HEAVY DUTY OFF-ROAD VEHICLES
Most 4WDs are used for pleasure by their owners, but many vehicles have to work hard for their living, serving the community in off-road tasks, such as power and communication equipment maintenance and bush-fire fighting. Others pay their way in the Outback in agricultural, mining and construction work.
Japanese 4×4 light trucks dominate this category, but their shortcomings leave pace for niche marketers, including the once-troubled OKA Motor Company. As of mid-2020 a new Australian-owned OKA All terrain Vehicles organisation has given this marque much-needed revitalisation.
Japanese 4×4 trucks from Isuzu, Fuso and Hino have missed out on many of the dynamic safety initiatives that their 4×2 brethren enjoy. Also, there are glaring crew-safety issues with all Japanese 4WD truck crew cabs.
The volunteers who risk their lives and give up their time to defend life and property from disaster deserve our highest praise and long-postponed remuneration as well. The under-funded bushfire effort in this country is a national disgrace.
Isuzu Australia hasn’t dominated the local truck scene by accident, but by carefully analysing every possible market segment. The latest release is a ‘softer’ 4WD than the go-anywhere NPS, targetting customers who need a traction truck, not an expedition vehicle.
Scania is best known for its stylish on-highway vehicles, but the now VW-owned company has a rich history of off-road and military vehicles. The new P450XT model is a case in point.
The all-Volkswagen Crafter is no longer a rebadged and repowered Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. The post-2018 Crafter is designed and made by VW and 4Motion models are available.
It’s always amazed us that working-4×4 ute and light truck makers have stuck with manual transmissions, when all earthmoving gear and most heavy all wheel drive trucks have automatic transmissions. Thankfully, that scene is changing and there will be three self-shifting light 4×4 trucks available in 2019.
Mercedes-Benz has released its new-generation all-wheel drive truck range, consisting of 4×4, 6×6 and 8×8 models. Mining, construction, remote maintenance, fertiliser spreading and off-road adventure travel are among the design applications for the new all-wheel drive Mercedes-Benz range.
Hino chose the May 2017 Brisbane truck show to preview its forthcoming 4×4 light truck market competitor. The official release was in November and we were there for the fun. An automatic retro-fit option was announced in late 2018.
Iveco is one of the world’s largest producers of off road vehicles, for civilian and military customers. The Eurocargo 4×4 is an all-terrain development of the 4×2 road-oriented medium truck range.
Iveco’s Daily has given the Japanese 4×4 truck makers a fright and the new Trakker 4×4 might do the same at the heavy end of the 4×4 market.
Unashamedly military in appearance the civilian version of the Mercedes-Benz Zetros range is aimed at the Australian mining, exploration and fire-fighting sectors. Allan Whiting had some fun slip-slidin’ away on bush tracks around a damp Anglesea.
Bus4x4’s third door conversion looks very much like a factory design and fitment, and solves the problem of legal access to three rows of seats. The front, second and third rows all have easy entry and exit.
The latest Canter 4×4 performs better than its predecessors and has more interior refinements, but the suspension still needs some work.
TravelTrucks was started by Kym Bolton, one of Australia’s most successful off-road competition vehicle builders and one-time founder of the Earthcruiser business. His ScrubMaster range benefits from many years’ experience working and competing in demanding conditions.
Although today’s utes and tray-backs look similar in configuration to those of the early 2000s there have been a dramatic changes under the skin. Yesterday’s ute-purchasing criteria no longer apply.
The Brahman Traveller all-wheel-drive bus has been accepted in the Australian and New Guinea markets since early 2013 and 34 examples are now in service.
Bus4x4 is a Brisbane-based secondary manufacturer of 4WD and 6WD mine transport vehicles. The company’s principal product lines are Toyota HiAce and Coaster 2WD buses that are professionally converted to 4WD. OTA checked out the current range and tested the HLT project.
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.
We checked out the latest NPS 300 crew cab model and found many improvements over the original. In mid-2018 a two-pedal, automated manual transmission model was announced.
The latest Unimog looks familiar, but hides significant powertrain changes behind that rugged façade. Allan Whiting was the first Aussie journo to give the new beast a workout.
The Australian 4WD truck market leader has extended the appeal of its 8-9-tonnes-payload capacity 4×4 truck models with the addition of two new diesel engine variants. A new, powerful four complements a variant of the proved six that’s purpose-designed for off-road operation.
Mercedes-Benz Australia hasn’t realised the potential in the Sprinter 4×4 range. The original 4×4 system from Oberaigner is due for replacement by Magna components in late 2021.
The Iveco Daily 4WD range was released in 2013. Brilliant off road credentials and more than twice the payload of a ute ensured good business for this capable machine. Refinements were added in mid-2016 and in 2018 and a greatly expanded range was released in late 2019.