Suncamper’s ‘little’ Sherwood is a beauty you should consider...
By Richard Robertson
The very first motorhome we reviewed here at iMotorhome was a Suncamper Sherwood. That was back in May 2012 and since then dozens of other vehicles have filled our pages. So it’s good to revisit an old favourite – albeit one with a difference – and see what effects, if any, evolution has had on this already well sorted design.
Pigeon holing the Sherwood is a little difficult as it sort of spans a couple of categories. Strictly speaking it’s small C-Class motorhome, due to it having an over-cab bed and the fact the separate body is built on the base vehicle's cab-chassis. However, due to its particularly compact dimensions it rivals many campervans in size and is also about the same size as a ute with a slide-on. Whatever the classification, the Sherwood is a well built and thoughtfully appointed motorhome that in many ways is absolutely ideal for one or two (organised) people.
Spoiled For Choice
Suncamper builds the Sherwood on Toyota’s proven, if aging, HiLux cab-chassis. Available in two or four-wheel drive and at vary specification levels depending on your needs, wants and wallet, it’s a safe bet, given Toyota’s proven toughness and Australia-wide service network. On-road prices start at $94,900 for a two-wheel drive and $112,990 for a four-wheel drive. The test Sherwood 4x4 was a customer order loaded with goodies, including special roof reinforcement, mounts and rack for a surf ski, bringing it’s on-road price to a not-inconsiderable $139,990.
A fair part of the price must be Toyota’s premium price tag for its 4WD products. The test Sherwood’s SR 4X4 cab-chassis featured the 3.0-litre turbo-diesel engine, which puts out 126 kW @ 3600 rpm and 343 Nm from 1400 rpm, coupled to a 4-speed automatic and part-time 4WD system. While far from class leading in terms of power or the number of gear ratios, it does the job well and will probably do so for years.
The test Sherwood featured a gross vehicle weight (GVM) upgrade from 2800 kg to 3300 kg. This required discarding the factory suspension system and fitting a Lovell suspension lift kit, complete with new springs and shocks at both ends. Not only is the extra 500 kg load capacity a welcome reward, the suspension feels particularly well sorted and capable (more on that shortly).
Sixteen-inch wheels are Toyota’s standard, but this Sherwood had optional 17-inch steel off-road rims fitted with chunky 265/65 R 17 light truck Cooper Discoverer tyres. Other vehicle options fitted were a steel bullbar, snorkel, a 128-litre long range fuel tank, steel side steps, wheel flares, bonnet and headlight protectors, stereo controls on a leather steering wheel and twin reversing cameras (down/distance).
Safety wise the HiLux 4X4 now comes with 6 airbags and anti-lock brakes (ABS), but not vehicle stability control yet. When that finally arrives (it’s due soon) the HiLux will be five-star safe, but for now it makes do with 4 stars. Convenience wise the SR HiLux comes with remote central locking, power steering, electric windows and mirrors, and an MP3/CD audio system with USB input and Bluetooth capabilities.
Supervan or Clark Kent?
With its raised suspension, bigger wheels and chunky tyres this off-road Sherwood looks pretty impressive. Indeed, it looks like something of a Supervan, especially amongst regular 4WD campers. Slip behind the wheel, however, and its true nature is revealed: mild mannered Clark Kent – in an entirely positive way!
Whereas I was expecting this vehicle to feel top heavy and to rock-and-roll on its modified suspension and big wheels, on the road it was steady and difficult to discern from a standard Sherwood. The Lovell suspension system is particularly well sorted and provides a degree of ride suppleness and control belying the vehicle's size and weight. It’s handling quickly inspired confidence and on our brief sojourn, which included a twisting section of the Old Pacific Highway between Hornsby and the Hawkesbury River, plus some crappy old broken-bitumen side roads and a tiny bit of off-road work, this Sherwood 4X4 remained stable and comfortable.
In the performance department the HiLux is happy to keep up with the cut and thrust of suburban driving, although on the Freeway it’s happier at 100 than 110 km/h. Sherwoods have a lot of frontal area for a small vehicle, but when you put one on stilts and add heaps of extras the combination of increased wind resistance and weight take its toll. However, the HiLux’s cab is a pleasant place to spend your time and as I remarked to Mrs iMotorhome within a few minutes of leaving Suncamper’s factory in the morning, “We could have one of these...”
As I said in my original test last year, There are some motorhome manufacturers that won't tell you how they construct their vehicles or allow you to see the manufacturing process. Fortunately, Suncamper isn't one of them. The company uses a simple, rugged and straightforward construction method that has been proven over decades.
To quote from the Company's website: All motorhome models boast a steel frame base and aluminium, fully welded framework for the walls, rear, nose and single-piece roof. Walls and roof are fully insulated with fire-retardant foam and pressed. Framework is extensive so every fitting is screwed into a solid spot, not into insulation. The walls are more than 30-mm thick and the roof is more than 45-mm. This is more than double (and in some cases triple) other manufacturers. A rustproofing and sound deadening agent is applied under the floor to protect from noise and road damage.
The Sherwood’s interior layout is conventional. It features an over-cab main bed, a driver’s-side mid bathroom and kerb-side mid kitchen, plus an inwards-facing rear cafe style dinette/second bed. For a small vehicle it seems to provide a surprising amount of space and I’m sure a well organised couple could happily tour for months on end.
Starting on the outside the test Sherwood’s body options were as follows: A 3-metre awning, over-bed roof hatch, auxiliary shower, kerb-side external storage access hatch, fold-down table, mains power point, electric double entry-step, a bathroom side window and 2 x 120 W solar panels. Inside, the options fitted comprised a 4 speaker cinematic sound system plus a DVD/CD/MP3 sound system and 54 cm (21.5 in) LED TV; an Eberspacher diesel room heater, second 120 AH house battery, leather motorhome upholstery and an innerspring main bed mattress. Very nice...
Suncamper has certainly lifted its game in the last couple of years in terms of fit, finish and style. The Sherwood is bright and fresh inside, with contemporary high-gloss cabinetry, extensive and clever use of LED lights – both fixed, reading and strip – and a general feeling of quality that’s very pleasing. It’s fixed rear window plus two opening side windows at the rear provide a flood of natural light and, along with a generous roof hatch, ensure plenty of fresh air.
A nice touch is the use of push button latches on all cupboards that lock automatically when closed. They also look good and work well. Another nice touch is a freeform ceiling moulding that encompasses the main roof hatch and salon lights, and also conceals recessed LED strip lighting around its edge.
Living and Dining Room
Compact is as compact does (so Forrest Gump’s Mother might have said) and compact is what living in the Sherwood is all about – but don’t confuse compact with cramped. Thanks also to wraparound windows at the rear, you sit in the view when seated at the dinette. This is one of the little vehicle’s biggest attractions and because it’s so manoeuvrable you can easily back into just about any spot and enjoy the view.
With the bedroom up front, the kitchen and bathroom in the middle and the dinette-cum-second-bed at the back it’s easy for two people to keep out of each other’s way. It’s also a great space for a solo traveller.
Apart from the bed, the only place to lounge around is the dinette. It has two inward-facing sofa-sty;e seats and a clever lift-up dining table between them, which tucks neatly out of the way in a small cabinet on the back wall when not required. The cabinet also has a small table on top for when you’re just siting back with coffee, a drink and/or your favourite book. When deployed, the dining table is both sturdy and a good size.
Both lounge sofas have removable back cushions and hinged bases; the latter lifting easily to access storage space below. That’s where you’ll find the house batteries, charger and diesel heater (on the driver’s side) and the hot water system and boards to convert the lounge/dinette to a secondary bed (on the kerb side). Mrs iMotorhome tried making up this bed, but was snafued by the absence of two vital extra base cushions in the test vehicle.
Overhead there’s good cupboard space down both sides and across the back wall, with neatly positioned LED downlights in each rear corner. Although not particularly deep (and needing lips along the bottom edge to stop things falling out when you open them), the cupboards provide invaluable storage space in this small vehicle.
Meals on Wheels
Built galley style in the middle of the Sherwood, the kitchen’s two sections contain the cooker and rangehood, fridge and cutlery drawer/cupboards on the kerb side, and the sink plus extra cupboard space on the driver’s side.
The three burner gas cooker is set in a small run of bench space between the entry door and dinette. The cooker has a glass lid for added bench space and a large gas ring that could handle a small wok while still leaving space for two small pots alongside. This might not seem like much, but in a small vehicle being able to cook well isn’t always easy.
Above the cooker is a ducted stainless steel rangehood with cupboards above, while below it is a 90-litre 3-way fridge with a small freezer section (a 12 V compressor fridge is optional). To the right of the cooker is a small but useful piece of bench top, below which is a single cutlery drawer with a shelved cupboard below. A flip-up bench extension by the entry door would be a very worthwhile inclusion, as would a second utensil drawer at the cost of a smaller cupboard below. It should be noted that a microwave is standard equipment and usually mounted in the overhead cupboard above the free bench space. However, it was deleted in this instance at the customer’s request.
Across the aisle is the other kitchen unit, which sits between a small three quarter height wardrobe and the dinette. It has a single-bowl stainless steel sink with a glass lid set in a small run of bench top, plus a flick mixer tap off to the right that can be used when the sink lid is closed. The sink has no drainer, although a small drying rack is provided. Below the sink is a panel that houses the light switches, tank gauges and hot water system switch and below that is a shallow pantry-style cupboard with double doors.
The three-quarter wardrobe unit to the left of the sink provides valuable extra bench space on top, while above it is space for the optional TV and entertainment system. Recessed at the back of the wardrobe top, between the bathroom wall and the end of the overhead cupboards that run across the top of the sink and dinette, is the main electrical circuit breaker, TV aerial point, Eberspacher heater’s digital controls and the Projecta-brand digital solar controller.
Positioned directly opposite the entry door the bathroom is compact yet functional and, due to its square shape, surprisingly roomy. A padded magazine rack on its outside wall is a nice touch, too. Water capacity is 72 litres fresh and 45 litres grey, while the gas/electric Suburban hot water system is good for 23 litres. It’s not excessive, but enough for a few days free camping if you’re careful.
Inside, the bathroom has a Thetford bench-style cassette toilet on the forward wall, facing aft. There’s a small corner basin with a pullout hand nozzle that doubles as both basin tap and shower unit, which can also be wall mounted. Only a fan hatch is standard for ventilation, although the test Sherwood had an optional bathroom window. A wall mirror, folding drying rack, shower curtain over the door and a sexy white/blue LED light are also standard inclusions.
Many people are put off by the thought of sleeping in an over-cab bed and while it’s true that if you have mobility issues then getting up there can be a problem, for the vast majority of us it’s a non event. Getting into the Sherwood’s bed is aided by a neat step built into the base of the bathroom wall, which also provides storage space and even houses a handy tissue dispenser accessible from the cab!
The Sherwood’s deep nosecone provides quite reasonable sitting up room, while the bed itself is a decent size. I measured it at about 1900 mm x 1400 mm (6 ft 3 ft x 4 ft 7 in), which is a bit bigger than Suncamper’s published figures. Reading lights are only provided at the kerb-side end, which limits your sleeping options, but does help prevent possible feelings of claustrophobia if sleeping the other way around, with your head tucked away behind the bathroom wall.
Large windows at both ends provide plenty of air and light, while the optional over-bed roof hatch of the test vehicle seems like a worthwhile consideration. There’s a magazine rack on the bathroom wall, too, plus a privacy curtain that can be pulled across when desired.
The Final Word
I make no bones of the fact both Mrs iMotorhome and I have always been very fond of the Suncamper Sherwood. It’s size and layout suits the way we travel and it’s a vehicle we could happily live with.
For some people the lack of easy through-cab access might be a deal breaker, but that would be selling the Sherwood short. True, you need be something of a contortionist to get between cab and body and it’s far easier, if far less convenient, to get out and walk around, but all vehicles have their compromises.
The Sherwood packs a lot of features into a small space and is a surprisingly practical touring motorhome. Well built, proven and able to take you places bigger vehicles simply can’t go, it could even be your daily driver if required. Add the versatility of four-wheel drive and the possibilities are almost limitless.
- Compact and maneuverable
- Dinette views!
- Car licence only
- Quality fit and finish
- Good space efficiency
- Serious off-road ability
- Pricy when fully optioned
- Limited bulky storage
- HiLux no longer cutting edge
- Smallish water capacity
- Limited through cab access
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Click below to download a PDF of the full test, including specifications, photos and contact details.