Road Trip

Talus Expedition Gear's CampPack Camper is an RV in a box

The Telus CampPack Camper was tested, and passed with flying colors.

Photo courtesy of AutoNXT

For those who appreciate adventuring off the beaten path, a pickup truck can be a great mode of travel. Current models offer comfortable, roomy interiors combined with impressive off-road capability. But getting away for more than a day hike requires roughing it on the ground or scaling back the adventure by hauling an RV.

Talus Expedition Gear of Boise, Idaho, has devised an ingenious solution. This small outfitter takes RV amenities — such as electrical power, running water and sleeping off the ground — and incorporates them into — and above — the bed of a pickup truck.

Here's a quick overview of the CampPack Camper, a unique camping solution.

RV lite

Telus CampPack Camper

Photo courtesy of AutoNXT

Adopting the concept that getting away from civilization doesn't mean leaving all creature comforts behind, Talus Expedition Gear created a modular RV-lite package that installs in the bed of a compact or full-size pickup. Unlike conventional truck campers, the Talus VenturePack Camper and CampPack Camper packages fit flush with the top of the pickup bed and allow the tailgate to be closed, preserving the truck's ability to venture off the beaten path unhindered.

Solid construction

Telus CampPack Camper

Photo courtesy of AutoNXT

Each Talus camper features solid aluminum construction fastened with aircraft-grade rivets and TIG welding. Weighing around 500 pounds (700 pounds with tent), the Talus camper gets attached to the truck bed via tiedowns at the front and bolts in existing holes near the tailgate — on most trucks no alteration is necessary. The camper designs fit in both compact and full-size pickup trucks with short or long beds. Using all available space, larger trucks get more storage; however, the kitchen module remains primarily unchanged no matter the truck size.

The ultimate kitchen drawer

Telus CampPack Camper

Photo courtesy of AutoNXT

The Talus camper gives a whole new meaning to kitchen drawer — in this case the drawer is the kitchen. Sliding out (like a drawer) from the back of the truck, the kitchen unit features a refrigerator, propane stove, electrical connections, storage — even the kitchen sink. The drawer is easily unlatched and pulled into position for use.

Good old H2O

Telus CampPack Camper

The Talus contains a 16-gallon tank that provides water via a 1-gallon-per-minute electric pump. The camper unit also has a pressurized external hose connection — a great feature for cleaning muddy boots or filling a water jug. The higher-end VenturePack also includes a pump-style portable water filtration system that uses a silver-impregnated ceramic filter capable of filtering at 0.5 microns with better than 99.9% efficiency at 0.2 microns. This means water can be drawn from any source to further extend a camping trip. The pump easily stows in the main storage area.

Plugged in

Telus CampPack Camper

Photo courtesy of AutoNXT

The basic CampPack Camper gets a 100aH battery that powers the water pump, a night-sky compliant light under the drawer, a standard 120-volt outlet, a 12-volt auto auxiliary power outlet and two USB ports. The up-level VenturePack upgrades with a larger 200aH battery and a 2,000-watt power inverter that can run power tools or kitchen accessories such as a coffeemaker or blender.

According to Talus, with careful use the larger battery can last up to a week while powering the refrigerator, light and water pump. Obviously, powering other items will diminish the time off grid.

With a 30-amp rapid battery charger built in, charging the Talus's battery is as easy as plugging an extension cord into an outlet. Even the larger battery recharges to full power in seven hours when plugged into a standard 110-volt outlet. For those who would rather not return to civilization for a charge, there is another solution — solar power.

Solar charger

Telus CampPack Camper

The Talus VenturePack comes with a portable solar panel — the Bugout Solar Charger sourced from Overland Solar. The 120-watt solar charger takes considerably longer to charge the battery to full power — about 20 hours. The charger can be set on the ground, on the hood of a truck or on the truck's roof, and left there for the duration of the camping trip, constantly keeping the battery charged. Given the solar panel's flexible construction and long cord, camp can be set up in the shade while the charger stays in direct sunlight. When not in use, the charger folds up for easy storage.

Tailgate as a kitchen

Telus CampPack Camper

Although cooking over an open fire seems like an iconic camping experience, it's often outlawed or dangerous, so it's easier and safer to cook dinner on a stove. The Talus has a propane stove with 5,900 BTU and 3,700 BTU burners. The unit has storage space for two standard one-pound propane bottles — an available universal propane adaptor hooks up to a larger propane tank. When not in use, the stove's cover can be closed to provide additional counter space.

Top rack system

Telus CampPack Camper

Photo courtesy of AutoNXT

The Talus Camper box features integrated rails that can be used to mount a rack for carrying equipment and accessories such as bicycles, kayaks or an additional storage box for extended adventures. But the best use for the rails is a rooftop tent, and Talus takes care of that as well.

Kitchen use

Telus CampPack Camper

When in use, the kitchen drawer only takes up a portion of the truck's tailgate, so the remaining horizontal surface provides a convenient workspace. Also handy are storage drawers at the end of the kitchen module — a great place for storing dry goods as well as utensils. Trucks with shorter beds get two drawers; trucks with longer trucks have space for four drawers.

Storage drawer

Telus CampPack Camper

Photo courtesy of AutoNXT

Next to the kitchen drawer sits a longer one for gear storage. The all-weather space provides up to 17 cubic feet of real estate for clothes, food and other supplies. Dividers are available for easier organization. Whereas the kitchen module remains primarily the same size, the main drawer size depends on truck size — a short-bed compact pickup will get about 6 cubic feet, while space gets maximized in a full-size pickup with a larger bed.

Top track system

Telus CampPack Camper

Photo courtesy of AutoNXT

The Talus Camper box features integrated rails that can be used to mount a rack for carrying equipment and accessories such as bicycles, kayaks or an additional storage box for extended adventures. But the best use for the rails is a rooftop tent, and Talus takes care of that as well.

The tent

Telus CampPack Camper

Photo courtesy of AutoNXT

Talus Expedition Gear partners with 23ZERO to offer a selection of tents that can be mounted on top of the camper box. Tents range in size from the 56-inch-wide Breezeway that can sleep two comfortably to the 87-inch Walkabout that has space for up to five. These 4-season tents have a 3-inch-thick foam cotton-top mattress with a waterproof base and a built-in rain fly. The 23ZERO tents also feature Light Suppression Technology — with all windows and door closed, practically no light infiltrates the tent, so there's no need to wake up at the crack of dawn.

Out of the way

Telus CampPack Camper

Photo courtesy of AutoNXT

With the Talus tent folded it takes up little space, and its low mounting position keeps it behind the cab of the truck, thus reducing wind resistance while driving. That being said, Talus does offer a high-mount configuration for the tent — for those who need additional storage beneath.

Easy setup and take down

Telus CampPack Camper

Photo courtesy of AutoNXT

One of the most desirable aspects of the Talus camper is its quick setup time. Unstrapping and unfolding the tent takes about five minutes, and kitchen setup takes about 30 seconds. This rapid setup is especially appealing after a long day of trekking overland. Everything packs up easily as well, meaning daily adventures begin more quickly. And heading off on an adventure may mean discovering a new location for camping that night. With the Talus, there's no need to go back for the gear — it's always in the truck.

How much does the Talus CampPack Camper cost?

The Talus CampPack Camper starts at $11,900, while the top-line VenturePack starts at $13,750. The 23ZERO tent options start at $1,369.

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Nuts & Bolts

 
 

The Porsche Panamera lineup has finally fully been revealed.

Photo courtesy of Porsche AG

The 2021 Porsche Panamera lineup has been completed with the announcement of two new models, the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid and Panamera 4 E-Hybrid. They join the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid as a trio of Panamera PHEVs for 2021. Each is available in regular, Sport Turismo, and Executive body styles.

The 2021 Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid is the new flagship in the stable. It boasts an exceptional 689 horsepower and 642 pound-feet of torque. Porsche has engineered the flagship to get a combined a 563-horsepower 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 with a 134-horsepower electric motor, paired with an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. Its 17.9-kilowatt-hour battery is shared with the Panamera 4S E-Hybrid.

2021 Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid

Photo courtesy of Porsche AG

The flagship model comes standard with Porsche's Sport Chrono package. The equipment helps the traditionally-bodied Panamera get from zero to 60 mph in 3.0 seconds while the Executive wheelbase model takes one-tenth of a second longer. The Turbo S E-Hybrid sedan and Sport Turismo also offer the quickest acceleration from 0 to 124 mph of any 2021 Panamera at 10.9 seconds. It has a top track speed of 196 mph, a 4 mph improvement over the 2020 model.

Every 2021 Panamera Panamera 4 E-Hybrid has the same electric motor setup as the flagship. It pairs the motor with a 2.9-liter twin-turbo V6 for a total system output of 455 horsepower, an increase of 12 horsepower over the 4S model. It too has an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission.

The 2021 Panamera 4 E-Hybrid takes just 4.2 seconds to reach 60 mph from a standing start and has a top speed of 174 mph. Both of those numbers improve on the 2020 version of the same model.

Both models feature the freshly redesigned interior and exterior of the Panamera. This includes the Porsche Communication Management infotainment operating system, which now features a higher display resolution and includes additional digital functions and services like Voice Pilot online voice control and wireless Apple CarPlay.

The Porsche Panamera E-Hybrid family tree has a starting price of $103,800 for the Panamera 4 E-Hybrid. The previous Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Executive topping out the lineup at $198,100. Pricing for the new models has yet to be revealed, but it's safe to expect it to be similar.

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The Cadillac Escalade is one of the most luxurious SUVs you can buy.

Photo courtesy of Cadillac

Cadillac has given the 2021 Escalade the tagline "Never stop arriving" which seems apropos for a full-size SUV that shows up in nearly every way. Having undergone a complete redesign, the 2021 Cadillac Escalade finds itself securely at the top of the company's lineup showcasing the high-tech features and plush accommodations buyers are looking for.

The three-row SUV is built on the same platform as the Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe, and the GMC Yukon at the General Motors Arlington Assembly plant outside of Dallas. The platform is ridged and good, allowing the Escalade and its brethren to take on corners at speed without fear of coffee spilling.

2021 Cadillac Escalade Premium Luxury The Escalade continues to have a commanding presence on the street.Photo courtesy of Cadillac

That also means that it's big. Huge, in fact. But, the Escalade isn't so big it's unmanageable. Sure, you'll need a stepladder to see below the hood. But, how many Escalade owners are doing their own maintenance these days? Camera views help tremendously, as does safety technology.

As tested in the Premium Luxury trim, the two-wheel drive Escalade was powered by Cadillac's standard 6.2-liter V8 that's paired with a 10-speed automatic transmission, a fresh addition to GM's offering list. The power plant delivers 420 horsepower and 460 pound-feet of torque, just as it is in the SUV's full-size GM stablemates, and has the same SAE-certified horsepower and torque top-out points. It's a competent power plant but it works better in the Yukon Denali.

Why?

That's the big question. The two SUVs are nearly the same weight – pushing 5,800 pounds – and were similarly equipped underneath, as tested. Yet, the Escalade drove like it had a 1,000 pound-boulder strapped into the second row. It didn't feel as agile or swift as the Yukon, but also didn't give the feeling like you're towing when you're not.

2021 Cadillac Escalade Premium Luxury The Escalade's imposing body style is not so large that it proves unmanageable. Photo courtesy of Cadillac

The Escalade was test driven back-to-back-to-back with other vehicles in its segment, the Yukon and the Ford Expedition, and it proved to be, hands down, the least maneuverable. Those poor limousine service drivers in L.A. are not going to enjoy working their way up, and then back down the snaked driveways of the Hollywood elite in this Cadillac.

However, once they get on the road and are able to sit back and relax a touch with their clientele all buckled up, they're going to enjoy the drive. The tester wasn't equipped with GM's Super Cruise, which is a hands-free driver assist technology, but the addition would be a welcome one as the lane keep assist isn't as proactive as other systems from other automakers, and the massive Caddy requires a driver's full attention to stay in the lane.

The 2021 Escalade's massive standard 38-inch OLED screen display area is the highlight of the interior and likely the biggest talking point of the vehicle. Its layout is sensical, proves to not be distracting while driving, and supplies just the right amount of information without going overkill on moving graphics.

2021 Cadillac Escalade Premium Luxury The OLED display darkens to deep black at night, giving your drivers' eyes a rest.Photo courtesy of Cadillac

The best part of the tech, which is actually made up of three separate screens under the same thin housing, is that it quickly and smoothly goes to near-black, giving drivers the least amount of distraction possible while on the road at night. Its resolution is twice the pixel density of a 4K television.

Though a minor issue, the screen's design does not allow for turn signal indicators to be easily seen as they are positioned directly behind the steering wheel rim. With the indicator's generally soft tone, it's easy to miss when an indicator remains on when exiting a roundabout or merging into traffic.

Surrounding the Escalade's screen are a variety of appointments, some of which feel and look luxurious while others do not. These are, however, typical General Motors product quibbles. The synthetic materials on the dashboard, and thin leather door inserts are not as luxe as what you'll find in SUVs made by Cadillac's rivals. Not that anyone will notice them for long with the OLED elephant in the room.

2021 Cadillac Escalade Premium Luxury The layout of the OLED display is easy to understand and read on-the-fly. Photo courtesy of Cadillac

Seats in the Escalade are comfortable, providing ample room. No matter the row, the upholstery is well-executed and the ride is sublime as the suspension easily soaks up the road's imperfections. It's a vehicle the aforementioned elite won't mind being seen in and will look forward to riding in.

Along with its comfortable seats and enough legroom in all three rows for adults, one of the best parts of the Escalade is its sound system. It's the first vehicle with an AKG system (offered with either 19 (standard) or 36 speakers), and it pairs the system with an already-quiet cabin. The sound is all-encompassing for front row occupants and musical elements are separated, coming at you like you're at a concert, rather than listening to a glossed-over recorded session. Turning it up, the quality of the sound is not lost. D-E-lightful.

Individual technology elements of the Escalade are why buyers should choose it over the Yukon and the Lincoln Navigator. The OLED display, Super Cruise, and AKG sound system make the Cadillac a step up from its competition even though its drive feels like a step down.

2021 Cadillac Escalade Premium Luxury Cadillac has made the seats of the Escalade comfortable and appointed them well. Photo courtesy of Cadillac

The Cadillac Escalade is pricey. As tested it was well over $85,000, and that's just a mid-grade model. The Escalade faces stiff competition from the Yukon Denali, which comes in at least $15,000 cheaper and delivers a better drive experience. The similarly priced Navigator is also an elegant option that's sure to be upgraded with Ford's hands-free driving technology in the not-too-distant future.

There may be a sleeper competitor on the horizon. The Jeep Grand Wagoneer is set to debut soon and will likely rival the Escalade with its sound system and elegant design, and come with a similar price tag.

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