Searching for an ideal constructor
Now we are searching for an ideal car to travel out of the city. Al fresco. The further, the better. That’s why expeditions make the one of our hobbies. And we are searching for an ideal off-roader especially for expeditions. And this is a constructor: minimum of electronics, easy to be transformed, repaired and serviced.
‘Okhotnik’ (hunter) barely corresponds to the most points mentioned. Fit enough to be repaired? Not sure. Easy to be serviced? Not sure. Bringing no trouble? Not sure either. But the impression is breath-taking.
We met ‘Okhotnik’ on SIA-2012 expo. 4-wheel drive, front and back sprints. Road clearance is knee-high. Impressive. However, the official version is 205 mm, and no comment from managers – feel free to drop under the car with a ruler. The bottom-side with safety protection. Boot carrier with a ladder on the roof. High-jack and shovel fixed in it. The boot upholstered with aluminium. Everything is simple and functional. Handy grid shelves for luggage and blood drains for wild fowl. And convenient for maniac killers as well – the joints covered with sealing paste. And easy to clean it up – pour water stream with detergent, wash away and that’s it.
Diesel. “American” 2,8-liter Cummins of Chinese production.
After all that, we fell into a muse: what if to fly off the handle and buy such ‘GAZelle’ for expeditions? We need to test it in practice. On the very place at SIA we were advised to call back after the expo, to remind about ourselves and they would organize everything. We called back and they did not lie.
Test drive was easily organized. Not without organizational screw-ups, but pleasant anyway. We were let to drive the wheel from a car dealership to Dnipro, on the bank sands of which we tested a 4-wheel drive.
As it was expected, nothing interesting happened on the asphalt. Moreover, wheel alignment camber seemed to be ‘checked’ by ‘knowledgeable’ people and the car waltzed as a drunkard from one side to another. We couldn’t help feeling as a route taxi driver, but bypass people looked at us with respect – the car looks really serious.
Having driven onto the sand (without changing or turning anything on), we were surprised by some vibration originating from the back bridge while getting started in a merely deep but swampy sand. What is more, not only the car sobbed and failed, though the motor pulls pretty well, but it also jumped ahead. What is the cause? Only after I had locked an inter-axle differential gear train, I understood that distribution of a stirring moment goes by 70:30 principle and cannot be changed automatically. Once you turn an inter-axle differential locker on, you switch to 50:50 regime and everything goes in its place. The car easily rushes from its place not even being at a lowered gearing.
At a lowered gearing we gave some spicy turns on the sand. Overhang edges are above all praise on the hills, both from the front and from the back. Being at dangerous slopes we didn’t scoop sand with a bumper. The only doubtful thing was a lean angle. The car is high, road clearance is serious but there was just no place to check it.
The location of an air-intake is quite high so you feel comfortable in slops, however, a snorkel is still needed for mountain rivers. Absence of back bridge blocking system disappointed a lot. And it cannot be ordered. Instead you can order air conditioner, hood, tow bar, snorkel – whatever you want! But, still, blocking system of at least one axle can be a crucial function in high impassibility of roads.
Of course, it is questionable whether the car is reliable and fit to be repaired. Both the transmission and running gear are taken from ‘Sobol’. Manager assured there are no problems, but I know not by hearsay what it means. What manager will admit the car is in bad condition? Odd transmission sounds (especially on the speed above 60 km/hour) and flaps at utmost positions of a spring bracket brought some questions. It should me mentioned, for justice sake, that in many cases, being on mounds, it’s much more interesting to drive on shocks rather than on springs.
There are questions to safety as well. Wind screen is huge which may cause problems during aggressive movement in the forest. The absence of a ‘vital’ space in the form of motor compartment also embarrasses a little bit. It must be compensated by a good power bumper with a truck-body hoist. By the way, the car weight is definitely worth praising – only 2 tons.
The question ‘what is better to buy’ is still open. A used off-roader with a name and well-known problems/characteristics, or a new ‘Okhotnik’ at the same cost? With ‘Okhotnik’ you will definitely loose in comfort, but you’ll win in space of a salon and a hood. What to choose: expensive spares or the possibility to make instant repairs by means of a hammer and a welding? We didn’t manage to find the exact answer.
For such ‘slightly’ bureaucratized organization as ‘AIS’, such client test drive is a real breakthrough. However, they are to be well on a way to reach the level of proper companies. Firstly, the route was not thought-out and planned – we just had to wonder along the river bank to find more or less suitable place. Secondly, the car was poorly prepared. It was neither prepared technically nor filled with fuel. We poured 10 liters of diesel fuel at our own cost. The manager was constantly complaining he ‘snatched the car from a service station’ trying to explain the fact that wheel alignment camber was not properly configured. And, what is important, there is no competent information about Sobol ‘Okhotnik’ on the internet. And what really upsets is the absence of such info on the official websites of the representative office.