After smashing it out of the park in 2021, back came Ultimate for another tilt at the crown of Camper Trailer of the Year. There was no stopping the Ultimate Xscape at this year’s event Sponsored by the Power of REDARC. That’s not to say it didn’t have big rivals, this year’s entries included a similarly positioned and also gasless Track Trailer Tvan, another camper with heritage, a strong reputation and known excellence in its build. We also had a swathe of Hybrids, the most popular style of camper on sale today and some favourites from the likes of Signature and New Age so it was no easy feat for Ultimate to come out on top.
CAMPER AUSTRALIA CREATIVE DIRECTOR - TIM VAN DUYL
What ultimately got the hardworking team the nod as the outright Camper Trailer of the Year as well as the winner of Compact of the Year and Most Innovative Camper was a near-perfect finish, inclusions list second to none and a design that to this day is still unique, practical and importantly light.
Our judges were all impressed with the clever fishbone chassis design and moulded fibreglass body that helped keep weight down without sacrificing strength or storage options. The internal layout has had minor updates since the 2021 win with a larger fridge and folding mattress that allows it to be used as a bedhead both welcome changes.
On the outside, small updates to hinges, catches and latches all make a difference with the main roof hinge now on roller bearings to carry weight better, the outcome is a load rating for the roof even when it is unfolded (100kg - so a pair of kayaks or some bikes).
When the Ultimate last won, the team brought AC into the canvas-camper game and this year it returned but with even more potency thanks to an upgraded, 24V power system that has a mind-blowing 14.3kWh lithium battery capacity. That means, should the system be fully charged, users should see up to seven hours of running time from the AC.
To keep the battery topped up is about the limit of legal solar blankets from REDARC. With three 200W blankets in series, their total input peaks at nearly 100V at a tested 550W. That is close to running the AC without eating into battery reserves but is likely the limit for now as to plug in systems creating more than 100V, you’ll need to be certified - this camper is at the limits in every way especially when you look underneath.
Cruisemaster is the leader in trailing arm suspension and their ATX is without peer. Couple a set with airbags and you get a ride that can be adjusted to suit loads and a camper that can be levelled on almost any ground with the touch of a button. And the finish, that Toyota Nebula Blue is gorgeous if a bit hard to keep clean.
I cannot get past the updated tent as my standout feature. The now single-handed poles insert into new proprietary receivers that slide in with a satisfying pop to indicate they are in place, but that's not what I think is the best attribute. The 360-degree shade coverage is fantastic and having no poles running to the ground frees up all of the space under it. This is the best in the business and a deserving winner.
CAMPER AUSTRALIA EDITOR AT LARGE - GLENN MARSHALL
The compressor for the Vitrifrigo fridge is in the front cone of the Xscape and receives filtered air from a vent in the cone, which is waterproof, but not a dust suppressant. The new Blue Metallic Colour paint makes the camper stand out and is protected by a clear coat that prevents UV fade. The 340gsm polycotton canvas is nicely double-stitched and all the windows contain a midge screen, PVC panel and a canvas panel that can all be zipped or unzipped. Tie-downs for the canvas can now be done with one hand thanks to the tags taken straight from a yacht.
The main central beam is DuraGal 350mpa 100 x 100 x 3mm with the ribs measuring 100 x 50 x 3mm and protected using RhinoCoat. The insulated fibreglass body oozes nautical influences but helps make this a lightweight yet ultra-strong camper. The stainless-steel hinges for the roof have been strengthened so that you can store up to 200kg on the roof when the camper is static, however, it can only cope with 100kg when the roof is open. The rear door is now gas assisted and after releasing two latches, the roof is then opened electronically. All the cabling and hoses are hidden within the body of the camper, very neat.
The Xscape utilises Cruisemaster ATX airbags that also help with levelling the camper with help from the Savvy Level kit. A DO35 hitch sits on the extended drawbar, home for the motorbike mount and RhinoCoat protects the underbody. The brakes on this model had been upgraded from 12in drum brakes to 12in electric hydraulic disk brakes. Excellent ground clearance plus front and rear clearance angles makes this an excellent off-road camper. The GVM has also been upgraded on this model to 1990kg.
The list is long, so I might miss a few. The Truma Saphir air conditioner keeps you cool and runs of the near-15kW lithium batteries, heating and hot water are looked after by the Truma D6 Combo unit, the internal drawers are all soft-close with twist locks, carbon fibre covers the benchtop and an extendable trunk for the air conditioner and heater even reaches the external kid’s room. The bed is king-sized with a triple-layer foam mattress, made up using HD base foam, comfort foam and topped with Coolmax memory foam, very comfortable. Full-grain cow’s leather covers the 70mm Enduro foam lounge and there is plenty of protection from the weather with the upgraded 360-degree awning system.
CTOTY 2023 JUDGE - KATH HEIMAN
The bones of the Ultimate camper have remained constant for nearly 30 years. But the manufacturer, Eagle Outdoors, doesn’t rest on its laurels.
Having swept-in to rescue Ultimate from receivership in 2018, Eagle Outdoors has been relentless in its efforts to improve the camper at all sorts of levels. The energy for continuous improvement is driven from the top with owner, David Rodgers, channelling his inner Tinkerbell to sprinkle fairy dust from one end of the rig to the other. It would be impossible to list all the thoughtful additions that have been lavished on the Ultimate range of campers in recent years, they’re simply too numerous. But the changes we saw at this year’s event are highly characteristic.
They include redesigned receivers for the canopy poles to make them safer and easier to fit; new gas struts for the rear step; a reworked rear door with a better flyscreen and improved soft touch locking mechanism; a more comfortable triple layer king-size mattress; bungee pull tags to help fit the tent to the camper’s frame; a better designed shower annex; and more. These types of functional updates are generated largely in response to customer feedback, providing strong evidence that the team at Ultimate takes particular pride in their ability to close the loop between customer and manufacturer.
But all this excellence does come at a cost. When we reviewed the Ultimate GT360 in 2020, you could buy one for just over $69,000. Three years later and the price tag for the Ultimate Xscape is a whopping $120,000, placing it well beyond the reach of most of us who admire its exquisite finish and production standards. It’s true that the introduction of the Ultimate’s 24V Victron system into the X25 in 2021 revolutionised camper electronics and contributed in part to the price hike. Indeed, this year this impressive system boasts an improved 15kW capacity.
Added to this, the Ultimate Xscape offers a range of incremental improvements, none of which come for free. The reality is that things cost more these days than they once did. Simples. Given the standard of living expected by Australian wage earners, manufacturing here inevitably costs more than overseas. With added labour shortages and rapid increases in production costs, Ultimate is not alone in delivering campers at a price point well in excess of inflation. While there are plenty of other campers on the market that can get a couple into the great outdoors for less money, few if any have the exacting attention to detail and quality that Eagle Outdoors lavishes on the Ultimate camper. If you can afford one, the blow to the purse will surely be softened by the knowledge that you’ve just bought your ‘forever camper’.
Winner - Best Compact 2023, Most Innovative, Camper Trailer of the Year 2023
ULTIMATE XSCAPE SPECS
Weights and Measures
|4.99m, inc drawbar (16ft 4in)
|2m (6ft 6in)
|1.85m lid closed (6ft 1in)
3.8m lid open (12ft 5in)
|DuraGal 450MPA then Extreme Polyurea coated
Floor, wall and roof: Fibreglass Composite (wood free)
|Polyurea Protective Coating – full underbody and partial upper body
|BFG A/T KO2 35s (option)
|Electric over Hydraulic 12in Disc Brakes (option)
|Air Suspension (option)
Accessories and Inclusions
|14.34kW (560A at 12V) Lithium Battery (option)
|600W Solar array folding kit
|Diesel D6 Combo Heater/Hot Water (option)
|Thetford induction cooker (option)
|Vitrifrigo 130L Fridge/Freezer (option)
|195L drinking water, 55L grey water
ULTIMATE XSCAPE PRICE $120,000 (as tested)
Supplied by Ultimate Campers