Motorhomes Caravans & Destinations


Paul Owen travelled to New Plymouth to check out the Swift Explorer 580, a British-made caravan that’s been tailored to meet the needs of our Kiwi landscape.


While the rest of the Swift caravan dealer network in New Zealand sells the Challenger 580, Nathan Butler of Merit RV in New Plymouth also offers a doppelgang­er model: the Explorer 580. Think of the latter as the Challenger made New Zealand-proof, as it’s ready to tackle our increasing­ly weatherrav­aged roads with an Aussie-spec AL-KO chassis featuring beefed up suspension, extra cross members and an extra 100mm of ground clearance.

With the Challenger 580 listing at $77,995 and the Explorer 580 costing $12K more at $89,995, Merit RV gives Swift buyers the opportunit­y to either save some dosh and spend the 12 grand saving on hiring hundreds of power sites at motor camps, or spend extra on a caravan that’s more in tune with free New Zealand touring. It all depends how adventurou­s you want to be, and whether you often prefer to camp independen­tly at remote locations.

When you reach said campsite Nirvana, you can pull more camping accessorie­s from the front, side, and underbed storage lockers of the Explorer than you can from the Challenger. The payload of the Nz-oriented van is 360kg, exactly double that of the British version. That’s despite the weight of the extra equipment fitted to the Explorer: a 240w solar panel instead of 100w, twin 120Ah deep cycle batteries instead of a 130Ah single, a more secure entrance door, larger bed, bigger fridge, exterior shower outlet, and a 19” LED TV completely hooked to a roof-mounted satellite dish.

Besides the major chassis and equipment difference­s, the Explorer 580 and Challenger 580 are body doubles, sharing the same 5.8m-long cabin with front lounge/east-west double bed/rear bathroom layout. You enter the Explorer via a pull-out step that’s perfectly positioned to make the second step up to the raised floor feel natural. Facing you is the well-equipped kitchen, while the lounge is to the left. It features two bench seats fitted with Swift’s Airwave cushioning. The Explorer 580 is proof of what can happen when a huge Europe-oriented caravan maker surrounded by some of the world’s smoothest roads listens to a dealer located in a regional city on the other side of the planet and tailors a new range of caravans according to his wishes. The result is a caravan that successful­ly combines Swift’s body constructi­on and design expertise with an Australian-developed chassis that’s more compatible with NZ’S potholed roads. Find out more at

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