Article from Caravan Camping Sales
Change doesn’t hurry at Melbourne’s Track, historically better known as Track Trailer from its military contract days in the 1990s, but now abbreviated.
The Tvan, designed in 1999, is still going strong in its 5th iteration; its big brother, the pop-top Topaz that spawned Australia’s current and on-going love affair with hybrids, lasted 10 years and only one major body upgrade. And now we have its replacement, the Track T4, but there’s still no rush. After all, it has been three years in the making.
Worth the wait
Although the collection of three separate models that form the T4 range broke cover at this year’s Victorian Caravan, Camping and Touring Supershow, production is yet to roll and deliveries won’t start until September when dealers are fully stocked.
Moreover, buyers will pay for the privilege of being the first, with all 2019 model T4s coming packed with what Track calls its ‘First Edition Pack’, consisting of a suite of high-worth options and new tech that adds between $13,280-$15,000 to the base price. Then, from early 2020, you’ll be able to purchase at the lower base prices and add your options of choice.
It’s an interesting marketing move that Track is making with the confidence of a manufacturer that knows its customers well and what they want. It’s also a clever ploy to stall the market for its key hybrid rivals in the months ahead, by which time Track expects to have full order books. They believe many hybrid buyers will be prepared to wait for the T4 because of its unique design features that announce its owners as individuals rather than followers.
With its tech and comfort features, the T4 will also appeal to potential purchasers of some smaller luxury off-road caravans, paving the way for Track’s promised tandem axle luxury caravan that is still on the drawing board, albeit at an advanced stage.
However, while the parentage of the T4 is unquestionably Topaz, the two hybrids are literally generations apart.
The Topaz was designed to be a grown-up camper trailer at heart, with some home comforts the Tvan concept just couldn’t accommodate. While it attracted a following, it was spartan, with a matte aluminium composite body, distinctive trapezoidal windows and a polarizing powder-coated, industrial-looking, predominantly metal interior finish.
While it remained largely true to its initial brief until production ceased early this year, its growing posse of rivals piled on more comfort features – inside bathrooms, electric-lift pop-top lifts, high-tech management systems, and so on.
Track’s response with its minor Topaz updates made few concessions to them, even in its final iteration – the limited production ‘Scout’.
The T4, on the other hand, has leapfrogged most of its rivals into the future, but you will pay for it.
While the Topaz started with the $88,300 Eyre and finished with the optioned-up $99,400 Silverton, the base price for T4 models (from January, 2020) starts at $105,220 for the entry level Symphony. It then rises to $108,500 for the more luxurious Rhapsody, with the Concerto Family Bunk model topping the collection at $109,480.
It’s a price hike equivalent to around 10-12 per cent if you compare the old and new, feature for feature – a lot more if you factor in the First Edition Pack – but one that Track is confident that its loyal followers will accept, with plans to treble T4 production compared with the Topaz.
Choose your layout
Each model has its own non-negotiable signature features: with the Symphony, it’s the exterior rear ‘pod’ shower; with the Rhapsody, it’s the inside combined shower and toilet bathroom and the ‘fly-free’ room that drops from its rear pod; with the Concerto, it’s the double-stacked bunk beds that spread across the rear wall to house the kids, plus the premium slide-out kitchen from the Tvan.
But if you want one this year, you must also purchase the ‘First Edition Pack’.
On the Symphony, this adds an additional $13,280 to its RRP, with key items including a larger 130L main water tank (taking its combined fresh water capacity to 205L), RedVision management of key electrical items such as Track’s unique one-button central locking of all internal drawers and cabinets, electro-mechanical lifters for the pop-top, and power operation of the roll-out Thule awning and pop-up kitchen pantry, a 700W inverter (base spec 300W), ‘zero gravity blinds’ that stop where you want them to, and Track’s cleverly engineered ‘hideaway’ dining table that slides out from under the standard east-west queen bed with its foam mattress.
Seen for the first time, the T4 looks significantly larger than the Topaz, but this is largely an illusion created by its laminated automotive standard safety glass windows that extend along each side and add a structural function to the gloss-finish white aluminium-clad composite sidewalls.
In fact it’s just 200mm longer than the outgoing Topaz Scout, 42mm wider at 1990mm and 100mm taller with the pop-top down at 2550mm. Base Symphony weight is 150kg more – 1820kg versus 1670kg – but fitted with the First edition Pack and some additional options, our review T4 tipped the scales at 1940kg.
Unique body design
The distinctive feature of the T4s new walls are their longitudinal ‘creases’ which give them a distinctive profile and add to their impact and torsional strength. At the same time, a new moulded fibreglass clam-shell nosecone replaces the nest of aluminium storage boxes fitted to the Topaz Series II, while the two-piece fibreglass insulated pop-top roof and the rear shower pod are now also fashioned from fibreglass, rather than metal.
Like the Topaz (and Tvan) the laser-cut external aluminium skeletal frame that links the walls and perimeter of the roof structure is colour coded to distinguish different T4 models, and has been extended further on the T4 as a styling element.
While its rivals all principally employ a core box-like shape for their hybrids that allows them to fit off-the-shelf hopper-style windows for cost and ease of manufacture, you’ll never mistake a T4 for anything else. That’s the way Track buyers like it and they’re prepared to pay the premium required to cover the extra cost of design and manufacture to achieve this.
Underneath, the hot dipped galvanised chassis is similar to that of the Topaz, splaying at the front to accommodate the wind-up spare wheel that sits as low as possible to achieve a low stabilising centre of gravity.
However, the chassis rails vary in depth and thickness as you move rearward to accommodate Track’s proven MC2 asymmetrical-link suspension, which has been uprated to 2.5 tonnes on the T4 (compared with 2.2 tonnes on the Topaz).
The chassis also extends further rearwards to support the deeper kitchen, rear bathroom, or twin bunks, depending on the model, incorporating two ‘sleeves’ at its extremity that allow various accessory modules to carry items such as a second spare wheel, or a bike or wood rack weighing up to 100kg.
Loads of exterior storage
As with the Topaz, there’s loads of exterior storage space in the T4. The nosecone is large enough to hold a folding table and chairs, firewood, or even a folding bike, while the locker below it on the A-frame can swallow a 2kVa generator and up to four jerry cans.
A locker on the right hand side now hides twin 4kg gas bottles, while its opposite number is largely vacant for small item storage.
Behind these front compartments on the left side are two large under-bed lockers, that housed Track’s premium slide-out stainless steel cooktop and sink that are standard on the T4 Concerto and optional on Symphony and Rhapsody.
If you don’t have the kitchen, the locker is high enough to house a base model Weber Baby Q, while the adjacent front locker contains an optional 40-litre drinks fridge that works well, but is not deep enough to fit a cabinet-type portable fridge.
On the other side, the lockers that take up most of the waistline to the wheel arch are available for storage.
All these lockers with the exception of the front clam shell can be rendered water-tight for river wading by separate compression locks activated by a large T-shaped key.
At the rear, separate small lockers with compression locks allow direct access to valves that direct the flow of gas and water, with the latter housing the hot/cold shower that can be accessed through a flap in the wall of the drop-down shower tent.
However, it’s inside where you can see the future from the T4. Utilising the connectivity of the optional Redarc RedVision vehicle management system, that can be controlled through the wall-mounted head unit, or a Smartphone app, you can raise the pop-top roof via its four electro-mechanical motors, or deploy the roll-out awning if you’ve chosen the electric version.
Inside the review Symphony there was a sense of much greater space than the last Topaz we reviewed. The low-set transverse bed, six seater split lounge, the vast windows, massive headroom and its expansive kitchen, all play their part in this.
While the bright red acrylic, upper cupboard soft-close doors added an unexpected splash of colour, don’t worry; white and a range of other more subdued shades will be available.
Look beyond these and you’ll see some true innovations that you can expect to see on rivals before too long. The standout of them to my view, is the single-button locking of all the T4’s interior cupboards and drawers that comes as part of the RedVision system.
The locking occurs sequentially in each cabinet module to minimise power loading, allowing you to travel with confidence that the contents of your drawers won’t disgorge during a day of rough road travel. Unfortunately the system has not yet been extended to the T4’s external lockers, but it’s under development.
Another great innovation is the T4’s optional slide-away dining table that’s a great piece of design engineering in itself. When not in use, it slides away under the bed, but when withdrawn, it rises to full height with the aid of a central ring-pull and then holds its height and lateral position as a central dining table.
Then there’s the T4’s pop-up pantry that when down, forms part of the kitchen bench in the left hand rear corner. But, press a button and it rises to disgorge whatever you’d like to store in it, be it a toaster, coffee pod machine or other kitchen items.
Another feature that many will appreciate are the optional ‘zero gravity’ blinds that can be pulled down by their corners and will remain in whatever position you leave them.
Symphony sans bathroom
Sadly, there’s no interior bathroom in the entry level Symphony, which instead has a shower tent that drops down from the rear pod, like the Topaz. However, in the ‘wee’ hours, there’s a portable cassette toilet in the lowest drawer close to the entry door, meaning that it can be used inside if required.
However, it’s nowhere near as user-friendly as the inside/outside loo that RinoMax has perfected in its Scorpion and Renegade hybrids.
Beneath all the new tech, all of which fortunately have manual over-rides in the case of an electrical melt-down in a remote area, the T4 is still a very ‘bushable’ hybrid caravan at heart and thanks to its large 4WD width, moderate weigh and 230mm long-travel MC2 suspension, it will go more places more often that most of its rivals.
Room for improvement
Of course it’s not perfect. Given its compact caravan potential, I would have expected a compact, state of the art modular air conditioning system to be standard – hey, you get air-con on $55,000 caravans these days – and a proper workable internal toilet would be expected.
But, as Track insists, you shouldn’t over-complicate the T4. Just because all the tech is available, you can still go ‘old school’ and stay with manual operation of most items, saving weight in the process. Or, you can option up and treat it like a luxury small caravan. Your choice.
In many ways the new Track T4 range represents the future of hybrid pop-tops.
Stylish and distinctive, designed with considerable thought and beautifully built, the T4 also poses two questions: Will the Track faithful accept its elevated price? And will its new high tech features be too daunting to a clientele accustomed to Track’s KIS (Keep it Simple) mantra.
We shall see.
2019 Track T4 Symphony
Travel length: 6575mm
External body length: 5575mm
Interior body length: 4590mm
External body width: 1990mm
Travel height: 2550mm
Interior height: 2070mm
Tare: 1940kg (as reviewed, with options)
Ball weight: 150kg
Body: Aluminium bonded and riveted sandwich panel walls with fibreglass two-part pop-up roof, nose cone and rear shower pod
Chassis: One-piece hot Dipped galvanized steel
Suspension: Track-designed MC-2 asymmetrical link independent with coil springs and twin shock absorbers
Brakes: 12-inch Cruisemaster off-road electric drums
Wheels: 16in alloy with 265/70 tyres
Fresh water: 75L & 130L
Battery: 2 x 105Ah AGM with 700W Redarc inverter and DC-DC charger and solar regulator
Solar: 2 x 120W roof-mounted glass panels
Air conditioner: Modular air conditioning optional
Hot water: 13L gas/electric, plus Truma VarioHeat gas heater
Gas: 2 x 4.0kg
Cooking: Internal 4 burner Thetford gas cooktop with grill, plus slide-out external kitchen with 3 gas burners and stainless steel sink with mixer tap
Fridge: 130L Isotherm compressor
Shower/toilet: External hot/cold shower accessed from drop-down pod tent, plus cassette inside/outside toilet
Lighting: Hidden dimmable LED throughout
Price: $118,500 with mandatory First Edition Pack (base price $105,220)
Supplied by: Outback HQ, Bayswater North, Victoria
More info: Track Trailer