Everything I knew about towing a trailer told me we were screwed. The ledge was too tall to roll over, our speed was too high to swerve, and our angle of approach was a perfect offset to flip the trailer. Even if we miraculously managed to stay upright over the jump, the dip and mud pit on the other side would surely finish the job. I had only a split second to look at Dan, the driver, and mutter an expletive before his 200-Series Land Cruiser struck the edge. The vehicle launched into the air with a shudder, throwing my stomach up into my throat; I found my gaze pinned to the trailer in the rearview. Half a moment later, the Brüder’s front left tire struck, and I held my breath—this was it. I waited for the impending pitch and subsequent roll of the EXP-6, but to my utter disbelief, it never came. The body of the trailer flowed over the ledge, through the ditch, and across the mud pit as if it were on a freshly graded dirt road. I started breathing again and looked at Dan, who moments before I was sure would kill us. He laughed and quipped, “Like I said, you just have to experience it.” I could now see what he meant.
WHO IS BRÜDER?
Brüder means brother in German, so as you might expect, the company was founded by two brothers. Their father was a pilot in Northern Australia; in his spare time, he took the duo on trips to the Kimberley, Top End, and Cape York, beginning when they were as young as six weeks old. These journeys instilled a lifelong passion for exploring and a love of four-wheel drives and camping in the brothers. Every aspect of their lives became influenced by these elements, from wedding proposals in remote corners of Australia to successful careers with some of the country’s top off-road trailer manufacturers. Life was good, but as their families grew, the brothers found that the caravans large enough to accommodate their kids weren’t up to par with their off-pavement expectations. They wanted something capable enough to tackle the Outback’s toughest trails, but still comfortable enough to feel like home. When they couldn’t find it, they decided to build it themselves. Thus, the EXP-6 was born.
What makes the EXP-6 different is the design process. Where larger companies have to play to the averages to appeal to the widest audience possible, Brüder has no such constraints. They weren’t told to use more affordable parts or keep the R&D costs low. Their only goal was to build the ultimate trailer, and in many ways, they’ve done just that.
It starts with a laser-sighted frame capable of supporting 11 times its weight. This chassis is fully galvanized, and Brüder also welds every seam and cross-section for an airtight seal to prevent dust or moisture from causing corrosion over time. The dimensions are carefully selected to produce an ideal towing situation for most four-wheel-drive vehicles. The pivot points and wheelbase not only enable your vehicle to make full-lock turns without contacting the trailer but also reverse up to a 90-degree angle without jackknifing. The width is narrow enough to tuck in neatly behind a vehicle on the trail and can be adjusted to match the exact track width for optimum performance in soft surfaces and tight terrain.
The suspension is where things were really taken to the next level. The four massive suspension arms are constructed from 450-grade, high-tensile, stainless steel rounds, shaped to provide clearance for sliding over rocks. These are then paired with eight high-performance, remote-reservoir shock absorbers, four vented disc brakes, and four heavy-duty air-suspension bags inflated by an ARB twin compressor and storage tank. The combination gives the trailer 12 inches of adjustable wheel travel, with the ability to manage long runs on corrugations as well as larger-impact events during high-speed driving in rough terrain.
The air suspension gives the Brüder three available ride heights for loading, driving, and clearing tall obstacles or water crossings, but it’s the secondary tricks that amazed me. Some are fairly obvious, like auto-leveling the trailer in camp. Then there are the EXP-6’s impressive abilities to match the ride height to your vehicle or tilt to one side in order to compensate for aggressive off-camber situations on the trail. My favorite feature is the ability to retract a single suspension arm to change a tire without using a jack, or even keep it retracted while driving if you blow multiple tires.
With the effort and expense poured into the chassis and suspension, you’d expect that the body may have played second fiddle. Unlike most trailers that rely on an internal metal subframe or components like cabinets and kitchens for strength, the Brüder’s closed-cell composite body is structurally engineered to be sturdy on its own. That means that it’s not only more durable overall, but lacks the metal framing that can lead to cold spots or internal condensation. R-value of the composite is rated at 5.1 for three- to four-season capability, and the exterior is wind-tunnel tested to ensure favorable aerodynamics for stability and fuel economy on the road.
The icing on the cake is a set of dual compression isolation mounts that secure the body to the chassis and reduce the vibrations even further than the airbag suspension. When all the interior components are fitted, the total trailer weight comes in at 4,365 pounds, suitable for standard trucks and SUVs.
Although the open desert and technical mountain tracks of the Western United States would have been a better proving ground for the Brüder, our chance to test it came just after Overland Expo East in Virginia. We decided to throw it at the winding roads and tight trails of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Our tow vehicle was a GMC AT4 equipped with a straight-six 3.0L diesel boasting a towing capacity of 9,100 pounds, a factory 2-inch lift, aggressive tires, 277 horsepower, and 460 pound-feet of torque. Add in the heap of integrated towing features and trail cameras, and it was an ideal pairing for the evaluation.
On the highway, the trailer’s streamlined profile and low roof height translated into favorable fuel economy, with mpg in the low twenties, and minimal sway. As we moved into the tight curves and narrow roads winding through the foothills, I was impressed by how closely the Brüder tracked behind the truck and how little I had to think about it. Even during hard cornering, it felt planted with far less trailer roll than I’ve seen with other off-road bias suspension systems. What blew me away, though, was the maneuverability in “urban” environments with tight quarters. On one particularly sharp hairpin flanked by steel gates (a good representation of a sharp turn on a city street), we were told that we’d need to take a different route because no trailer had made that turn. We decided to give it a shot anyway and found that the EXP-6 not only made the turn but breezed through it behind the vehicle in a single sweep. This maneuverability would be a lifesaver passing through cities but was even more valuable off pavement.
On the tight East Coast trails, the Brüder’s width and capacity to follow the GMC enabled us to squeeze between trees and down two-tracks that a standard 20- foot caravan had no business tackling. On technical terrain, the four swing-arm setup was unbelievably smooth and allowed the trailer to articulate the first and second axle over the obstacles as opposed to just rotating from side to side like the dual swing arm setups most of us are familiar with. The impacts of embedded rocks and deep ruts nearly vanished within the 12 inches of wheel travel, and the remote-reservoir shocks didn’t show any signs of fading on the corrugations and rough roads at up to 40 mph. Even on some of the harshest sections of trail, the EXP-6 was so smooth that we could hardly sense any feedback to the truck.
The reality is that no matter how hard we tried, we never found a route that came close to pushing the Brüder’s limits. In part, my lack of knowledge of East Coast trails may have been a factor. A more significant consideration was that we constantly underestimated where it is possible to tow a 20- foot trailer. My baseline for a trailer of this size told me many things weren’t possible, but time and again, the Brüder proved me wrong. Unless your vehicle is equipped with a $7,000+ suspension, locking differentials, and plenty of clearance, the Brüder is going to follow it. Don’t get me wrong, even this trailer is going to limit your maneuverability on trails due to its size, but when it comes to performance, the Brüder is as good as it gets.
LIVING WITH THE BRÜDER
The EXP-6 interior has a clean, comfortable, modern design with all the comforts of home. It packs a 480-amp-hour lithiumion battery, 3,000-watt inverter, 600 watts of roof-mounted solar panels, air-conditioning, heating, an HDTV, and a sound system. There are drawers and cabinets to organize all of your belongings, a spacious bathroom/shower with a full-length mirror, and even an optional washer and dryer. By the list of features alone, it is the ultimate overland trailer. But it missed the mark for me, almost entirely due to the layout.
For starters, while the Brüder has a rather opulent front berth with two windows, a skylight, and a real queen-size bed, the rest of the sleeping quarters would be considered lacking for anyone but small children. There’s a couch that turns into bunk beds in the back, and an optional bunk up top that makes for a total sleeping capacity of six. But the upper bunks carry weight ratings of 120 pounds, and the lower bunk is too short in length and close to the top bunk to be useable by adults. I “slept” on it during the testing, but not comfortably. If you are a solo couple or traveling with kids, no worries, the sleeping arrangement is designed just for you. If you want to take your buddies out hunting or use it as a basecamp for two couples, it will likely be an issue.
The EXP-6 also suffers from the Australian propensity to design trailers you live around as opposed to inside. Despite having a total length over 20 feet, and a body measuring over 16 feet, the Brüder’s interior is impractical for cooking and working. Take the kitchen, for example. There’s a small upright fridge by the lounge for holding snacks and a few drinks, but the main fridge, food storage, and utensil drawers are on an exterior slide-out that cannot be accessed from inside the trailer. That’s a bit of a problem if you’re traveling the Pacific Northwest where it often rains or passing through Montana in a snowstorm. Say you plan ahead and have the food in the interior fridge with pots, pans, and plates ready to go. The next challenge becomes using the range or sink from the inside, which requires sitting on the bed and reaching through a narrow opening.
So, cooking inside can be a challenge, but what about working and eating? The only interior seating is on a long and narrow couch, accompanied by a single Lagun mount table at the far end. This combination doesn’t cut it for two people at breakfast, or even a single person attempting to work; the couch is so narrow you tend to slip off, and the table so small that a laptop completely covers it.
Even though you do get a nice bathroom and shower with the EXP-6, all of the eating, relaxing, and cooking needs to be done outside, which is difficult to reconcile in a trailer of this size. While the EXP-6 may be ready to tow around the globe, it performs best in fair weather.
Of all the comparably sized trailers I have hauled, none have come close to the capability of the EXP-6. Its phenomenal engineering makes it an absolute joy to tow and will enable owners to explore farther and with less effort than ever before possible in a caravan of this size. Simply put, it is exceptional, but the interior design will have limitations for larger families or in inclement weather. The impracticality of the layout defeats the greatest benefit of towing a large trailer, which is interior living space. And for that reason, this trailer is less practical for my needs of living on the road. The Brüder would benefit from a four-season interior layout that incorporates a dinette and better access to the cooking systems; we look forward to seeing what their engineering team comes up with next.
2019 Brüder EXP-6
Four 450-grade, high-tensile, stainless steel round suspension arms
Eight high-performance remote-reservoir shock absorbers
Four heavy-duty air suspension bags, inflated
BFG KM3 35×12.50R18
Chassis-mounted recovery points and optional Warn winch
CHASSIS AND BODY
Chassis: Certified-engineered, airtight, sealed (no holes), painted black, 125 x 75 millimeters, two recovery points, optional Warn winch
Body: Certified-engineered, epoxy-bonded, closed-cell composite up to 60 millimeters with no pathway in construction for insulation leakage
Body insulation R-value: over 5.1
Weight: 4,365 pounds
ATM: 6,613 pounds
Brakes: Four-wheel, ventilated disc
Body length: 16.4 feet
Total length: 20.6 feet
Ground clearance: 25.6 inches
Max tire size: 35 inches
Low height: 6.95 feet
Max height: 7.97 feet
Body width: 6.29 feet
Wheel track: 5.54 feet
Water capacity: 170-liter internal body tank (more water storage available)