Trucksales – December 2017
With its low reduction gearing, centre differential and locking front hubs, Hino's new light-duty four-wheel drive truck is up for the rough stuff…
Hino's been busy over the last few years. It introduced its light-duty 300 Series High Horsepower models, the manual 920 and auto 921, in mid-2014, and then the following year came the medium-duty FE 1426 auto . At the start of this year Hino rolled out a comprehensive update of its medium-duty 500 Series Wide Cab range, and now its offering has grown yet again with the arrival of the four-wheel drive 300 Series 817.
Available in single- and crew-cab models, the 300 Series 817 4x4 and 817 4x4 Crew isn't just an existing light-duty truck with a cobbled-together off-road drivetrain. Developed in collaboration with engineers both here and in Japan, the truck has spent three years in testing in some of Australia's most inhospitable climes. Cook Shire Council in Far North Queensland put the truck through its paces in Queensland's remote north, while mining exploration firm Kimberley Drilling did likewise in the outback, where temperatures and terrain can and often do conspire to defeat the toughest of machinery.
In any case, Hino says the 817 4x4 has been built to specifically handle harsh conditions, yet its rugged construction is complemented by some top technology. Like stability control and a reversing camera as standard – a first for this niche, the company says.
Power and transmission
At the heart of the truck beats Hino's N04C UT engine – a 4.0-litre, four-cylinder turbo-diesel. Producing a claimed 165hp (121kW) at 2500rpm and 464Nm at 1400rpm, it's mated to a six-speed synchromesh transmission – the sole transmission choice.
The urge is fed to a dual-range transfer case with a handily low 2.2:1 reduction ratio. Hino says the gearing ratio of 14.165:1 in low first is the lowest crawler gear available in this segment, making it a handy tool indeed on rough ground. The manual locking free-wheeling front hubs work with electronically selectable four-wheel drive and high/low range modes – simply engage the front hubs, select neutral, press the four-wheel drive button on the dash and, when the symbol lights on the instrument panel, you're good to go.
Approach and departure angles are 34 degrees and 30 degrees respectively – healthy, that's for sure, although the ground clearance under the front and rear diffs is more modest, at 205mm. The truck rides on sturdy multi-leaf springs and shocks at all four corners, its steel 17-5-inch rims shod with Michelin X all-terrain tyres.
Our test truck is loaded to 90 per cent of its 7500 kilogram GVM courtesy of a number of sand bags in the Minibody Engineering steel drop-side tray. The GCM is 11,000 kilograms, but the truck can be rated with a GVM of 4995 kilograms (GCM 7995 kilograms) to accommodate drivers on a standard car licence.
Only the one medium wheelbase is available, putting 3500mm between the axles.
Applications and ergonomics
This model is bound for work in the forestry, mining, government and emergency services sectors, so it was only fair we put it through its paces in some testing terrain. With Victoria's gazetted four-wheel drive tracks now open for the summer, we headed for Wombat State Forest and Lerderderg State Park, to Melbourne's northwest, to give its low-range gearing a workout.
It's a high vehicle to hop into, as you'd expect, but because the driver sits right over the front wheel the two grippy footsteps are set forward, meaning you have to swing your body in behind the wheel on an angle. The seating is fairly basic and it isn't adjustable for height, but it does come with a suspension system that only bottomed out over particularly big off-road hits. Time to lay off the pies for a bit, methinks…
Fortunately the steering wheel is adjustable for both height and length, and finding a comfortable enough position was easy. There's no dead pedal as such, but there's enough room either side of the steering column for your feet and legs not to feel cramped.
Riding this high – nearly on a par with drivers in prime movers – there's excellent forward vision. The mirrors, with heating and electric adjustment (bar the spot mirrors), also provide a great view to the rear, although the wide B-pillars do restrict rear three-quarter vision somewhat.
Uncluttered, functional cab
The cab's interior is what we expect of Hino: clean and uncluttered, basic but functional, and built to last. Our press truck's cab had been tarted up with a factory dash mat, rubber floor mats and a UHF radio, but the multimedia system – with sat-nav, DAB+ digital radio, DVD player, Bluetooth connectivity, voice commands and more – is standard.
The reversing camera is standard too, and it comes with a reversing buzzer and a microphone so you can hear what's going on at the rear of the truck. Really, this safety tech should be available on all trucks, as I'm sure it will be in years to come.
The view afforded by the camera on the 6.1-inch colour touchscreen is sharp enough but it can be difficult to view in strong sunlight, while the system can accommodate up to two more cameras for even better coverage.
Getting around town was easy in the diminutive 817; with a turning circle of around 15 metres, power steering that requires only a relatively light touch at the wheel and the generally good all-round vision, it made light work of Melbourne's peak-hour crush. Noise levels in the cab are thoroughly acceptable, with only a minimal amount of whine emanating from the off-road-biased tyres on the highway.
Of course once off-road the 817 is even better. With that modest 3500mm wheelbase it's fairly nimble, and pulling off three-point turns on tight fire trails posed no issue. The engine churns out useable grunt from around 1300rpm, and feels strong from well below 2000rpm to 3000rpm. Redline is indicated at just over 3000rpm, while at 100km/h in sixth gear the engine is ticking along at 2250rpm.
Even loaded to near GVM the 817 4x4 rarely had any issues when taking off in second, unless an incline was involved. We tackled some fairly steep four-wheel drive tracks in the bush that necessitated first gear in low range, and the truck simply walked up and over any obstacles we threw its way. For carting personnel to the fire front in steep going, it's difficult not to see the 817 4x4 as anything but a worthy and capable ally.
Those bottom front steps look at little exposed but they still encompass that 34-degree approach angle, and certainly we never touched anything down during our jaunt in the bush. That 205mm of clearance under the diffs, however, requires some care – by way of comparison, most of today's popular pickups sport clearances of around 20-30mm higher.
The biggest surprise in the bush, however, was the 817's supple ride. I was expecting something far harsher, but the suspension package does a great job of soaking up typical off-road conditions, from corrugations to big hits. We were still glad to have a suspension seat, but the 817 really does handle itself well in the rough stuff.
Safety a priority
Hino points out that this is also the first truck in this niche to come with four-wheel disc brakes and stability control as standard. Selecting four-wheel drive switches the ABS and VSC systems off, but on the blacktop this is life-saving technology, plain and simple, which we saw demonstrated to great effect on a skid pan at Eastern Creek earlier this year, during the press lunch of the 500 Series Wide Cab range.
Still on the safety theme, the 817 comes with two air bags and a cab that meets ECE R-29 compliance for strength.
The six-speed synchromesh manual gearbox was a little stiff, particularly when finding the gate for second, but our test truck only had 5000 kilometres on its clock – the 'box should loosen up with further use. Oh, and there's no hill hold assist, so it's back to basic skills when moving off on an incline. Cruise control, however, is a standard feature, and a welcome addition on the highway.
Twin grab rails and sturdy footsteps provide easy access to the second-row seating, which has seat belts for four. The driver and outboard front passenger and outboard rear passengers get three-point belts, while the remainder make do with lap belts.
The rear of the cab is surprisingly spacious, with its own heating/cooling vents and dedicated controls. Two cup holders flip out beneath the vents, while a sturdy grab rail extends for the width of the cab, giving rear occupants a solid hand hold in steep going.
As for fuel economy, the trip computer was reading 5km/lt or better on the blacktop, with that figure dropping to around 4km/lt off-road. Both healthy figures given the load, and affording a reasonable range from the 170lt fuel capacity.
Hino's new 300 Series 817 4x4 is one tough little customer, with a willing heart, a sturdy construction and an able drivetrain that will get the job done in potentially dire circumstances. Simple, rugged and effective, standard features like stability control, a reversing camera and disc brakes make it stand out in the pack, while it's still comfortable enough over longer distances. In short, this is a top example of the breed.
2017 Hino 300 Series 817 4x4 MWB Crew price and specifications
Engine: N04C UT
Power: 165hp (121kW) at 2500rpm
Torque: 464Nm at 1400rpm
Transmission: Six-speed synchromesh manual
Front suspension: Multi-leaf springs with shocks and stabiliser
Rear Suspension: Multi-leaf springs with shocks
Fuel tanks: 1 x 100 litres, 1 x 70 litres
Emissions compliance: Euro 5/ADR 80/03; EGR and DPF
Brakes: Hydraulic four-wheel disc with ABS
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For more information about the Hino 300 Series 817 4x4, visit here.