With a beautiful Queensland summer day upon us, it was time to head to one of my favourite places. Making it even better was the fact I was going to be putting the brand new Titan Caravans Blackhawk Hybrid through its paces.
Along with me for the ride was James Creswick, the owner of Titan Caravans. Before we set off, James took me on a tour of the Titan facility at Eagle Farm, Brisbane. This facility looks after the final plumbing and electrical fit outs, as well as suspension installation on the imported vans, hybrids and camper trailers. The Titan Caravan crew will even service other manufacturer's vans as well.
With formalities taken care of, it was time to reverse the Colorado up to the Blackhawk 480H, lower the DO35 hitch into place, attach the safety chains, connect the Anderson plug and trailer socket, check the tail lights and point our chariot north towards the beautiful Glasshouse Mountains.
For testing and reviewing caravans, the Glasshouse Mountains really offer up a lot in a short period of time — while it would be great to have all of our test vans for a couple of days, the harsh reality is that we generally can't.
With the Glasshouse Mountains being on Brisbane's doorstep, it's the ideal location to test for handling and towability on blacktop at highway speeds, on slower secondary bitumen roads or fast, loose gravel roads. Add to that some steep and rutted tracks, and — if we weren't in the middle of a drought — some mud, and you've got the ideal test location.
There's plenty of spots to park the trailer and set everything up, so you can crawl under and over all that the van has to offer. It's also easy on the eye, which always makes the pics look better too. Best yet is that you can do it all in a day!
After leaving Titan HQ, we headed for tracks that go through the pine forests and bushland that surround the volcanic peaks. Although our van wasn't loaded to the gunwales with fresh water and supplies, it tracked well behind the dual cab, thanks in no small part to the Cruisemaster XT suspension that is fitted as standard (if you felt the need, an upgrade to the full Cruisemaster air package is available).
When we hit the dirt, ruts and washouts, the suspension matched with the DO35 offroad coupling to make pulling the 480H a breeze — soaking up bumps is what the twin shock independent coil spring suspension was born to do.
On first glance, the Blackhawk 480H Hybrid does a very good impersonation of a caravan. With an overall length of 6.9m (22'8”) and a travelling height of 2.93m (9'7”) the 480H is by no means diminutive.
The sleek 'Desert Sand' composite panels give a modern look, while the high waisted, black powder coated aluminium checkerplate screams 'offroad van'.
There is no pop-top on this hybrid. All you have to do is open the back door, roll out the Dometic awning for a bit of shade and drop the stabiliser legs if you feel the need and you are done.
Being a hybrid, the majority of the cooking is going to be done outdoors, but luckily the 480H comes equipped with the best of both worlds. Not only do you have a pull-out Dometic cooktop (3 x gas, 1 x electric) with grill, but hiding on the other side of the 95L Waeco is a little Ziggy. That's right, this hybrid comes with its own gas BBQ on a custom slide, housed in a custom storage locker on the drawbar.
The kitchen includes plumbed hot and cold water, a drawer for all your herbs and spices, as well as drawers for cutlery and cooking utensils. A fold down picnic table also forms part of the outdoor kitchen area.
On the offside, large storage areas suitable for outdoor furniture and other bulky items can be found forward of the wheels. Filler points for the two potable water tanks are located above the wheel arch, as is the external shower and mains electricity hook up point.
Stepping up inside the 480H by way of the optional double electric step (manually operated single step is the standard fit and provides much better offroad clearance), you are greeted with a bright and spacious interior — there's more LED lights in here than what you’re likely to find at the local arcade.
Slimline dome LED's are mounted to the ceiling and underneath the overhead storage cupboards. There are individual LED reading lights at the bedhead, while funky purple LED strip lights above and below the cabinetry give the interior a modern feel.
Up front, the nearly queen size bed sits up high, making getting in and out a breeze. Overhead cupboards along with hanging space on either side provide more than enough storage for clothes. More storage is provided under the bed and is accessed by a drop-down hatch at the foot. Taking the 'everything's included' mantra to the next level, Titan even provide storage tubs for this space. I'm also told that this is a great spot to store golf clubs when on the road.
Ranger double glazed windows (with insect screens and block out blinds) provide a cross-breeze and ventilation, while a pair of Sirocco 12V fans can take over when the breeze drops off. A Dometic IBIS 4 air-conditioner unit is fitted as standard for when things get a little too hot.
Taking pride of place in the middle of the van is the spacious four berth dinette. While the 480H only sleeps two, it doesn't mean you can't invite a couple of friends around for happy hour. A simple pivoting table is provided and simple to install.
One thing the 480H does not want for is storage — your only problem may be not utilising it all if you want to stay below the 2680kg ATM. Apart from the storage already mentioned, there are more overhead cupboards above the dinette, as well as space beneath the seats.
It is here, underneath the seats, where you will also find the Truma HWS and battery charger. The lift up lids could do with a gas strut or the like as them falling down when you’re trying to fix something would get annoying. Titan informed us after this review that gas struts would be added as standard, which is good to know.
Up the back of the van is the kitchenette and slimline 152L Thetford compressor fridge/freezer. The kitchenette has even more storage, with seven soft close drawers and an overhead cupboard. A 25L microwave is housed in this overhead cupboard, while a hot and cold water plumbed sink resides in the bench top. If the weather turns particularly nasty, twin power points would allow you to plug in an induction cooktop to sizzle up a few snags for dinner.
Hiding in the rear offside corner of the van, behind an opaque glass door is the combined shower/toilet. Inside you'll find the usual suspects: a Thetford toilet, a wall mounted cupboard with mirror, an adjustable height shower and a soap tray. But it was the unusual suspect that caught my eye — a shower rail and curtain.
I have had many a shower in the confined spaces of a combined shower/toilet and the one thing that you cannot avoid is getting water everywhere, no matter how hard you try. After your shower you've got five minutes of wiping everything down so the next person won't drown when they step inside. Well, the humble shower curtain here saves you the hassle of wiping down the mirror and toilet, leaving the excess water to drain down the plughole.
With our heavy reliance on electricity, it's good to know that the 480H is well-equipped. I counted six double power points inside to go with the four double USB points. Even when charging up all of my camera gear, I would have trouble filling all of them!
A 24” LCD TV/DVD combo matched to a roof mounted digital booster antenna will let you keep up to date with your latest TV series or the nightly news. If music is more your thing, a bluetooth stereo will get the campground pumping when you blast your playlists through the internal and external speakers!
I've already mentioned the suspension used on the 480H, but what else is lurking beneath? Is it out of sight, out of mind? Or, do the team from Titan pay as much attention to what can't easily be seen as what can?
Beneath the 50mm thick composite floor, the 150 x 50 x 3.5mm galvanised chassis rolls along on 265/75R16 Mud Terrain tyres wrapped around 16” black alloy rims. A three-bar rear bumper houses the single spare tyre as well as a pair of 20L jerry cans.
The three poly water tanks (2 x 100L potable and 1 x 65L grey water) are protected by a zincalume shroud. Plumbing and hoses are run high and protected where possible, with John Guest fittings being used throughout the build. Electrical cabling is run through tubing and inside chassis rails where possible and tied up high and tight where not.
Mounted to the chassis and sitting in front of the wheels on the driver's side is the checkerplate battery box, which houses the two 120Ah AGM batteries. Sitting forward of the wheel and hanging well below the chassis rail puts them at serious risk of being damaged in an offroad situation. Personally, I'd prefer to see them housed elsewhere, and Titan did inform us before we went to print with this review that customers can request internal battery storage at no extra charge.
For a mild amount of protection, 50mm rock rails/sliders run beneath the bottom of the walls.
AFTER SALES SERVICE
When you're spending $60k on a van, you're putting a lot of faith in the manufacturer to not only provide you with a quality product, but to back it up if something does go wrong.
After speaking with James, I got the impression that he likes to deal with any problems as quickly as possible. He knows that problems do occur from time to time, but it is how they are dealt with that makes the difference. His mindset is, “Just get it fixed and get them back on the road.”
Apart from each of his vans coming with comprehensive electrical, gas and plumbing diagrams for side of the road troubleshooting, every new owner of a Titan Caravan has access to a 1800 phone number that is manned 24/7 to provide additional roadside assistance.
On top of that, all new buyers can partake in an RACQ accredited ‘1st Time Towing’ course, which is included in the purchase price.
The cherry on the top for me is that the warranty is a true offroad warranty, with surfaces such as corrugated dirt roads and beaches all covered and stipulated in the warranty document.
THE LAST WORD
For the couple who want the convenience and comfort of a caravan, but still want to spend more time outdoors cooking and entertaining, then the Blackhawk 480H from Titan Caravans could be the ideal choice. At under $60K, this is a well-built van with a list of standard features as long as your arm. To be honest, there's not a lot more you would want to add to this van — except maybe your food and clothes for a couple of weeks away from the daily grind.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Length 4.8m (15ft 9in)
Length (Overall) 6.9m (22ft 8in)
Width 2.16m (7ft 1in)
Travel Height 2.93m (9ft 7in)
Internal Height 1.9m (6ft 3in)
Ball Weight 220kg
Bed Size 1.95m x 1.5m (6ft 5in x 4ft 11in)
Wall construction Heat laminated fibreglass composite panel with structural foam core and aluminium subframe
Chassis 150 x 50 x 3.5mm Galvanised Steel (hot dipped galvanised)
Suspension Cruisemaster XT (coils) fully independent suspension system with twin hocks on each wheel.
Coupling DO35 Off road hitch Brakes 12” electric brakes
Wheels 265/75R16 Mud Terrains on 16” black alloy rims with 1 x spare
Water 2 x 100L general/65L grey
Battery 2 x 120Ah AGM
Solar 2 x 160W panel
Air-conditioner 2.5kW IBIS 4 A/C system
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control optional upgrade
Cooking Thetford stove (3 x gas burner, 1 x electric hotplate) and grill with automatic ignition
Fridge Waeco CFX 95DZW
BBQ Ziggy by Ziegler + Brown, Dometic DRS (Dust Reduction System)
Fridge 152L Thetford T1152 (tropical rated) compressor upright fridge/freezer
Microwave 25L CAMEC Microwave
Bathroom Ensuite with combined shower/toilet
Washing machine N/A
Hot water 14L Truma Ultrarapid Gas/Electric hot water system
PRICE AS SHOWN
252 Bruce Highway Eastern Service Road
Burpengary QLD 4505
Ph: 1800 TITAN RV