquered our rocky climb test without more than the odd bout of slight wheel slip and downhill control was also excellent.
However, any hint of side-sloping saw too much body sway for our liking and we think the SLRV bodywork is too heavy for serious adventuring with the 817.
SLRV’s equipment lincluded a vented bathroom/cassette toilet. We particularly liked the diesel stove, two-drawer pull-out fridge-freezer unit and the secondary fridge outside, with a drop-down MSA4x4 slide unit.
The SLRV design had a fixed-height roof, so there was, literally, no set-up time: just open the side door; press the electric step button and walk in.
The bed remained made up and the dinette was always in place.
The fixed-height roof made installation of a large side windows, a TV aerial, 240V aircon and interior 12V fans straightforward.
There were also ample storage compartments and a custom spare wheel frame at the rear, with winch-operated lowering mechanism.
On the subject of winches, the Hino was fitted with forward and rear-operating electric winches, for self-recovery.
The owner had extensive bar work fitted up front, to protect the cab, its auxiliary lights and aerials, with roof access via a stylish inbuilt ladder.
Fit and finish was exemplary, on this bush home away from home.