Quite often, when it comes to developing a 4×4 version of a truck, the all-wheel drive lags behind the rest of the range, often using an older cab and not including all of the latest gadgetry. The Hino 817 4×4 is different. These are the latest Hino 300 Series cabin and systems on a 4×4 chassis platform.
Of course, there are compromises to the needs of all-terrain truck users, and fixtures and fittings do get a little pared down, just because of the conditions the truck will be working in. However, this Hino feels very similar in look and feel to the current 4×2 light-duty trucks in the range.
This engine is smooth and has the right amount of grunt in the right places. The power levels now being made available in trucks this size are much higher than in the past, leading to a situation where the engine never seems to be toiling hard, no matter what the driver is putting it through.
The gearbox has a solid and positive feel through the cable linkage, and once the driver gets accustomed to the gear layout it is a simple box to handle. Unfamiliar drivers could get caught out by the gearbox layout on the six-speed box. The detent position for the gear stick, if left to its own devices, is in the middle of the gearbox and not between second and third gear, as it often is on a six-speed box.
Engaging four-wheel drive is simple enough with two buttons on the dashboard to press when the freewheeling hubs have been locked.
The ride is always going to be stiffer than we find in the 4×2 models but it does feel surprisingly smooth. Then, when out on the forest roads and in less than ideal conditions the truck’s suspension comes into its own. The suspension gets the most out of the traction available.
Diesel wasn’t game enough to push the limits to see how the stability control performed but, needless to say, it does add to the sense of security the driver feels. Noise levels are relatively low inside the cabin at highway speeds. There is bound to be a higher level of tyre whine, but this is due to the nature of 4×4 tyre design.
The dashboard layout is well thought out. On the left is the tachometer, and in the middle is the speedometer. A bar goes across the middle of the speedo and on this is the LCD screen, with things like fuel, temperature, odometer and also the DPF levels. Underneath are the indicators the driver needs to see all of the time – high or low range, cruise control on or off, four-wheel drive engaged, etc.
Cruise control is controlled not by a stalk on the steering column, but by one fixed to the steering wheel. Therefore it travels around with the driver’s hand and is close at hand, even when turning the wheel. It is also well designed and easy to use, not too complicated.
Substantial grab handles on all of the pillars, A, B, and C, aid entry into each of the doors on the day cab and crew cab. This ensures there are three points of contact available to anyone climbing in and out of any door. The size of the A pillar grab handle does, however, compromise access for the driver to the – normally well accessible – holder for the vital cup of coffee just below the driver’s side air vent.
All in all, this new 4×4 is quite an achievement for the Hino organisation. The conservative Japanese truck manufacturers take a lot of convincing to head in a new direction. Hino Australia has managed its own development program to come up with a design that ticks all of the boxes in Tokyo, and will be added to the portfolio of models offered by the company around the world.