BUYERS GUIDE - HEAVY DUTY
Hino chose the May 2017 Brisbane truck show to preview its 4×4 light truck market competitor. An automatic retro-fit option was announced in late 2018.
The chosen model for Australia is the 300 Series 817 and that model number roughly indicates eight tonnes GVM and 170hp. The actual GVM is 7.5 tonnes and the output is 165hp.
self-cleaning (regenerating) without the need for driver intervention.
The Hino transfer case comes from the larger GT 4×4 model and, with low range gearing of 2.2:1, the Hino 300 series 4×4 has the widest spread of ratios and the lowest crawl speed in its class. Overall reduction in low-low is 65:1.
A bonus of using the GT’s air-shift transfer case is an on-board electric air compressor that can be upgraded to act as a tyre inflator and to power air tools.
Standard equipment includes Vehicle Stability Control (VSC) – a first for a Japanese-built truck in this category – four-wheel disc brakes, driver and passenger SRS airbags and a reversing camera.
rotation speed, yaw rate and lateral G forces. VSC can take the appropriate action: reducing engine power and/or applying individual brakes with the intent of keeping the vehicle upright.
The new Hino 4×4 uses a novel chassis layout that features a straight-rail ladder frame, with a supplementary frame bolted underneath it from around the mid point all the way to the rear. The rear suspension bolts to this lower frame.
This unique layout provides straight upper rails, for ease of mounting bodywork and accessories; a high-set forward chassis to accommodate a drive axle underneath it and rear suspension hangers that don’t need to be complex and heavy dropped types.
As a result, the 817 has the highest tare weight in its class, but the upside should be great inherent strength. It gives away around 300kg to the Isuzu NPS 4×4 and that may be critical in such vocations as fire-fighting, where every litre counts.
The downside of this design is a very stiff chassis with high resistance to torsional (twisting) action. That’s not a problem of itself, but is an issue in combination with stiff leaf springs, because there’s insufficient ‘give’ in the chassis and suspension to cope with severe off-road undulations.
Although there’s no plan for a factory-built, single-tyred version to tackle the burgeoning 4WD motorhome market the prototype had inbuilt front hub spacers, to widen front axle track to better match the wheel track of the rear duals.
Although Hino has pulled up short of providing a wide-single-tyre package, wide-singles will be available as a dealer-fit option, using All Terrain Warrior 19.5 truck wheels. Likewise, there’s no rear axle differential lock in the specification, but an Eaton No Spin self-locker is a dealer-fit option and a driver-controlled rear diff lock is under development.
Developed specifically for the Australian market, the 817 4×4 has undergone extensive testing in some of the country’s most rugged operating conditions.
Getting in and out of 4×4 trucks can be an awkward climb, but Hino has made the task relatively easy. The three access steps are arranged in a ‘staircase’ layout that puts the bottom step outboard of the upper ones. The front tyre can also serve as an additional step. Two grab handles flank the door opening, so it’s always possible to have three contact points when getting in and out.
A standard suspension seat with magnetically variable damping is standard, but, unfortunately, a single-passenger suspension seat to replace the standard two-place bench is not. That’s another dealer-fit option.
Ergonomics are generally good, but we reckon the 4WD and High-Low range switches are too far from the driver. There’s vacant switch space nearer to the steering column and that’s where they should be.
The heated, power-adjustable rear vision mirrors are ‘big truck’ types that give excellent flat-plane and spotter images. The swing-away brackets are strong and easy enough to fold in while on the move, to reduce the chance of mirror damage from tree branches.
The Hino six-speed main box is stirred by a stubby lever that has short throws. The test trucks were brand new, so shift action was a tad tight.
We like the gate layout that puts first gear and reverse directly opposite – essential for quick shifting when ‘rocking’ a stuck vehicle out of rut hollows.
The four-litre diesel did its job quietly, with mechanical noise evident only with revs above 3000rpm. That red band was useful only for engine braking, because the torquey donk did its best from around 1400rpm up to 2800rpm, climbing most highway grades in fifth or sixth cog.
Ride quality isn’t the strong point of Japanese 4×4 trucks, but the loaded Hinos we drove rode better than their Japanese-made competitors, thanks to their longer front springs. A set of top-quality dampers should improve that even further.
Obviously, the driver’s suspension seat damped out more bump action than the fixed passenger perches, but ride quality in the passenger perches – without suspension seating – was acceptable.
A set of 285/70R19.5s on ATW wheels would make the ride even better: almost ute-like, but there are payload compromises with the single-tyre option.
Handling was flat and steering was accurate with good road feel on bitumen surfaces, but the skinny front tyres showed some side slip and understeer on pea gravel roads. The wide-single tyre option would be our choice for buyers who don’t need the full 7.5 tonnes GVM.
The ABS disc brake system worked effectively on sealed and dirt roads, but the ABS function was deactivated when 4WD was selected.
Selecting 4WD and low-range was done with the simple press of dashboard buttons and the action was instantaneous. High-range-4WD could be selected on the run, provided the front free-wheeling hubs were locked. The system is part-time-4WD, so it’s not intended for full-time use on high-friction surfaces. For low-range selection the truck needed to be stopped and in neutral.
With overall reduction of 65:1 the Hino 300 4×4 climbed and descended very steep grades effortlessly, including a testing 1:1.5 concrete ramp.
Hino has entered a small but highly competitive segment of the light truck market with the new 817 4×4. It’s better specified than the Japanese competition, but gives away some payload in the process. Standard ride is also better than the Japanese and almost on a par with the Iveco Daily.
Let the off-road battle commence!
Automatic transmission option
In August 2018 Penske Power Systems and Hino let us preview an automatic transmission fitment to the Hino 817 4×4 truck.
The retro-fit gearbox project was the brainchild of Penske’s Allison Transmission sales specialist, John Rapinette. John is no ordinary sales person, having grown up in the school of hard knocks at Bob Whitehead’s RFW truck factory, when that brand offered by far the best off-road truck range in Australia.
RFWs came standard with Allison transmissions, when nearly all other European, Japanese and North American 4×4, 6×6 and 8×8 machines had manual boxes.
When John Rapinette saw the Hino 817 4×4 he just knew it needed an automatic transmission option, so he worked with Penske’s engineering team on the project. Hino was more than happy to make available a demo crew-cab 817 for the exercise.
What makes the Hino most suitable for an Allison transplant is the fact that it uses the heavy duty transfer case from the 13-tonnes-GVM Hino GT.
Torque capacity is much higher than competitive-truck two-speeds, so the Allison 1000’s torque converter 2:1 stall ratio – doubling converter engagement torque – poses no problems for the transfer case.
Designed for light commercial
vehicles in both on-highway and public transport applications, Allison Transmission’s 1000 and 2000 Series are rated up to a maximum of 224kW
(300 hp) and have up to six speeds available, including two overdrives. Both close and wide ratio gearing are offered.
The addition of fifth-generation electronic controls enhances operation and diagnostics capability. Additionally, provisions such as turbine-driven Power Take-Off (PTO) with optional neutral lock-up and a parking pawl are available.
Fitting the auto in place of the standard manual box required some adaptation, including reworking the shift quadrant and making up a custom rear mount and a jackshaft to the centrally-mounted transfer case.
The box in the evaluation truck was set up as a single-overdrive five-speed, with the parking pawl option and with ‘power’ and ‘economy’ shift programming. It had a car-like ratio selector module, with ‘P’, ’N’ and ‘D, 3, 2, 1’ positions. Anyone with a car automatic transmission driving background would feel at home in the Hino 817 4×4 auto.
The test truck was loaded to seven tonnes GVM and we drove it on freeways, secondary bitumen, gravel and on bush trails.
Allison’s electronically controlled units shift smoothly and the 1000 is no exception. Shift quality was car-like, up and down the box. Additionally, when the exhaust brake lever is activated the transmission goes into a downshift program that keeps engine revs high, to improve retardation. We found retardation on and off road almost the equal of the manual-box truck.
It was only on very steep downhill descents, with the transmission locked in ‘1’ that we noticed less engine braking than the manual box provides.
It’s possible to drive the 1000 as a torque-converter manual box, but we tested it mainly in the ‘D’ position and discovered that the auto box is probably smarter than most drivers – us included. Only when tightly manoeuvring and in steep off-road situations did we feel the need to lock the box in first gear.
We reckon there’s no need for the ‘power’ and ‘economy’ switch, because the loaded truck performed very well in ‘economy’. Also, it can be re-programmed as a six-speed, but we felt that a single overdrive, with legal cruising speed revs just over 2000rpm was fine for this weight.
Singles or duals
After this taste of the prototype auto 817 we did a head-to-head comparison with the manual model. Adding interest to this tussle was the fitment of 19.5-inch single tyres front and rear to the auto truck, while the manual wore stock duals and skinny fronts.
This test was done with both trucks loaded to 5.5 tonnes GVM and the fat-tyred machine was better riding and more supple on all surfaces, thanks to softer tyre ‘springing’. Only in steep descents was the skinny-tyred vehicle superior, but that had everything to do with gearing and engine braking, not its tyre package.
Another factor that we’re aware of with dual rear tyres came to the fore when we picked up a large rock, jammed between the right rear duals. It took some persuasion with a jack handle to lever it out.
If we hadn’t noticed the captive rock it would have destroyed the rear tyres or, worse, flown out at highway speed and caused mayhem behind the vehicle. That’s why many people don’t want duals in the bush!
Both specification Hinos conquered our fire trail stone shelves with ease, but the only one that did well on the beach test was the wide-tyred one.