Review: Swift Explorer 580

By: Claire Smith


All Swift caravans have a full GRP body All Swift caravans have a full GRP body All Swift caravans have a full GRP body
Fold-out step Fold-out step Fold-out step
The showerhead is designed to save water The showerhead is designed to save water The showerhead is designed to save water
The bathroom is spacious and practical The bathroom is spacious and practical The bathroom is spacious and practical
Bathroom sink Bathroom sink Bathroom sink
Interior controls Interior controls Interior controls
A corner unit that includes a mirror and space for the TV A corner unit that includes a mirror and space for the TV A corner unit that includes a mirror and space for the TV
Extra bedroom storage Extra bedroom storage Extra bedroom storage
The bedroom provides plenty  of storage options The bedroom provides plenty of storage options The bedroom provides plenty  of storage options
The handy pop-up bench extension provides extra prep space The handy pop-up bench extension provides extra prep space The handy pop-up bench extension provides extra prep space

Swift has managed to find a happy compromise between British-build quality and Aussie practicality with the new Explorer 580

When I caught up with Nathan Butler of Merit RV at his New Plymouth dealership, just four days after the Covi SuperShow, it was clear the show had proven a busy one. Despite a morning of heavy rain, the yard was bustling with visitors and the phone was running red hot.

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Merit RV is home to the Swift brand, one of the largest manufacturers of caravans worldwide. "The Swift brand is one that Kiwis know and love, and it’s proving as popular as ever," Nathan says.

Of particular interest is the Explorer range of caravans, for which Merit RV is the exclusive New Zealand dealership. Developed especially for the Australian market, the Explorer range offers two models. In this review, we take a look at the Explorer 580.

Built for Kiwis

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Nathan explains that the Explorer 580 has been specially built to include a number of features that make it particularly well suited to New Zealand’s love of freedom camping.

First up, the chassis has been upgraded with a higher specified ‘Aussie’ AL-KO, which offers more payload and 100mm better ground clearance—a definite advantage for negotiating the undulating terrain you’re likely to encounter on the way to that perfect camping spot.

And to help keep you on the right track during your travels, the AL-KO trailer control system means that if your tail starts to wag along the way, the ATC system will kick in and keep you steady.

Your tow vehicle will also be supplied with a 50mm AL-KO tow ball. Nathan will also ensure the correct wiring is taken care of so that your Explorer can be hitched without a hitch.

Recognised for its innovative design and solid construction, the Swift brand was established in 1964 in the UK with the launch of ‘The Ten’ caravan (picture your classic ’60s caravan).

Swift launched its first motorhome in the mid-’80s and has since gone from strength to strength, with export markets in Holland, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Australia, and New Zealand.

Smart technology

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One of Swift’s most innovative breakthroughs is the SMART (Strong, Modern, Aerodynamic, Resilient, Testing) intelligent construction system. Researched and developed over five years, SMART uses a number of revolutionary, innovative materials and technologies never before seen in the caravan industry.

Central to this technology is the full GRP body which utilises wall panels with internal and external GRP skin. GRP is more impact-resistant than aluminium. It can also be repaired easily, which means long-lasting good looks (not to mention peace of mind when the hail hits, or that unexpectedly low-hanging branch).

Freedom camping ready

Back to the freedom camping benefits. The Explorer 580 also comes with 200 watts of solar panels, two 120amp/hr house batteries, and 120-litre fresh and 100-litre grey water tanks.

Inside, a 190-litre Dometic three-way fridge with separate freezer provides plenty of space for all the food you’ll need, and a full gas oven with dual fuel hob (with range hood) plus microwave caters for your culinary needs. And if you’d prefer to crank up the barbecue, just hook it up to the external port and you’ll have the sausages sizzling in no time.

Interior

Swift -Explorer -Caravan -Merit -RV-2-(2)

Inside, all the creature comforts are catered to with two face-to-face settees that comfortably seat two aside, or three if you don’t mind being a little closer.

A cabinet sits between them providing space for free-standing TV (satellite dish included). Both settees offer storage beneath, plus there’s more in the overhead lockers.

If you’re parked up in a scenic spot, the view won’t be lost with three large opening windows up front—one each behind the settees—plus a large opening skylight in the lounge and two further back. I like the idea of lounging lazily inside after a long day and still being able to enjoy views of the ocean/mountains/forest/stars outside.

Swift -Explorer -Caravan -Merit -RV-4-(2)

Speaking of lounging lazily, the bedroom does a good job of providing for it. The east–west island bed is another of the Explorer upgrades—extendable to 1.85m and wider than usual at 1.45m. The mattress and sprung slat base lift easily—thanks to gas strut assistance— to access the space beneath, practically all of which is available for storage.

His and hers wardrobes provide space for hanging, and there’s extra storage with a couple of drawers below, overhead cabinets, and a corner unit that includes a mirror and space for the TV. And if you have extras on-board, the settees provide two single sleep spots for kiddies or can be made up to a comfy double.

Past the bedroom, at the rear of the caravan is the bathroom. A swivel toilet sits to the left, with the handbasin in the centre and the separate shower to the right. There’s enough storage for the essentials with a couple of shallow shelves plus a wall cabinet and another beneath the sink. As far as bathrooms go, it ticks the boxes of functionality, comfort, and space for the average Kiwi family.

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Other features of note in this model include the slightly wider entry door, which means you can step out (onto the foldout step) with your snack tray without having to go sideways.

Verdict

Swift -Explorer -Caravan -Merit -RV-3

Thanks to our unique landscape and off-grid approach to camping, us Kiwis have a very particular set of requirements when it comes to freedom camping.

Fortunately, Swift has managed to find a happy compromise between British-build quality and Aussie practicality; the result is a winning combination for Kiwis.

Swift Explorer 580 specifications

Vehicle make/model Swift Explorer 580
Berths 4
Axles Single
Approx. overall length 7490mm 
Approx. overall height (incl. sat dish) 2830mm
Tanks  120L fresh 100L grey
Gas  1 x 9kg
GVM 2000kg

Swift Explorer 580 price (as reviewed) $67,995

For more details, contact Merit RV on 06 769 5540 or visit meritrv.co.nz.

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