There are overlanders, and then there are overlanders. Anyone can take a four-wheel-drive pickup truck and add on some camping gear to turn it into a rolling campsite, but when it comes to bringing the real comforts of home out past where the pavement ends, you’ll need to turn to a shop that specializes in building heavy-duty all-terrain rigs set up with their own living quarters — outfits that, for whatever reason, tend to have “earth” at the start of their name, like EarthRoamer and EarthCruiser.
The latest example: The new 2020 EarthCruiser EXP, which is either one of the toughest RVs or one of the most comfortable off-roaders we’ve ever seen. Or both.
Admittedly, the EXP isn’t the sexiest off-road vehicle we’ve ever laid eyes on. The base vehicle is a Mitsubishi Fuso, one of the myriad generic commercial truck platforms that roam the streets of just about every continent but never draw so much as a second glance. While that basic Fuso is two-wheel-drive, EarthCruiser starts its build by outfitting the truck with its own four-wheel-drive system, complete with two-speed transfer case, full floating axles and air-powered locking hubs. (The latter’s twin air compressors can also be used to top up the tires.) With more than 11 inches of ground clearance, it can scramble over rocks that would gut mere Wranglers and Land Cruisers.
A truck this big — it weighs around seven tons — needs a potent motor to push it around, so EarthCruiser outfitted the EXP with a GM-sourced 6.0-liter smallblock V8 making 297 hp and 361 lb-ft of torque, routed to the wheels through a six-speed automatic. A 60-gallon gas tank means you can venture far beyond the beaten path and still have plenty of fuel to get home.
Of course, an overlanding rig isn’t worth much if it doesn’t feel cozy when you’re parked. To that end, EarthCruiser builds a custom pop-top living compartment for the EXP, complete with a proprietary mounting system that lets the box flex separately from the frame during off-roading. Once stopped, the top rises to provide 6’10” of head room, while windows in the tri-layer, weatherproof laminate let you see out and let the light flood in. There’s standard sleeping accommodations for four adults — two in the dedicated bed in back, and two more once you convert the four-seat dinette to a bed — and you can add on a “sky bed” to sleep one more grown-up or two kids.
The wet bath, cleverly, is located in the entry way, as that makes for the easiest place to clean muddy gear from the outside without tracking it everywhere. (There’s a pass-through to the cab from the cabin, so you can still get out the truck’s regular doors.) 80 gallons of fresh water serve said bathroom, with clever thermal management systems designed to keep the water from freezing no matter how cold it gets outside. A separate air and water heater is fed by a 15-liter diesel tank, while a trio of 160-watt solar panels help provide juice for the lithium-ion battery.
You can add more lithium batteries if you want, of course, along with a laundry list of other options, like a microwave, slide-out outdoor kitchen and an air conditioner. EarthCruiser whips up EXPs to order, both in Oregon and Australia, so you can have one made exactly the way you want…assuming, of course, you can swing the base price of $370,000 for one. (That price, according to Business Insider, is actually a deal only available until May 31st.) Still, if that’s a little steep for you to handle in one go, financing is available.
Oh, and in case you needed more proof this baby was designed for serious overlanding: the company says they designed it to fit into a standard intermodal shipping container, so transporting it across oceans is easy as pie. Cross one more excuse not to embark on that cross-Africa drive off your list.
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