It’s a rare privilege to be the first magazine in the country to lay your hands on a new product, let alone from a line-up only recently unveiled. But such was the case recently when the keys of the all-new Pioneer Argyle SE were thrown our way. Accompanied by industry stalwart and proprietor of AJ Thomas Campers, Al Thomas, our gig was to put the Argyle SE through its paces on a pristine rural property east of Melbourne. Surrounded by prime Angus beef, we eagerly set about our task.
Pioneer brings bold styling cues to set itself apart from many of the other manufacturers in the hardfloor segment, while still packaging a comprehensive feature set. Snubbing the standard box shape, the body incorporates a duck tail design for improved clearance and an eye-catching profile.
THE ARGYLE SE'S TRAILER
Representing the mid-point in the five-model range, the Argyle SE offers a good selection of standard fittings for offroad exploration. The foundation is a heavy-duty, hot-dipped galvanised chassis riding on an independent trailing-arm coil suspension with gas shock absorbers. A simple, but effective offroad Treg coupling sits upfront with an Anderson plug and mechanical handbrake; the latter part of a 10in electric drum brake option. A set of 15in steel rims and all-terrain light truck tyres round out the running gear.
The spare wheel is neatly tucked between the chassis rails and a baffled 90L stainless steel tank takes the aft position. The seam welds and attention to detail are impressive, with everything routed out of harm’s way. The quality of construction continues to the body, where a combination of 1.2mm Zincanneal walls and a 2mm marine-grade aluminium roof and front storage box are finished in an attractive two-tone charcoal and blue-grey gloss finish.
Up front, angled stoneguards are finished in Rhino-coat, a new feature standard across the range. According to Pioneer spokesperson Narelle Brummel, a 12-14mm layer of Rhino-coat is applied to army trucks to minimise damage caused by roadside bombs in war zones.
Down below, stone-stopper mudflaps slow down low-flying projectiles. An enclosed jerry-can rack, manual water pump, 9kg gas cylinder, unique wood storage and a winch post sit in front of the fridge box, which is suitable for a standard-size fridge (50L) and generator. Room for a 60-80L fridge is available as an option. A filter allows the fridge to breathe clean air on the move for optimal cooling performance.
Other trailer options include boat loader, outboard mount, and a swing-away rear wheel carrier.
The body incorporates a full-width tunnel boot with pole storage plus a smaller tool locker below. The latches on the jerry can storage and toolbox lockers were a bit small for my liking; how they cope with offroad rigours remains to be seen.
A stainless steel kitchen slides from the nearside revealing a two-burner Smev stove with glass splashback, stainless steel sink and 12V pump, cutlery drawer, additional slide-out tray and an LED kitchen light built into the swing-up door. There is no storage for pots and crockery in the kitchen slide-out but there is a weatherproof 240V outlet for external appliances.
At the rear of the camper a door provides access to the trailer’s interior when the tent is packed away; an optional slide-out tray improves this further. Two recovery hooks and a 50mm hitch receiver assist with recoveries.
The hardfloor design incorporates adjustable feet, gas struts and the front-mounted winch to assist in the set-up and pack-up processes. Simply wind out sufficient belt to walk the roof to the vertical position, assisted by the gas struts, before winding the floor down to ground level. Twin rear uprights support the internal tent frame and with a few minor adjustments the tent is taut and ready to go.
Quality Wax Converters canvas complements the body colours, with large windows around the bed, two rear doors and a floor-to-ceiling window. The rear doors and window unzip and roll up for maximum ventilation and light. You can also zip up the sand fly and midge mesh and peg out the rear awning or attach the optional kids’ room and side ensuite, which zips onto the far door. The front canvas window doubles as an awning, propped open by poles and a 6x2.4m awning shelters the kitchen. There is a range of other optional walls in mesh or canvas, a draught skirt and a solar roof blanket.
Stepping inside, the grey vinyl floorboard blends seamlessly with the exterior for a quality finish throughout. A substantial step integrated into the body improves access to the optional innerspring mattress with bed head and side rests. New for 2013, a slatted bed base provides improved ability to breath and comfort, while gas struts lift the bed to reveal abundant storage.
At the heart of the electrics is a 100Ah AGM battery. In addition to the Anderson plug, the camper is pre-wired for solar and can be used with any solar panel and regulator set-up. A Redarc Dual Sense isolator separates the vehicle and camper batteries when the engine is disengaged, protecting the starter battery from daily use. From the options list choose a Projecta 240V 25A multi-stage charger or the do-it-all Redarc Battery Management system incorporating a 240V charger, 12V DC-DC charger, solar regulator, dual battery isolator and remote battery monitor in the one unit. You can also upgrade the entertainment/DVD system and add batteries and solar panels.
A USB outlet, cigarette plug and a 240V socket with earth leakage and circuit breaker are fitted as standard. There is no inverter, so the 240V point runs straight to shore, providing current only when connected to mains power or a generator. LED strip lighting is integrated into the floor and there are two reading lamps, but no overhead LED strip lighting on the bows. Although available as options, I’d like to see a few additional 240V outlets fitted as standard.
ARGYLE SE CAMPER TRAILER PERFORMANCE
The Argyle SE performed as expected throughout the test, the independent coil suspension soaking up the bumps and undulations with ease. With an overall length of 4950mm, some thought is required for U-turns and weaving through a tree line, but the trailer tracks well without chopping corners and you soon adapt to the trailer’s length.
THE CAMPER TRAILER AUSTRALIA VERDICT
Designed and manufactured in Australia for local conditions the Argyle SE is a winner. It’s functional and offers a few clever additions like the firewood carry rack and the Rhino-coat finish.
Pioneer valiantly combines rugged ability to travel offroad, ample storage capacity and a low 920kg tare in a hardfloor configuration. Innovation, quality fittings and fixtures are highlights in the Argyle SE design.
I would have liked to have seen LED strip lighting included as standard but this is easily rectified come ordering time. And with over 500kg of payload to play with, there’s serious scope for upscaling.
Originally published in Camper Trailer Australia #65, May 2013.
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