TESTED: EARTHCRUISER OUTBACK

By: MALCOLM STREET, Photography by: MALCOLM STREET


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The Fuso-based 2WD Earthcruiser Outback will have few problems going wherever the road may lead.

TESTED: EARTHCRUISER OUTBACK
The Earthcruiser Outback won’t have much trouble going off the beaten track with its 2WD chassis.

Built by enthusiasts, usually specialist companies, 4WD motorhomes are something of a rarity. But offroad motorhomes aren’t always 4WDs. In fact, Brisbane-based Earthcruiser has just released an offroad motorhome in 2WD.

The thinking behind this launch is that there are plenty of roads around Australia that require a rough-road-going vehicle, but not necessarily a 4WD. Apparently, several customers had made requests about the availability of such a truck, so Earthcruiser decided to try its hand at building one.



TORQUE TO ME

The aptly named Outback is based on a Mitsubishi Fuso Canter, a truck chassis which comes with a 3L turbodiesel engine that delivers 110kW of power and 370Nm of torque through a six-speed automatic gearbox. It comes standard with coil suspension on the front axles and leaf suspension in the rear, with heavy duty shock absorbers all round. There’s even a locking limited slip diff.

I’m sure the optional Stratos seats help, but I was surprised at the level of the ride comfort which, along with features such as rack and pinion steering, made driving the rig quite pleasant, even on the rough roads I managed to find. Like any good turbodiesel, the Fuso delivers plenty of grunt and the AMT gearbox only shows occasional hesitation between gear shifts.

Apart from the seats, cab comforts are relatively basic, including the radio/CD player. But the reversing camera and fluorescent cab light are certainly welcome additions, as are the assorted storage pockets and centre console.

Unlike most European motorhomes based on commercial vehicles, the driver’s cab and the motorhome section are separate from each other, but there is a small ‘crawl-way’ between the two for emergency/poor weather access. Given that the cab tilts for maintenance, nothing else would be a workable proposition.

A boxed-section aluminium frame is used for the camper construction. This frame is connected to the chassis using Earthcruiser’s kinetic mounting system, designed to provide flexibility between the two, using truck-strength spring mounts. Vacuum bonding with a fibreglass exterior is used for the walls and roof and the two slide-outs are fibreglass mouldings rated to 1000kg.

At first glance, the Outback has a boxy look about it, but curves on several edges reduce this effect. For external storage, there are three alloy drawers measuring 600x600x300mm – one on the nearside and two on the offside. These storage bins become partially blocked off when the slide-outs above are open, though. A bin door at the front nearside gives external access to the storage space beneath the bed.



INSIDE THE OUTBACK

Unlike most motorhomes, the entry door to the Earthcruiser Outback is in the rear wall, and an electric awning provides both shade and weather protection across the doorway. Sliding glass windows are fitted all round. The upside of this setup is that the glass is more or less scratchproof and easy to clean. The downside is that, because they’re sliders, they can’t be left open in the rain.

Both slide-outs are fitted towards the rear of the Outback and have to be opened in order to effectively use the motorhome – but it doesn’t take very long to get them into position. The nearside slide-out contains the kitchen bench, while the offside slide-out is home to both a club-style lounge and fridge. This leaves enough room for a mid-nearside bathroom and an east-west bed at the front. All the windows, except for the one in the rear door which has a roller blind, come with slimline venetian blinds.

The kitchen bench is relatively small but its angled design improves both underbench storage and benchtop space. The bench, by the way, features a moulded two-basin sink, with room for a three-burner cooktop complete with smoked glass lid.

Although it’s set in the overhead lockers, the microwave is still at a reasonably user-friendly height. Under the kitchen bench, you’ll find three large, self-closing drawers, and a cupboard which is partially taken up by the hot water heater.

Across the way, the club lounge and table fit neatly into the slide-out, as does the 225L three-way fridge. There’s a step to get into the seating and it seemed to me that the single-pole table was on the high side. In a slightly novel approach, the dinette powerpoint is located in the ceiling. This does get around the need for a flexible connection for the slide-out while doing away with power cords snaking across the dinette seat.

If visitors stay overnight, the dinette table can be folded to make up a small bed and, like in the kitchen, there are windows on two sides. The underseat area offers yet more storage space though it is somewhat occupied by the Surburban space heater.

There are no surprises in the mid-station bathroom. It’s very compact but has a separate shower cubicle, Thetford cassette toilet and shaving cabinet – though there isn’t anywhere to actually have a wet shave. Ventilation is provided via a good-sized roof hatch.

Outside the bathroom, the full-height, two-door cupboard has plenty of shelf space. It’s also the mounting point for the 12V power supply, complete with fuses along with the solar panel regulator, water tank gauges, awning switch and air-conditioner controls. The rest of the electrics and controls, such as the hot water service, radio/CD player, external/internal speaker switching and 12V socket are located under the kitchen bench.

Up front, and directly behind the driver’s cab, is the main bed. There are windows on both sides but much use has been made of the air space, with a large cabinet above the bedhead and overhead lockers across the front wall. Reading lights are fitted under the side wall cupboard. Although east-west beds in relatively confined spaces aren’t to everyone’s tastes, I reckon this case shows outside-the-square thinking that works well.

In keeping with the remote travel theme, the Outback comes with solar panels for recharging the 120Ah house battery, and a three-way fridge should ensure that bush camping can be enjoyed for several days at a time. On a related note, a lone LED light fitting, in amongst all the incandescents on board, was a slight oddity, but could easily be changed.



THE BOTTOM LINE

Well, there isn’t much doubt that a rough-road 2WD motorhome is a bit of a novel concept.

After driving and playing with the Earthcruiser Outback, however, it didn’t seem so strange at all. I have to say that this rig certainly appeared to be a well-built motorhome with equally well finished timberwork inside.

It isn’t particularly large, but both the slide-outs add a considerable amount of living space and it has all the usual features expected in a motorhome of this calibre. It’s a motorhome that should take you far!



4WD OR 2WD?

A good question! For quite a few buyers, if they desired a rough-road motorhome then it really was 4WD or nothing. There are distinct advantages to owning a 4WD (and there will be one available in the Earthcruiser line-up), but for those who are planning nothing much worse than national parks and well-used outback roads, then a vehicle such as this Outback has lots to offer. I wasn’t driving on anything too serious but I reckon the Outback, with its suspension setup and locking differential, would go a long way without getting into difficulty.



I LIKED...

  • The quality of the cabinetry throughout
  • Double slide-out
  • General kitchen layout
  • Compact nature of the vehicle for offroading
  • External drawer storage
  • Driving the Fuso

 

I WOULD HAVE LIKED...

  • All light fittings to be LED
  • Slightly lower dinette table
  • 12V socket near table
  • Glass hopper windows, such as the Hehr style
  • A griller in the kitchen

 


Originally published in Caravan World #513, April 2013.

 

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