As more Aussies venture offroad, the demand for luxury appointed hard-shell RVs increases, blurring the line between camper and caravan. The Matrix from Australian Off Road (AOR) heeds this call, evolving from the marque's popular Quantum to include an internal kitchen. Despite an array of comforts, the designers have strived to keep the Matrix's weight down ensuring its suitability for the bush.
SA's Flinders Ranges seemed an appropriate place to test the Matrix. We headed for a winter hiatus at Brachina Gorge where, at that time of year, it's pleasant during the day but cool at night. Thankfully, the Matrix's insulation kept us warm.
The tow vehicle for this test was a Range Rover Sport (there's nothing like slumming it) and I have to say the combination performed well under tow. I'd expect that many lighter, cheaper vehicles would make suitable towing candidates.
The Matrix is underpinned by a powder coated steel chassis, which rides on AOR-designed independent trailing arm suspension, with coil springs and twin shock absorbers on each wheel. There are also 12in brakes and 2,200kg bearings on each 15in wheel. Two 140L polyethylene water tanks are fitted fore and aft of the wheels and although they probably could withstand some punishment, both have full galvanised sheet protection. In the towing department, the drawbar is fitted with a Hitchmaster DO35 offroad coupling.
Fibreglass is the material of choice for the roof and walls - a composite construction that uses vacuum bonded inner and outer fiberglass cores with poly foam insulation in between. This combination provides strength while maintaining a lighter weight. That same theme continues in the Matrix's interior, with Nycel (a plastic composite) used for the kitchen cupboards and aluminium upholstered in vinyl for the overhead lockers.
Many RV manufacturers battle against dust ingress and AOR enjoys considerable success in this area. This particular Matrix has no permanent vents and uses pinch weld seals for the external bins and interior living room. The internal diesel-fired Webasto cooktop eliminates the need for venting, but I find them limiting as they have only one primary burner and another to simmer.
Looking around the Matrix body shows items such as a front far side storage bin and larger drawer, as well a pole/fishing rod holder, hinged firewood carrier (essential in places like national parks), and a stone guard-protected drawbar with two 4.5kg gas cylinder, two jerry can holders and the hitch. And in addition to the internal kitchen, the near side slide-out Weber barbecue offers travellers the best of both catering worlds.
Other items that caught my eye were the larger than usual and custom designed (in some cases) brackets for items such as the awning, and the mounting bar for two more jerry can holders and the spare wheel. The rear bar even features a separate zipped compartment for carrying rubbish out of environmentally sensitive areas.
How you view the Matrix's interior will depend on whether you come from a camper trailer or caravan background. However, I have to say that even caravaners will appreciate what has been achieved here, especially given that the external width is within tow vehicle peripherals. The Matrix fits a front north-south bed, rear near side kitchen, far side corner bathroom and far side dinette within 4.9m. Impressive.
The kitchen bench is quite a good size - I have seen far smaller kitchens in much larger rigs. The L-shape bench houses a stainless steel sink with drainer and the aforementioned diesel-fired cooktop, tucked into the corner. Six large drawers mean there is also ample kitchen storage, although some space is taken by the dual 100Ah AGM house batteries. The Vitrifrigo 130L fridge sits above its remote compressor between the drawers and the entry door.
In a compact rig such as this one, designed to travel to some very out of the way places on rough roads, I'd expect the bathroom cubicle to be small. The Matrix's bathroom, however, contains a Dometic vacuum-flush toilet and a flexible hose shower, both of which are vented by a roof hatch. The drain bung provides a dust proof interior - not to be forgotten when showering. In addition to the internal shower, there is also an exterior unit for those who like a quick rinse before stepping aboard.
As with the rest of the camper's interior, the front queen bed maxes out the available space, with overhead lockers and towel rails on either side, plus a slew of drawers underneath. Windows on either side allow great cross-ventilation, but I wondered if a roof hatch above the bed would have been better for warmer climates.
This may be a small rig, but its technology is very sophisticated. Two 135W solar panels keep the batteries charged when out bush and a 300W inverter supplies the separate 240V inverter GPO circuit. Additionally, there are interior and exterior mains supply points. Keeping energy use to a minimum, LED lights are fitted inside and out, while the Eberspacher diesel heater, Truma water heater and inverter hide under the dinette.
The Oxford Dictionary defines Matrix as, among other things, an "environment in which something develops". This seems fitting given the considerable experience and design knowledge at the AOR factory that went into this rig's construction.
The Matrix almost forges its own class given its size, weight, and suitability for offroad tracks akin to a camper, combined with the internal fittings of a caravan: it's exciting to see a company of AOR's ilk leading the charge.
Australian Off Road
15 Caloundra Road
Caloundra, QLD, 4551
(07) 5499 6606
Suspension: Independent coil spring trailing arm
Price (as shown): $85,000
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