With sleeping for four, a payload in excess of 1,000kg, adjustable self-levelling suspension, lithium power, and next to no set-up required, the uniquely constructed ZONE RV Z-12.0 Expedition Series is a dream come true for remote area tourers on the go. The innovations on show earned finalist ZONE RV the subsidiary award of 'Most Innovative' of all competing campers across all categories.
There are times when the power of Australian ingenuity can put a genuine smile on your face. And if you’re in the market for a go-anywhere camper, getting up close and personal with an Australian-made ZONE RV Z-12.0 Expedition Series camper is likely to be one of those times.
This unit ticks a heap of boxes for a couple, two mates, or a family planning to spend some serious time on Australia’s highways and off the beaten track. Notably, this was the only REDARC Camper Trailer of the Year entrant in its category to have dedicated bed spaces for four adults with its twin queen configured as a mezzanine bunk layout. Incorporating marine and aeronautical engineering technology and composite panel construction, the ZONE RV Z-12.0 offers a real all-rounder at a competitive price.
To help you stay out there for longer, the Z-12 has a single lithium 100Ah battery, with the option for more, being fed by an Enerdrive charger and 220W of solar on the roof. There’s also an external inlet for more ground-deployed solar. That’s plenty of power to service the LED lighting and in-built 85 litre fridge, which utilises an EvaKool compressor. That will see you in good stead if you use any of the two additional storage slides for more fridge space.
The Z-12.0 comes with two 4kg gas bottles; the space for jerries is optional. The lack of jerries is no reason to be left short of water because the Z-12.0 comes with two 80 litre water tanks standard (an additional 80L fresh water tank is optional), all of which can be isolated. That’s 240 litres of onboard water capacity. And if that’s not sufficient, the creek-lift with filter means you can top up on the run. In all, that sounds like more than enough water to service the kitchen, internal shower (with 8+ foot ceiling), and the external shower where you can happily wash the sand off your toes or clean up the mess from the day’s catch!
This camper boasts a Duragal chassis running the full length, that’s painted and Raptor coated on impact surfaces. The 32mm infused fibreglass floor is glued directly to the chassis. Fixed to the underside is the long travel Cruisemaster ATX suspension (airbags) fitted with a horizon levelling system with automated and manual controls. The suspension settings include highway and 4WDriving clearances — as well as an automated camp levelling capability. This is the sort of suspension system that other campers yearn for, and I reckon we’ll be seeing far more of such technology in the future. ZONE RV are even looking to develop an app for the suspension so you can make adjustments on the run.
The Z-12.0 has a wheel track of a 200 series and PCD of a 79 series fitted with Cooper AT3 LT285/75/R16. Meanwhile, over at the hitch it has a clearance of 550mm from the DO35. In the rear are recovery points and a departure angle of 23 degrees when set in 4WDriving mode.
With a Tare of 1,490kg and an ATM of 2,800kg, there’s plenty of margin to load this rig with travel necessities. But, remember, if you do pile 1310 kg of stuff on-board, stay conscious of the effect on your tow vehicle’s GCM. You’ll be looking at a 3.5 tonne towing capacity (or better) to keep on the right side of the scales.
ZONE RV first appeared at Camper Trailer of the Year in Mudgee a year ago, with a design that was a prototype with lots of promise needing some refining. Well, this year it was back, with refining to spare and engineering quality to match.
What ZONE RV brought to the table when they decided to go into camper manufacturing was a clean sheet of paper. The company principals were keen campers, they knew what they wanted in a camper trailer but they weren’t constrained by standard paradigms of trailer manufacturing. What they have come up with has in many ways rewritten the book on camper design.
Innovation starts with the basic body construction, with fibreglass composite panels bonded together as per the marine industry, supported by laser cut alloy corner fairings with end caps, and then a final layer of Raptor coat to ensure it’s all dust and waterproof. This brings maximum temperature and sound insulation along with strength and light weight. Backing that innovative body construction were triple-level dust seals on all access points through the outer walls.
The body sits on a tough chassis equipped with an airbag Cruisemaster trailing arm suspension that was equipped with ZONE’s own self-leveling technology, so when you arrive in camp simply press a button and the whole camper levels itself longitudinally and laterally, and when you drive away it self-levels to a predetermined ride height.
Weight is a collateral innovation, with a Tare of 1,400kg and a load capacity of a monumental 1,300kg!
The kitchen behind the raised side panel is all ZONE’s, right down to the built-in 85L fridge, with room for a second portable fridge on the slide in the front drawbar box.
The interior floor space is largely taken up by the queen sized main bed, but there’s an ensuite just inside the rear opening door, and above the tilt-up roof is a mezzanine kids’ double bed space, accessed by a ladder. The main bed converts to a simple lounge with the press of a button, though use of a fitted sheet would require some “undressing” of the bed first.
Comforts included that big side kitchen with its hot and cold plumbed pull-out tap, two 90L water tanks, Bushranger instantaneous hot water system, the front box slide with the two-burner cooker, the external shower, internal sink, Fusion sound system and capacious storage options all with canvas and velcroed doors.
The whole camper is very easy to use. There are just four clips to tilt the roof, and it was easy for all judges to pop on their own (as well as pull it back down and easily access the clips). It required simply opening the rear door, pulling out the fold-in step and you are out of the weather. The kitchen opens in a matter of seconds, and its flip-up door provides basic shelter. For a more weatherproof set-up the 270° awning opens in less than a minute.
The ZONE RV Z-12.0 is targeted at active families and couples looking for an adaptable camper that will remain poised and comfortable when the going gets tough. ZONE RV’s marketing pitch for the Z-12.0 is all about ease of set-up. But in reality there’s a lot more to like.
The Z-12.0 has adopted the aeronautical efficiency of fibreglass composite panels for the floor, side walls and roof. So it’s light without needlessly compromising strength. Inside, there’s a 100mm memory foam queen sized mattress and, for kids (or an additional tag-a-long adult), an overhead 75mm queen sized mattress on a hydraulically assisted drop-down bed frame. That means everyone remains comfortable and dry, regardless of the elements.
Outside, the kitchen has a remarkably large pantry and bench space, but has little in the way of cooking appliances. However the ZONE Z-12.0 boasts a lithium battery and enough solar up top to make portable induction, thermal and convection cookers viable options. Alternatively you may wish to upgrade the two burner gas stove.
For those of us without the natural benefit of great strength and towering height, the Z-12.0 has several features that help — from built-in step rungs to assist in reaching the roof clips, to finger-light hydraulics, and readily accessible storage compartments.
The auto-levelling system is a seriously impressive capability that creates a real ‘X Factor’ for ZONE. At the touch of a button, this system will have your camper sitting level at set-up time without the need to fiddle-around with ramps, jockey wheels and stabilisers. The same technology regulates travel height on the road.
And, as an associated safety feature, the on-board technology automatically checks the camper’s level three times within the first 15 minutes after hitting the road. With this focus on technology-enabled convenience and utility, it was no great surprise to find that, inside the camper, the foot of the main bed can be turned into a lounge at a click of a button!
With a base price of $61,900 or $71,500 as reviewed, owning a ZONE Z-12.0 demands a relatively substantial monetary outlay. Nevertheless, if you’re in the market for a high-end and relatively lightweight rig that’s bristling with technology, this could be the ‘gadget camper’ you’ve been looking for. Just don’t be surprised if you find yourself wasting time looking for uneven campsites just so you can put the camper’s funky levelling system through its paces!
TIM VAN DUYL
The construction techniques used to build the Z-12.0 leave little room for hiding quality issues. The massive fibreglass skinned composite wall panels have to be perfect and the solid Raptor coating edges tidy, or even an untrained eye would quickly notice the smallest imperfection. The test camper was near perfect inside and out with only the smallest blemishes seen where masking tape was removed after the layers of Raptor coating was applied. The inside was impeccable, clean and bright thanks to the airy nature of the pop-top roof and gloss white walls. The bed, which lifts up to a couch, is comfortable with its memory foam mattress and the instant set-up time a massive benefit of its style.
ZONE RV build caravans approaching 4,000kg ATM and use the same construction methods in the Z-12.0. This means it has a frankly ridiculous 150 x 50 x 3mm RHS chassis with 50mm riser that is coated with Duragal, then painted twice over with a final spray of Raptor coating on all touchpoints. The walls and roof are 29mm thick closed-cell composite and the floor 32mm with an added polymer infusion. The method in which it all comes together is a bit of a secret but we can tell you it starts with a special extruded alloy cap that the panels are glued into before the joins are sealed. It’s damn impressive stuff and durable to boot, with alloy rub bars fixed to the leading edges, including some heavy-duty scrub bars on the top edges.
Many manufacturers water-test their products to check for leaks, some even use a smoke-like gas that is pressurised inside the body before watching the outside and pressure gauges for signs of the gas leaking. ZONE RV goes a step further with the use of an aerospace standard sonar system. It’s claimed to be ten times more sensitive than water or smoke testing in finding leaks, which gives the company the confidence to offer a five-year structural warranty.
The Z-12.0 is unquestionably one of the best campers available today. There are a few things that might put some people off (the bulk of the body is the major one), but if you are looking for a camper for multiple nights off-grid in real comfort, with an unbelievable payload and contemporary technologies that make your drive safer and camp more comfortable, ZONE should be on the top of your wish list.
Payload 1,310kg (calculated)
Ball weight 185kg
Suspension Cruisemaster ATX heavy duty off road suspension, ATX stage one-touch trail auto level system
Brakes AL-KO 12in electric drum brakes
Coupling DO35 Cruisemaster V3 coupling
Chassis 150mm x 50mm x 3mm RHS DuraGal with laser cut and CNC folded members
Drawbar 150mm x 50mm x 3mm DuraGal (with unique crank and gusset)
Body Closed cell composite body monocoque construction (29mm insulated walls and 32mm insulated floor)
Cladding Composite fibreglass
Wheel/tyre 285/75R16 Cooper STT Pro MT on 16in five-stud black alloy rims (2 x spares)
Style Hybrid camper trailer
Box size 3760mm (L) x 2200mm (W) x 1500mm (H)
Travel height 2435mm
Overall length 6020mm
Interior height (roof raised) 2500mm
Water 2 x 80L food grade poly aluminium armoured water tanks, Bushranger instantaneous H/W system
Kitchen ZONE custom external slide-out kitchen with Thetford two-burner gas stove and hot/cold mixer, fed by plumbed gas bottle on drawbar
Battery Enerdrive B-Tec 100Ah Lithium, 220W solar
Gas 2 x 4.5kg bottle
NON STANDARD UPGRADES
Wireless control airbags
Internal mezzanine double bed
Additional 80L fresh water
Double lens rear vision camera
PRICE AS SEEN
CAMPER STAR RATINGS
|David Cook||Tim van Duyl||Kath Heiman||Scott Heiman|
|1. Fit for Intended Purpose||9||7||8.5||8|
|4. Quality of finish||9.5||8||8.5||8|
|5. Build quality||9||8||8.5||8|
|8. Ease of use||9||9||6.5||6.5|
|9. Value for money||9||8||5||6|
Address 85 Quanda Road, Coolum Beach QLD 4573
Phone 07 5471 6410