Out in the Wild

Want to truly get away from it all? Then this new, gas-free, WildAx conversion could be for you, says Nick Harding

Promising exceptional off-grid capability, specialist van converter WildAx presents the Altair RS, a two-berth van conversion based on MAN’s TGE 3.140. The RS is the second Altair, joining rear-lounge RL at the top of a range that also includes Ford-based campers and Fiat Ducato-based van conversions. Altair on-the-road prices start from £92,995, with this example boasting the automatic transmission option – at a very reasonable £2,000 premium. The only other extra here is a full-length awning with lighting, at £1,600. 

Build quality – 75%

You could argue that the MAN van – along with its Volkswagen Crafter direct equivalent – is the best base vehicle of its day, but it won’t suit everyone. It’s relatively expensive and it’s large. Indeed, at 6.84m (22ft 5in), it’s longer than many coachbuilts. 

WildAx provides alloy wheels and metallic paint as standard. Added windows are flush-fitting. Such is the height of the MAN base, a free-standing double step is provided to ease access at the sliding door.

The conversion features two fixed single beds at the rear, set over a sizeable garage area which is also used to house the key electrical components. These are two 100Ah lithium leisure batteries and a 3kW inverter. The system is charged via two solar panels that take up two-thirds of the roof space, from the engine while driving or via mains hook-up when pitched. There’s a degree of winterisation, with insulated fresh and waste water tanks, 100- and 80-litres respectively. 

Driving – 87%

The solid feel of the MAN translates into the driving and this 138bhp engine is a steady performer.

Despite the presence of a touchscreen infotainment system that includes DAB radio, USB socket, Bluetooth connectivity, sat-nav, air-conditioning and cruise control, there’s a slightly utilitarian feel to the cab, with its rugged plastics and steering wheel.  

Safety and security features extend to electronic stability control, stop-start, automatic lights and windscreen wipers, LED daytime running lights and parking sensors (but no camera). In terms of fuel economy, if you top 30mpg you’ll be doing well. 

Daytime – 68%

It’s not the largest lounge, but it will suit two people. There’s a short settee with a curved squab on the offside, directly opposite the sliding door, with fixings for a pedestal-leg table. You can swing the table to serve the swivelled cab seats – but note that these and the lounge settee are at different heights. 

Truma’s Combi 4D system provides the heating and hot water, using electricity and/or fuel from the base vehicle. Going ‘gas-free’ has other advantages. You don’t have to worry about cylinder compatibility for refilling when you’re abroad and there is no need for a dedicated gas locker, which frees up extra interior space. And no gas system means no pipework to worry about. 

Storage is impressive, from the garage at the back to the fabric wall pockets in the lounge and bedroom, with an extensive choice of lockers and drawers in-between. There’s a notable pinch point in the middle of the Altair, where the washroom and fridge are located. 

Night-time – 78%

Those single beds are 6ft 1in and 6ft 4in long, but you should check that the widths are adequate for your needs. They can be made into a double, using the mattress piece supplied. Whatever you decide, there’s a folding ladder to help you up onto those comfy mattresses. There’s also floor-level hatch access to the garage area from between the beds, while there’s further locker space within the bases. 

Windows on both sides and on each rear door can all be opened, plus there’s a small rooflight. 

Kitchen – 74%

The electrical set-up is more than adequate for powering the kitchen facilities. There’s a two-ring induction hob, with stainless steel sink adjacent, while a Dometic microwave oven sits over the 154-litre Dometic compressor fridge with removable freezer unit, its door hinged on both sides. 

Storage is good here, too, with slide-out racking in the centre of the kitchen unit, flanked by two banks of three drawers. Plus there’s a worktop extension (note that it does go right across the doorway). A big rooflight overhead helps with daylight and ventilation. 

Washroom – 76%

The WildAx washroom features the company’s own GRP shower tray and a space-saving tambour door. There’s a Dometic swivel-bowl toilet with ceramic bowl. Also here is a ceramic countertop handbasin with tap on an extending hose that can be used as a shower – it clips into position overhead. There’s a handy fixed rail for wet clothing and so on, and a rooflight provides the ventilation. Final touches include a double hook, towel-holder and a toothbrush mug. A high-level locker sits above the toilet. 

Details – 69%

The short list of optional extras – a water filter system and TV package are the highlights, along with an awning – suggests WildAx is happy with its Altair offering. You can, of course, upgrade the base vehicle as you want. 

Locker doors have an easy-clean finish. USB ports and mains sockets are in all the right places. There are neat surrounds, especially in the washroom. All windows have concertina blinds and flyscreens, with Remis blinds in the cab (plus there’s a full flyscreen for the sliding door).

Tiny grizzles? Could the kitchen tap be relocated to prevent it fouling on the sink’s glass lid? And wardrobe space is restricted by storing the table top and leg. 

Verdict – 75%

Vehicles designed for extensive off-grid use – with the added sophistication of the MAN TGE base vehicle – are not going to come cheap. But if you’re truly looking to get away from it all, this could be the touring vehicle for you. 

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