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BUYERS GUIDE - MOTORHOMES

SUNCAMPER SHERWOOD CONQUEROR
A top-shelf compact motorhome on the 2021 HiLux.

 

Sherwoods have almost always been built on Toyota chassis and the 2021 Conqueror was the first to ride on the latest generation of the SR5 4WD HiLux. Our mates at iMotorhome had a preview.

 

Sherwoods are ‘baby’ C-class motorhomes, meaning they’re small and have a purpose-built body with an over-cab bed, mounted on a cab-chassis that has almost always been Toyota’s HiLux, in two or four-wheel drive. 

Although there are a wide range of Suncamper models, the Sherwood is Suncamper’s number-one best seller. Fully self-contained, yet able to park in a single car space, the Sherwood has probably the longest continuous production history of any motorhome in Australia.

There are now five Sherwood series – E, L, R, S and T – offering various combinations of queen and single beds, wet and dry bathrooms, dinette layouts, seating and sleeping capacities, but the E-Series is still the most popular. 

Building on that popularity, Suncamper has upped the visual and capability ante with the Conqueror.

The Sherwood E-Series has an east-west bed; a rear dinette for two with wrap-around windows; a mid-positioned kitchen and a basic bathroom. 

The starting point at Suncamper for all HiLux conversions is a GVM increase to 3500kg, but, in the case of the 2021 Conqueror that is raised to 3620kg. Engineer-certified, the GVM increase is done via Pedders’ suspension upgrades. It rolls on 17-inch aluminium wheels, shod with chunky Maxxis Razar 265/70R 17 mud terrain tyres.

The Conqueror has a claimed ‘wet’ tare weight of 3140kg, leaving a payload of 480kg with its 3620 kg GVM. 

The HiLux has a 5850 kg gross combination mass (GCM), meaning it can tow 2230 kg at the Conqueror’s upgraded GVM. However, Suncamper has fitted a 1500kg-rated towbar, which should be more than enough for most users and provides an increased margin of safety. 

To keep ahead of the game, Toyota upped the output of its 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel to 150kW and 500Nm, driving through the same six-speed automatic transmission. To improve touring range, Suncamper has replaced the standard 80-litre fuel tank with a 140-litre Long Ranger.

The latest Hilux also benefits from Toyota’s Safety Sense system, which includes adaptive cruise control, a pre-collision safety system with pedestrian and daylight cyclist detection, lane departure alert and road sign assist, plus the usual traction control, anti-lock braking and electronic stability control systems. Seven airbags are part of the HiLux’s five-star NCAP safety-rating package.

Inside, Toyota has added a new sound system, a touchscreen infotainment system with eight-inch display, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and many features can be operated from the multi-function steering wheel. 

Suncamper has added a tyre pressure monitoring system with a separate dash-top digital display, a GME UHF CB radio, reversing camera and a Hema GPS HX1 navigation system with on and off-road maps.

Externally, the Conqueror gets a winch-compatible Rival aluminium front bumper, with underbody bash plate, two rated recovery points and 750mm LED light bar, supplemented by a body-mounted 1500mm LED flood light bar and four LED  driving lights. 

Also fitted are a snorkel, bonnet scoop with protective paint, a Toyota TRD grill, headlight surrounds, wide-angle and extendable towing mirrors, and front wheel-arch flares.

The bodywork comes with roof-mounted brush bars, roof racks suitable for surfboards or kayaks and some aluminium protection plate. 

On the roof are 405W solar panels, as standard, but an optional air-conditioner reduces that to 270W. Also standard are a 120 amp-hour lithium house battery, 2000W sine wave inverter, dual USB charging points and a 12 V power outlet. An Anderson plug can power a trailer, external accessories or take a charge form a solar panel.

Mounted on the rear are two spare wheels and a neat roof ladder with four fold-up steps.

The Conqueror gets larger panoramic windows than the standard E-Series. It also gets a large storage locker – suitable for a barbecue and longer items like fishing rods – in the kerb-side rear corner with access under the lounge/dinette. Beside that locker is a gas bayonet, fed from two four-kilogram gas cylinders. 

Two electric entry steps and a three-metre wind-out awning are fitted, along with the latest style security screen door which, unfortunately, doesn’t match the body colour. There are LED lights on both sides and the rear of the awning and an illuminated entry grab-handle. 

The main water tank holds 95 litres and serves the shower and sink, and another 43-litre tank delivers filtered drinking water to the kitchen. The cassette toilet has its own 15-litre tank.

Both water tanks have individual lockable fillers and there’s a mains-pressure water connector for the shower and sink when in a caravan park. 

The Sherwood is built on a traditional steel frame base, with welded aluminium framework for the walls, rear and nose. The roof is a single panel roof. Underneath, a rustproofing and sound deadening agent is applied to protect from noise and road damage.

The 30mm walls and 45mm roof skins are insulated with fire-retardant foam and then pressed together. All fittings are screwed into frames and all cabinetry is plywood that has been glued and screwed together, not stapled.

General manager Cameron Harrison is a cabinetmaker by trade and takes great pride in the design and quality of Suncamper’s interiors.

The Conqueror’s cabinetry has been re-designed to give a modern, seamless look, with concealed latches on the overhead cupboards and a new style latch that’s simple and robust on other cupboards and drawers. 

Leather upholstery is included and the U-shaped dinette with removable table converts to a second bed if required. There’s a hanging wardrobe between the bathroom and sink unit and large overhead cupboards. 

The electrical control panel and light switches are mounted on the wall between the kitchen bench and overhead cupboards, just inside the door. Stone bench tops are fitted and there’s a wooden bench extension that lifts into place over the stairwell. 

A Thetford two-burner gas cook-top sits under a flush-mounted range hood and touch-operated-and-dimmed LED strip lighting, hidden under the overhead cupboards. As expected, the interior lighting is LED and has switching options to reduce electrical load or suit ‘the mood’. 

Beneath the cooker is a Thetford compressor fridge that needs no external venting, reducing the chance of dust ingress. This new-design fridge draws cool air underneath and vents warm air out the top. It will be interesting to see how effective this is in extreme conditions and if it raises the Conqueror’s internal temperature. 

Across the aisle in its own cabinet is an enamelled black sink with black glass lid and matching tap. It houses a removable drain board, cutting board, wash bowl and draining rack: all of which fit neatly together and sit in the sink, under the lid, while travelling.

Two excellent inclusions are a ducted Webasto diesel heater with digital controller and 12-volt Sirocco fan, positioned above the stairwell where it can be swivelled to cool the living area or bed. 

A digital TV, on n arm above the sink, can also be viewed from the dinette or bed. Speaking of the bed, it’s an east-west, queen-size, with a revised step and additional grab handle for easier access. There are blue LED reading lights above the bed head and a large over-bed hatch, with white LEDs in the surrounds. The hatch, plus windows at both ends should provide plenty of ventilation.

The Conqueror’s bathroom is a carry-over from the standard Sherwood E-Series. Directly opposite the entry door, between the bed and wardrobe, it’s a basic, all-in-one, wet design.

There’s an opaque door, Thetford bench-style cassette toilet, corner hand basin, flick mixer tap with an extendable hose that doubles as the shower, a fold-out clothes line, mirror, LED light and a fan roof hatch.

 

Conqueror on test

Sitting in a 4WD with revised suspension and larger tyres, the driver and passenger had an elevated ride height that felt more akin to a van than a bread-and-butter 4WD Sherwood.

There was no walk-through cab; just a small hatch to access the cab from the living area, but it was a feet-first exercise that would be done only if you absolutely had to. Normally, it’s get out and walk around. That, perhaps, is the biggest limitation of this style of vehicle and not something exclusive to the Sherwood. 

On the plus side, the cab’s compact size, along with the front and side body overhang, meant the cab was well shaded and the air conditioning should have little trouble proving effective in tough conditions.

On the test vehicle, the large reversing camera display and the GPS restricted the view through the centre of the windscreen, but that is being addressed in production vehicles. Rear visibility was excellent, thanks to large towing mirrors that had upper, electrically-adjustable flat glass sections and lower, convex wide-angle mirrors.

Performance was brisk, with the gearbox proving a slick shifter. Engine noise was reasonably subdued except under heavy acceleration, when it dropped back a gear or two, to maintain cruise-control speed. Ride comfort was also good: partially due to Toyota’s seats, but also to the well-sorted suspension. 

Despite the GVM upgrade, ride quality was good, although there was a noticeable thumping noise from the rear suspension over sharp bumps. The increased ride height gave the Conqueror a higher centre of gravity and it was noticeable, although well controlled. After an initial lean turning into a corner, the vehicle stabilised and continued without drama. 

The mud-terrain tyres gave a degree of ‘wander’ at freeway speeds, as did wind buffeting from passing trucks and in gusty wind conditions.

Toyota’s latest HiLux had plenty of ‘goodies’ and, hopefully, the well-publicised problems with its diesel particulate filter have been resolved. 

Suncamper’s Sherwood has proved itself over the years and is now top-shelf as well. More at home in wide open spaces than the confines of narrow bush tracks, it nonetheless is an extremely capable and comfortable motorhome.

Together, The 2021 HiLux and Conqueror make a high-spec’ off-road motorhome that’s small in stature but big in practicality, durability and ability. Priced at $194,990 drive-way it’s also highly competitive against rivals in the off-road motorhome segment.

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