4x4 2 Go!
What’s big, capable and built for two? Trailblazers RV’s Overland XP…
By Richard Robertson
As I wrote the first time I reviewed this vehicle, “It’s difficult not to be impressed and/or intimidated by Trailblazers’ super-serious looking off-road truck camper. Perched atop huge single wheels and with enough driving lights to cook creatures at 100 metres, this is not a vehicle for shrinking violets. What it is, however, is about as close as you can get to a truly go-anywhere ‘motorhome’ without it having rotors on top and you needing a helicopter licence.”
“Trailblazers RV, a Melbourne based business that started out a decade or so ago importing slide-ons from Canada, now designs and manufactures its own slide-ons and fifth wheelers. Although the company has a standard range, every unit sold turns out to be a custom build, according to director Phil Richardson.”
The reason I’m revisiting this capable, if unusual, vehicle is that while the truck remains the same – for now – the slide-on camper on the back is all new. Phil’s not at all keen on the term ‘slide-on’ for this particular unit because in reality most owners leave the rig permanently set up. Thinking of it more as an extreme expedition wagon with a removable accommodation module and you’ll get closer to the mark. For now at least, the big new camper is called the Overland XP 13800.
If you want to read in detail about the specially modified Earth Cruiser - Mitsubishi Fuso 4X4 base vehicle click here to visit the Road Test section of our website, where you can read online or download the whole thing. You’ll also find it in Issue 31 of iMotorhome eMagazine, published on 17 August last year.
The Mistubishi is soon to be replaced by the more modern and capable Iveco Daily 4X4, which will be available in single and dual-cab versions. It’s party piece is a 24-speed gearbox with 3 gear levers that provides ultimate low-range reduction in excess of 100:1. By comparison a good 4WD is around 40:1. This ability along with triple diff locks, big single wheels, compliant suspension and excellent ground clearance makes it the new darling of the expedition vehicle world. And in case you’re wondering about Iveco’s ability to build such a serious off-roader, the chassis, drive train and gearboxes are built by SCAM, an Italian company specialising in light tactical military vehicles. Trailblazers’ new Iveco/Overland combination will be on display at the Melbourne Leisurefest at Sandown Racecourse, October 2-5, and we’ll have more on it after its public debut.
Outside the Box
The Overland XP is essentially a big box, with Seitz double-glazed hopper windows with integrated screens and blinds on both sides and at the rear. It sits perfectly on the back of its host vehicle, without side protrusions and with its pop-top retracted in line with the cab roof. This provides the maximum possible protection in thick bush settings, or when inching along tracks by jagged rock walls. It also allows the vehicle to fit inside a standard shipping container when international adventures beckon. Attached via shipping container-style pins, the Overland XP can be removed should you want to establish a base camp and use the truck for other purposes. To do this two electric legs are built into the camper’s rear extremities and two attach to the front corners, the latter being stored between the cab and camper when not required.
Setting-up for use is straightforward. It involves opening the side door and pressing a button to raise the roof – again, electrically operated – then opening a small hatch beneath base of the door and deploying the very sturdy aluminium stairs. A substantial grab handle provides extra safety when using the stairs and it folds flush against the closed door when travelling. An electric awning provides shade and there’s a strong LED exterior light, while insect-screened vents in the pop-top valance provide good airflow and natural light, in addition to the side windows.
At the rear a full-width lift-up hatch reveals a boot that houses easily accessible electrical controls, fuses, etc, plus two house batteries (four optional) and the gas cylinder storage compartment. There’s extra storage between the electrical panel and batteries, which in this case was occupied by a substantial generator, which needs to be removed for operation. As this compartment is a fair height off the ground a lightweight generator would be a better choice for most people! An LED floodlight and a gas bayonet connector are also provided.
The driver’s side is clean apart from another high-mounted LED, a water filler, mains water and power connectors, the Truma hot water system’s exhaust and a hatch for the toilet cassette. An interesting design feature on this unit is a pair of close fitting air scoops on either side rear corner. Very close fitting and appearing to be made from carbon fibre, they sit maybe an inch from the camper’s smooth, composite-panel sides and are intended to help streamline the otherwise box vehicle. Anecdotally Phil reckons he’s seen an improvement of about one litre per hundred kilometres in fuel consumption – and they certainly look good – but just how suited they are to serious bush bashing I’m not sure.
Inside the Box
Ascending the air stairs – they’re so long and sturdy they’d be at home on a small jet – the first thing you notice is the abundant headroom and contemporary decor. Gloss white and matt silver/grey are the furniture and trim colours, with bright lemon-lime leather upholstery providing a splash of colour and touch of luxury. In fact the Overland XP is far more luxurious that you’d expect when viewing from outside.
The layout consists of a front kitchen that is split by the bathroom in the front driver’s-side corner, a mid-positioned lounge that double as the dinette, and an ingenious queen bed at the rear that folds largely out of the way during the day, but extends to cover the dinette in the evening. But more on that later. Also worth noting is this unit comes with ducted reverse-cycle airconditioning, which lives beneath the passenger side lounge and vents through a pair of long aluminium grills at floor level beneath each settee.
Having the kitchen and lounge/dinette separated by the entry door means the cook can work largely undisturbed by their travel companion. The kitchen is compact and the main section is L-shaped, sitting neatly in the front passenger-side corner, between the entry door and bathroom. This section contains a single bowl sink with glass lid, a freestanding flick-mixer tap and a three-burner gas cooker with grill and oven. There’s a small window behind the sink, while the back corner of the ‘L’ in the bench top is bevelled and the wall is a mirror, which continues around to the right, across the front of the camper as far as the bathroom (and behind the cooker). Along with a mirrored bathroom door it really opens up what is quite a small work area, making it feel much larger and spacious. The bevelled corner pice also holds the flatscreen TV and a double powerpoint.
To maximise storage space an clever sliding floor cupboard has been designed, which sits in the unit by the entry door that has the sink on top. To slide it out you first open a ‘fake’ door on the cupboard’s end, which reveals a small panel at the top containing electrical controls, tank level gauges, hot water controls, etc, and the slide-out cupboard below (other switches for the roof, awning, jacks and lights are just above floor level on the opposite side of the entry door). When extended the sliding cupboard blocks the doorway, but reveals three inwards-facing cupboards and extra bench space on top. And that’s only half the story! There’s another cupboard door below the sink and when it’s opened two deep drawers at the other end of the sliding unit are revealed. It’s best to see the photos to get the full picture, but suffice to say it provides great storage in a space that would otherwise have been largely wasted. The only downslide is the sliding unit’s drawers aren’t accessible unless the unit is extended, but at least there’s a small two-rack slide-out pantry between the corner of the “L’ and the cooker, plus two drawers beneath the cooker. Of course, being a pop-top means there are no overhead cupboards.
Opposite the entry door, between the bathroom and driver’s side lounge, is the second kitchen unit. It has a small run of bench top just long enough to cover the 110-litre fridge/freezer, while at the back is a roller shuttered cupboard for your coffee maker and toaster (of course!), with a microwave set above. Another mirrored panel covers the small section of bathroom end panel not concealed by the rest of this unit.
Relaxing and Dining
The two inwards facing lounges of the centre positioned lounge/dinette are comfortable and provide good seating for four. It’s party trick is a lift-up floor panel between them that reveals the folded dining table’s hiding spot. The table’s aft end attaches to the bulkhead that forms the divider between the lounges and raised bed platform. A fold-down leg supports the front end.
Behind each lounge is a large screened, side window, while beneath the passenger side lounge are two slide-out drawers. Another two deep drawers face forwards between the lounges, in the lounge/bed bulkhead.
The bathroom is identical to the previous truck camper, except it’s in the driver’s side front corner, where it splits the kitchen. Compact, it’s more than adequate and provides a surprising amount of space once you’re inside.
There’s a Thetford bench-style cassette toilet with its back to the front wall. It’s part of a modular moulding that very neatly incorporates a small, stylish hand basin with smoked glass/perspex front panel, which sits above the toilet, about where a normal cistern would. To save space and complexity the flick mixer tap in the hand basin has a removable shower head that reels out. A nice touch is a Maytow fold-out, extendable drying rack for towels, while the need for a roof hatch has been negated by a zip-opening window in the roof valance. A round, touch-operated LED provides more than adequate lighting.
The folding north-south queen bed is an interesting concept, but just one of several options available, which includes an east-west queen or singles.
During the day the bed is wholly concealed in a white cabinet across the back of the vehicle, just below the window line. The top of this ‘cabinet,’ which is a great place for pillows and other bulky, soft items during the day, actually becomes part of the bed base when your reach to the rear of it and pull it up and over to form the bed. As stated earlier the bed, when extended, covers the lounges. This means both your body clocks will need to be in perfect sync to maintain relationship harmony if you’re travelling with a significant other. There is talk of a rear slide-out to cure this, but an east-west bed would be the simplest answer to allow for divergent circadian rhythms!
The current bed arrangement provides two vertical bedside lockers in the rear corners, which neatly fit in the space between the side and rear windows. Each has a double powerpoint, reading light and mirror, plus a shelf on top, while the passenger side unit also has the airconditioning thermostat and a mount for the TV remote (you can watch TV from the bed, lounge or kitchen). There’s plenty of natural light and ventilation, with windows all around and a hatch above the lounge, plus the screened zip openings in the roof valance, so catching any available breeze on a hot summer’s night should be easy.
What Do I Think?
Trailblazers’ Overland XP truck camper slide-on accommodation module pod thingy might be hard to pigeon hole, but it’s a serious box of comfort and convenience for adventures on or off the beaten track. Benefitting from years of hard won experience, it’s construction quality and fit-out leaves nothing to be desired – except maybe a diesel heater – while its bold, contemporary interior is a breath of fresh air that should actually prove both durable and practical.
I can’t wait to see it on the new Iveco 4X4 and to take it bush to play – I mean test – to see if it really could be the ultimate across Australia or around the world escape machine. If you can’t wait either then get on the blower to Phill or Christine and get down to Melbourne to check this beauty out. And ask Phill abut the rear slide out. I told him I wouldn’t mention it – but have you ever met a journo who could resist sharing a secret?
Combo to Go?
Although Trailblazers offers the Overland XP 13800 as a standalone unit for $110,000, it also sells a complete Iveco 4X4 expedition-grade vehicle/camper ‘combo.’
Complete with Trailblazer’s unique Overland Kinetic tray, which has inbuilt storage lockers and a 100-litre under-tray auxiliary fuel tank, the Iveco/Overland combo retails at $198,000 drive-away. Also worth noting, the demonstrator Mitsubishi Fuso 4X4 and Overland XP 13800 featured in this story is available for $180,000 to go (yes, you’ll probably get fries with it… )
- Build quality
- Build options
- No cab-camper access
- Bed/lounge won’t suit everyone