It’s the first time the Japanese truck brand has been able to offer such a vehicle to this niche commercial market segment in New Zealand. Hino Distributors is also targeting arborists, tourism operators, builders, plumbers, energy companies and service vehicle operators with this addition to the 300-series light-duty truck range.
We drove the single cab 4×4 truck both on- and off-road in the same conditions that a beekeeper might encounter, and it proved to be a capable, sure-footed and comfortable workhorse.
The 817 4×4 offers a suspended driver’s seat for greater comfort in the rough which is a godsend in the lumpy stuff, disc brakes all round for greater stopping confidence and a 121kW/464Nm 4.0-litre turbodiesel engine which is more than adequate for the job of hauling beehives and such. It has a smooth shifting six-speed manual transmission with high/low ratio transfer case, and low range is easily engaged by shifting into neutral at rest and pushing a button on the dashboard. Both models have a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of 7500kg but can also be optionally rated for a 5995kg GVM, allowing buyers to operate the truck on a car licence rather than a class two heavy transport licence.
Hino Distributors was so keen to promote the ‘Bee Truck’ tested here to the recent Apiculture conference, it was literally taken off the boat whereupon the honeycomb and bee graphic vinyl wrap was applied to the cab and body. We drove the ‘Bee Truck’ off-road at Makoura Lodge near Hino Distributors headquarters in Palmerston North, laden with a 1400kg concrete block, a similar weight to a three-quarter load of beehives on the deck. Although at first the raised suspension might make the ‘Bee Truck’ look a little ungainly, the reason for this design soon becomes clear.
When crawling through the undulating tracks off-road the 817 4×4 has exceptional wheel articulation through the rougher stuff thanks to the multi-leaf front and rear suspension. It’s seldom lost for grip and traction. According to Hino the low range first gear delivers the lowest crawl speed in the class, which was reassuring in the wet and slippery conditions we encountered on the off-road track. Selecting low range will disable the traction control and vehicle stability systems but the exhaust brake will still continue to operate and this, in conjunction with the low first gear, will keep the vehicle well under control during steep descents.
On the flip side, the 817 4×4 will happily and quietly cruise at the legal highway speed limit of 90km/h in sixth gear with the engine barely breaking a sweat at 2100rpm. It’s not often you come away from test driving a truck with muddy boots and grin from ear to ear, but the 817 4×4 certainly genuinely impressed with its overall capability.
Article courtesy of AutoCar.