The EarthRoamer XV-HD wasn't the only all-new earth-shaking expedition vehicle at this year's Overland Expo West. Similarly named competitor EarthCruiser showed the FX, a new simpler, lower-priced Mitsubishi Fuso-based expedition truck with fixed roof.
EarthCruiser is an Australian-based expedition vehicle company that expanded with a US-based branch in 2012. Since the first production EarthCruiser hit the street and dirt in 2009, the company has become synonymous with expedition vehicles featuring fiberglass camper boxes with electric pop-top roofs.
The electric roof of the EarthCruiser EXP allows owners to easily slide the large off-road motorhome into a standard shipping container – something that's important for getting the vehicle to the far-off places that buyers of such vehicles want to explore – while enjoying an extra two feet (60 cm) of roof height at camp.
The new EarthCruiser FX does away with the pop-up roof. While the pop-top system is advantageous from a livability standpoint, it also adds expense to the overall design of the vehicle, and EarthCruiser is trying to reach a new demographic of buyer with the FX. With 77 in (196 cm) of interior height, the FX still offers plenty of headroom for all but the tallest of travelers. The fixed roof rises just 8 in (20 cm) above the driver cab roof, helping to keep things fairly compact and aerodynamic. The company's Michelle Boltz told us that the FX can be containerized, but it's a tighter fit than the EXP.
Below the fixed roof, the FX is the same rugged-but-comfy EarthCruiser that a select breed of well-heeled adventurers has come to know and love. The camper module features a molded fiberglass-based sandwich construction designed to provide an ideal blend of low weight, insulation, strength and durability. It sleeps up to two adults and two children by way of the rear double bed and convertible dinette single bed.
"Over the past two years, we’ve been manufacturing US and export versions of the EarthCruiser here in Bend, Oregon," explains EarthCruiser CEO Lance Gillies. "We’ve become very aware of the needs of travelers here in the US and just how amazing it can be to travel year-round in North America. The fixed roof version of EarthCruiser is ideal for those who are ready to load up, turn the key and start their adventure, right here in America’s vast backyard."
One of the features that we found quite interesting when touring the FX was the entryway bathroom/mud room. It seems like an odd place for the bathroom, but as EarthCruiser explains, the shower-equipped bathroom placement saves cabin space and encourages dirty campers to clean off before entering the main cabin. That latter point was certainly advantageous at the super-muddy expo, with EarthCruiser the only manufacturer that seemed eager to have us step aboard – indeed, the FX was the only vehicle we stepped inside at the show. The company didn't even make us shower off!
The FX's amenities provide a comfortable home away from home (or simply "home," as some expedition vehicle owners use their rigs). The camper features a 38-gal (144-L) heated water tank and 23-gal (87-L) grey water tank. A diesel-fueled Webasto Dual Top supplies cabin and water heating. The Webasto cooktop also runs on diesel, a fuel option that EarthCruiser explains it has selected based on better global availability versus propane. The cabin comes with marine speakers mounted in the ceiling and a variety of internal and external-access storage.
The FX includes a full electrical system with a 125 W roof-mounted solar panel (one or two more can be added optionally), a 270 Ah AGM battery, a 2,000 W inverter with charger, a number of 110 V, 12 V and USB outlets, and an alarm that sounds when the batteries drop below 50 percent charged. The alarm is meant as a prompt for the owner to start charging the battery off the vehicle's alternator.
EarthCruiser has designed its electrical system to run the 12 V refrigerator/freezer, interior/exterior LED lighting, water pump and plugged in devices (e.g. laptop or tablet) without the need for a separate generator. It says that the vehicle can supply enough electricity for up to 10 days when parked at camp.
The North American-market FX is offered on the Mitsubishi Fuso Canter FG 4x4 truck chassis. That truck is powered by a 161-hp (120 kW), 3.0-liter, four-cylinder turbo diesel that has 295 lb-ft (400 Nm) of torque on tap. A six-speed automated manual transmission handles gear shifting. The chassis gives the FX 9 inches (23 cm) of ground clearance, a transfer case, heavy-duty axles, locking front hubs, a rear limited-slip differential and all-terrain tires.
EarthCruiser replaces the stock suspension with its own system, designed to deliver a soft, comfortable ride and improved wheel articulation off road. It attaches the camper to the chassis with eight truck-strength spring mounts meant to maintain the chassis's flex.
The EarthCruiser FX starts at US$175,000, which may sound like a very steep price at first, but when you look at the EXP's $225,000 starting price and the price of other camper trucks of this size and capability, it starts to look a lot more reasonable.
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