There’s more to off-roaders than their simple ability to leave tarmac without immediately getting stuck. Hence the range of qualifying vehicles: pick-ups; 4x4 variant panel vans; light all-wheel drive trucks, such as Iveco’s New Daily 4x4 and Mercedes’ Unimog; even all-terrain conversions for the emergency services and military. Each offers enhanced traction, but what differentiates them is how much and, beyond that, functional capabilities.
Which is why fleet managers specifying off-roaders for tough assignments need to consider everything from gear ratios to running gear, tyres, ground clearance, towing capacity and cab construction. They should also check payload potential, and chassis and body types – including their ruggedness and, in extremis, ability to withstand anything man and the elements may throw at them.
For those unable or unwilling to justify the mighty Unimog, Iveco’s updated New Daily 4x4, as premiered at this year’s CV Show, offers considerable muscle for tackling harsh conditions – including in farming, forestry, quarry work and the utilities. This vehicle is now available in 3.5 and 5.5 tonne variants, with a choice of on- and off-road tyres, plus wheelbase options of 3,050 and 3,400mm.
The 5.5 tonne model can tackle gradients up to 45 degrees and approach angles of 49 degrees, and has a maximum wading depth of 660mm. Other points to note include: its off-road chassis frame; the three-piece steel front bumper; its range of PTOs on the transfer box and gearbox; and 24 forward drive gears (12 mixed routes and 12 off-road) and four reverse gears.
But if that’s not quite right, how about a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 6x6 (not just the highly capable factory-built 4x4), with its conversion by German specialist Oberaigner? West Sussex Fire & Rescue commissioned the first such unit in the UK through dealer Rossetts Commercials. Bodied by WH Bence Coachworks, of Bristol, this vehicle has been equipped with a 1,200-litre tank, ultra-high pressure (100 bar, 38 litres/min) pump, battery-powered hydraulic rescue gear and medical response equipment. It can carry up to five crew across country – including in snow or water – and boasts 1.8 tonnes capacity for other equipment.
What both have in common is truck OEM backing. No one decries the likes of Toyota’s Hilux, the new Fiat Fullback, Volkswagen’s Amarok and Crafter 4x4, Nissan’s NP300 Navara, or Isuzu’s D-Max Centurion. However, if big and rugged are what matter, check out MAN’s long-awaited TGE or Iveco’s New Eurocargo mid-weight 4x4 truck.
MAN’s TGE, unveiled at the IAA Show in Hanover last month, will be available next March with an all-wheel drive variant, driven through a six-gear manual or eight-gear automatic, and powered by Volkswagen’s four-cylinder 102—177bhp engine. Options include crew cab bodies, two wheelbases, three roof heights, 3.0—5.5 tonne gvw base units, and load volumes up to 18.3m3.
As for Eurocargo 4x4, launched at the BAUMA construction event in Munich last April, you’re looking at an 11.5- or 15-tonne gvw, 3,240—4,150 mm wheelbase truck, available with day or sleeper cabs. Engine choices are Tector 7 220 and 250bhp for the 11.5-tonne variant, or 250 and 280bhp for the 15-tonner. The rest of the driveline comprises ZF six-speed manuals with a servoshift system and permanent four-wheel drive, with a longitudinal differential and fast- or slow-ratio selection plus three diff locks.
Off-road protection features include steel bumpers, retractable access steps and a tough new radiator guard – and the new 4x4 is equipped with a front towing jaw, while a PTO is also available. Incidentally, the steering angle (ranging from 40 to 48 degrees, depending on tyres) means the 4x4 Eurocargo should perform well on urban roads too.
Grey area on speed limits
Fleet managers are being advised that larger pickups may be contravening UK speed limits, as they could be classed as light commercials, not cars.
So says vehicle lessor Arval, which points out that models including double-cab derivatives of the Ford Ranger, Toyota Hilux and Volkswagen Amarok can easily exceed the legal 2,040kg unladen weight classification for dual-purpose vehicles. This suggests they should not travel faster than 50mph on single carriageways and 60mph on dual carriageways.
The company has raised the matter with the DfT (Department for Transport), which concedes that some pickup classifications may need to change.
“Confusingly, there is a possibility that examples of the same model might fall either side of the 2,040kg limit because of optional equipment, such as pickup tops,” comments Eddie Parker, commercial vehicle consultant.
“Our advice would be that … it is probably best to advise pickup drivers to adopt the lower limits. There is little to be gained from having to fight a test case if one of your vehicles is prosecuted.”