Stuart Martin joins the Greek God of Happy Campers
If the description of beardless, youthful and athletic fits your persona, then perhaps, like Apollo, you’ll be a worshipper of the sun, light, knowledge, music, art poetry, oracles, medicine, archery and prophecy.
With all these attributes you could be thinking you might need a massive motorhome to carry all these qualities with you on a camping trip. But if you can pack neatly and don’t take Apollo’s twin sister Artemis (The Goddess of the Hunt) with you, the ideal choice for a weekend away could be to join Apollo and his latest chariot, courtesy of Mercedes-Benz.
Given the number of deadly species that populate this island continent, it is perhaps unsurprising to find rooftop tents atop holiday rental vehicles in this country.
Apollo Campers has put together a package that puts your sleeping quarters out of harm’s way – at least from the predators without beaks, dragons’ tails, wings or eight sticky feet.
The Apollo Camper X-Terrain claims “a sense of adventure for venturing off-road,” although there’s a warning sticker about keeping the speed down on unsealed roads.
The X-Terrain is based on an X250d Power dual-cab utility, with the cargo space secured through the Mercedes-Benz accessory side and rear-opening canopy and all neatly connected to the X-Class central locking.
To buy a Power minus the camping add-ons is a $64,500 proposition for the seven-speed auto, which has 18-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, automatic LED headlights, climate control, power-adjustable front seats with lumbar support, interior ambient lighting and digital radio reception.
The safety list includes seven airbags, lane-departure warning, tyre-pressure monitoring, a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, a rear diff’ lock, plus stability and traction control.
Also on the list is power-adjustable heated mirrors, rain-sensing wipers and trailer-sway assist, an auto-dimming centre mirror, lane-departure warning and pedestrian-detecting auto-braking system. Sadly, the cross-wind assist function that works so well in the van line-up is absent, something that would be handy on this vehicle.
As an exclusive build put together by the local Benz LCV brigade for Apollo, the sleeping quarters consist of two roof rack-mounted fold-out tents, tucked for transit beneath snug-fitting covers.
The rear tray has a slide-out drawer with two small water tanks totalling 26 litres, a sink, a fridge and an electric pump for the water, as well as a two-burner butane stove for cooking if a campfire isn’t going to do the trick.
The secure rear tray has room down the driver’s side for cargo, as well as some space behind and above the drawer set-up.
There’s nothing in the way of water heating, so don’t go thinking there’s a piping hot shower in your future, but the camper does come with cooking and eating utensils, with tables, chairs and a host of other items all available for an additional charge.
Power for the camping equipment comes from an additional 12-volt battery that takes its charge from the running engine. It sits in the rear tray with a digital voltage readout displaying remaining charge, but with two 12V outlets and two USB ports in the cabin there’s no shortage of recharging options while driving.
The beds fold out over the driver’s side to deliver some shelter from the elements, with the adjustable fold-down legs sitting clear of the door-opening arc.
A 270-degree fold-out awning delivers more shelter to the rear and passenger’s side but it is only recommended for sunshade duties – according to the company it doesn’t enjoy wet and windy conditions.
It would be more useful if the awning was a little more robust, perhaps with a facility for extra strength from adjustable poles similar to that fitted to the Mercedes-Benz Marco Polo.
Ladders hook to the bed bases to allow access to the sleeping quarters, which was easy enough for younger occupants but those who grew up with 8-tracks or tape decks for music sources might benefit from a slow and steady approach.
The tents themselves have large windows and fly screens to provide plenty of protected ventilation when required, as well as sealing nicely against the rain. The only problem with that is a need for the driver to be well positioned with strong leverage to fold the tents back down into place. It’s probably a small price to pay for no rain intrusion, proven during some severe weather experiences part of our time in the tents.
Unless you’re parked on perfectly flat terrain, some short planks of wood and a spirit level (or an appropriate phone app) in the rear tray would be handy to level up the vehicle once parked.
All the additional equipment weighs around 500 kg, according to Apollo, leaving the remainder of the 1016 kg payload for passengers and gear.
When underway the X-Class doesn’t feel overburdened by the extra equipment, with the Nissan power plant coping with the extra half-tonne.
It settles the chassis down to cope better with smaller road ripples and bumps, however finding the bump stops on bigger lumps and yumps in the road is still not that difficult to achieve – sedate pace over the big bumps remains the preferred method.
The driver will be conscious of the extra weight on top when cornering, but if it’s retained in the mind while driving then there’s no unsettled feeling when the pace is kept sedate.
The key to this vehicle’s appeal is its ability to get off the beaten track, something an automatic transmission, the dual-range transfer case and a rear diff’ lock makes that much easier. The Benz also gets rear disc brakes over its Nissan donor vehicle, which also makes a difference when fully laden.
Remembering the extra height when passing low tree branches will make sure you still have a safe place to sleep once you reach your far-flung destination too. Ride quality when unladen wasn’t atrocious either, but it likes the camper load from a ride-quality perspective and copes well with more weight on board.
The X250d Power has 140 kW and 450 Nm from the 2.3-litre twin-turbo diesel to shift the weight of vehicle, camper and gear and it does the job in a reasonably quiet manner, wind noise aside.
The vehicle itself weighs 2287 kg before you throw the camper gear on its back; the payload is listed at a more than useful 1016 kg and braked towing is 3500 kg, with a GVM of 3250 kg and GCM of 6130 kg.
The addition of rear discs to the braking system does give the brake pedal a reassuring feel when the payload is being exercised, but the absence of a tow bar suggests that pulling additional gear is not something Apollo wants its vehicle undertaking.
An 80-litre fuel tank will offer decent range, but Apollo ballparks the fuel economy figure at 14 litres per 100 km, which would not be beyond the realms when fully loaded and crawling over rough terrain as you venture off road to get to that perfect campsite.
Our time in the vehicle yielded less than that – between 10 and 11 litres per 100 km with a range beyond 800 km – but not all four bed or seating berths were in use.
The hiring agreements are all signed electronically, meaning all the “paperwork” is in your inbox moments after you’ve signed it, along with images of the vehicle taken when you pick it up.
Instructions and other useful info on campgrounds and attractions is all available via the Apollo app, including videos if you can’t figure out the awning and the tents.
There are routes that require pre-approval within the rental agreement, which is priced from around $180 a day, but there are discounts with longer-term hire, such as 300 km a day then 40c per km after that.
If getting off the beaten track is what you’re after, but there’s concerns about using your own machinery, the Apollo is set-up to deliver decent digs in the bush. Anyone seen Zeus and Leto?