The corrugations were intense, sending shudders up through the steering wheel, making the dash and the body panels dance as if to some macabre heavy metal music. The Tvan camper behind me was also jigging along to the percussive beat, but seemingly doing it far better than we were in the Cruiser. The same could be said for the van being towed in front of me, which moved little. The unique suspension design, invented by Track nearly 20 years ago, was doing the hard work, banging over the corrugations, dips and whoopty-doos like a mercurial axeman in the the midst of a guitar solo in front of 100 thousand adoring headbangers.
The corrugations could have been worse, I surmised, but I hadn't seen anything as bad or of this calibre for a couple of years of outback and international 4WD travel. The Anne Beadell Highway is a 'highway' in name only – the banging corrugations went on for a long, long, looooong time.
Prior to our appointment with the Anne Beadell, the T4's all-new chassis and MC-2R suspension had been subjected to severe and extensive testing regimen over ripple strips, bump strips and test tracks at the impressive and very trying Anglesea Proving Ground. It's worth mentioning, especially to those unfamiliar with the Track product and their renowned suspension, 'MC-2' is an Australian Military spec. designation, standing for: 'Mobility Category 2', the highest performance rating for any unpowered vehicle's suspension. As far as I know, and in my opinion, this standard of suspension is unmatched by any other trailer manufacturer, either here or overseas. The T4's MC-2R suspension delivers a remarkably soft, flat ride.
The striking look of the T4 is quite different and, I think, stronger than its predecessor, with walls featuring longitudinal 'creases' for greater torsional strength and impact resistance.
The two-piece insulated roof, the distinctive nose cone and the rear shower pod are all fashioned from fibreglass, while the riveted sandwich panel walls and the roof structure are linked by a laser-cut external aluminium frame, colour coded to emphasise the three different T4 models.
The body itself has been water and dust tested for leaks and the like, but nothing compares to the real thing; subjecting a camper to the rigours of heat, dust and rough tracks of the Outback for days on end.
Of the three models of T4 to choose from when they become available later this year (orders are being taken now), the entry level Symphony will impose a $105 grand hit to the pocket; the more luxurious, Rhapsody, will sting you for $108,500; while the Concerto Family Bunk model tops the line-up at just under $109,500.
The Symphony comes with a huge amount of inside room, an east west bed, six-seater split lounge and a fully set-up kitchen with a four-burner Thetford gas cooktop with grill (an optional diesel cooktop is also available), a stainless-steel sink with mixer tap backed up by a Truma UltraRapid 13L gas/electric heater. A Truma VarioHeat gas heater will keep you warm on the coolest of nights while air conditioning is optional. A 130L Isotherm compressor fridge/freezer will keep the salad crisp and the beer cold while there's hidden dimmable LED lighting throughout the van, along with a Fusion portable sound system.
If you want an internal shower/toilet, you’ll need to option up to a T4 Rhapsody for that, but the Symphony does have an external dropdown ensuite tent (more of that later) and an internally accessible portable toilet.
OUTSIDE KITCHEN AND MORE
Adding to the hybrid flavour is a slide-out kitchen, which is a bloody beauty. It's basically the same as the top-line unit from the latest model Tvan. It comes with a three-burner stove, a matching stainless steel sink with flick-mixer tap along with a three roomy drawers for storing cutlery, cups, plates, coffee, tea and more of those everyday, every meal necessities. The integrated windshield is again a unique Track product that is simply raised into position. A quick-connect gas lead supplies gas to the stove. Just in front of the slide-out kitchen and handy to all is a 40L drawer type, Evakool fridge/freezer.
Up the front is a huge storage locker along with side lockers. The total outside storage adds up to mammoth 1395 litres of space. Down the back end of the camper is the rear ensuite or shower pod, which is roomy and a definite improvement from the previous Topaz model, with better and faster access.
For the more technical-minded, and those looking for long stays in the scrub off-grid, there are two 120 Watt roof-mounted glass solar panels feeding two 105Ah AGM batteries. There's a 300W REDARC full sine-wave inverter (700W unit optional) controlled by the REDARC Manager 30 which has a DC-DC charger and solar regulator built-in, while the gas supply comes from two 4.0kg bottles.
EXTRAS FOR THE MONEY
Our Symphony had a few extras, including a larger main water tank (260 litres in total), a RedVision electrical management system, electro-mechanical lifters for the pop-top roof, a powered roll-out Thule awning — which was a beauty — and a unique pop-up kitchen pantry, which makes great use of the corner space in the van. We also had the 700W inverter and zero-gravity blinds. Track's new and remarkable dining table, which hides away under the bed when not in use, is a masterpiece of design and construction. All these extra additions add another $13 grand, or so, to the base price.
The REDARC RedVision electrical management system is their latest and greatest, and as well as controlling and monitoring electrical and battery supplies, it can be accessed via the wall-mounted control unit or via a smartphone. It also raises or lowers the roof, controls the awning and can lock all the T4's interior cupboards and drawers – pretty smart eh? If anything goes wrong with remote functionality you, of course, can operate the system manually.
SIZE AND WEIGHT
On first look the all-new T4 seems to be much longer than its predecessor, the Topaz, but it is just 200mm greater, with a body length of just under 5.6 metres or just over 18 feet in old parlance. Its length is accentuated by custom-made side glass windows that make the T4 stand out in any crowd.
The Symphony weighs 1820kg but by the time we loaded up with 260 litres of water and threw in another seven jerry cans of fuel for the tow tug, the all-up weight was in the vicinity of 2350kg; not light by any means, but still well under the pretty conservative 2500kg ATM that Track deemed the unit to have. That weight dropped as we headed west from Coober Pedy as the 200 Series Cruiser chewed through fuel on the desert tracks between the opal mining town and our next fuel stop at Nundroo on the Eyre Highway, some 1000km distant.
OUR TESTING ROUTE
Our route took us from Melbourne on the blacktop through Ouyen and Pinnaroo to Burra and Hawker to the end of the smooth stuff at Marree. The Oodnadatta Track was in pretty good condition though, apart from a few stones and sharp creek crossings that caught us out on occasions. After a night stop over at William Creek where the temperature was climbing towards 40°C we headed to Coober Pedy where we took on all the fuel, water and supplies we needed.
The road out to the Mabel Creek homestead was pretty good, the temperature climbing towards 45°C, while the start of the Anne Beadell just past the homestead turn-off was a quick and sudden introduction to what lay ahead. From there it got worse.
As we pushed onwards towards Voakes Hill Junction, we turned south on a seldom-used, sandy track that crossed numerous soft dunes. Picking up a once well-established mine exploration road we eventually turned west then abruptly south once again, crossing dunes but now on what were clay-topped sandhills. Sadly the road and its clay topping are being eroded due to infrequent rain and little to no maintenance. Soon it will be a very slow trip on an extremely rough road indeed.
Once we hit the Aboriginal Business Road, we turned east and cruised effortlessly onwards, passing the turn-off to Oak Valley before hitting a small remnant of bitumen south of the atomic bomb test sites near Maralinga village. A rough section of graded dirt followed as we crossed bluebush plains, crossing the Trans Australian Railway Line at Ooldea before meeting the bitumen again near the Iluka Mine at Lake Ifould. Apart from a rough bulldust ridden section of track out to Cheetima Beach south of Nundroo, we were on blacktop for the rest of our journey back home to Melbourne. A total of nearly 4500km, 1300km of which was on rough dirt roads and tracks during 11 days of outback travel. Not a big trip by any means but a worthwhile and testing one in any case.
This was a tough test in hot dusty conditions in a region where most people would fear taking a camper; certainly most camper manufacturers don't subject their new vans to such rigorous outback testing. During our journey, we passed two recently wrecked and abandoned campers along the Anne Beadell, ample evidence of the stress and strain put on each and every rig on these types of Outback tracks.
So, apart from a couple of annoying matters, which included dust ingress through the entry door (mainly caused by human error on our part), a shocker issue and a battery management problem caused by, we think, a compatibility issue between having a DC-DC charger on board the tow-tug and the RedVision in the van, the T4 performed faultlessly.
The shocker issue problem, I'm told, has already been resolved by Track's engineers and effected design changes for all future T4 production, while the electronic management compatibility issue is under investigation by both Track and REDARC and, I've also been assured, will be fixed soon.
The new Track camper, despite its size and weight, towed easily behind the 200 Series even in fairly strong cross winds, which we experienced over the full course of the Oodnadatta Track. In the more extreme desert country with its corrugations and wash-outs, the rig towed effortlessly, absorbing all we threw at it. Sure, you needed to be aware of the overall length of the camper in tight situations, it wore the odd scratch or two from enclosing scrub and trees, and its approach, ramp-over and departure angles are nowhere near as good as a Tvan – as you'd expect – but its performance was pretty convincing.
Overall fuel consumption for the 200 Series Cruiser varied depending, as you'd presume, on conditions. On the bitumen at 90 to 100kph it averaged 17-18L/100km, while in strong headwinds (which we had for a day or so) fuel consumption increased to 19.5L/100km. On sandy tracks and gravel roads, travelling anywhere between 15 and 60kph, fuel consumption was between 23-24L/100km, heavier, I'm guessing, crossing the soft sandy dunes; better on the flat gravel roads.
Still, all that adds up to a pretty impressive standard for such a big rig. In my experience, few other similar sized rigs are capable of achieving what the T4 can do, both on the road and in the rough stuff.
We cooked outside every night and, because of the heat, didn't light fires (there were total fire restrictions in place). The outside kitchen worked a treat but in strong winds we needed a bit more height in the wind shields to stop all the heat being blown away. The inside fridge worked well but the 40 litre drawer fridge struggled on the 45-46°C days.
We never missed an air conditioner; the T4's two fans are enough to keep the air circulating in the large interior of the van. Initially I thought the smallish screened openings in the distinctive side windows of the T4 wouldn't be enough to get an adequate airflow but I was forgetting once the roof is popped there are screened windows all round.
As well, the openings on the side windows are level with the bed, meaning any cool breeze wafts over you – a good thing on a hot night. All windows and vents can be closed from the inside.
This may be an expensive hybrid camper but it offers some great innovative design and fabulous build quality while giving away very little to smaller units as far as performance and capability are concerned. Lastly, to say the T4 emerged with just a layer of dust and a few scratches is accolade enough, I reckon.
Height (Travel) 2550mm
Width (External) 1990mm
Length (Overall) 6575mm (21.5 feet)
Body length (External) 5575mm; (Interior) 4590mm
Height (Interior, roof popped) 2070mm
Tare 1940kg (as reviewed)
Ball weight 170kg (unloaded)
Body Aluminium bonded and riveted sandwich panel walls. Two-part fibreglass pop-up roof, nose cone and rear shower pod
Chassis One-piece hot-dipped galvanised steel
Suspension Track-designed MC2-R asymmetrical link, independent with coil springs and twin shock absorbers
Brakes 12in Cruisemaster electric drum brakes
Wheels 16in alloy with 265/70 tyres
Fresh water 75L & 130L (optional 2 x 130litres – as tested)
Battery 2 x 105Ah AGM with 700W REDARC inverter (optional) and DC-DC charger and solar regulator
Solar 2 x 120W roof-mounted panels
Air conditioner Air conditioning optional (not fitted)
Heating Truma VarioHeat gas heater
Hot water Truma UltraRapid 13L gas/electric
Gas 2 x 4.0kg
Cooking Internal four-burner Thetford gas cooktop with grill. Slide-out external kitchen with three gas burners and stainless steel sink with mixer tap
Fridge 130L Isotherm compressor; 40 litre drawer type fridge
Shower/toilet External hot/cold shower accessed from drop-down pod tent, plus cassette inside/outside toilet
Lighting Hidden dimmable LED throughout
PRICE AS TESTED
$118,500 as tested. $105,220 base price.
Fit for intended purpose — 8
Innovation — 9
Self-sufficiency — 8
Quality of finish — 8
Build quality — 9
Offroad-ability — 7
Comfort — 8
Ease of use — 8
Value — 7
X-Factor — 8
Track Trailer, Outback HQ, Bayswater, Vic.
Phone (03) 8727 6100
More info www.tracktrailer.com.au