The first hybrid pop top was created around a decade ago as a niche model, giving camper trailer owners a more comfortable and convenient way to embrace nature in remote areas once their enthusiasm for canvas had dried out.
Australian Off Road’s new Quantum Hardtop is another way, this time plugging the narrow gap between full-height compact off-road caravans and pop top hybrids.
At this stage we should distinguish between scaled-down and armoured-up caravans and luxed-up off-road trailers. The former were never meant to go too far, too rough and for too long, too often.
Australian Off Road’s Quantum Super Camper belongs to the latter group. Owing its parentage to the AOR soft and hard floor camper trailers that founder Steve Budden built at his Sunshine Coast business from 2000 with intense competition from companies like Kimberley with its Kamper, they had to ‘do tough’ to survive.
Crossing the off-road line
However, with the newly-released Quantum Hardtop, some remote area stalwarts might accuse AOR of crossing the off-road line.
On face value, they have a point. Adding 565mm to the travelling height of the popular Quantum Pop Top surely limits its ability to negotiate heavily-treed tracks and slip into the family garage or carport in between adventures.
Then there’s the missing inclusiveness of its pop top sibling. When you arrive on site, raise the roof and unzip its fly mesh skirt windows, you welcome the outside in; with a hardtop, it remains outside.
The jury is still out as to how much extra fuel you need to haul a fixed roof hybrid, but the angular, tapered front of the Quantum, which is simply extended further upward in the Hardtop, must increase wind-drag, depending on the bulk of your tow vehicle.
It’s also heavier, but not much: a Tare of 1830kg versus 1770kg. About that of the average teenage boy.
Pay more for fixed roof
But there’s no doubt about the extra cost. The new Quantum Hardtop at its introductory price of $106,990, will cost you $7000 more than the Quantum Super Camper with which it shares all its vital dimensions, except height and weight.
That will stretch to $9000 in a few months’ time when AOR ups the price to a RRP of $108,990, but look on the bright side. That’s still $9000 less than you’ll pay for the next full-height model in the AOR off-road line-up, the Matrix Mk IV.
However, some explanation of the pricing is required here.
The Quantum Hardtop is targeted primarily at off-road enthusiasts in southern Australia who love the outdoor lifestyle and a crackling fire, but don’t have the same long, balmy evenings that travellers in northern Australia enjoy.
So, they want instant set-up, more thermal insulation and greater security when they go free-camping. Many ‘northerners’ also enjoy the quick set-up and added security too.
AOR has further addressed this demographic by including some popular options to the Hardtop as standard, further justifying the price gap.
These include twin 100AH lithium batteries instead of heavier and less powerful AGMs, a ceramic induction indoor cooktop to supplement the Quantum’s L-shaped outdoor kitchen with its three-burner gas stove, and a 2000W pure sine wave inverter to power the induction cooktop away from mains power.
Of course, many of those looking at the Quantum Hardtop will shop it against the Matrix, but AOR is confident that its customers clearly understand the difference: the Quantum models are focussed on outdoor living; the Matrix models, both Hardtop and Pop Top, have their primary focus inside.
Having got all that sorted, let’s have a closer look at the Quantum Hardtop.
With the latest updates, the two Quantum models are much the same below the waistline. At the pointy end of the 150mm x 50mm Supagal-treated, then powder-coated A-frame, there’s a DO-35 off-road coupling and a sturdy dual-wheel ARK 750 jockey wheel.
Thick checker-plate spans the A-frame ahead of a truck-mesh stone shield that protects twin jerry cans and the reservoir for the Quantum’s diesel space heater. Importantly, it also allows access to the deep front boot and the optional wood tray that folds down above it.
The through-body tunnel immediately behind allows alternative access to the boot and being rectangular, it will swallow a lot of gear. If you still need more space, there’s another square locker and a slide-out stainless steel drawer with a 50kg load capacity on the other side.
The two lockers on the door side drop down to reveal the Quantum’s large and impressive stainless steel L-shaped kitchen, that comprises a roomy 82-litre cabinet fridge/freezer, a stainless steel sink with a mixer tap, a three-burner gas cooktop and cutlery and pot storage.
A long stainless steel prep bench clips onto the outer wall, extending along the camper’s flanks to the rear entry door and being geared for outdoor cooking, there’s a substantial pantry recessed into the wall above it.
In-house entry door
With all this external kitchen firepower, the only time most owners will be tempted inside will be for that first morning ‘cuppa’, or if it’s hissing down.
The entry door is a new in-house development being rolled out on all AOR models and it deserves a comment.
AOR chose to make its own door following dissatisfaction with those it was buying and then forced to re-work in order to fit.
The outer section of the new door pulls in tightly on its ample rubber seals to ensure it’s water and dust proof. The central rectangular section conceals the built-in fly screen mesh and this section can be anchored to the camper’s wall to allow it be locked securely, yet allow secure ventilation on warm nights – a comfort for nervous free-campers.
Stepping inside you find the Quantum Hardtop more roomy than its compact exterior dimensions suggest. This was helped by the predominantly-white, bling-free décor of the review Quantum, which is how most AOR owners like it, according to Budden.
The only colour contrast was the woven brown cushions on the bench seats that stretch along the walls on either side of the removable centre dining table and the timber-look flooring. However, other colour combinations are available for more adventurous customers.
Buyers can also choose from a north-south orientated queen bed, or the queen with an optional transverse bunk bed above its head. Or you can spec it with twin single beds, as shown here.
USB ports in the central bedside chest of drawers allow easy charging of personal devices, while with the single bed option you get two floor hatches that would be ideal for safe storage of valuables if they had locks.
Macerator toilet for free camping
There doesn’t look like there’s room from outside, but there’s also a combined shower and macerator toilet in the rear right-hand corner. All AOR campers are now fitted with these toilets, along with 140 litres black water storage, meaning that you can spend quality time in National Parks without worrying how to empty a much smaller toilet cassette.
A large three-drawer cabinet with recessed stainless steel sink spans the remainder of rear wall space to the rear door.
Alternatively, you could configure your Quantum with a ceramic induction or three-burner gas cooktop to give you the best possible combination of indoor/outdoor cooking flexibility.
This allows you to blur the line between the Quantum and Matrix, which you can do easily through your choice of options.
Built for rough and tumble
Of course, all this is secondary to the Quantum’s main attribute of being able to get you to and from remote places in comfort.
AOR makes its own independent suspension, with its twin shock absorbers per wheel acting on the rearmost extremity of each trailing arm for greater control. At the same time, the obsessive placement of the Quantum’s intra-chassis water tanks and their carefully-sequenced flow, ensures that there’s little difference in ball weight between full and empty.
What’s more, the 1950mm width ensures that the trailer follows your tow vehicle faithfully along tight tracks, yet it remains stable at highway cruising speeds.
With the new Quantum Hardtop, AOR has closed another gap in its model range and with the careful choice of options, buyers can tailor the new model exactly to their needs.
Specs: 2019 Australian Off Road Quantum Hardtop
Travel length: 6090mm
External body length: 4910mm
Internal length: 4280mm
External body width: 1950mm
Travel height: 2840mm
Ball weight: 185kg
Body: Fibreglass monocoque sandwich panel
Chassis: 150mm x 50mm Supagal powder-coated high tensile steel, full-length drawbar with ARK 750 jockey wheel and DO-35 coupling
Suspension: AOR independent twin trailing arm suspension with two off-road hocks per wheel
Brakes: 12-inch electric drums
Wheels: 17in alloy wheels with 265/70-17AT tyres
Water: 220 litres of fresh water including 60L grey tank (or 280L fresh water)
Battery: 200Ah lithium with Redarc Manager30 and 2000W pure sine wave inverter
Solar: 2 x 150W roof-mounted panels
Air conditioner: Optional
Gas: 2 x 4kg
Cooking: Internal 2000W induction cooktop in rear internal cabinet, plus external L-shaped stainless steel kitchen with three-burner gas cooktop, plus slide-out 82L cabinet fridge/freezer
Shower/toilet: Internal combined with 140L capacity macerator pump toilet, plus external shower
Heating: Webasto air heater, gas heated water
Lighting: LED throughout
Price: $106,900 (introductory price – RRP $108,900)
Supplied by: Australian Off Road, Bells Creek, Qld