If you read the first installment of this three part series, you already know that the XV-2 is loaded up with plenty of new features and conveniences to make your journey as enjoyable and plush as possible. What you don’t know however, is how it performs on the trail. We recently set out with trailer in tow to push this unit to its limits and find out if it earns its rating of “Severe-Duty”.
Upon hooking this trailer up for the first time, my immediate reaction was, this thing is big. In an industry where maneuverability and technical handling is key, the XV-2 seemed like a virtual giant. Needless to say I had concerns about the tight trail we would be dragging it through later that day. We loaded the tub with a spare, full recovery gear, a few odds and ends, and filled the water tank to add load, setting us at a total weight of just under 1,500 pounds. We then aired the tires down to 20 PSI and left the tent at one notch above the bottom. This is mainly due to the fact that to access the cargo area you need to raise the tent to this position. We found that many people will probably leave it up instead of adjusting it repeatedly. We’d keep the trailer under these conditions for the remainder of the test to simulate the load of a typical weekend setup.
So far the towing experience with the XV-2 has been overwhelmingly positive. For a trailer that provides such large quantities of storage space and features, it’s amazingly light and well mannered. On the road it tracks well and pulls with minimal effort from the vehicle, no doubt due to its light weight aluminum construction. I will say however, that I felt the trailer more when we were pulling up hill around five to six thousand feet above sea level (big surprise…). On average at that elevation, the trailer caused an increase of 500 to 750 RPM over what I would have had without it. The only exception was on especially steep grades, at which I averaged 1,000 RPM higher than normal. Handling was stable and predictable throughout, while the brakes made an easy job of slowing the added mass of the trailer.
Dirt roads were equally effortless and required little worry by the driver. Cornering and tracking were better than expected and the suspension soaked up almost everything we threw at it without a second thought. There was only one note of concern when it came to handling on dirt. With the trailers impressive payload capacity, its suspension is prone to bouncing when under-loaded. We found that at 30mph the trailer was susceptible to breaking out of the track pattern of the truck when impacting any sort of bump or abrupt change in road angle. We had not found this to be the case on previous trips with more weight in the trailer, which leads us to conclude a heavier load can mitigate this issue. We will revisit this after further testing and give a more detailed conclusion in our final installment.
Technical Trail Performance
As I stated earlier, my biggest concern for this trailer was in technical terrain and tight handling situations. The XV-2 is a product of the military tasks it was developed for, transport of heavy loads, withstanding outrageous abuse, being dropped out of aircraft, and of course looking cooler than anyone else’s trailer. What you don’t see on that list is fitting the XV-2’s girth down your local 4×4 trail. In a pinch J8 drivers can take the approach of if it doesn’t fit… make it, but for the rest of us, being able to drive around obstacles and not through them is a little more important.
In light of this, I had my reservations when I began down the narrow boulder strewn trail. Negotiating the tight turns and large obstacles I was soon pleasantly surprised, no… downright impressed, at how well this trailer was handling its surroundings. While I had been focusing on the downfalls of the width, I had clearly overlooked some of its advantages.
The additional size of the XV-2 allowed me to constantly keep a line of sight to the trailers tires. A quick glance in the mirror was all it took to pick a line and watch it follow up and over the boulder without worry of a misplaced tire or cutting too hard into a tree. The width also helped tremendously when it came to off-camber situations. Even with the tent up on the second notch, I never felt that the trailer was in danger of tipping or rolling in any direction. Of course, width isn’t the only thing playing into the trailer’s stability. Schutt made sure to install their 22-gallon water tank between the axle and the bed, lowering the center of gravity significantly.
In terms of low speed suspension performance, I was once again pleased with the XVENTURE. I noted earlier that, in our testing setup, its suspension had been a little too firm at higher speeds. On this section of the evaluation however, it seemed to roll over rocks, logs, creeks, and gullies without so much as the slightest jump. In one rock garden, I watched as the XV-2 bobbed gently along behind us, while another trailer in front performed a repeated bouncing number that would have made a kangaroo gawk in amazement.
Clearance was excellent on every obstacle we could find, and it was quickly obvious that the trailer was more capable than any tow vehicle we had available. Once we had the truck clear of a boulder, we would simply drive on and watch as the trailer effortlessly followed.
We’ve towed the XVENTURE in sand, through deep mud and water, across long stretches of dirt and paved roads, over rock gardens, and onto narrow trails, exposing it to nearly every situation we see as overlanders. So what were our results? The well thought out design and broad capability resulted in a near “set and forget” towing experience. In the entirety of our testing we never bumped, scraped, or lodged the trailer on an obstacle, leading me to rate trail performance as excellent.
Road towing is pleasant and requires little in terms of extra care or thought from the driver, giving the XV-2 a solid rating here as well. Across long stretches of dirt road we found it to be a decent performer, but under the right weight conditions it encroached upon excellence once again. Due to the variance in handling based on weight, we give it a good rating on dirt roads but advise the user to tow with heavier loads for optimum performance.
Overall, I was impressed and surprised by how much I enjoyed using this trailer. Its forgiving handling characteristics allowed me to drive without the added stress and complication often associated with trailers. Instead of leaving me worn out and frustrated, the XVENTURE allowed me to conclude my days feeling relaxed and ready to enjoy the evening.
In the upcoming and final part of this series, we’ll be evaluating the day-to-day use of this trailer and all of its features. We’ll tell you what we love, what we don’t, and what it’s like to live with the XV-2 for long periods of time. Watch for the final installment, and in the mean time check out all the information on the XV-2 at the Schutt Industries website.