When you unfold and slide the two ends from the sturdy base of the Mars Endurance, a palace on wheels is revealed, equipped to host your whole family in comfort, class and good cheer, within a holiday park or a remote bush setting of your choice, all for an appetising $21,990. Here’s what the judges had to say about this 2020 finalist.
The Mars Endurance is a forward fold rear slide camper that fits into a growing sub-section of the market that has evolved from the boom in forward-fold designs throughout the past couple of years.
Forward-folds have taken over from side-fold soft-floors for those who wish to go camping with a family, with the need for sleeping arrangements for children being catered to by the addition of a rear slide-out bed or rear folding section rather than having to daily make up a bedding space using the usual free-standing table between the internal seats.
The Endurance has the option, however, to leave out the rear bed component of the design to reduce weight from the basic 1650kg Tare package; if you opt for that you lose the rear end of the tent and awning, making for a smaller overall footprint.
The Mars Endurance is well equipped for life off the grid, with two 100Ah AGM batteries, as well as a 120 watt solar panel and MPPT regulator. For use of those mains voltage appliances there is a 1000 watt pure sine wave inverter, and a 21 amp mains charger; a DC-DC set-up for alternator charging is optional and something to be considered when preparing your car for touring. Personally I would like to see cabling thicker than 6mm for the front Anderson plug. There are no 240 volt mains circuits, meaning you require an extension lead to access 240V power.
Gas comes from the bottles in the two 9kg rings which are fitted in the front storage box and can be accessed even when the camper is open. There are two water tanks, of 120 and 60 litres in volume, and they remain permanently plumbed to the kitchen via a tractor belt feed to prevent kinking and pinching. The fridge space of 980 x 560 x 550mm is big enough for up to a 95L EvaKool or equivalent.
The Endurance had generally good offroad capabilities, ranging from the protection flap for the suspension, to the competent dual shock trailing arm suspension, to good clearances all round. The ramp-over and departure angles were generally okay, though the test rig did lose the fold-down step on the advanced, hard core part of the 4WD course.
The chassis and drawbar were a one-piece design which provides excellent strength, and there were two rated recovery points at the rear, though they were not aligned with the main chassis rails. There was no traditional stoneguard, though the angled front panels were finished with stone-proof coating.
The hitch we saw was a McHitch 3500kg rated coupling, though the popular DO35 was an option.
This camper is dead-set on accommodating campers’ desires to maintain electronic connectivity. Most obvious are the handy USB ports with phone holders in the living space, and a CD/DVD player, linked to a 21” TV, with internal and external mounts standard and twin speakers both inside and out.
The switch panel is particularly functional, with switches laid out with a pictorial schematic, broken down into zones and type of use. So whether you’re an adult, or a kid wondering which switch turns on which lights, everyone is well catered for.
The inclusion of a drinks cooler in the main cabin is a nice touch too. Accessible to all, it allows the main fridge to be left closed and cool until it’s really needed.
But this rig offers much more than a mobile play-station. For the camp chef, an optional bench extension turns the slide-out kitchen into a massive island bench, providing an excellent space to lay out food for the hungry hoards. The split pantry also helps separate goods for ease of access.
As an added bonus, the fold-out stairs to the main cabin are aligned with the pantry, allowing small hands to access the contents. So, that’s one less reason to be listening to: “Mum, Dad… Can you get me this?”
There’s plenty of space for two adults and two children. The mattress depth in both sleeping areas was on the thin side: for adults a 75mm foam queen sized mattress is on offer and for the kids, it’s a 50mm foam king single that expands to a double by using components of the lounge. Mattress toppers would be a welcome addition at packing time.
Outdoor living takes place under an impressive 5500 x 2500mm annexe that casts plenty of shade and provides protection from the elements. As with other campers of this style, its annexe stands well over six foot high, meaning that a basketball player (or a milk crate) may be necessary during set-up. Only one pole is tall enough to reach the apex and it would be handy if all were long enough to be interchangeable, though this would potentially add weight.
The winch assistance mechanism at the front and rear of the camper makes deploying the rest of the rig quick and easy. With a bit of practice, the whole family should be able to set up and settle down, cold beverage in hand, ready to kick back and relax well before the sun sets.
TIM VAN DUYL
The Mars Endurance is an interesting camper. I mean, it is not uncommon in its arrangement and it has a lot of similarity in its specification with its main rivals — but it is very versatile. It’s a camper with so much to offer that it had me dreaming of all the trips I’d like to take one on — perhaps with a tinny along, courtesy of the boat rack. While it is not the sort of camper you should plan to take down Gunshot, due to its 1,900mm width and 2,200kg ATM, the living space the layout provides will be loved by anyone doing a lap or a long look outback.
Slow journeys to Lake Eyre, along the Gibb or through the Red Centre are well supported by generous fluid capacities, good power systems and decent canvas weight. Your back, meanwhile, is well supported by the generous queen bed. The twin fridges, masses of bench space and the four-burner cooktop will support a family comfortably and while the Mars-designed trailing arm suspension meets industry standards for a touring-focussed camper, making it very much everything you need.
At camp, set up will take a bit more time compared to non-slide campers but the neat second bed (single-sized) converts to a massive lounge, a welcome feature for anyone planning a long stay in one spot. Should you plan to drive through some deep wash-outs or riverbeds, the low-slung entry step found in front of the axle is quickly and easily removed (or you can opt-in to a different step option), adding valuable ground clearance.
For anyone living in our major eastern cities, you can pick up an Endurance like this for only $21,990. That’s exceptional value considering everything included. Should you want, you can add on upgrades to the jockey wheel, tyres, battery capacity and some hot water.
Mars keeps the costs down by not only sourcing major components offshore, but also by building what the customer wants the first time, hence the limited options. According to the company, they’ve sold over 8,000 units on the chassis the Endurance is based on and, in that time, have found the formula that works. It has enough of everything and nothing more, a refreshing approach from the team at Mars.
The X-factor for the Endurance is its price to opportunity balance. For the low purchase price, you get a camper from an established, nationally recognised brand with a history of building affordable campers up to most tasks.
The compromise of a slower set-up from the slide-out is easily forgiven when you think about what the Endurance sets out to do. It is all about getting away with your family with space, storage, water and power capacity to stay comfortably for days, possibly weeks at a time.
Whether from afar, or close up, the gloss two-pack paint makes the Mars Endurance shine. The model we reviewed was black; however, white or silver are also available at no extra cost. The paint is applied to steel plate which is zinc enamelled and riveted together, sitting atop a 100 x 50mm rectangular hollow-section hot dipped chassis which is painted in parts.
Both the awning and main living areas are covered with a 15 ounce close-weave canvas. The front stone deflectors and toolbox are also Raptor coated. All in all, these combined factors should see thousands of hours of use without worry. Perhaps this sturdy build provided Mars with the inspiration for naming this the Endurance model.
Inside the main cab there’s a nice addition of wood-finished panels, along with the high shine of the phone charging station, the charcoal coloured upholstery, and the blue coloured protective trim elsewhere on the camper. Some, like me, may find this interior contrasting, while others will love it.
Focussing on the underside, the handbrake is fastened to the bottom, instead of to the inside wall of the chassis rail. This means the handbrake is the lowest protruding element, making it vulnerable to snagging on extreme terrain. This is something to remain vigilant of in rough conditions, but it won’t be an issue if your preferred style of camping involves highway or more moderate offroad driving.
The Mars Endurance comes standard with mud-terrain tyres. If the muddies match the tyres of your tow tug in size, type and brand (and preferably rims too), then it may make sense to keep them. If not, and you spend the majority of your time on the blacktop, we’d suggest you opt for a road tyre or one to match the tow tug at point of purchase.
The Mars Endurance is a fully functional forward folding camper trailer with a 60 month structural warranty. For those keen to discover the outdoors, while maintaining many of the familiar comforts of home, the Mars Endurance offers a family-focussed camper at a price point that will keep the bank off your back.
Tare 1650kg to 1800kg, depending on package
Payload Up to 550kg
Ball weight 180kg
Suspension Trailing arm independent with dual gas shocks
Brakes 12" drum electric
Coupling McHitch or DO35
Chassis 150 x 50 x 4mm hot dip galvanised and painted
Wheels/tyres 16" alloy 6 stud - PCD 139.7
Style Forward-fold rear slide
Overall length 5500mm
External body width 1900mm
Travel height 1500mm to 1700mm (with boat rack)
Gas 2 x 9kg
Water 180L in tanks, 2 x jerry cans
Kitchen/cooktop Slide-out at rear of camper with four-burner quick gas connector cooker
Battery Dual 100Ah, 1000 watt pure sine wave inverter, 21 amp charger
Solar Optional (120W as seen)
PRICE AS SEEN
CAMPER STAR RATINGS
|David Cook||Tim van Duyl||Kath Heiman||Scott Heiman|
|1. Fit for Intended Purpose||6||7||6||7|
|4. Quality of finish||5||5||7||7|
|5. Build quality||5||4||7||6|
|8. Ease of use||5||4||6||5.5|
|9. Value for money||6||8||8||7|
Address Factory 7, 1695 Centre Road, Springvale, Victoria 3171
Phone 1300 667 868