Developed in just 12 months in answer to a changing market, Al-Ko has joined the ranks of manufacturers offering independent suspension with its new Enduro Outback suspension system.
Al-Ko’s move is largely market-driven, Al-Ko managing director Sven Mannfolk said at Enduro’s launch at the Melbourne 4X4 Training and Proving Ground in Werribee, Vic, last month. In the past two years, Jayco has released its own in-house JTECH independent suspension, while Vehicle Components came to the market with its Cruisemaster Country Road suspension. Al-Ko recognised caravan buyers’ preference for independent suspension and went to work on its own version.
Enduro, like JTECH, is a largely all-Australian system. It was designed at Al-Ko’s Dandenong South, Vic, manufacturing plant and rigorously tested at the Australian Automotive Research Centre at Anglesea, Vic.
While the standard or optional twin shock absorbers per wheel and optional powder-coated red steel trailing arms were chosen as much for optical as practical reasons, the engineering at their heart is impressive. Made from Australian steel, the Al-Ko arms pivot in maintenance-free polyurethane bushes and employ specially-developed King Springs with X5K high stress spring steel coils made in Queensland.
The only imported components are the Al-Ko-designed-and-made heavy-duty shock absorbers that come from Al-Ko’s own factory in Cataluña, Spain.
Despite costing about double that of a similarly-rated single leaf spring or roller-rocker suspension system, and weighing 10-15 per cent more, Al-Ko expects that chassis manufacturers will want to employ its Enduro suspension largely to meet market demands.
While its performance on bitumen offers only marginal benefits over a good leaf spring, beam-axle system, Al-Ko’s technical and manufacturing manager Rob Funder said the benefits of Enduro include greater ground clearance and up to 50 per cent more suspension travel, resulting in a smoother ride over rough terrain.
A test drive on the Melbourne 4X4 Centre’s extreme offroad course certainly gave the impression that the 2.5t-loaded single-axle trailer behind us had a relatively easy time, with its wheels never losing touch with the heavily rutted course.