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BUYERS GUIDE - HEAVY DUTY

HINO'S AUTOMATIC 500 GT
Hino's GT combines a hot-shift PTO with an automatic transmisison.

Where the previous Hino GT 1322 gave away important concessions to the Isuzu FTS/FSS, the new Hino GT 1528 leapfrogs them, offering performance and equipment advantages over the FTS, plus more payload capacity and an optional longer wheelbase model.

 

The 4×4 seven-to-nine-tonnes-payload medium truck segment isn’t a major proportion of the market, but these trucks are critical for fire-fighters, miners and councils. There’s also a growing proportion of these trucks used in the burgeoning motorhome market.

The off-road truck market leader is Isuzu’s FTS 800, with backup provided by the six-tonnes payload FSS, four-cylinder model and the three-tonnes NPS300. The principal competitor for the Isuzu F-model 4x4s has been Hino’s GT 1322 model. 

As part of a concerted effor  to gain more share of the 4×4 truck market, Hino introduced the 817 as an NPS 300/FSS competitor in 2017 and significantly upgraded the GT in mid-2020.

Because it’s intended for use in demanding, dirty and remote vocations the new 500 Series GT doesn’t have any of the electronic driving aids that road-going 500s do. It picks up only cruise control and ABS drum brakes, but even ABS is cancelled when low-range-4×4 is engaged. Electronic traction control fitted to 4×2 500 Series Hinos is replaced by a simple NoSpin rear axle diff centre.

In the cabin, the only carry-over from 4×2 500 Series is a newer infotainment display screen, with reverse camera display and GPS navigation.

 

Background to the GT 1528

In a comparison with Isuzu’s FTS 800 4×4 Crew Auto, the previous GT 1322 had closely-matched specifications, but detailed examination revealed that Isuzu had the on-paper performance edge.

Engines were common-rail, turbo-intercooled, with exhaust gas recirculation and particulate filters to comply with ADR80/03 emission regulations. However, the Isuzu engine had marginally more displacement – 7.8 litres vs 7.7 litres – and more power and torque: 191kW/761Nm vs 158kW/637Nm for the Hino engine.

Both trucks had the Allison 2500 Series, torque-converter automatic transmission, but Isuzu used the double-overdrive six-speed version and Hino had the single-overdrive five-speed. The Isuzu used higher-ratio, lower-speed final drives (6.5:1) compared with the Hino’s 5.4:1 gear-sets and so had more gradeability in low-low.

The Isuzu had full-time-4×4 operation, on and off road, with a manual lock for the centre differential. The Hino had no centre diff and part-time 4×4, making it operate in two-wheel drive on high-friction surfaces. The Hino had to be stopped to engage high-range-4×4. 

Both vehicles had two-speed transfer cases that were engaged at rest, but the Isuzu’s slower-speed final drives gave it more gradeability (60-percent) at GVM.

The GVM honours also went Isuzu’s way, with a rating of 13.9 tonnes, compared with the Hino’s 13 tonnes, but both trucks had identical 9.2-tonnes rear axle capacity ratings. The Isuzu’s front axle was rated at 5.2 tonnes vs the Hino’s 4.7 tonnes, but a plus for the Hino was a frame section that was higher, wider and thicker than the Isuzu’s.

Handling and ride quality was better in the Isuzu, that had taper-leaf front springs. Also, the Isuzu engine’s torque advantage gave it better highway performance.

To challenge the market leader, the equipment and performance targets for Hino’s GT were stark and the company has met or exceeded every one.

 

The Hino 500 Series GT 1528.

Starting at ground level, Hino engineers upgraded the front and rear axles, increasing capacity to 5.5 tonnes and 10 tonnes, respectively. The short multi-leaf front springs were replaced by longer taper-leaves.

The long-serving, reliable JO8 six-cylinder iron-set was retained, but with performance increases that had already been proved in 4×2 Hinos. In JO8E-VD form it put out 280hp (206kW) at 2500rpm, with peak torque of 824Nm at 1500rpm. When we drove the GT 1322 we reckoned it needed around 100Nm more torque, but for the GT 1528 Hino supplied 187Nm more!

The upgraded engine doesn’t need AdBlue for emissions control, relying on EGR and a DPF.

The increased grunt necessitated some transfer case upgrades, but these happened inside the existing casing. (Interestingly, the smaller Hino 817 4×4 uses the same transfer case as the GT, but doesn’t need the upgrades incorporated in the 1528 version.)

Hino retained the GT 1322’s gearing ratios, but greatly increased torque improved the GT 1528’s gradeability to match Isuzu’s 60-percent … and at a higher GVM.

Although it retained the GT 1322’s part-time-4×4 system the GT 1528 could be switched between 4×2 and 4×4 on the run.

 

On and off road

Hino put sandbags on the back of a short-wheelbase GT 1528 tray and we tooled around town, on secondary bitumen and gravel roads, and on highway.  Because the truck had almost no kilometres on its odometer and because we intended to do some serious off-roading with it, we confined all-up mass to around 10 tonnes.

As with its predecessor, the first trick was actually getting into the GT, sitting on its standard 11R22.5 tyres. Fortunately, there were grab handles, a wheel step and an access step, but the truck needed an additional step below the standard ladder. Ditto with getting into the crew seats, via the rear doors.

Although it was a tall beast, at 2995mm to the rooftop, the Hino was actually 90mm lower than the FTS.

Ergonomics were very good, with major controls positioned in easy reach of the driver. The driver scored a standard ISRI 6800 seat that adjusted every conceivable way. The six passengers didn’t fare so well, with fixed seats and the one front and two inboard rear positions came with lap-only seatbelts.

The Isuzu FTS has an air-suspended front passenger seat.

Hino adopted a T-bar transmission selector, which worked logically except for the position of reverse, in the slot where car drivers would expect to find ‘park’.

A part-load in the tray civilised the ride somewhat, but the Hino GT was a typical Japanese traction truck: firm for the initiated, who know what to expect and bloody rough for novices. However, while the taper-leaf front springs eliminated some of the GT 1322’s ride harshness the telescopic dampers weren’t Dakar spec’, so their efforts to control spring action were limited.

In 2020, ’GT’ in Hino’s world still stands for ‘Get There’; not ‘Grand Touring’.

Like its Isuzu equivalent the Hino was built to get there and back, not necessarily in the greatest comfort. We’ve driven some European off-road trucks, fitted with long, taper-leaf springs that gave a more comfortable ride, but these vehicles were a lot more expensive than the Japanese models.

The Hino GT’s firm ride translated into flat handling on smooth surfaces and steering action was precise and well-assisted. Braking was powerful, without any grabbing or nose-diving.

The engine-transmission match was excellent and the slick-shifting Allison made the GT 1528 operate like a big car. With some loosening up we reckon it would spend most of its highway life in fifth ratio, even at GVM.

Automatic-transmission trucks normally have poor engine retardation, but the GT’s engine-transmission programming was well done: dial in the exhaust brake on a downgrade and the transmission went for successive downshifts, maximising engine braking power. It was almost too much in some highway situations, requiring a move of the exhaust brake lever to limit retardation.

Noise levels were so low, it was handy to have the nav system’s speed advice when entering towns.

The headlights were very, very ordinary, so driving lights would be necessary for those venturing on bush roads after dark.

On gravel roads the GT 1528 handled well and when the going got slippery we simply pressed the dashboard button to engage 4WD. In high-range 4×4 mode the truck was directionally more stable on sandy and muddy surfaces.

For serious off-road work the next stage was to engage low-range, by stopping the vehicle and selecting the ‘tortoise’ button on the dashboard. Low-range engagement was confirmed by the tortoise icon replacing the hare icon on the instrument panel.

In muddy conditions we appreciated the NoSpin rear diff that controlled across-axle wheel-spin. 

The GT1528 climbed very easily in this mode, but hill descent was trickier, because even in low range the overall gearing wasn’t sufficient to hold the truck to walking speed on very steep descents. Thankfully, the air supply was sufficient to allow ‘cadence’ braking to control downhill speed without depleting the air supply, unlike in its predecessor, where the low-air warning light and buzzer frequently came on. 

Fuel consumption is difficult to asses for vehicles like the Hino GT, because their load factors and duty cycles vary widely. Our part-load test over freeways, secondary roads and off-road trails resulted in an average ???L/100 km.

 

Single tyres – but not for Australia

Hino South Africa offers its customers the choice of single or double rear wheels on its GT four-wheel drive models.

The single wheel rear axle improves off-road handling capabilities and makes for more efficient operation in sandy conditions. The single wheel fitment also can improve fuel consumption.

Getting rocks stuck in dual tyres is a problem in Australia and while European truck makers all offer single tyre options, Hino and the other Japanese makers have consistently refused to do so.

Hino skites about its Dakar Rally successes every year and the race trucks have proved the value and reliability of wide-single tyres, but the company stubbornly resists making them an option.

Many buyers are forced to use after-market wheels and void driveline warranty in the process.

At OTA we think it’s about time that Japanese makers gave the Australian market the option that it wants.

 

Previous model

The pre-2019 Hino GT 1322 4×4 Crew Auto model combined a seven-seat cabin with an Allison five-speed, self-shifter, on top of familiar mechanicals.

Inevitably, this truck competed with Isuzu’s FTS 800 4×4 Crew Auto and the comparison with the market leader wasn’t favourable. Both brands had closely-matched specifications, but detailed examination revealed that Isuzu had the on-paper performance edge.

Engines were common-rail, turbo-intercooled, with exhaust gas recirculation and particulate filters to comply with ADR80/03 emission regulations. However, the Isuzu engine had marginally more displacement – 7.8 litres vs 7.7 litres – and more power and torque: 176kW/706Nm vs 158kW/637Nm for the Hino engine.

Both trucks had the Allison 2500 Series, torque-converter automatic transmission, but Isuzu used the double-overdrive six-speed version and Hino had the single-overdrive five-speed. The Isuzu used higher-ratio, lower-speed final drives (6.5:1) compared with the Hino’s 5.4:1 gear-sets and so had more gradeability in low-low.

The Isuzu had full-time 4×4 operation, on and off road, with a manual lock for the centre differential. The Hino had no centre diff and part-time 4×4, making it operate in two-wheel drive on high-friction surfaces. Both vehicles had two-speed transfer cases.

The GVM honours went Isuzu’s way, with a rating of 13.9 tonnes, compared with the Hino’s 13 tonnes, but both trucks had identical front and rear axle capacity ratings – 4.7 tonnes and 9.2 tonnes – so the GVM rating was largely semantic. Another strength factor is chassis size and the Hino frame section was higher, wider and thicker than the Isuzu’s.

 

On and off road

The boys at Hino put four tonnes of plunder on the back of the 2016MY GT 1322 tray and we tooled around town for a day, checking it out in stop-start conditions and followed that up with a highway trip next day, culminating in a run around our gravel-road and off-road test course.

The first trick was actually getting into the GT, sitting on its standard 11R22.5 Bridgestones. Fortunately, there were well-placed grab handles and a double access step, but some buyers might want an additional, flexible ‘swinging’ step below the standard ladder. Ditto with getting into the crew seats, via the rear doors.

Although it was a tall beast, at 2975mm to the rooftop, the Hino was actually 70mm lower than its Isuzu competitor.

Ergonomics were very good, with major controls positioned in easy reach of the driver. The driver scored a standard ISRI 6800 seat that adjusted every conceivable way. The six passengers didn’t fare so well, with fixed seats and the two inboard rear positions came with lap-only seatbelts.

Hino adopted a T-bar transmission selector, which worked logically except for the position of reverse, in the slot where car drivers would expect to find ‘park’.

Hino’s multi-media system was a double-DIN touch screen, with fat buttons for menu changes and knobs you can actually turn. We had no issues with operating it and found the touch screen easy to use, even with the staccato effect on finger accuracy imparted by the rather ‘abrupt’ ride of the GT.

A part-load in the tray civilised the ride somewhat, but the Hino GT was a typical Japanese traction truck: firm for the initiated, who know what to expect and bloody rough for novices.

The springs were shortish, conventional leaf-spring packs, with helpers at the rear. Their primary function seemed to be ensuring that the massive axles rarely hit the bump stops. The telescopic dampers weren’t Dakar spec’, so their efforts to control spring action were limited.

Like its Isuzu equivalent the Hino was built to get there and back, not necessarily in the greatest comfort. We’ve driven some European off-road trucks, fitted with long, taper-leaf springs that gave a more comfortable ride, but these vehicles were also a lot more expensive than the Japanese models.

The Hino GT’s firm ride translated into flat handling on smooth surfaces and steering action was precise and well-assisted. Braking was powerful, without any grabbing or nose-diving.

The engine-transmission match was very good, but even a slick-shifting Allison couldn’t mask the fact that the GT could do with a tad more torque – about 100Nm more would be nice. Typically, the truck would hang onto fifth slot on long grades and then skip-shift back to third for some more pulling power.

It could only match loaded 500hp B-Double performance on hills, where a bit more torque would have seen it well ahead of the 65 tonners.

We played around with the transmission overdrive button, making early downshifts to fourth on some grades and that helped maintain road speed.

Automatic-transmission trucks normally have poor engine retardation, but the GT’s engine-transmission programming was well done: dial in the exhaust brake on a downgrade and the transmission went for successive downshifts, maximising engine braking power. It was almost too much in some highway situations, requiring a move of the exhaust brake lever to limit retardation.

Noise levels were generally low, except when the engine needed to work hard on steep highway grades.

The headlights were very, very ordinary, so driving lights would be necessary for those venturing on bush roads after dark.

On gravel roads the GT1322 handled well and when the going got slippery we stopped the truck to engage 4WD – a simple matter of selecting neutral and then pressing a dashboard button. In high-range 4×4 mode the truck was directionally more stable on sandy and muddy surfaces.

For serious off-road work the next stage was to engage low-range, by stopping the vehicle and selecting the ‘tortoise’ button on the dashboard. Low-range engagement was confirmed by the tortoise icon replacing the hare icon on the instrument panel.

The GT1322 climbed very easily in this mode, but hill descent was trickier, because even in low range the overall gearing wasn’t sufficient to hold the truck to walking speed on very steep descents. ‘Cadence’ braking to control downhill speed soon used the air supply and the low-air warning light and buzzer came on. For this type of terrain the manual box would be a much better choice.

Overall economy on this on-off-road test worked out at 4.6km/L or 21.7L/100km, which isn’t bad for a big, heavy brick on wheels.

 

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