Some say they are just not built for Australian roads. That’s fair enough, but what if we take roads out of the equation? The lifted Explorer 564 is one of Swift’s most exciting new releases, which the Australian arm says is ready for a little bit of off-road caravan adventure.
A look under the floor shows that the chassis has been modified at the intersection of the single AL-KO axle tube. The most obvious change is the addition of large, thick steel plates that lift the whole van nearly four inches higher, and it’s one that was carefully considered, according to Swift Australia Director, Alex Kammerlocher.
“Due to the significant increase in height and robustness, the road handling, overall towing characteristics as well as vibration resistance, it needed to be examined by AL-KO at the test track in Germany before the new chassis would be released to Australia,” he tells us.
“For this reason we needed to supply a test caravan, which was tested at the German headquarters’ testing grounds. This test unit was put through immense military-style testing, even beyond any real life scenarios to make sure this chassis would stand up, no matter the situation.”
This means any argument about ground clearance is null and void, as it’s on par with many Aussie-built occasional off-roaders. And even with the lift it still maintains its composure on the road, both in how the suspension soaks up bumps and the way it tracks behind our Ford Ranger Wildtrack. Fitted standard with ATC (electronic stability control for vans with mechanical override brakes), it is very hard to make it wobble.
That composure mostly continues once we take it onto the sand of Teewah Beach, north of Noosa in Queensland. Although not renowned for its difficulty, the entry and exit from the beach into the campsite is still soft and, at times, steep, so it proves some test for the English van. We opt to unplug the ATC (which, inconveniently, means unplugging the van completely from the car) when entering the beach for the first time as the jostling of the soft sand activates the braking system and hinders our progress. Once on the hard packed sand of the wide beach, there’s very little trouble to be had and we cruise for nearly 20km before finding somewhere to camp. We’re not the only van on the beach and see, among others, a 23-foot, dual axle van being lugged up the beach one morning.
With the beach sites only half booked, we are able to choose wisely and avoid some of the softer, steeper entries so getting into our campsite isn’t too hard. It’s tougher getting back out. The narrow verge means we can’t turn around to exit the way we came in, so levelling ramps are used (mostly successfully) to get us down a steeper exit without digging the long back-end into the sand. The extra height does mean it’s a longer step up into the van, and the stabiliser legs are at the limit of their extension on anything but the most level ground. The hitch is also on-road oriented, so is limited in how far it can articulate or deal with side angles.
While camped, though, the Explorer 564 is reasonably well equipped for a spot of free camping away from mains power. The twin batteries are backed up by 120W of solar on the roof that keeps us in lights for the two nights we spend under the stars. It can carry 70-litres of water, which is limiting, especially if you plan on using the showers found both inside and outside. The rollout awning is a standard feature, as is the powerful LED awning light.
Inside, the Explorer features comfort and style typical of the marque. Light fabrics, timber tones and wallpapers contrast well with the darker curtains and cushions. It’s a space that looks current, without overplaying the ‘modern caravan look’ card. Swift floor plans prioritise space and there’s a lot of it throughout the van, but it’s usually at the expense of features other caravans put first. The kitchen has a Dometic AES fridge, which is only a meagre 120-litres. There’s also no range hood (although there is a smoke detector, as we find out as a result) and no dedicated large pantry area. Bench space is excellent, though, and the fold up section is solid enough to chop vegies on.
Forward of the kitchen, the club-style lounge is long and comfortable, in either sitting or sleeping mode. The coffee table/chest of drawers at the front can be extended and there are also USB, 12V and 240V power inlets built into it. The large windows all feature blockout blinds and fly screens. Underneath the seats is where you’ll find access to the water tank, gas taps and some extra storage space.
Behind the kitchen are the two single beds, which might be the biggest test for burly Aussie blokes. The beds are somewhat narrow and none-too long, although the Duvaley mattress is firm and comfortable. Both bed bases lift on struts to reveal a large amount of storage but we find the struts are so strong the beds lift themselves when we drive along, or even when trying put a sheet on them. Overhead cupboards and reading lights are welcome inclusions.
Between the two beds is a narrow door, which we almost expect to lead into the nether. It instead hides a full width ensuite but it’s only a narrow space. Maybe the bed sizes will filter out anyone who wouldn’t be happy with what’s available. It features an enclosed shower cubicle, cassette toilet and a small basin on top of a narrow vanity. The van’s ducted heating system is also piped in here, which is a plus for cold mornings.
Overall, the Swift Explorer is a well-designed, comfortable and practical caravan with the ability to get away from the rough black-top it ‘isn’t designed for’. This comes with a caveat, though. It’s not really designed for too much tough work. We’d be hesitant to recommend it for regular rough roads or as a dedicated outback tourer, but are very confident in its ability over soft-road caravan adventures. We welcome the increase in ground clearance and its resulting ability to get you a little bit further away from the real world