CAMPER TRAILER OF THE YEAR 2023 - TRACK TVAN LIGHTNING
Camper Australia reviews the TRACK TVAN LIGHTNING at Camper Trailer of the Year 2023
CTOTY 2023 JUDGE - KATH HEIMAN
I have to say that I get quite nostalgic around the Tvan. I enjoyed thousands of kilometres of outback travel in a bulletproof (MK2) Murranji Tvan when our daughter was a toddler, and it fitted our family’s travel style like a glove. Pitched predominantly to couples who travel long distances across some of this country’s most rugged terrain, the Tvan has been attracting a loyal following of adventurous Australians for near-on a quarter of a century. And it’s no wonder.
The Tvan remains one of the most capable campers of its size with a remarkably well-constructed, user-friendly compact design that boasts mil-spec suspension built to handle the harshest road conditions. It’s referred to as ‘military-spec’ suspension because the MC2 Asymmetric Link chassis and suspension system was first developed in the 1990s for military application before being refined for all of Track Trailer’s range of campers. And nearly 25 years after its release, the distinctive design and rugged credentials of the Tvan still secures Track Trailer’s firm hold within a growing market of high-quality, Australian-made offerings servicing a similar customer base.
With such confidence in the bones of the rig, the team at Track Trailer can focus on evolutionary - rather than revolutionary - improvements to an already tried and tested product.
With a payload of 578kg and a tare of just 1222kg, Tvan has always delivered enough capacity to support extended off-grid adventures. To help keep you on the road, the Tvan provides 178L water capacity, room for a 60L fridge, diesel hot water system, well-configured storage bays, a highly functional kitchen, a full queen bed, and plenty of cover under Wax Converters Dynaproofed canvas (which now includes an option for kids with the zip-on family room). While this is a camper that assumes its owners are happy spending time living outdoors and will exercise water discipline when travelling in remote regions, this year’s offering certainly doesn’t expect you to scrimp on electricity.
The Tvan Lightning is spec’d up with an eye-watering array of REDARC componentry including a 2000W pure sine wave inverter, BCDC 50A DC battery charger, RedVision and Manager 30, Rogue TVMS 40A control and distribution. These are partnered with 2 x 250Ah Revolution lithium batteries, a roof-mounted 200W solar unit, supplemented by a portable 160W monocrystalline solar blanket. And if that’s not enough power to keep you self-sufficient on the backtracks, then you should probably stay at home.
CAMPER AUSTRALIA EDITOR AT LARGE - GLENN MARSHALL
While there is a little bit of work to set up for a long stay, with the quick cover awning, external shower tent and family room if required - for a quick overnighter it doesn’t get any easier than this. It is merely a matter of opening the skyward lift-up feature on the rear door and you can then be set up within minutes by simply attaching the canvas or fly screen wall. You can also use this feature when you’re in a supermarket car park or packing the inside of the camper.
When setting up the camper fully, magnets help locate the canvas tie-downs, which is a nice touch. Another great thing about the Tvan Lightning is the fact that you can pack up the camper but leave the awning and kitchen set up.
The Tvan Lightning is gasless, which means there is no need to hook up LPG bottles for the stove, the 500Ah of lithium power means you only need to slide out the kitchen and you can start cooking on the Safiery induction cooktop. The fridge slides out next to the stove and the pantry slides out above the fridge, so both are easy to access when preparing the mushroom risotto.
There is so much more I could say about how easy this camper is to tow, set up and live in but I’m restricted by the word count.
The price of $110,000 may turn some away, but this is an Australian-manufactured camper that uses the full REDARC system, is high quality, innovative and RVSA and RVMAP accredited. While Tvan has been trying to keep a lid on the pricing, manufacturing costs have escalated since the pandemic due to labour shortages and supply chain delays.
However, at this price, you also get everything you need to enjoy remote destinations off-grid and self-reliant and you get more than any caravan in the same price range. This camper will have no trouble being towed anywhere in this great country of ours.
With two camping modes, heading off-road and off-grid the Tvan Lightning offers excellent diversity. Throw in top-of-the-range electronics such as the REDARC RedVision system with the new REDARC TVMS Rogue, bucket loads of 12V lithium power, comfort and a highly specified build, this camper is a great example of Australian ingenuity
CAMPER AUSTRALIA CREATIVE DIRECTOR - TIM VAN DUYL
Starting with locally sourced steel, the chassis is 100 x 50 x 3mm which is hot-dip galvanized. This is a lot of chassis for a camper with an 1800kg ATM. I rate it. The fact the steel is sourced from Bluescope also gives me confidence as local steel has a considerable quality process to get through before it is sold. The welding looked fantastic. Clearly Mig-welded and from the tightness of the ‘dimes’ it looked like a craftsman made it, not someone with a deadline for lunch.
The body of the Tvan is laser-cut, folded aluminium that is powder-coated with varied finishes. The bulk of the body is painted with leading edges covered in tar-like stone protection. A detail I appreciate is the lipped edges on the panels. These give the alloy rigidity and strength, adding to the already tough body’s impact resistance. Another detail appreciated is the use of nutserts for panels that may require access, like the battery box. There are no self-tapers in the Tvan.
Small details impressed me too. Pole storage is neat and well thought out. The use of a Webasto diesel heater for hot water and space heating is terrific. These units use bugger-all diesel to get water hot, fast and keep the inside of the camper warm on chilly nights (down around a cup of diesel an hour at full noise).
It is no surprise the Tvan won Best Build Quality this year, it was outstanding.
The Tvan has some of the best clearance I have seen in a camper and with custom-manufactured springs and shocks supporting the asymmetric MC2 trailing arms, it will go anywhere you can. Although the rear recovery points of the Tvan are not rated, they are integrated into the chassis and appear very well supported by cross bars. I wouldn't hesitate to recover the Tvan rearwards, if stuck.
The inclusion of REDARC’s new Rouge TVMS is a nice touch. For those unfamiliar with the Rouge, it is a PCM or power control module capable of distributing up to 40A of power across up to 10 channels. Each channel is fusible and linked with digital switching. This means no physical fuse. Should there be an issue in the channel, the Rouge will cut power, retry and if not able to hold its programmed current limit, alert the user. It’s light, super narrow at 25mm thick and although not as capable as the Prime (80A total), Rouge is perfectly suited to a camper like this. With 10 channels, Rouge will control almost everything in the Tvan from the fridge, lights and diesel heater. The suite of control systems is rounded out with a Manager30 that takes power from the two solar panels (360w total) and AC and DC feeding power into the 500A of Revolution batteries.
I am a big fan of the layout and build methodology of the Tvan. The body cocoons the bed with an aerodynamic solid fibreglass roof (with twin skylights and solar) mated to custom-built proprietary wall panels which are shaped to match the roof and feature a bonded window, insulation and top edge folded internally, eliminating a trim and point weakness for water or dust ingress. The cocoon offers further insulation from noise, sun, cold nights and wind. When the tent is deployed (doubling your living space) it’s attached to a fold-out hard floor, so you’ll be up off the ground, dry and secure. Most importantly, when it’s time to move on, your bed will remain made up and dry, even after a wet pack-up.
My only gripe with the Tvan is one that is personal to my tall frame, headroom around the bedhead. There is ample space around the foot of the bed and with the rear open and set up, there is space to sit and work a day or two in shelter but once laying down, the proximity of the roof to where your head will lay is a bit close. Light and ventilation are great at the bedhead however, there are good screens on all of the openings and they are well-positioned to get a cross-breeze and let in the view.
Winner - Best Build Quality
Track Tvan Lightning SPECS
Weights and Measures
|Chassis||100 x 50 x 3mm Hot Dip Galv.|
|Suspension||MC2 Asymmetric Trailing Arm|
Accessories and Inclusions
|Battery||500A Revolution Lithium|
|Hot Water||Webasto Diesel|
|Water||178L total plus lift pump|
TRACK TVAN LIGHTNING PRICE $110,000 (as tested)
Supplied by Track Trailer