Review: Titan 480X Blackhawk

Tim van Duyl — 1 July 2021
When Titan Caravans said their latest would blow our socks off, we sent chieftain Tim to find out if it can really shine in the saturated market

In a word, yes. And that's not just me speaking — our reverent leader, John Ford, was equally as impressed as I am with the offroad-focused 480X Blackhawk from Titan. It’s a technological masterpiece, it’s a bargain, it's capable, and as Titan grows, it’s accessible in most centres in Australia. Before we go into the layout, value and capabilities, those who know me know I love advancements in design — and this hybrid tickles my fancy. 

THE BUILD 

We first saw frameless, composite walls and roofs in European imports decades ago but it took until the highly innovative Zone RV refined the build process to eliminate issues caused by our rough roads before mainstream acceptance happened locally. Back in 2018, when I first sampled Zone’s clever manufacturing process, I knew they were on to something. Their outcome is light yet strong and with close to no joins — virtually watertight — plus there is unquestionable value in the heat and sound insulation offered by foam core panels. But we also know that with success comes imitation, and over the years, plenty have had a go at copying the process. We’ve seen vans that use thinner panels over frames and some that use crude joining methods with screws and bolts that pierce the panels, which in my mind ruins some of the benefits of the single-piece design ethos. 



Titan hasn't copied Zone. Where Zone bonds full composite panels together with a separate alloy extrusion, Titan has integrated alloy box sections into its panels. These are then bolted together, then sealed with urethane-like sealants that allow some flex and movement without splitting. I am not as confident the design is as flexible in the joins as that of Zone RV, but its thickness and the size of the alloy box section should have the Titan handling our rough roads. 

Titans panels are 50mm thick in the floor with a heavy duty fibreglass skin on the underside and ply-backed vinyl laminate on the top, with 30mm thick walls that are finished in smooth gel-coat inside and out. They are made in a unique way. Most foam-cored, fibreglass skinned panels are made simply by laying out a foam core of a desired thickness and either gluing on a fibreglass skin or spreading out wet glass and allowing it to cure and stick to the foam. The issue is — and it’s a real concern in our summers — heat can soften the glues and the skin can separate from the foam. Enter a few years of R&D and a baked curing process that Titan has co-developed with their manufacturers in China. By heating the full panels to a temperature above what you’d see in the outback during the curing process, the glues are guaranteed to do their job — which is why Titan backs the body of the van with a three year warranty.  

Under the clever body is a 150 x 50 x 3.5mm laser cut chassis that is robotically welded and then hot-dip galvanised. It features cutouts for routing lines and cables, and looks very neat. Suspended from it is Titan’s take on independent trailing arm suspension, T-Tech 2.8T Suspension, rated to, you guessed it, 2800kg and featuring double shocks as well as greasable polyethylene bushes and well protected water tanks.

Two people sitting outside of a Zone caravanThe van has great off-grid capabilities for adventures

WALKING IN 

For its size, the 480 feels spacious and bright. No doubt that's partly down to the super bright LED lights seemingly everywhere, but also because the layout is designed for a couple. As you enter, you pass the main fridge, a 152L Thetford three way that self selects which power source to use, and a small kitchenette. Then you pass the shower-over-Thetford toilet, and into what I reckon is one of the best places to be — the deep-backed, double-sided dinette. It’ll take four comfortably for an afternoon tipple when the weather is not playing ball. The table swings away, down and around, single-handedly allowing flow past the small internal kitchenette to the queen bed. 

Storage is good — great, even — with plenty around and some under the bed, and above and below the kitchenette. The kitchenette is practically thought out with breakfasts, drinks, and dishes in mind, with the main place to cook being outside. The 240V plugs are fed by a 2000W inverter as well as mains (when plugged in) so small appliances are OK. Speaking of plugs, we counted about six 240V plugs and plenty of 12V too. The decor in our test van was modern, sleek, sophisticated, and the surfaces and textiles used are all easy-clean — good stuff. 

Head back out and you’ll find the main kitchen via a front slide-out. Unlike a lot of slide-outs, the unit in the Titan rotates to tuck neatly under the electrically driven awning for maximum weather protection. I do need to mention that the unit we sampled had a noticeable sag in the cabinets that held the stove, etc. We quizzed the company and they seemed genuinely surprised by the issue and vowed to get to the bottom of it. I suspect it is as simple as needing a beefier support beam, but check yours. 

There is a fridge slide which will take a 90L fridge comfortably to augment the internal 152L Thetford bringing total cool-store to more than enough for a couple. There are taps on the external kitchen sink for hot and cold water, as well as a cold tap on the draw bar and an external shower is tucked away on the farside of the van. 

Blackhawk Titan caravan external kitchenThe outdoor kitchen is the main cooking area

Stepping back and taking it all in, it's a tough little nugget of a van. It rides at an aggressive but not over the top height, the checker plate armour is liberally applied, and the company branding is 3D, making it pop a lot. I like it. 

DOES IT GO AS GOOD AS IT LOOKS? 

So, it is clear the 480X is an offroader, but there are two defining attributes that any so-called offroader has to have — the ability to get there and the ability to stay. Tackling offroad towing first, the 480X has a lot going for it. 

Single axle vans are much easier to maneuver in tight, twisty areas — tick. Independent suspension offers greater ground clearance — another tick. Body armour and ARB supplied and rated recovery points, recovery straps, and traction boards allow you to push further with confidence. Tick. The DO35 hitch is the gold-standard. Another tick. The mud terrain tyres on sharp looking alloy wheels — you get the idea. The 480X is well kitted out, and it works. Titan supplied a late model V6 VW Amarok, a popular city ute, with the power to pull the 480X without question. If you’ve driven one of the Amarok V6s you’ll appreciate the smooth power and fantastic gearbox, but I suspect any other late-model ute will do the trick — as will most midsize SUV’s thanks to the 2700kg ATM.

And when you get there?

Blackhawk Titan caravan external storage compartmentsPlenty of storage can be found around the outside of the van

Firstly water, drinking, and using 10 litres per person per day still allows a couple 20 days. Fill the jerrys as spare and you have three weeks of water and with 18kg of gas you’ll be fine for longer even with the fridge flicked over to consume it. Power is fantastic — not just because of the 200A of lithium battery but also because of the 320W of solar which should peak at about 15-20A charge. One of the joys of lithium is how it holds voltage stable at around 12V even when low in charge. I would assume running the 480X draw around four to 10amps with the Sirocco fans, LED lights, and travel fridge running so unless you're running a hotplate, kettle or the microwave off the 2000W pure Sine inverter regularly, I can't see you running out of power in fair weather. Cranking the AC though? Oof. That’ll suck the battery dry in a few hours, meaning you’ll want to be plugging in or you can fire up the gennie that hides nicely in the drawer opposite the slideout kitchen and that comes with the pack of options.  

VALUE FOR MONEY 

I alluded to the 480X representing good value for money, and it is. With most of the Thetford catalog, Dometic’s Ibis-4, the Enerdrive suite found inside, and its excellent build methodology, you’d expect to be looking at a 21-foot van of over $100k. It’s only a 16-footer, though, so what does it cost? $85,000? Nope. $76,000. That is still a lot of money for a small couples van but, given the inclusions, it’s very sharply priced.

Titan manages this by having the body built and internal layout done offshore. It is contentious, seen by some as lost jobs, and some expect lower quality than locally built products. I can’t argue the potential of jobs lost but the quality was there in the 480X we saw. The chassis was very well-made with no sketchy looking welds and the body of the van was impeccably presented. It puts some locally made vans to shame. With the appliances all being known-brands and carrying their OEM warranties, your only concern is whether you’ll see support should you have an issue. Titan looks pretty good here too. 

Looking at the Titan warranty, straight away the most important thing is there — the warranty covers corrugated roads and beach driving. You might be surprised how many so-called offroad vans miss this. Then there is a dedicated 24hr warranty helpline and email address while Titan works with dealers in Western Australia, South East Queensland (the head office), Far North Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia. 

Car towing the Titan caravanHeading off to make new memories

THE WRAP

All in all, I came away very impressed with the 480X Blackhawk. The build is robust and advanced, the styling contemporary and smart. The appliances used are all top quality and the price is sharp. Add in the good warranty and the support offered by Titan and I think this a really good option for any adventurous couple looking for a week at a time off-grid. 


SPECS

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)

Tare 2160kg

ATM 2800 kg

Ball weight 200 kg

EXTERNAL  

Body Foam core composite panels

Chassis 150x50x3.5mm hot-dip galvanised

Coupling DO35A

Brakes 12in Drums

Wheels/tyres 265/70/16 MT’s

Water 200L fresh and 65L grey

Battery 200A Lithium + 2000w Inverter

Solar 540W Enerdrive

Battery Management System Enerdrive

Air-conditioner Ibis-4

Gas 2 x 9kg

Sway control NA

Dust Control DOMETIC DRS

Reversing Camera Safety Dave

INTERNAL 

Cooking Thetford 4-burner and mini grill 

Fridge Thetford 153L

Microwave Camec

Toilet Thetford Cassette

Shower Internal and external

Lighting LED throughout

Hot water Truma Boiler

OPTIONS FITTED 

X-Pack ($6900)

PRICE AS TESTED 

$76,000 

ENQUIRIES 

Titan Caravans

Ph: (07) 3216 4555

W: titancaravans.com.au

Tags

Caravan Review Titan 480X Blackhawk Offroad Couples van

Photographer

Cam Inniss and Matt Williams