Finding another gear
The 4x4 versions of the Fuso Canter have the ability to provide access to difficult locations for emergency services, remote workers and serious adventurers.
The rough terrain and wet conditions in a Victorian wilderness area present no obstacles to the two versions of the Fuso FG Canter 4x4 as we do our best to find the trucks’ limits.
With 110kW of power and 370Nm of torque from their four cylinder engines the 4x4 Canter models have their abilities further enhanced thanks to the two speed transfer case which returned to the Canter a few years ago after a brief period of being a straight five speed.
Japan took some convincing about the necessity of having the extra gearbox and the persistence of the Australian engineers and sales people is rewarded in having the significantly improved flexibility that such a transmission can provide.
The engine uses a variable geometry turbo to ensure there is adequate boost right across the rev range and the maximum torque of 370Nm is spread from 1,350-2840rpm.
The broad range of the torque delivery contributes to the Canter’s higher load capabilities and proves the advantage of using a ‘truck’ engine when compared to the usually narrower torque band available from most 4WD utes which use engines derived from passenger applications.
Four-wheel drive and low range are electrically engaged using dash mounted switches.
Four-wheel drive can be selected at any speed without depressing the clutch pedal but the Canter needs to be stationary to switch to low range in the transfer case.
This doesn’t really present an issue as the truck needs to be stopped anyway to be able to manually lock the free-wheeling front hubs.
The reinforced front axle has some solid protection for the drive shaft CV joints while the rear differential has a limited slip centre.
As we head further into the bush we are negotiating steeper and rougher ascents yet we are able to concentrate on steering to choose the best line because all the while we have the right foot completely off the throttle.
This involves a different style of off-road driving and instead of aggressively attacking the steep sections we use first or second gear and allow the electronic engine control to prevent the truck from stalling as the Canter steadily picks its way through the troughs and bumps.
Handling similar washed-out downhill sections is best accomplished using low range and second or third gear with the exhaust brake activated and allowing the Canter to hold its own pace.
If necessary the brakes can be applied hard without regard to de-clutching as the engine won’t stall.
The four wheel drum brakes feature Electronic Brake Force Distribution in addition to the hill holder function which relieves the strain on both the driveline and the driver and avoids wheel spin.
The Canter’s electrical system is 12-volt which is a benefit when fitting accessories and also in integrating the Canter into a mixed fleet.
Airbags for the driver and passenger are standard but can be deleted along with the central locking and electric windows in the ‘fire services delete pack’ as a safety consideration for emergency service personnel who regularly travel through active fire grounds.
A reversing camera is standard equipment.
The crew cab version seats seven with up to four people enjoying the voluminous space of the rear section of the cab.
Access across the cab in the front is afforded additional ease due to the gear lever being dash mounted rather than located on the centre console.
The design and engineering of the Canter 4x4’s step frame chassis provides for maximum clearance when travelling off road while maintaining a low rear frame height for practical access to whatever style of body is fitted.
This design also results in relatively low tare weights which are conducive to the fitment of heavier equipment such as pumps and water tanks.
The Bridgestone tyres fitted to both test vehicles feature an aggressive tread pattern to maximise traction in the rough while remaining not too noisy on sealed surfaces.
Travelling on the roughest of tracks demonstrates the effectiveness of the Canter 4x4’s long travel leaf springs and dual action shock absorbers as well as the driver’s suspended seat which has adjustable damping to cater for drivers weighing between 70 and 110 kilograms.
Returning to some sealed roads the Canter 4x4 performs in a manner much similar to its 4x2 brethren other than having a broader range of vision due to the higher suspension and cab position.
A surprise is the short wheelbase single cab model’s remarkable turning circle of just 11.4 metres which is impressive for a 4x4 truck given the front wheel turn angle is usually compromised by the restrictions of universal joints.
The Canter’s use of constant velocity (CV) joints is a contributing factor to its nimble abilities.