The name might be a bit of a mouthful, but before you go reaching for your German-made Enigma code cracker, the Evo 6 is much easier to decipher.
The H in the new Stealth XHR’s name stands for hybrid, possibly the first time this word is being used among caravan manufacturers in South Africa, and this certainly sets the mind racing.
If you have a thought process such as mine, you may have to cross your fingers and hope to be forgiven for illogical thinking… For we know ‘hybrid’ in the case of motor vehicles relates to a combination of fossil fuel and electricity for engine power, but in a caravan? Does hybrid mean it’s got a battery-powered drive system on the wheels, beds that make themselves, or an ingenious way to connect to the towcar by itself?
What is a hybrid caravan?
Well, it is simple really. It is neither a conventional caravan or a gravel-roader, and not even an off-roader for that matter. Rather it is an in-between conventional and gravel-roader caravan, one that can forgo the billiard table smoothness of compacted tarmacs and swop all this for a road surface that is, perhaps, half decent and un-tarred.
And in order to do this, the XHR 594 featured here has been upgraded and strengthened in vital areas. We must therefore deduce that the next step in the development of Stealth models will surely be that of a pucker gravel-roader.
But, in comparison, the new XHR model stands some 11cm higher than the conventional XR model (which has 14” wheel rims), it now has 15” alloy rims fitted with fat 215/80R15 Goodyear All Terrain tyres. These have stronger Kevlar sidewalls, capable of withstanding lower inflation pressures, and the heat build-up that is generated when riding on underinflated tyres.
Softer tyres equals less vibration into the caravan and, for the suspension, less heating of the rubber inserts in the Al-Ko suspension – let’s not forget the milk turning to butter in the fridge of caravans with increased vibration, and less forgiving suspension.
The XHR 594 also benefits from a 3-inch (72.6mm) body-to-suspension lift, and it comes equipped with an optional axle rated up to 1 800kg, giving a payload of 520kg. This would require a tow vehicle with a Tare weight of 1 800kg or more.
The standard model axle (fitted exfactory) is rated at 1 600kg and offers a lower payload of 320kg. It takes a lighter towing vehicle, one with a Tare of 1 600kg or more. You have a choice.
All of this increased ride height makes the XHR ride high on a conventional tow bracket, but the bonus is better departure angles – remembering that this is not really an off-road caravan.
Extra strong chassis
What sets Stealth caravans apart is the chassis, and on this particular model there is a fully-galvanised, 3mm, high-strength Duplex steel chassis (the XR model uses a thinner 2mm Duplex steel). Even the axle is galvanised.
Extra protection is afforded by strategically placed nudge bars at the rear and under the doorway. I wouldn’t be surprised if the hybrid is actually worthy of encountering a lot more than the occasional gravel pothole or teeth-chattering corrugations one may encounter.
The hybrid also enjoys other features such as a roof-mounted vent for creating a higher interior positive cabin pressure to prevent dust ingress (this has a filter medium to prevent dusty air being forced into the caravan interior). Mud flaps are provided to reduce stone damage to the caravan’s underside and additional sealing-off has been provided to all pipes and cables that enter the body, the main door has a triple lock system to keep it firmly shut.
Ground to roof height – with the roof closed – is 2 225mm, that is to the top of the air snorkel on the pop-top roof.
Garry Coady of Stealth sums up the difference between the XR (conventional road going caravan) and the XHR (hybrid model), “There is a small price difference between these two models, justified by the necessary add-ons found on the XHR. The XR models have limited gravel-road capabilities whereas the XHR is more suited to longer distance gravel – provided the customer reduces tyre pressure to 1.5 bar and limits speed conditions.” And there you have it!
The Stealth strength lies in the body components and body structure. Profibre, the parent company, built its name by manufacturing composite truck bodies (bonnets and bits) and extra heavyduty railway carriage seats. The company specialises in high-strength fiberglass and composite materials, and this heritage has been passed onto Stealth in the factory in Pinetown, KZN. They build tough and they build smart, and they have robotics that do work requiring a high degree of accuracy and consistency.
The Stealth caravan is built with a chassis comprising a very special, high-grade steel. Add aluminium and fiberglass with a highdensity core for insulation and you have a body that is in a class of its own.
Body panels consist of overlapping fiberglass that is bonded together to prevent water leaks, and insulation comprises sandwiched foam and other materials. Should water penetrate the walls, the XPS Styrofoam has a closed cell structure that prevents water absorption and, since there is no wood in the walls, there is no possibility of wood rot.
594 in the name is the body length, this is 5.94m and it is wide, overall we measured 2.47m on the outer extremities – all of which creates a rather spacious interior.
The layout includes a 1.590mm x 1 400mm wide, with the island, double bed up-front offering under-bed storage space and copious amounts of cupboard space, while at the rear is one of the biggest fourseater dinettes I have seen. This measured 2 290mm x 1 100mm, and there’s all that storage space under the seats.
I liked the gas struts at the base of the double bed, which makes it easy to lift – even with your foot, if your hands are full – and the storage space has been compartmentalised to keep things separated and in good order.
The pop-top roof also has gas struts to aid lifting and has retaining ‘H’-bars front and rear to keep the roof sturdy.
While on the subject of the roof, the inner ceiling has an inlayed LED light that runs down the length of the center, this is both stylish as it is functional. Other LED lights include reading lights either side of the double bed and there are exterior lights that offer different strengths of light, harsh for when working over the steel, slide-out galley and soft for when enjoying sundowners while watching the big red African sun set over the Kalahari and you don’t want to attract flying insects.
Limited modifications requested by new owners can be done in production, on this model the standard fridge had been replaced with more packing space per the customer’s request, but one would normally opt for the standard fridge/ freezer combination to be deployed here. Check out our exclusive 3D tour, as well as our highlights video walk-through!
The XHR offers a choice of a rally tent with optional side walls or a full tent. The living is done outside on this model (it does have a microwave inside) where there is a slide-out steel kitchen with a gas, two burner Defy stove and free-standing heat/wind shield, wash basin and cutlery drawer (stainless steel cutlery provided as well as ‘plastic’ crockery and wine glasses for four people). An option is a steel extension table that attaches to the tip of the galley, useful for extra working space. In this standard trim the XHR 594 is powered by 220V caravan park hook-up, but it does offer an optional 12V conversion.
Comment from many is that Stealth is perceived to be a direct competitor to the Sprite brand. Perhaps in shape and the blue big blue Stealth name badging is where similarities end. The Stealth is wider and has Widney Armourplate tinted glass windows.
A hybrid caravan is an interesting concept, one that leaves me thinking – and the longer we spent looking at it the more it intrigued us. Many will love the wide-bodied interior space and know to watch their towing mirrors when passing in between tight obstacles. I would add the optional bathroom annex because I feel this would make the XHR even more versatile. And that big island double bed, now what is better than your own comfortable bed when venturing off the tar?
Optional extras include:
Pocket spring mattress; annex bathroom with up-graded water pump and 220V geyser; gas/electric power conversion; 12V conversion (fridge, battery, C-TEC charger, Anderson plug and charge cables); travel blanket; air conditioner in the pantry cupboard; 220V geyser and an alloy spare wheel upgrade. The tent package offers front and side walls, as well as an extension patio, extension side wall and a multi-room.