“That’s cool, but you’re never going to sell one.” It’s a sentiment that EarthRoamer, builder of some of the world's toughest off-road expedition vehicles, has heard many times over the 12 years it's been rolling product out. But it has sold them, 150 of them, in fact. The company is so confident that it will keep selling them that it is now working on an even larger, more expensive 4x4 motorhome. We previously took a look at the basic specs of the all-new XV-HD expedition vehicle, and after traveling to Overland Expo, we have a few more details about this beastly build, including its near-seven figure price tag.
We walked up to EarthRoamer’s unveiling event full of hope and wonder. After exploring every nook of the XV-LTS last year, we could hardly wait to let our senses loose on the bigger, badder XV-HD.
The large, open patch of mud in front of EarthRoamer’s booth appeared perfectly primed for the arrival of an XXL camper truck. Things proceeded in orderly fashion, much like an auto show press conference, only outdoors, in cold, thick mud. There were the usual introductions, pleasantries and nuts-and-bolts business talk. The crowd shuffled restlessly, waiting for the big moment.
Finally. The moment of reveal arrived. No more talking, just showing. Oddly, no rumble of F-650 V8 or sound of 46-in tires ripping through mud, only the weak whine of winches, barely audible through the too-loud rendition of Europe’s "The Final Countdown" being pumped in over the speakers.
"Ahhh…a powertrain-less prototype, they haven’t actually finished up installing all the drive components," we thought for a split second. Before we had the chance to remember that Ford installs the powertrain before EarthRoamer even takes delivery of the F-650 truck chassis, a large poster inched into view. With each unfurling wrinkle, the realization dawned: no finished XV-HD vehicle, prototype or shell would be gracing us with its presence. We were stuck with a poster of an XV-HD rendering. Sure, it was a big poster, but still ...
After fighting back the urge to hurl the nearest loose chunk of mud on stage, we thought about it and realized what we were witnessing was actually pretty damn cool, in spite of the lack of tangible vehicle. The reason we were looking at a poster, not a magnificent cocktail of diesel 4x4 and composite living module, was that the design was that new. EarthRoamer didn’t fall behind schedule and fail to complete a prototype by show time. The XV-HD was simply so fresh off the drafting table that it hadn't even begun construction of the molds. In fact, as EarthRoamer explained, Ford had not even started production on the 2016 F-650 chassis that the motorhome was designed around.
We're hopeful that the XV-HD will show up at next year’s Overland Expo. EarthRoamer has its first order on the books and plans to begin production later this year, after completing its molds over the next several months. And while certain features and options might change between now and then, the Colorado-based company seems to have a pretty good handle on the direction it’s going with its largest model.
As we detailed in our first look at the new expedition vehicle, the XV-HD is a 35-foot (10.7-m) motorhome built on the new Ford F-650 with 330-hp 6.7-liter PowerStroke diesel V8. The F-650 gives the HD a bigger, meaner, more industrial face when compared to the friendly, everyday pickup truck look of the F-550-based XV-LT series.
"We looked at a bunch of different chassis, from International, to Freightliner, to Kenworth, and we came back to Ford,” explained EarthRoamer president and COO Tyler Tatro. “The 2016 [F-650] chassis is pretty impressive. And that powertrain is powerful, it's efficient, and the warranty on it is pretty impressive; they're doing a 250,000-mile, five-year warranty."
"The cab also has a high quality fit and finish, which any of the other big trucks don’t. The cab height is good for us because we can get that big bunk over the cab. That’s an important piece of our design; it’s what sets us apart from all the other builders of high-end trucks like this.”
The chassis won’t come with four-wheel drive, so EarthRoamer will install its own, ensuring that the HD doesn’t get stuck in the mud – when it actually comes to life and drives through it. EarthRoamer also plans to make some other mechanical modifications, such as adding air ride suspension.
With a chassis locked in, EarthRoamer turned its sights to its bread and butter: the camper module. As you can see when you compare the new design with the XV-HD rendering we published last year in our XV-LTS article (also in this article's gallery), the camper design has been reworked from the original XV-HD concept. Tatro and EarthRoamer founder Bill Swails worked with a Ford designer to develop a cohesive look and flow between camper and F-650 cab. This effort shines through in the continuous character lines and window structures.
Like existing EarthRoamers, the cabin will be built from fiberglass composite. However, EarthRoamer will use a new vacuum infusion construction process, different from the way it produces its current XV-LT bodies.
“It gives us more control over the amount of resin that’s put in the body so we can get a higher strength body with less weight," Tatro said. "The inside of the fiberglass panels, the tolerances are much tighter, so it makes it easier to build in terms of installing the cabinetry and so forth. We can glue wall panels directly to the glass. With our current product we have to install stringers and shim everything. It’ll be easier to produce than our current body, lighter weight and more precise.”
In addition to the details we already published about the camper interior and equipment – things like sleeping for up to six people, 200-gal (909 L) fresh water tank and 2.4-kW solar array – EarthRoamer is also considering installing a rear motorcycle bay. In contrast to the external hydraulic motorcycle lifts from manufacturers like Action Mobil, EarthRoamer is thinking of an internal storage area with ramp.
All that truck comes with all kinds of zeroes. The XV-HD starts around $950,000 and personalization is sure to push many models up above the $1 million mark. While that’s a large chunk of change, even by expedition vehicle standards, it will come with virtually everything standard, minus a few select optional items like the entertainment system. EarthRoamer is in the process of streamlining its packages across its entire model line, turning options into standard equipment.
“We’ve just released our 2016 models. We’ve taken what 90 percent of people are buying and what really makes an EarthRoamer an EarthRoamer and we’re making that standard," explained Tatro. "So things like the air ride suspension, the MPT tires and wheels, front winch, back-up camera, Line-X, exterior lighting, the maximum solar you can get, maximum batteries, and the list goes on.”
EarthRoamer plans to have the first XV-HD complete by mid to late 2016, so we won’t necessarily be seeing one at next year’s Overland Expo, either. It will use social media to provide a detailed, behind-the-scenes look at the build and is also in the process of launching a new website complete with build-your-own-EarthRoamer configurator.