These adjustable load racks will instantly make your ute more practical. We get hands-on with the Thule Xsporter Pro 500.
There are all manner of tub racks available for utes, but just about every single one of them is a rigid affair. Meaning, once you’ve mounted it you’re stuck, and you’ll need to drill holes into your tub to mount them too, which leaves you with holes if you decide to remove the racks.
Don’t get me wrong, the rigid (and I mean, fixed) tub racks are great but they do limit the versatility of your vehicle. Enter the Thule Xsporter Pro 500 adjustable racks.
Now, if you follow our social media at all you’ll know I’d originally planned to install this onto a Jeep Gladiator but that wasn’t to be. So, earlier this week I managed to install them onto a Mazda BT-50 I’m testing. So, I haven’t had a lot of time with the racks but I’ve had enough time to know that I like ‘em.
The kit we’re looking at is priced at around $1499 which makes it around half again the price of fixed tub racks. But then this thing adds a level of versatility and even portability that fixed racks can’t match. And you don’t need to use a drill. Even better.
Starting with the box, everything is bagged up individually with all of the nuts and bolts colour-coded, and good quality allen keys supplied, meaning you won’t need anything else to install them onto the back of your ute.
It took me about two hours of fiddling around, but I was also taking photos, so I reckon you could do it quicker, especially if you had some help. With the adjustable arms/rails and top-mounted rails connected, installing the Xsporter Pro 500 onto the back of a ute is quick. Instead of drilling holes, you get eight clamps, two per foot which allows you to clamp the side rail feet to the top rail of the ute’s tub.
And it’s this ability to easily install and remove that makes the Xsporter Pro 500 such a versatile unit and one that will stay with you no matter how many times you swap your ute. And it’s a bit of a one-size-fits-all arrangement too, meaning it’ll work no matter how long your ute tub is.
Once you’ve installed the clamps and secured the racks, adjusting the height of the load rails is a one-person job. You simply turn a friction lock dial and raise and lower the rails. The rails are numbered, so setting the right height is a cinch.
And being able to raise and lower the front and back rails independently of one another means you can carry things on an angle, which is a neat feature.
One thing I did notice on the BT-50 was that the front rails fouled on the wheel arches and couldn’t be lowered right down like the back ones. At their maximum height they stick up a long way above the cabin of the vehicle which is handy if you’re carrying a canoe. And being Thule, there are a bunch of additional bits and pieces you can mount to the rails, like boat loaders and the like.
And with the new generation Thule Tepui lightweight and compact roof-top tents coming to Australia this year, you’ll be able to use the Xsporter Pro 500 to carry the tent. The rails have a load limit of 204kg when the load is distributed evenly across both rails.
For me, these adjustable racks make a lot of sense. Being able to raise and lower the load rails means you can go from carrying sheets of plywood to bikes, ladders, canoes and more and still have plenty of load space left in the tub of the ute.
And don’t go thinking that because you clamp the rails on that they’re not rock solid, because they are. You can tighten the clamps and they won’t damage your vehicle but they’ll hold on tight, even across corrugations although, I’d make sure you periodically check the clamps in the early days of use. And once clamped on and the load rails tightened onto the adjustable arms, the whole unit feels stable and strong. All of the materials used are quality and the powder-coat looks like it’ll stand up to punishment reasonably well.
And what about wind noise? Not a problem at all. In fact, at both around town and highway speeds I didn’t notice any whistling at all.
All up, these are a great bit of kit if you want something that’ll adjust to suit whatever you need to carry in your ute. And the fact you can remove them without damaging your vehicle, and move them from one ute to another is icing on the cake.
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