Apart from experiencing the latest and most exciting models, one of my favourite sidebars of reviewing caravans is seeing parts of the country that are different for me. So when the team at Titan Caravans threw me the keys to its 3.2L Ranger hooked up to a new Blackhawk 540, I realised I hadn’t thought through where I should go for a drive and some photos. It would be good to find somewhere different to the forests of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland where we usually go. How about down to the water at Pumicestone Passage, they suggested. Sounds good. So, I plugged in the Hema and off I went.
Driving an unfamiliar vehicle with an unknown van in a strange place can be intimidating, but I soon felt at home with the Ranger/Titan combo. The Ford had heaps of power to effortlessly move the 2260kg van. I tried a variety of driving conditions, and the van felt well-balanced as we made our way first along the motorway at speed and then along backroads and some dirt tracks between the ever-popular pine forests that Queenslanders seem to love.
When I arrived at Toorbul, I couldn’t help but be amused by the moored boats festooned with pirate flags, and Parrot Island was just offshore. So, this is the place for me. I reckoned I could happily take to the land pirate lifestyle in the Blackhawk, driving the highways instead of the high seas and swashbuckling my way from town to town to plunder op shops for hidden gold. Well, rare CDs, but you get the idea.
The Blackhawk 540 fits right in with this fanciful freewheeling lifestyle because it’s small enough to take cover in secret hidden boltholes down dusty winding tracks, and yet it has the room and features that don’t feel like you’re locked in a little cabin.
In Titan’s ever-expanding range of offroad caravans, the Blackhawk 540 is one of the most popular for couples who want to keep things simple yet have enough space to be comfortable when camped. As Titan general manager James Creswick explained, he had been fielding enquires from young couples who wanted to get out of their camper and into something with more room and which didn’t involve long setup times.
So, the Titan team drew up plans for the Blackhawk 540, a single-axle offroader that fits in the range between the Hybrid 480 series and the twin-axle 595 range. Our review van is the latest rear door version. The 540 at 5.4m or 17ft 6in long is a size many experienced offroaders will applaud because of the easy manoeuvrability and slim size and weight of the single axle configuration. Maybe the only downside is that a single-axle van can feel slightly unsettled on the road in some situations – in high winds, for example. I’ve owned single and double axle setups, and there might be a slight difference, but not enough to cause concern.
In the nine years Titan has operated from its Burpengary headquarters, it has come a long way. It’s not too far-fetched to say it has pioneered the caravan manufacture/import model in Australia with its innovative approach. Titan’s overseas factory is dedicated to producing its caravan chassis and body, which use current leading-edge processes. The chassis is robot welded and X-rayed for any faults. This gives a consistent outcome for a van designed for the rigours of our outback roads.
The body is a composite structure. The 32mm walls have heat-bonded fibreglass skins and a foam centre with aluminium supports. The roof and floor are also composite, and the three elements of the roof, floor and walls are permanently joined together in a robust and durable entity.
The furniture goes into the van before the body is shipped in a container to Australia and unpacked at the Titan factory. There, a team of 40 completes the build, installing gas and electrical components according to local regulations, and, as we shall see, the battery setup is as good as it gets. Owners can choose Titan independent suspension or a locally fitted AL-KO Enduro.
There’s a continuity of style across the Titan range, and to my eye it looks tough and competent. The 540, at around 5.4m (17ft 7in) long, is compact and well-proportioned. Its relatively shorter-than-average body length emphasises the high ride height to give it a ‘go anywhere’ impression well loved by the offroad market. The predominantly white body has a lofty panel of black composite and checkerplate cladding over the rear end. I noticed how the upgraded chrome Titan badges look classy, and the wings over the Blackhawk logo are stylistically repeated along the sides to a pleasing effect.
The drawbar features the well-loved and robust Cruisemaster DO35 hitch that’s part of the local installation. The Titan treatment at the front end is neat and practical, with a full-width toolbox housing the gas bottles and a driver-side slide-out for a generator. I like this as it gets the gas bottles and the regulator into a dedicated compartment and out of the way of thieves and flying stones. It looks much neater as well.
A through boot at the front has a Dometic kitchen with three gas burners and a stainless-steel sink. I’m told future models will feature a custom kitchen from local BushTucker Kitchens in Gympie. An overhead light shines on the kitchen, and there are two more outside lights further back. You access storage space at the driver’s side of the boot, which is sealed with a sturdy checkerplate base and fibreglass lining to the roof and walls.
Over the wheel arch along the passenger side is a picnic table with adjacent weatherproof points for power and television and a pair of outdoor speakers. Satin black alloy wheels are shod with aggressive looking 265 x 75 x 16 Kenda mud/snow tyres that were quiet and delivered a subtle ride on our drive. A single spare sits on a two-arm bar at the back, and the slim high and low LED rear lights look cool and will display a high-power glow at night. Also at the back is a reversing camera and high-mounted work light.
The installation of water tanks and the electrical supply under the van is neat and secure, but I would have liked some protection from flying debris at the water outlet.
You need a double step to scale the heights to the Blackhawk’s cabin, and the new Ranger steps have yellow strips in the treads to make them more visible at night. With the rear door model, you have the ensuite at the rear and the bed up front in the most popular couple’s layout, giving direct access to the bathroom and privacy at the bed. A compact kitchen is on the driver’s side and a cafe lounge is on the passenger side. I think the design gives a better feeling of space and good workflow from the kitchen to the fridge but means there’s no direct access to the outside living space from the kitchen.
It’s interesting to see the timber look coming back into vogue. Here the interior colour scheme plays light-toned timber laminates of the cupboards against a dark granite-style bench and table and the black of the upholstery.
Extra-large, double-glazed windows are welcome for the views and airflow, and there’s also a central roof-mounted hatch and a Dometic Dust Suppression System to keep the interior fresh. Also, up top is a Truma Aventa air-conditioner that, as we shall see, will run from the inverter.
The lounge is roomy and comfortable with a beautifully upholstered black leather-look material and a threefold table with two built-in cup holders. Pop-out seats lend some relaxing downtime. A small cupboard and space under the seats add storage options, and there are the usual USB points for charging phones as well as wireless chargers at the bedside tables.
Storage under the bed is limited as the batteries, electronics and Truma Combi heater live there, but you have the bedside tables and overhead cupboards for clothing. Back in the full width ensuite, there’s handy cupboard space and a full-size shower.
Titan has simple choices for off-grid living with three options of lithium power if you want more than the standard AGM battery setup. Your choices range through different solar panels, batteries and inverters. Our review van has stage two with three 180W solar panels, twin 200Ah lithium batteries and a 3000W inverter. The chargers, controller and inverter are all from Victron Energy, a company with a high worldwide reputation in the marine industry. Titan produces proprietary wiring looms to streamline installation, and the system has a real air of quality. It’s refreshing to see a van with fuses named and connections so neatly installed.
This amount of power means you can spend extended stays in the bush and still run essentials like an air conditioner, air fryer and the coffee machine.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Blackhawk 540 will appeal to couples for its rugged ‘go anywhere’ build and compact size. Especially with the upgraded stage two Victron system, it’s an excellent off-grid option. Like everything post-COVID, prices have risen monthly, so the $92,990 cost isn’t unexpected. However, given the costly and high-quality Victron power package, the 540 is a good value package.
HITS AND MISSES
- Compact size for ease of towing off the bitumen
- Quality Victron electronics
- Composite monocoque constructions
- Dinette doesn’t convert to a kid’s bed
- No washing machine
TITAN BLACKHAWK 540 RATINGS
VALUE FOR MONEY
Titan maintains its good value for money especially considering the quality locally installed features
Compact and relatively light weight so it will suit many mid-range 4WD’s
SUITABILITY FOR INTENDED TOURING
Ideal family van if you’re looking for a smaller van to get you off-grid
Composite body and quality locally fitted appliances and electronics
There are compromises with a smaller van but the layout makes the most of the space
Good supply of 12V power and water
The Warranty and 24/7 backup is class leading
Smart composite technology and snazzy compact layout
Looks the part
TITAN BLACKHAWK 540 SPECS
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
|Body length||5.4m (17ft 7in)|
|Overall length||7.85m (25ft 8in)|
|Width||2.3m (7ft 5in)|
|Height||3.1m (10ft 2in)|
|Ball weight (at tare)||200kg|
|Ball to tare ratio||8.8%|
|Chassis||150 x 50mm|
|Suspension||AL-KO Enduro with twin shock absorbers|
|Water||3 x 95L, 1 x 95 greywater|
|Battery||2 x 200Ah lithium|
|Solar||3 x 180W|
|Gas||2 x 9kg|
|Hot water||Truma Combi|
Titan Blackhawk 540 price from $92,990
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