Reconn is a handy shortened version of the word reconnaissance, and its definition is: “1. Small, strong force that would be prepared for anything. 2. Military term for inspecting or exploring an area no matter what the terrain or land. 3. The action of exploring an area to gain an advantage on other military forces, performed by highly trained military specialists. 4. Identifying if landscape is worthy of presence.”
Lifestyle Campers, however, sees the definition as: “1. Small, strong Hypercamper that is prepared for anything! 2. Ready to explore any area no matter what the terrain! 3. Designed and manufactured by highly trained personnel in Australia to gain an exploration advantage! 4. Capable of conquering any landscape!”
And that applies most definitely to Lifestyle’s new Reconn R2 model. While most of us would identify it as a hybrid, Lifestyle, as seen above, identify it as a Hypercamper.
The Reconn R2 follows the very successful Reconn, which has been a part of the extensive Lifestyle range for three years. However, the newcomer isn’t simply offered in that calming blue and white colour scheme that has become a major feature of the Lifestyle image, and now sits in ominous matt dark grey and black, with a whole new persona.
And wow, does it ever have a presence!
We have to point out that other colour and decal patterns options exist, but we can’t see them having the impact of our dark and brooding test camper.
RISE OF THE RECONN
Lifestyle is one of those brands that has, with little fanfare, been building an enviable reputation that’s really started to come into its own since the boom in popularity of hybrid campers. Almost all are equipped with internal ensuites, have excellent fitouts and are well pegged near the bottom of the price range for a hybrid. Lifestyle’s have been discovered by those seeking an added level of comfort to go with a solid but not endless budget.
The Reconn is really aimed at couples with a taste for adventure.
“We want people who, when everyone else says, ‘let’s turn right,’ will say, ‘we’re going left,’“ says Lifestyle CEO John Swinglehurst. And that about sums up what the Reconn R2 offers.
Notwithstanding that the original version of this camper was hugely popular with families; so too has the R2 been at the few shows it’s been seen at so far—plus, there’s also a version with bunks for the kids.
Basically the Reconn R2 is a big camper with lots of storage room, a limited internal living area plus a big, comfortable bed and one of Lifestyle’s roomy, well laid out side kitchens. It isn’t a small camper, and at 5725mm long (standard drawbar), 1880mm wide and 2100mm high and with a Tare weight of 1700kg, as tested (1600kg standard and well up on the original Reconn’s 1400kg), it may have some limitations in tight scrub (though we couldn’t find any)—but it has a go-anywhere capacity that will give you confidence to branch out on your own, well off the grid.
We took it through some pretty rough and tight situations, down steep slopes, over boulders, over loose gravel, along dirt and over corrugations and quite frankly it never put a foot wrong. It was comfortable to sleep in and that kitchen is fantastic.
SO, WHAT'S IT MADE UP OF?
The R2 rolls on a sturdy 150x50x3mm hot-dip galvanised chassis. The suspension is Cruisemaster trailing arm independent with dual shocks, rated at 2600kg to match the camper’s ATM. When we had it out, it had 270L of water on board, plus two gas bottles and the awning and poles—so was well short of fully-loaded. We thought that it might have resulted in a ride that was too stiff, but it seemed to move freely and without any sign of being anything other than well adapted to the job.
Our test camper had straight stub axles, which gave a 60mm lift in ride height, but the option is for drop stubs for a lower ride, either option coming at no extra cost.
Our camper rolled on attractive optional 16x7in rims with 285/75R16 mud-terrains, wider than the standard 265/75R16 rubber. These are attached to 12in drums. The basic set-up includes a single spare mounted on the rear, though our test unit had dual spares. Getting one of these off or on to the mounting bar would really be a two-man lift, especially the wider versions, as they are almost at face height. It would be wise to consider the optional fold-down mount.
Unlike so many Lifestyle campers the R2 doesn’t come with an internal ensuite—yet (that’s coming as an option)—but it did have an optional toilet installed beneath one of the internal seats that was simply accessed by lifting off the seat cushion. This was to be standard, but some customer enquiries were along the lines of leaving it out, so several original features have been converted to options and the base price has dropped from $56,950 to $53,950.
There is comfortable seating on sumptuous internal upholstery for three adults around an extendable table immediately inside the door. Overhead were three touch-dimmable LED lights, and an optional swing-down fan. The floor is vinyl.
The bed is a queen-sized inner-spring pillow-top mattress that is 1107mm above the floor. That puts it at about the level of an adult’s lower rib cage, so it requires some kind of step to access it and may be a bit difficult for older knees. The primary access is via the bench seat along the driver’s side with a secondary option of a fold-down step near the entry door. The latter is a bit problematical as it is right inside the doorway and access through the door is prohibited when it’s in place.
There is plenty of head room above the bed, and two ceiling dimmable touch lights over the bed head. Access in and out of the doorway required a bit of a twist and duck manoeuvre to get your head under the top of the doorway and this would be helped by a handle inside and above the door. We found ourselves grasping at the top edge of the inner body for security. Lifestyle suggest exiting backwards. The 310mm high step down from the inner floor might also be a big ask for some older knees, though there was a stable plastic step provided as standard for access to the camper’s bottom step.
There are three large screened windows around the bed and three smaller windows at the front, above the table. All have internally zipped covers. These can all be left open when lowering the roof. For the occasions when the weather is inclement and all the windows must be closed there are four shielded vents just below the roofline to allow air to circulate.
THE EXTERIOR SETUP
The roof is a pop-top, which on our test camper was equipped with an automatic lift system. Simply undo the four corner over-centre latches – don’t forget them or the low-geared auto system will buckle the roof – and press the button inside the door. In a minute the roof is up and locked in place. This is another item that was standard but is now optional as a result of some people asking to have it left out.
In the event of a failure with the electronic system, the roof can be manually lifted into place if the system is disconnected.
The roof is well attached to the lower body, with four sets of crossed diagonal braces, plus four gas struts and the two lifts, and the roof sits over a lower lip. This restricts the roof from ‘walking’ about on vibrations. This is the sort of thing which will let in dust under the seals if not dealt with adequately.
The body itself is made from aluminium composite panelling over a sturdy galvanised frame. There is foam insulation in the aluminium roof and all the walls other than that at the front.
Access to the interior is through a triple locking Aussie Traveller door, which has a security insect screen inner and solid outer.
In front of the doorway is a fridge locker with an excellent carpeted slide. At 990x190x580mm the space is big enough to take up to an 82L Evakool and still have room for an optional pantry drawer above. It was good to see sturdy anchor points provided. Above the door and at the back of the space were two handy LED lights.
This all looked good, except that the slide hit the edge of the camper door if it was fully open, meaning that if you are cooking and regularly accessing the fridge you have to have the door anchored out at right angles to the body, creating a barrier you have to walk around all the time. The slide would only have to be moved 10mm forward to create the needed space. Worth considering.
At the front, between the two jerry can lockers were two 4kg gas bottles in their own lockable compartment.
The outer skins of the two jerry can lockers were a pair of painted aluminium chequer-plate stone guards spaced out off the camper’s front panel. These are regarded as easily replaceable, as a lengthy trip on gibbers would certainly take its toll. Their angling didn’t seem to be too likely to keep stones from ricocheting onto the back of the tow vehicle—not that we had any such issue—and it would be a good idea to consider a Stone Stomper or Lifestyle’s optional padded front protection to the camper as a must for long outback trips.
The camper is attached via a Vehicle Components DO35 hitch and sustained at the level when free-standing with a heavy duty Ark XO dual jockey wheel. With the high ATM a break-away unit is fixed to the front of the drawbar. The ball weight is an estimated 160kg when empty.
On the driver’s side were access ports to get to the internal toilet, the Truma rapid boil gas hot-water system and shower unit. Above the shower was an LED light, and sail tracking down either side of the shower to enable the fitting of an ensuite. The installation of this has to be made with the roof lowered.
Beneath the carpeted floor of the side storage bay are the two standard 90L poly water tanks, which can be joined by a third optional 90L tank for a huge storage capacity. These can be joined or separately plumbed. This is also where you’ll find the single 120Ah AGM battery, but like our test unit a second battery can be installed, or even a third if desired. A Projecta 15A mains charger is standard but this size can be increased, and mobile charging is taken care of by a C-Tek 250S Dual, or its newly released replacement. On the roof is a single 120 watt thin film solar-panel mounted in an aluminium frame to optimise performance, but additional units can be installed as desired.
Over the kitchen side can be installed an excellent awning. It slides into sail tracking on the roof before lifting, and is supported on five lateral and two longitudinal spreader bars, with three uprights. Trying to put it up single-handed is a bit fiddly, but taking it down was easy. The end gables velcro to the vinyl of the raised roof, something that’s a bit awkward to attach at the rear because of the height, though you can use the supplied plastic step to assist.
The awning shelters an area of 2120x3890mm, and it comes with both sides of the zips around the gable edges. If you later wish to purchase walls, you simply send in the bottom half of the zip and it is sewn onto your new walls so you know when they arrive they will match up easily. Likewise a draught skirt is available, but if you purchase it after delivery you’ll have to drill and attach your own press studs.
THE WRAP UP
The Lifestyle Reconn R2 is a heck of a trailer. As a brand new model, our test camper suffered from a few minor design glitches, but most of what we pointed out the crew were aware of and had fixes in hand. As an adventurous tourer we can’t see how you’d want anything more. Yes, it’s a big camper, and when fully loaded it would be a heavy package, but our test unit, which must have been close to two tonnes in weight as we headed west along the motorway out of Brisbane was recording 12.4L/100km on the fuel consumption gauge of our Pajero, and it handled all that we threw at it with style. For what you get, the price is pretty good, there is a huge options list and I, for one, would be perfectly happy to set out on my next adventure in one. Recommended.
HITS AND MISSES
- Great storage
- Fabulous kitchen
- Easy set-up and pack-up
- Great build quality
- Heavy spare wheel access
- Fridge-entry door interference
- Rear awning Velcro attachment
- Stone guards
- Tare 1600kg
- ATM 2600kg
- Suspension Trailing arm double shock
- Brakes 12in drum
- Coupling Vehicle Components Hitchmaster DO35
- Chassis 100x50x3mm hot-dip galvanised
- Body Aluminium composite on galvanised steel frame
- Wheels Optional 16 x 7in steel
- Tyres Optional 285/75R16 mud-terrain
- Style Hybrid
PRICE AS SHOWN