Review: MeritRV Swift Explorer 650

By: John Bristow, Photography by: John Bristow


MCD takes a look at what’s new in the latest version of this British-built caravan

The Explorer range of caravans, developed by Swift for the Australian market, is available in three layout options — the 580, 645, and the 650. Nathan Butler, of New Zealand distributor Merit RV, recognised that the features added to suit the Australian market also made the Explorer range ideal for Kiwis.

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So he secured exclusive rights to have the product manufactured for New Zealand. The Explorer 650 is mounted on a twin-axle AL-KO extra-heavy-duty chassis with ATC (Auto Trailer Control) fitted as standard. It has a 2000kg GVW rating.

As well as the larger payload, the factory upgraded chassis provides 100mm additional ground clearance, a plus for Kiwis wanting to venture a little off the asphalt. Swift has mounted a pull-out alloy step to overcome the extra ground clearance.

A larger Dometic door and security fly screen system, which are 100mm wider and taller, makes access into the caravan just that much easier. The comprehensive waterworks package includes a single entry point for the dual-purpose water inlet.

Flip the switch one way to connect to mains water, or the other way to fill the on-board fresh-water tank. Flip it a third time, and you are drawing water off the on-board tanks. '

There is also an external fill point for the toilet flush-water tank. When you add in an LPG point for the barbecue and an external shower, it’s clear this is different from the average British-built caravan. 

Layout

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The lounge is open and airy

Swift caravans have a tried-and-true feel, look and layout, and the Explorer is no exception. Its ‘homely’ feel is generated by layering components over components, creating shelves and spaces that allow the owner to personalise the interior.

The look is both contemporary, with high-gloss lacquer locker doors, and classic in its autumnal colour palette. Upfront, two settees face one another with a cabinet in between. This creates a lounge you can eat in and also entertain in.

The storage space beneath each settee is good, with more storage in the three overhead lockers. Swift does a great job of bringing the outdoors in with large opening windows on either side, another three across the front, plus a fixed panorama sunroof and an opening hatch above. Together, they provide a sense of openness and light.

Kitchen

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Plenty of space for kitchen essentials

A big and efficient fridge/freezer is top of the must-have list for most caravanners. Merit RV recognises this and has had Swift install a 190L ‘tropical’-rated Dometic fridge (with separate fridge and freezer doors) opposite the kitchen bench.

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The 190L fridge is nice and big

This gives space below the counter for a pair of cupboards and two cutlery drawers. Two overhead lockers and a high-low cabinet suitable for tall bottles provide ample storage for kitchen essentials. The stovetop includes four burners — one electric and three LPG — and sits beside a round sink, leaving a workable section of the benchtop free for meal preparation. Flip up the nifty benchtop extension to double this space.

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A Thetford Caprice oven is included

A rangehood is mounted above the burners and there’s a full Thetford Caprice Mark3 oven with separate grill below. A microwave is also included and sits between the overhead lockers above the bench. A wooden door separates the lounge/kitchen area in the front half of the caravan from the bathroom and bedroom in the back. This creates two separate zones, each offering privacy.

Bathroom

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The bathroom sits centrally between the bedroom and kitchen

The bathroom is located in the middle of the caravan, between the kitchen and bedroom, with sliding doors (into the bedroom) either side of a centrally located mini dresser – a half-length mirror over a bench-high cupboard with useful bench space above.

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The shower cubicle is to the right..

And for all the extras, there are generous overhead cupboards, plus a smaller cabinet beneath the handbasin. The toilet is to the left, with the handbasin alongside with a second mirror above, and the shower stall is to the right and includes a Halo slide shower.

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And the sink and toilet are to the left

There is also great ventilation through a large roof hatch, and a window above the toilet. Overall, the layout of the bathroom offers plenty of space to move, get dressed, and store all those bathroom extras essential to the morning routine.

Bedroom

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Watch your favourite show in bed

The wall at the foot of the island bed provides privacy and is the ideal location for the bedroom TV, so it is pre-wired for this purpose. The bed measures 1850 x 1450mm, 120mm wider than standard Swift models. Thanks to gas strut assistance, the mattress and sprung slat base lift easily, allowing access to the space beneath, practically all of which is available for storage.

On either side of the bed is a wardrobe with a cabinet beneath for clothes and other travel essentials. An opening window each side plus a hatch in the roof provide good ventilation and light.

LED lights throughout the Explorer – from general ceiling lighting to kitchen spotlights and bedroom reading lights – create a lovely ambience while also being practical and economical to run. 

Freedom camping

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With its extra ground clearance, freedom camping becomes a great deal easier in the Explorer 650. And its heavy-duty chassis means it can cope with a greater-than-normal payload.

Monitored fresh and grey-water tanks (120L each), a large fridge/freezer, a 200-watt solar system with an MPPT regulator, and two AGM house batteries could provide at least a week’s camping ‘off the grid’.

The Explorer 650 is also fitted with an LED TV, stereo, roof-mounted satellite dish, and signs off the paperwork with NZMCA self-containment certification and the relevant gas and electrical certificates.

To ensure the towing vehicle connects seamlessly to the new caravan, Merit RV will match up the tow-vehicle and caravan 12V wiring to power up the caravan’s AL-KO ATC system, as this will charge the house battery and run the fridge when on the road. The company will even supply your tow vehicle with the correct 50mm AL-KO tow ball. And to give you a chance to bed the new systems in, a two-night stay at a nearby campground is also thrown in.  

Overall

Swift is a well-known brand that provides good value for money. The Explorer 650 will tick the box for Kiwis looking for a trusted, reliable vehicle that will take them from the campground to some those off-the-grid ‘freedom camping’ areas New Zealanders are so fond of.

MeritRV Swift Explorer 650 specifications

Year 2019
Axles Twin
Berths 4 berth with island bed
Total length 7940mm
Overall height 2750mm
Tanks Fresh 120L/grey 120L with monitors
12-volt power 200 watt solar + 2 AGM batteries
GVM 2000kg

Price: $78,995

Find out more at meritrv.co.nz.

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