Page 1

Australian

2018 ROAD TEST

Yearbook!


2 | About iMotorhome

iMotorhome Magazine is published monthly and available by subscription from www.imotorhome.com.au. Your letters and contributions are always welcome!

Editorial

Design & Production

Richard Robertson

Agnes Nielsen

Publisher/Managing Editor

Manager/Lead Designer

(+61) 0414 604 368

agnes@imotorhome.com.au

richard@imotorhome.com.au Christopher O’Hare Malcolm Street

Designer

Road Test Editor

chris@imotorhome.com.au

(+61) 0418 256 126 malcolm@imotorhome.com.au

Published by iMotorhome PO Box 1738, Bowral. NSW 2776. Australia.

Contributors

ABN: 34 142 547 719

Emily Barker

T: +614 14 604 368

Sharon Hollamby Allan Whiting

E: info@imotorhome.com.au W: www.imotorhome.com.au

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6 | On My Mind

Wizard of Oz!

W

elcome to our first annual road test yearbook. This ‘wizard’ 190 page issue has 13 full Australian road

tests, 1 New Release and a Quick Spin; making it the ideal reference tome if you’re shopping for a new RV or after a used one a little further down the track. Looking at the diversity of vehicles we’ve reviewed over the last 12 months makes me realise we really do have a wide choice of types and styles in Australia. Okay, we snuck-in the Horizon Melaleuca from 2017 and included the Coachman Freelander from the USA because it's on the new Ford Transit, but it all goes to show just how vibrant and healthy the local campervan and motorhome manufacturing scene is. Oh yes, we have our first fifth-wheeler included as well – the Australian designed but US-built Emerald Coast. What's interesting when you look through the vehicles featured in this issue is the wide range of capabilities and specialisations. Whether you're after an expedition wagon to climb the steepest mountains or cross the most barren deserts, or a luxury motorhome with more comforts than the average home, there's something for everybody. What's also fascinating is the level of innovation, including two van-conversions with slideouts, which blur the boundaries between traditional campervans and motorhomes. The good news for campervan and motorhome buyers in Australia is that our segment of the recreational vehicle industry seems to have bypassed the closures and bankruptcies afflicting the caravan industry.

Motorised recreational vehicles only account for some 10% of the market, but almost all manufacturers are established and wellregarded. That's in contrast to the caravan and camper trailer market, which has seen an explosion of manufacturers in recent years and is now experiencing a significant shakeout. It bodes well for anyone contemplating spending their hard earned retirement dollars on their dream campervan or motorhome for the Big Trip. The new year – 2019 – promises to be significant as local manufacturers race to release models based on the new MercedesBenz Sprinter and Volkswagen Crafter. Not just facelifts, these are all-new models from two of the world's largest vehicle manufacturers and both raise the bar significantly in terms of refinement, economy and safety. The integration of technology is also a key factor in both and it’s going to put a lot of pressure on Fiat to come up with a significant update or makeover for its market-leading, but now ageing, Ducato. I hope you enjoy this issue and keep it as a useful reference. To keep up with the latest road tests and trends please subscribe to the premium version of iMotorhome Magazine. At just $2 per month for an annual subscription it's a small price to pay to be in ‘the know’. Safe travels!

Richard


Contents | 7

2018 Road Test Index from A-Z 8

Avida Birdsville C7444SL

112

Roller Team 259

22

Coachman Freelander

122

Spectrum Emerald Coast

44

Concorde Credo

136

Suncamper Sherwood 4x4

50

EarthCruiser Unimog 4x4

148

Trakka Trakkaway 700

58

Latitude Element 27

158

70

Horizon Melaleuca Appeal

170

Trakka Torino & Torino Xtra

179

Unicampa M7

86 96

Revolution Motorhomes Envy

Revolution Motorhomes Zenith

Trakka Trakkaway 720


8 | Tested: Avida Birdsville C7444SL

Birdsville Trek

Australians have been trekking to Avida dealers for years to buy this popular mid-size motorhome Story by Richard Robertson | Images by Malcolm Street


Tested | 9

This second generation C-class Birdsville has a more rounded Luton peak for its over-cab bed. Size-wise the model sits in the sweet spot of being big enough for long term living but small enough to remain economical and easily manoeuvrable.

I

t’s not difficult to see why the Birdsville is one of the most popular models Avida makes. It sits in that sweet spot where size, price, features and style combine to deliver what is for many the perfect motorhome.

everything!) and SL means slide-out. It’s also strictly a four-seat, four-berth motorhome and for most people that’s fine. Got all that? Good…

Not only does the Birdsville sit in a sweet The Birdsville range comprises four models, but spot, I think it’s a sweet looking motorhome. in reality there are just two floorplans – each Earlier C-class Birdsvilles had a kind of angular, offered with the option of an over-cab bed. So faceted Luton Peak (the bulbous bit above in motorhomes speak this means there are two the cab where the extra bed goes). However, C-class Birdsvilles (with an over-cab bed) and when the model was face lifted the Luton was two B-class (sans over-cab bed). All models restyled and is now much more rounded. Trivia seat and sleep a minimum of four, with one of time: The Luton Peak takes its name from the each type seating and sleeping six. town of Luton in the UK, where in the 1920s or 30s the Bedford factory first produced The subject of this review is the Birdsville trucks with an over-cab section added to their C7444 SL. This C in the name indicates it’s originally square cargo bodies. a C class; 74 means it’s (almost) 7.4 m long; 44 means something I’m sure (I can’t know


10 | Tested The Birdsville features Avida’s traditional body construction that comprises a steel floor with an aluminium body frame on top, which in turn is packed with foam installation between an outer fibreglass skin and inner lining panel. The nosecone and rear wall are fibreglass mouldings and there’s a one-piece roof (literally) capping it all off. While not as cutting edge as some manufacturers’ systems it’s proven and durable. The C7444SL’s party piece is its almost full length slide-out on the driver’s side, which starts behind the cab and runs to within a metre or so of the back wall. Inside, it holds the cafe-style dinette, wardrobe and main bed, and

the only reason it stops short of the rear wall is that in all Birdsvilles the bathroom runs full width across the back. The slide-out also has small hatches that provide external access to the storage beneath each of the dinette seats. That’s in addition to the other lockers around the lower part of the body, which provide numerous if not large/bulky storage options. One note on the exterior is the use of louvered glass windows rather than the more modern, double glazed acrylic units that are largely the norm these days. While they might look a bit old-fashioned the louvers are good because they provide a lot of fresh air without sticking out too far, are structurally unaffected by gusty

The big slide-out opens up the interior and houses the dinette up front and bed at the rear. Hatches access underdinette storage, while louvered windows are practical, especially in wet weather.


Tested | 11 winds and can be left open to varying degrees in wet weather. They probably provide better security against break-ins, too. On the subject of ventilation, a roof-top air-conditioner is standard equipment for keeping your cool in summer, while it also has a heating element for winter. Of course it needs mains power or a generator, so for winter travel the optional diesel-fired space heater is a great investment.

Sprinter might be more technically advanced but it looks more delivery van like, while the snub nose Iveco Daily is much heavier duty and tough as nails, but far from ‘pretty’.

Looks aside, the Fiat Ducato is also the topselling motorhome chassis in Australia – and Europe – which I know has a lot to do with price, but it’s still a good piece of kit. From the driver’s perspective it’s far more engaging than the two mentioned above and it’s Underneath interior equally more car like and inviting. Not everybody is a fan of front-wheel drive in a think one of the major contributors to the Birdsville’s good looks is that it rides on a Fiat motorhome, but in all my time behind the wheel of dozens of Ducatos it has never been an Ducato cab-chassis, which in turn blends issue. nicely into the body work. Mercedes-Benz

I

While external under-dinette storage access is good whatever position the slide-out is in, when extended the slide-out makes reaching the lower body locker difficult.


12 | Tested Powering all Bridsvilles is the most powerful version of Fiat’s latest 2.3-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel that is now Euro 6 exhaust emission compliant. Producing 130 kW of power at 3500 rpm and 400 Nm of torque at 1400 rpm, it drives through a six speed automated manual transmission (AMT) that can be driven in automatic or manual modes. The C7444SL has a 4400 kg gross vehicle mass (GVM) and a tare weight of 3626 kg, leaving a maximum payload of 774 kg. It also has a 2000 kg towing capacity. Being under the magical 4500 kg GVM mark means you can drive it on a standard car licence in any state in Australia.

Flat cupboard doors have no handles, which adds to the clean lines of the interior. Note the TV in a cupboard opposite the bed, which makes viewing tricky from the dinette.


Tested | 13

Above: Clean lines and a glossy finish bring the Birdsville’s interior up to date. Note the high-back dinette seat with good lumbar cushioning, which makes travel for passengers a comfortable proposition. Below: Swivelled cab seats are a bit far from the dinette to really become part of a fully integrated entertaining area.

Like all Fiat Ducatos, on the road the Birdsville is a comfortable, competent and relaxed touring machine, with manoeuvring aided by the standard reversing camera. And thanks to good fuel economy and a 125-litre tank you won’t suffer range anxiety as you travel.

Moving On In

T

he Birdsville’s floor plan has swivelling front seats beneath the over-cab bed; the dinette opposite when you walk in and the kitchen immediately to the right. The main bed is aft of the dinette, with its head in the slide-out, and at the very back is the full width bathroom. On the whole the layout works well, but does have a couple of compromises. Firstly, because the slide-out accommodates the dinette there’s a gap between it and the swivelling cab seats. Also, because the fridge unit is positioned between the entry door and passenger cab seat, it partially blocks that


14 | Tested seat when swivelled. The upshot is the space doesn’t mesh well as an integrated dining and entertaining area. Secondly, to increase bedroom storage Avida has built a low run of cupboards and drawers on the kerbside wall, between the kitchen and bathroom, with a tapering extension of the kitchen benchtop running along the top. It’s great, but when the slide-out is retracted the foot of the bed butts up against it, preventing walk-through access to the bathroom. While the mattress can be tilted up, it’s limited by the drawer and benchtop overhang. So, the only way to get to the loo when travelling is over the bed, if you don’t want to extend the slide-out. In reality it’s no big deal, but a walk-through solution would make a difference. Decor for the Birdsville has moved with the times and is a mix of light timber finishes and shiny white laminates, which brighten the interior and should be easy to keep clean with a quick wipe down. There’s plenty of internal storage and the cupboards are functionally square/rectangular and flat faced, which maximises efficiency. Adding to the smooth, semi-minimalist look is the fact the overhead cupboards are handle free, plus it’s good to see the drawers now have a soft close function. Also moving with the times is the inclusion of two separate double USB charging points – one by the bed and one in the kitchen (the latter with a couple of small shelves above that are ideal for recharging phones and other small devices). It’s nice to see a separate sound system in the living area, too.

Space for Life

W

ith the slide-out extended there’s plenty of living space in the front of the Birdsville and it has a breezy, open plan feel to it. Being a four-seat/fourberth motorhome, all occupants can be accommodated at the dinette. However, if you want to watch TV then the cab seats and aft-


Tested | 15

Above: Dinette is a good size with proper backrest cushioning. Right: Storage between the kitchen and bathroom is excellent, as is the extended benchtop.

facing dinette seats are the go, but the TV is (unusually) positioned in an overhead cupboard opposite the bed, and best watched from there. Might be an excuse for a bed party? It’s good to see properly shaped dinette seat backrests in place of the usual flat slabs. The forward facing seat has a higher backrest and is seat belt equipped for two. The table is sturdy and adjustable, while there’s storage beneath each dinette seat, accessed via hatches in both end panels, and two cupboards overhead. There is plenty of storage space in the main kitchen cabinet, including drawers beneath the The kitchen is opposite the dinette, between cooker and sink plus a cupboard and small the entry door and bedroom. The main unit slide-out pantry. There are also cupboards has a cooktop with grill, plus a single-bowl overhead, with a rangehood underneath. It’s sink with drainer, on top, occupying most of worth noting that the cooker has three gas the bench space. However, there is a large burners and one electric hotplate, meaning you bench extension stored in the side of the tall fridge unit, by the entry door. It sits right across can preserve onboard LPG when hooked up to mains power, provided you’re happy to cook the space between that unit and the cooker, on a single electric hotplate. providing invaluable extra work space, but blocking the doorway (although you can duck under!).

As already mentioned, the fridge – a 190-litre 2-door unit that runs on LPG, 12 and 240-


16 | Tested

The island bed has good walk-around space when the slide-out’s extended. Bathroom access when it’s retracted is problematic. volt power – sits in its own unit between the entry door and passenger cab seat. There’s a microwave above it plus a couple of extra cupboards, while its position makes it handy for someone to step inside and grab cold drinks without disturbing the chef at work…

there are cupboards over the bedhead, above the window. Like all open plan designs you swap spaciousness for privacy as there’s no way to close off the bedroom from the living area, but at least you can use the bathroom for dressing if needs be.

Speaking of the bathroom, it’s a beauty. While you never spend a lot of time in a motorhome’s he bed is in the rear section of the long bathroom, when you do there’s nothing like the slide-out, separated from the dinette by luxury of space! The entry door is offset to the a three-quarter-height wardrobe that kerbside, to align it with the walk-through space doubles somewhat as a divider. The wardrobe past the foot of the extended bed. Stepping in turn sits on a base unit that doubles as a inside, there’s a good sized vanity to the right, bedside table – the only one – although there with the requisite freestanding porcelain hand are small shelves in the corners above the basin and ‘drooping swan’ tap on top, plus a bedhead, plus a magazine holder/pouch on the large mirror behind. There’s plenty of bench wall for the person on the other side. The bed space and that’s largely because the left hand itself is just over the size of a traditional double side is actually a lid that lifts to reveal either a and when the slide-out’s extended you can tilt dirty washing cupboard or optional 3 kg topit up to access storage underneath. Naturally, loading washing machine.

Space for After Hours

T


Tested | 17 In the driver’s-side corner is a separate shower cubicle, with a sliding door and fan hatch above, while the swivel-head loo sits close by. There’s a fixed window in the rear wall (it’s an emergency exit) plus overhead cupboards right along it, providing plenty of natural light and bathroom storage, respectively.

What I Think

A

vida’s C-class Birdsville C7444SL is a good mix of style, liveability and features that combine to make a motorhome equally suited to short or long-term touring. Fine for a couple, it can also seat and sleep four, adding extra versatility. However, if you don’t need the large over-cab bed for regular travellers you can get the same floorplan, seating and sleeping capacity in the more streamlined and fuel efficient B-class Birdsville B7444SL. The compromise there is the dinette converts to the second bed, but for occasional usage that’s probably fine. Avida has a ton of experience building motorhomes for Australian conditions and a national dealer and support network. Plus, all Avida RVs are covered by a 3 year/1 million km factory warranty, a 5 year structural warranty and 2 years roadside assistance – all good stuff for ownership peace of mind. If you’re after a good looking mid-size motorhome and love the feel of an open and spacious living area, put the Birdsville C744SL on your must-see list. Better still, find your closest Avida dealer and go have a look. It will be worth the trek…

Full width rear bathroom is spacious, well appointed and has the option of a top-loading washing machine in the vanity cupboard.


18 | Tested

Specs GENERAL Make

Avida

Model

Birdsville C7444SL

Type

C-Class

Berths

4

Approved Seating

4

Licence

Car

VEHICLE Make/Model

Fiat Ducato X295 Multijet 180

Engine

2.3-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel

Power

130 kW @ 3500 rpm

Torque

400 Nm @ 1400 rpm

Gearbox

6 speed automated manual (AMT)

Safety

ABS, ESP, Hill Hold, Dual airbags

Fuel

125 L

WEIGHTS Tare Weight

3626 kg

Gross Vehicle Mass

4400 kg

Max Payload

774 kg

Braked Towing Capacity

2000 kg

DIMENSIONS Overall Length

7.39 m (24' 3")

Overall Width

2.32 m (7 ' 7 ")

Overall Height

3.13 m (10' 3")

Internal Height

1.97 m (6’ 5”)

Main Bed

1.90 m x 1.4 m (6' 3" x 4' 7")

Luton Bed

1.90 m x 1.3 m (6" 3" x 4' 3")


Tested | 19

Specs EQUIPMENT Slide-Out

Yes

Awning

Dometic

Entry Steps

Electric

Hob

Dometic 3 x gas 1 x elec burner & grill

Rangehood

Yes

Sink

Stainless steel

Fridge

190 L 2-door Dometic RMDX25 3-way

Microwave

Samsung

Lighting

12 V LED

12 V Sockets/USB Outlets

4 x USB

Air Conditioner

Dometic roof mounted

Space Heater

Optional

Hot Water System

Truma

Toilet

Thetford cassette

Shower

Separate cubicle

Pros… • Open plan living • Big slide-out • Style • Size • Fuel economy • Driving pleasure • Service & support • Resale

CONs… • Some layout compromises • Smallish external storage • Not for extended off-grid living

CAPACITIES Batteries

1 x 100 AH

Solar

Optional

LPG

2 x 4.0 kg

Fresh Water

124 L

Grey Water

124 L

Hot Water

14 L

Toilet

17 L

PRICE ON ROAD NSW

Manufacturer Avida 32 David Road Emu Plains, NSW. 2750. Australia T: (02) 4735 8116 E: info@avida.com.au W: avida.com.au

Click for Google Maps

From

$152,700

As Tested

$157,050

Options fitted

Refined Stone Ultra Leather, tow bar & wiring, washing machine

Dealer Network Contact

Warranty – vehicle and motorhome

3 years/1 million km

Warranty – structural

5 years

Australia: 1300 428 432 New Zealand: 0800 946 643

Roadside Assistance

2 years


20 | Tested


22 | Tested: Coachmen Freelander Micro 20CB

America. In Transit!

A petrol-powered automatic Transit is a surprisingly good thing‌ by Richard Robertson


Tested | 23

Already popular in Europe in manual form, new Transit is making inroads into the North American RV market thanks to a slick six-speed auto. A 3.7-litre V6 petrol engine is standard while a 3.2-litre turbo-diesel is optional, as is a 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6 petrol. This ‘baby’ C-class Coachmen lists around US$78,000 yet still comes with an electric awning, remote start generator and propane-fired ducted central heating. I found brand new dealer stock online as low as US$52,990! Dream on‌

I

n America the C-class has dominated the motorhome market for years. Churned out in mind boggling numbers by every manufacturer, they have been, and still are, the backbone of the market. In terms of bang-for-your-buck these mass produced beige boxes are hard to beat. Ford has dominated the market for years with its E-Series chassis, which it sells for peanuts, while RV manufacturers have been bolting the same bodies onto them for so long their economies of scale are unmatched in any other motorhome style. Usually with sleeping for four or six and with all the comforts of home, a C-class also makes the perfect entry point for people starting out on their RV adventure.

However, the E-Series is long in the tooth and Ford has rested way too long on its laurels to drag it kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. In a world where economy and environmental friendliness are increasingly important the 5.4-litre V8 and 6.8-litre V10 petrol engines are anachronisms. Ditto the size and weight of the vehicle. While big might be beautiful, less can definitely be more. Engine size aside, vehicle size is also something that affects economy and environmental impact. In recent years there has been a growing trend to smaller C-class motorhomes thanks to the introduction of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and Dodge Ram ProMaster (think Fiat Ducato). More a trickle


24 | Tested than a deluge, it’s a growing trend none the less and one that’s been given a boost with the arrival of the latest Ford Transit. The subject of this review is a C-class Coachmen Freelander Micro 20CB, built on the Ford Transit. Here’s what Coachmen have to say about the Freelander range in general: “The Coachmen Freelander offers you all the ‘Good Stuff’ novice RVers quickly appreciate and experienced RVers demand. The Freelander mantra is to provide more factory installed features than anyone else, unparalleled value and reliable design and quality at an affordable price. The Freelander Class C Motorhome will win you over with its right balance of beauty, function, and value in a quality product that has lead the industry in sales for over a decade.”

Marketing hype aside, it leaves you in no doubt the Freelander range is entry level stuff. And in that range the Micro 20CB sits firmly at the bottom, making it entry level of the entry level! Is that a bad thing? Not at all. In fact I think it might just be the pick of the bunch, depending on your needs and point of view.

Market in Transit

O

ne thing I’ll never understand is the US RV industry’s apparent aversion to telling the truth about vehicle lengths. The 20 in 20CB refers to length and gives the impression it’s 20 feet (6.1 m) long. However, the Freelander Micro 20CB measures 23’ 9” (7.24 m) long. It’s also 10’ 6” (3.2 m) tall and 7’ 7” (2.31) m wide. I’ve travelled in a 33-foot (10 m) Windsport Class-A that was almost 36-feet (111 m) long and various Minnie Winnie’s that

Overnighting on this vacant lot beside a gas station, I heard bursts of automatic gun fire from the sand hills behind – and poured another glass of red…


Tested | 25 were a couple of feet longer than their model numbers suggested, so Coachmen isn’t alone in this bizarre practice. It’s the only example I can think of where manufactures of anything try to make their products sound smaller than they are! But I’ve digressed… Globally, Ford has been making Transits almost as long as the E-Series – 1965 v 1961 – and made almost as many (both exceed 8 million). Like the E-Series, the Transit has gone through several generations along the way and today is in its fourth incarnation. It’s fair to say the Transit is the World’s E-Series, and you could argue the World got the better deal. That’s largely due to engine choices, with small but efficient turbo-diesels having been the norm for years.

America’s love affair with big petrol engines in commercial vehicles is a global anomaly. Ford certainly has decades of experience producing efficient and powerful diesels, yet for some reason has chosen to keep then from domestic buyers. Even today the standard engine in the ‘new’ Transit is a 3.7-litre V6 petrol; an engine only available in North America. Cheap, proven and readily available, its inclusion isn’t surprising. The good news is a 5-cylinder 3.2-litre turbo-diesel is an option, although it adds cost and so in a basic C-class like this it’s a non-starter (ditto a 3.5-litre twin-turbo V6, which is the performance option for lovers of petrol engines). As petrol engines go the 3.7-litre V6 feels right at home in the Transit. It’s a double overhead camshaft engine officially designated

The short bonnet provides access for engine fluid checks, but not a whole lot else.


26 | Tested the Duratec 37 and is designed for heavier vehicles. Amongst its features are variable camshaft timing – called Ti-VCT – and it produces 275 hp (205 kW) @ 6000 rpm and 260 lb-ft (352 Nm) @ 4000 rpm. In Europe, the Transit’s home and traditionally biggest market, automatic transmissions are still a rarity, especially in commercial vehicles. That’s due to a history of small engines and high fuel prices, so Ford had to engineer a whole new drivetrain for North America. In the U.S. you can have any gearbox you like as long as it’s a six-speed auto, but for once the lack of choice is a good thing.

On the Road

F

or a motorhome with a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of 4699 kg, the ‘basic’ V6 and auto transmission combo works well. The exhaust has a nice note and the driveline is smooth, quite and responsive. Plant your foot and it moves surprisingly quickly. I’ve even read online reports from petrol engine lovers that questions the need for the twin-turbo option. However – and there’s always a however – it’s only good up to a point. That point is about 100 kmh. Beyond that the fuel-economy-versus-time-saved equation drops off considerably. On my 6235 km journey

Transit’s dash uses Ford’s passenger car design language. Note the sporty steering wheel and stubby gear selectors, plus a ton of cup and bottle holders. Strangely, there was no USB connector for charging or media connection.


Tested | 27

Modern touches like the electric awning and LED strip light were great, but American RV body design is still largely stuck in the 80s. Things like small, sliding glass windows are typical, while poor switch positioning (bottom) abound. This main control panel was close to foot height, in the entry stairwell! in this vehicle, from LA to Fredericksburg, TX, for the 2018 RV Entrepreneur Summit and return, it averaged 18.8 L/100 km (13.2 mpg). That was mostly siting on 100 kmh on Interstates, but also included all towns, cities and sightseeing. The best I saw was 15.2 L/100 km (15.5 mpg), while the worst – 24.5 L/100 km (9.6 mpg) – was for 4 hours sitting on 110-120 kmh. It’s all way better than an E-Series will deliver, but the Transit is definitely happier at lower speeds, or at least your wallet will be. The 94 L (25 gal) fuel tank is half the size of an E-Series, but still provided a comfortable 440 km range between fill-ups, with a generous reserve. The test vehicle was a 2017 model from Best Time RV Rentals and had approximately 24,000 km (15,000 m) on it at pick-up. In four weeks it didn’t miss a beat, nor give me a moment’s concern. Considering its life as a rental vehicle that speaks well for the Transit, as well as the Coachmen body.


28 | Tested By U.S. C-class standards the nose is sleek and streamlined. It doesn’t provide much headroom, however, for anyone sleeping ‘upstairs’.

Mechanicals aside, the new Transit is just plain nice to drive. The smallish steering wheel is just the right size and positively sports car-like compared to an E-Series, while the steering itself, along with ride, are also impressive. You sit high in a commanding position and visibility is excellent. The dash is Euro-inspired and uses Ford’s passenger vehicle design language. Instrumentation is large and legible, with excellent blue/white lighting, while the stubby gear stick with flick-across sports mode is an order of magnitude better than the E-Series’ ancient column shifter. There’s plenty of storage, the seats are comfortable and the equipment level is high – think aircon, remote locking, electric windows and (heated) mirrors), etc – plus there’s a full suite of airbags, antilock brakes, traction and stability controls, and so on. My final thoughts on driving relate to the 2.31 m (7’ 7”) overall width. In a market where 2.57 m (8’ 5”) is the norm – and also the legal maximum in more than a dozen states – it might sound narrow and the difference is certainly noticeable, but mostly in a good way. Road lanes and car parks become easier to negotiate, as do toll booths and other entrances; something every RV driver will appreciate.

Outside The Box

I

f the Transit is new and interesting, the Freelander Micro 20 CB’s body looks like so many others, even if it is a little more streamlined thanks to its smaller over-cab nosecone. That’s not bad, just predictable. However, not all is as it seems.


Tested | 29

Box on wheels. At least Coachmen use wood-free Azdel body paneling. Coachmen use Azdel paneling for its RV bodies. It’s a composite panel system made in the USA that combines an outer skin of fiberglass and a sheet of Azdel that are bonded to an aluminum frame, with polypropylene insulation in between and a decor laminate panel on the inside. The result is a body panel impervious to water (unlike wood-framed RVs), light in weight and claimed to be highly insulative. The roof is similarly constructed, apparently strong enough to walk on and finished with a rubber coating, while a six-layer vacuum bonded floor provides a sturdy base. The nose and tail are finished with fiberglass mouldings and the whole thing looks, well, very conventional. External storage is good thanks to a mix of lockers around the vehicle, while space is provided for an optional outdoor 24” TV and sound system, plus there’s


30 | Tested

a plug-in point for portable solar panels. A great feature is the power awning, along with a matching LED strip light in a fashionable sort of purple/mauve. A remote-start 4 kW Onan petrol generator is also a standard inclusion, providing power for essentials (like your coffee machine!) no matter where you’re parked. Roof access is easy via the sturdy rear ladder, while the sewer hose is stored in the hollow back bumper. Outlets for the black and grey tanks are at the rear and unusually there are separate tanks for the kitchen and bathroom grey water. While a city water inlet is provided there’s no extra fitting to flush the black tank, something which would be good to see added. Still on tanks, the 144-litre (38 gal) fresh water tank is located well up inside the vehicle, which is good for winter travel. A full tank heating kit is optionally available for fans of cold weather adventures.

Disappointments

W

hile overall fit and finish seemed on par with motorhomes from other mainstream manufacturers there were three disappointments: two relating to build quality and one with design.

The rubber-coated roof is strong enough to walk on, as witnessed by someone’s footprints! RV park ‘hookups’ are all at the rear.


Tested | 31

Flapping insulation in both rear wheel arches was disappointing, while the front gutter ‘spouts’ poured water directly onto the electric window switches when the cab doors were open. One the build quality front, both rear wheel arches had pieces of what looked like black fabric hanging down, above and/or behind the wheels. Probably something to do with insulation, they were there from the outset and never got worse, but did leave me wondering about quality control. At best they looked shoddy and at worst might have allowed water in during the many wet days driving. The other build quality issue was a light brown stain in the ceiling, around the sides of the domed skylight above the shower. It indicated water entry and I reported it to the rental company, but they seemed disinterested. I climbed the ladder to check for obvious leaks, but all seemed well sealed. From experience I know water will find its way in anywhere it can, especially around roof hatches and fittings, but in a near-new motorhome that was a disappointment. The design disappointment related to the gutter ‘spouts’ at the front corners of the roof. The problem? When raining, if you opened either cab door to their limit, water poured directly onto the electric window switches! Monty Python would call it a triumph of design because it would actually be quite difficult to

design something so precisely. In reality, it shows nobody tried to get in and out of the cab when (or if) the prototype went through its watertightness checks. If it were my vehicle I’d remove the spouts as they appear to be unnecessary and are also looking for tree branches to snag. Problem solved! In fairness, few new RVs leave their factories without some issues needing rectification under warranty. High production volumes and low wages are a recipe for indifference, but there’s no excuse for not having a quality control inspection system that at least can pick up things like the dangling wheel arch material. Water leaks take time to develop, unfortunately, while the spout position is just a design glitch that’s easily remedied.

What’s In the Box?

T

he floorplan is straightforward, especially as there’s no slide-out to complicate things. A swivelling passenger cab seat is optional, but otherwise you have the living and dining area up front, galley in the middle and the main bed and bathroom in the rear corners. Decor is mainstream dull and it will


32 | Tested be good when US manufacturers embrace the light colours, gloss finishes and clean lines so prevalent in Europe, in their mainstream models. Stepping inside you find the light, generator, water pump and tank level switches and gauges clustered fairly low down in the stairwell, on the kitchen end panel. It’s not overly convenient, especially when inside, so I can only imagine it’s cheaper to put them there.

Living Room

B

etween the entry door and cab is a single lounge seat that makes a surprisingly useful place to sit and put on shoes, and generally pile with stuff when you come back from shopping. It’s also a good place to sit and work with a laptop, or talk to those sitting opposite at the dining table. The lounge/dinette is L-shaped and runs between the driver’s seat and refrigerator. It has a long but narrow table with a pair of sturdy legs that are a tight fit to squeeze past. Once seated you tend to stay there! There’s a good sized sliding window behind the dinette and lights beneath the overhead cupboards, but the sole power outlet is by your legs, in the seat base, and it’s easy to get tangled up in power cords. Travelling solo I usually sat facing forward, on the return part of the L-shaped lounge, across from the entry door. That way I could plug into power to the left without getting tangled, plus enjoy a good view and breeze from the side window and door when the weather was kind – so not very often. Plus, I could keep an eye on the world through the windscreen. It was also the best place to watch the TV, which swung out on an arm from a wall bracket just above and ahead of the entry door.

The L-shaped dinette – J-shaped in the brochure – was reasonably comfortable and made a good mobile office, although a cushion was needed due to the shapeless backrest cushion.


Tested | 33

The flip-up bench extension was invaluable at breakfast time, while the two-burner cooker was adequate. Note tiny window, complete with annoying venetian blind. The dinette becomes the third bed, but you’d need to be small.

Food For Thought

Y

ou can cook up a small storm in the compact L-shaped galley, although if you’re looking for an oven you’ll be out of luck. Your storm will have to be concocted on the two petrol burners of the small cooktop and/or in the microwave, then washed up in the single sink. None of that is a hardship and it’s a fair tradeoff for the vehicle’s compact dimensions. At least there’s a good size twodoor refrigerator and freezer (opposite) so you can go for days at a time between shopping safaris. Galley storage is a bit haphazard and it would be good to see more drawers and fewer big, but inefficient, cupboards.

Snooze Time

T

he 1.32 m x 2.02 m (52 x 80 in) main bed is in the rear passenger-side corner and to reach it you step up onto a small raised floor section that marks the boundary between bedroom/bathroom and living areas. I have to say this was one of the most comfortable RV beds I’ve ever slept on; the innerspring mattress having the Goldilocks attributes of being not too soft and not too firm, but just right…

The bed itself butts up against the kitchen sink and it’s only a small but precisely sized and positioned clear acrylic panel that stops your bedding getting wet when washing up, or your feet dangling in the sink at night! It’s not really as bad as it sounds and only longer folks would ever end up getting the chance of a nocturnal foot bath. Perhaps it could be marketed as an added design feature?? Overhead storage was good and without a window in the rear wall – the bedhead – it was easy to sit up and read or work on my laptop. The only negative was the positing of a small, flip-up bedside table on the bathroom wall,


34 | Tested

which was set low and would cause issues for the person on that side for any couple. It needs to be moved up at least six inches as it’s a great idea – ditto the 2 x USB and 1 x 12 V power outlets alongside – but just one that’s been poorly positioned. The bed has a very slightly chamfered corner at its foot end, but it’s really not an issue in use. Between the refrigerator and bathroom door is a half-height handing wardrobe with drawers below, and they provided a surprising amount of clothing storage. Ditto the overhead cupboards, although they can be a bit hard to reach.

Cleaning Up

T

he corner bathroom, with its separate shower cubicle at the very rear, was a pleasant surprise. That was largely due to the shower having a semi-flexible door/ curtain that ran on a curved top rail and provided noticeably more elbow and turning room than a conventional, sliding shower door. It also opened wide for easier access. Nice! Other than that the bathroom was the standard corner arrangement, with a pedestal toilet to the right of the door as you enter and

Top: Main bed was surprisingly comfortable. Above: Packing up after a month on the road, but still work to do. Cab curtain was crude but effective.


Tested | 35 a small corner cupboard over it, plus a pedestal vanity with handbasin between it and the shower. It was good to see a central heating system outlet in the bathroom, although it didn’t seem overly effective, probably due to its close proximity to the toilet. Speaking of the heating system, it had an outlet under the dinette and another beneath the refrigerator, which could warm the bedroom. The thermostat was on the outside of the bathroom wall, above the bed, and it was easy to reach first thing in the morning without getting cold. Being able to hunker back under the covers while the motorhome quickly heated – another benefit of its smaller size – was pure luxury!

What I Think

A

fter four weeks and more than 6200 km in the Ford Transit-based Coachmen Freelander Micro 20CB I came away impressed overall, despite the finish and design glitches. I found it easily liveable and even its foibles became part and parcel of everyday life after a while. It’s ideal for a single traveler and good for a couple (if the bed’s too narrow use the one over the cab as well), but for the advertised six people – adults at least – well, I don’t think so. Priced around US$75,000 it’s a lot of motorhome for the money. A bit of hunting online found a couple as low as US$52,990, brand new, which makes it a steal – especially considering how good the new Transit is. Would I buy one? Yes. Maybe not in a heartbeat and certainly not as my ideal RV, but in fun and bang-for-your-buck terms, yes. It’s also a taste of things to come for North America as Euro chassis become the new norm. It also bodes well for Down Under, when the auto Transit finally arrives. It seems North American buyers and the industry as a whole, not just Coachmen, is finding itself in transit – and are all the better for it. The corner bathroom worked well and the shower surprised me with its spaciousness. The handbasin lacked bench space, though.


36 | Tested

Specs GENERAL Make

Coachmen

Model

Freelander Micro 20CB

Type

Class C

Seats

4

Sleeps

6

Licence

Car

VEHICLE Make/Model

Ford Transit

Engine

3.7-liter V6 Ti-VCT gas

Power

205 kW @ 6000 rpm

Torque

352 Nm @4000 rpm

Gearbox

6-speed automatic

Drive

RWD

Safety

6 Airbags, ABS, ESP, Traction Control & more

Fuel

98 L

WEIGHTS GCWR

5500 kg

GVWR

4669 kg

Max Payload

1007 kg

Tow Hitch Capacity

907 kg

DIMENSIONS Length

7.24 m

Width

2.31 m

Height

3.20 m

Internal Height

2.11(max)

Awning Length

4.27 m

Main Bed

1.32 m x 2.02 m

Over-Cab Bed

1.22 m x 2.21 m

Dinette Bed

1 .04 m x 1.63 m


Tested | 37

Specs EQUIPMENT Slide-Out

No

Awning

Electric with LED lighting

Entry Steps

Built in

Cooker

2 x gas

Rangehood

Yes

Sink

Single stainless steel with mixer tap

Fridge Freezer

160 L Double-door, electric/propane

Microwave

Yes

Lighting

12 V LED

Power

4 kW Onan remote start gas generator

Air Conditioner

13,500 BTU non-ducted

Heating

18,000 BTU ducted furnace

Hot Water

Electric/Propane

Toilet

Plastic, foot flush

Shower

Separate cubicle

CAPACITIES Coach Batteries

1 x 100 AH (est)

Solar

Optional (pre wired)

Propane

18 kg

Fresh Water

144 L

Grey Water

98 L

Hot Water

22 L

Toilet

80 L (tank)

Pros… • New Transit • Fuel economy • Compact dimensions • Good storage • Overall value • Equipment level • Non-wood framing

CONs… • Gutter spout placement • Build quality issues • Table a tight fit • Switch and power outlet locations • No USB outlets in the cab or living area • Main bed width • Some cupboard designs

PRICE MSRP

US$78,644

Warranty – Motorhome

12 months/12,000 miles

Warranty – Chassis

36 months/36,000 miles

Warranty - Drivetrain

60 months/60,000 miles

Manufacturer: Coachmen RV 423 N Main St, Middlebury, IN. 46540, USA www.coachmenrv.com


www.motorhometours.com.au


40 | iMotorhome Marketplace

POWER CHOICE

TM

Connect at home! Connect anywhere!

15Amp to 10Amp Adaptor with RCD and overload protection

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iTech World

Wellington Shire

Australia’s leading solar power and satellite TV manufacturers! We stock the revolutionary In Flex and Mini Flex panels, Plus our Complete Traveller Satellite TV package is perfect for motorhomes.

In the heart of Victoria’s Gippsland region. Come and enjoy our natural beauty, famous lakes, High Country and expansive beaches. Find ‘Experience 40 Great Things to Do’ on our website too!

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13,500

$

13,000

$

AUD per person twin share

13,000

$

AUD per person twin share

www.motorhometours.com.au

AUD per person twin share


42 | iMotorhome Marketplace

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Roberts RV World

RV Specialists

An official Avida motorhome dealer, with more than 50 new motorhomes in the largest undercover RV showroom in the Southern Hemisphere. Our service department is here for all your needs too.

Australia’s leading fifth wheelers, designed here in Australia and built to suit our demanding conditions. Fifth wheelers from 24’ to 36’ available. Call 02 4953 7141 for information!

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An Authorised Repco Service Centre just off the Hume Highway at Mittagong. Auto electrical and mechanical service specialists happy to look after your motorhome or campervan! Call Mark or Sharon and tell them iMotorhome sent you!

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iMotorhome Marketplace | 43

Airbag Man

Battery Traders Super Store

Taronga Western Plains Zoo

We design and manufacture air suspension kits for all types of vehicles including motorhomes. Easy to install they let you ‘level up’ for stability and safety.

Batteries, solar panels, inverters, alternators and all electrical parts including cables and switches for your motorhome! We can find and fix all electrical faults and are 12 V power specialists.

Visit our world famous 300 ha open range sanctuary, home to some of the most exotic and endangered animals on earth. Explore by foot, bike, electric cart or in your motorhome!

T: 1800 AIRBAG W: airbagman.com.au

T: (07) 3209 3144 W: batterytraders.com.au

T: (02) 6881 1400 W: taronga.org.au

Nomadic Solutions

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hitches fully ADR compliant no swaying increased towing safety easy reversing offroad vans available

5th wheeler specialist

Our vehicle-specific insulation screens are Australian made from specially designed and tested material to keep you cool in summer and warm in winter. As featured in iMotorhome’s Project Polly!

T: (07) 3398 5500 W: solarscreen.com.au

Nomadic Solutions - the original, quality constructed ‘lifestyletable™’ that is easily attached to the side of your motorhome. Now available in ‘mill finish’ for custom painting.

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To find out more call Mark on 0412027330 or email mje240@adam.com.au www.e-twow.com 1


44 | New Release

Concorde Credo There’s a new and more affordable Concorde A-class in Australia‌


New Release | 45

T

he most compact model from Europe’s self-proclaimed leading brand of luxury motorhomes, the Credo by Concorde Motorhomes, is now available. The 7.69 m (25’ 4”) Iveco-based Credo – selling from $300,000 – is the most compact of Concorde’s locally available four-vehicle range and has a 5200 kg GVM.

Credo is said to add a new level of luxury and an extensive range of features for an entrylevel premium motorhome. “For example, the especially generous headroom, with a comfortable 3.25 metres total height, an Alde hot water heater for perfect interior climate, the Concorde One Level Concept, with one continuous 350 mm high-raised floor running through the entire vehicle so there “The Credo is different from typical compact are no steps, as well as a high-quality wall motorhomes sold in Australia in that it is and ceiling trim for optimum insulation. The designed, finished and fitted out to the Credo is designed to be a best-in-class entry uncompromising standards of Europe’s leading level luxury motorhome. Every design detail producer of luxury motorhomes, Concorde has been meticulously crafted for maximum Reisemobile GMBH, which sells more than comfort and functionality,” Mr Stocker said. 500 luxury motorhomes a year in some of the world’s most discriminating marketplaces. The company says that while Concorde’s Concorde has built its name over 53 years top-of-the-range 11.5 m Liner Plus model can by being passionate about motorhomes that tip the financial scales at $1 million plus, the deliver a lot of space, a lot of luxury and a lot Credo provides a luxurious option at a fraction of enjoyment,” said Concorde Motorhomes’ of the price for those seeking uncompromising general manager, Allan Stocker. standards of luxury and space combined with an optimised driving experience. It includes

A rear island bed is one of the floorplan options available


46 | New Release

Concorde has done an impressive job of integrating the Iveco Daily’s instrument cluster and cab controls to create a seamlessly stylish driving position. an elevated seating position, panoramic windscreen, large coach-style exterior mirrors, crisp, clear personalised dashboard and smooth power-assisted driving features that appeal to men and women alike. “If you think about the $300k price tag, that’s less than most studio apartments in Australia’s major cities. And even if you did find one for that price, the design and finishes of the Credo would easily outshine it – with the advantage that you can take to the roads and holiday with your motorhome,” said Mr Stocker, whose Newcastle-based (Bennetts Green) business has exclusive rights to distribute the Concorde range in Australia. “For such a high level of luxury and class, $300k is an attractive price point. The

Credo has an extensive range of features as standard, with even more options to suit individual needs,” he said. The first Credo has just been sold to an Australian couple ready for their next adventure. “As a family-owned company, customer service is in our nature. We listen to all our purchasers, because we won’t sell anything that we wouldn’t believe in ourselves,” says Mr Stocker. Concorde says that for an entry level premium motorhome, Credo is fitted with one of the most comprehensive ranges of safety, luxury and functionality features in Australia and its highlights include:


New Release | 47

Single beds that can become a large double are probably the best choice.

Living Room: The ergonomically designed suite and lightweight furniture in a quality Wenge look combine with the high-gloss overhead locker fronts in an elegant cream white.

Bedroom: Depending on the floor plan, options include a rear transverse bed with padded headrest or two single beds and one queen bed as well as an optional pull-down bed. They all share the Concorde Comfort Plus bed system of slatted bed frame and Kitchen: Pull-out larder units, drawers cold foam mattress for a restful night’s with servo soft close, an intelligent waste sleep. Numerous LED spotlights and indirect management system and the mineral kitchen lighting provide a pleasant light for reading worktop with moulded, integrated stainless and relaxation. steel sink set industry benchmarks in terms of space utilisation, design and usability in Driver’s Compartment: A clear layout this class of motorhome. provides outstanding visibility in any traffic situation. An elevated seating position and Bathroom: Pumps and piping systems the large coach-style external mirrors further ensure water pressure provides the same enhance road safety. And the new Concorde shower experience as a fixed home. The dashboard means that all essential buttons large wardrobe and a separate dressing area and controls are in full view. complement the bathroom.


48 | New Release Vehicle features include: • A wide range of leather and fabric finishes • Insulated front shutter • Mastervolt battery management system • Easily accessible engine compartment • Service flaps for easy access to intermediate floors, making loading and unloading this cross-cut storage space, even with bulky objects such as camping furniture, significantly easier • Fully insulated front wall, to protect against outside noise and enhance insulation in colder months • Adjustable Alde hot water and gas central heating To view the full range of more than 200 standard features and an equally extensive Decor and style are impressive, as is the inclusion of an L-shaped lounge and swivelling single seat by the dining table.


New Release | 49 range of optional extras, see the Credo Technical Specifications document. “The Credo is the highest level of luxury on the market at its price point, which we believe is an attractive offering to Australians looking to combine adventure with comfort,” Mr Stocker concluded. iMotorhome welcomes the arrival of what appears to be an excellent and smaller A-class and looks forward to the opportunity to review the Credo and bring you a full report.

Credo must be one of the few European motorhomes with a decent sized kitchen, and one that isn’t L-shaped.


50 | Tested: Earthcruiser Unimog U430

High & Behold!

This towering Unimog makes an ideal go-anywhere motorhome that’s a sight to behold‌ by Allan Whiting of OutbackTravelAustralia.com


Tested | 51

The Unimog is probably the most famous off-road truck and it has achieved cult status in the world of expedition vehicles. The U430 variant has a totally different cab and features an enormously deep windscreen that provides unmatched visibility for a totally commanding driving position. It’s as close to being the ultimate 4x4 as you’ll get, but comes with a price tag as mind boggling as its abilities.

E

arthcruiser’s latest development is the company’s familiar motorhome body mounted on a Mercedes-Benz Unimog

U430.

The U430 is not the familiar Unimog shape, because the cab, with its vast windscreen, was designed primarily for use with implements such as snow ploughs, fertiliser spreaders, mowers and many other systems. However, the underpinnings – flexible ladderframe chassis, ‘drop-box’ portal hubs for unmatched ground clearance, three diff locks, coil springs and multi-ratio transmissions – are familiar to Unimog aficionados.

The principal differences between the familiar U4000/U5000 Unimogs and the U430 are, obviously, the cab and the overall ground clearance and chassis flexibility. The U430 doesn’t have the traditional ‘Mog torque-tube propshafts, nor does it have the same degree of wheel travel. However, for the travel aims of nearly all motorhome buyers, the U430’s configuration is more than adequate.

Safety First

T

he stubby cab provides an outstanding forward and side view, due to the short front-end assembly and panoramic glass. However this forward positioning hasn’t


52 | Tested compromised safety, Mercedes-Benz claims. The new Unimog complies with the highest safety standards, including ECE-R29/02, the internationally recognised standard for survival space of all the occupants in commercial vehicles; fire resistance inflammability test according to hazard regulation FMVSS 571.302 and roll-over-protection to OECD Standard Code 6.

the cab for right-hand-drive applications. This feature makes the U430 ideal for people who want a motorhome they can use to tour around the world. Another option is CTI (Central Tyre Inflation), operated from a dashboard switch.

Nuts & Bolts

T

he Unimog U430 is powered by ‘Benz’s Euro 6, OM 936 7.7-litre engine that puts out 220 kW and 1200 Nm. That Other safety initiatives include daytime running considerable power is delivered via a fully lights, ABS, and seats with integrated threesynchronised electro-pneumatic transmission point safety belts and headrests. that is different to those fitted to larger Adding to its flexibility is an option called Unimogs. This new development combines a VarioPilot. The steering box is mounted at the fuel-saving manual transmission with optional, front of the left side chassis rail, but the steering infinitely variable hydrostatic traction drive and wheel and instrument cluster can be unlocked allows a swift change between the two types of from its natural LHD position and slid across drive.

A total package: Earthcruiser’s conversion fits seamlessly on the Unimog chassis.


Tested | 53 The hydrostatic traction drive itself has two driving programs: the work mode for jobs needing a constant engine speed and the drive mode for infinitely variable acceleration with a variable engine speed. The main ‘box has eight forward and six reverse gears, engageable in three working and crawler gear groups. The choice between changing gears manually and automatically can be made simply by pressing a button. A useful feature is Electronic Quick Reverse, which makes it easier to change direction quickly when getting out of a wheelrut bogging. Despite its diversity the transmission is operated by an EasyDrive control stalk, located behind the steering wheel, so the driver can control the direction of travel, gear and cruise

control. There’s also a multifunction joystick, in addition to the normal accelerator pedal and brake.

Extras…

T

he Earthcruiser Unimog U430 is built on the longest available wheelbase: a dimension that was developed primarily to suit the Earthcruiser motorhome module. Earthcruiser added a rear chassis extension to lengthen the available load space, before mounting a modified version of its successful motorhome bodywork. Options added to the basic spec’ included VarioPilot and tyre inflation/deflation on the fly, but the hydrostatic transmission wasn’t considered necessary for what is a recreational

The ultimate Home Amongst the Gumtrees. Spare wheel and bike rack are winch operated, in case you’re wondering…


54 | Tested vehicle. The main box ratios are more than adequate for most owners’ needs. The ‘Benz transmission can be driven as an automated manual, where shifts are done with computer control of clutch and selectors, or as a manual box, using a clutch pedal that drops down for the purpose. However, even in automated manual mode the box can be operated as a manual, without need for the clutch, by selecting ‘M’ rather than ‘A’ mode. That’s ideal for low-speed off-road situations such as deep sand and rock hopping, where gear shifting isn’t desirable.

For most driving conditions the transmission can be operated as an automated manual, letting the computer work out the correct gear. Shifts aren’t inherently smooth, partly because of the large ratio spread in the box, but with a little practice shift-shock can be modulated by accelerator pressure before and after each shift. The U430’s cab is well insulated, preventing nearly all mechanical and road noise from intruding. Ride quality in the Earthcruiser U430 was superb, with no suspension or tyre harshness.

Through-cab access is good for this type of vehicle. Not exactly an intimate dining set-up, the table is mainly for use when you can’t eat outdoors. Two seat-belt equipped dinette seats make this a true four seat expedition wagon.


Tested | 55

The main bed is east-west across the rear, while the extra beds are bunks for kids. There’s plenty of kitchen space plus a diesel-fired cooktop to keep the vehicle LPG-free. There’s even an air-conditioner in the rear wall that runs off the lithium battery bank to cool things down on those sticky tropical nights. Impressive! The big coils soaked up bumps and undulations without complaint, while handling was flat and predictable. The tested weight was around nine tonnes and the U430 is rated at twelve tonnes GVM. Given the weight of the U430 Earthcruiser it’s not surprising that Mark Fawcett, Earthcruiser’s principal, opted for four, vertically-operating hydraulic rams fore and aft, to lift the vehicle in the event of a tyre change, or a bogging. The huge rams operate independently, so they double as vehicle levellers when camping.

Inside

T

he proven Earthcruiser motorhome module sits neatly behind the U430 cab and access to its elevated position is eased by a concertina-style stair arrangement that has broad treads and a gradual slope. The interior layout in the evaluation machine


56 | Tested Cleverly, the bathroom doubles as a mudroom because you walk through it to get in and out of the living area. Just don’t forget to close the door when seated…

had a transverse double bed and three optional pipe-cot bunks for kids. The shower/ toilet module is cleverly positioned in the entry footwell, doubling as a ‘wet room’ at the top of the stairs. There’s a 220-litre fridge/freezer under the kitchen bench, while the dinette chairs double as passenger seats and are fitted with seat belts to ADR requirements. Equipments levels are high, as we’ve come to expect from Earthcruiser, and included full air-conditioning, backed up by a massive lithium battery bank and ample water and fuel storage. An electric barbecue backed up the interior cooker and, naturally, there was a washing machine. A nice touch was integrated step ladders on both sides of the aft storage compartment. The U430’s cab wall allowed a large walkthrough opening from the front seats to the motorhome body and the various controls that used to grace the engine tunnel between the front seats had been moved elsewhere to allow easy people movement between cab and body. Anything built on a Unimog chassis isn’t going to be cheap, so the haggling starts around 600 grand. That’s a lot of money, but this is a highly specialised and capable motorhome that’s truly in the Expedition class. It’s not the prettiest thing on the road but then again beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And behold, it’s one remarkable go-anywhere motorhome…


Tested | 57

Pros… • All terrain capability • Drivability • Liveability • Range • Mercedes-Benz quality • Earthcruiser quality • Off-grid credentials

CONs… • Highly specialised • Size • Price

CONTACT:

Click for Google Maps

EarthCruiser Australia 53 Montague St Wollongong. NSW. 2500. T: 0412 642 437 E: sales@earthcruiser.com.au W: earthcruiser.net.au


58 | Tested: Latitude Motorhomes Element 27

In Their Element Latitude Motorhomes’ luxurious new Element 27 brings Ben and Michael MacLean full circle‌ by Malcolm Street


Tested | 59

The Element is the first foray into coachbuilt motorhomes for Latitude founders Ben and Michael MacLean. However, it’s familiar territory for the former Paradise duo, who are now free to bring fresh ideas into the luxury segment.

I

n Australia, the motorhome market share when compared to the caravan market, is very small: a situation quite unique when compared to the likes of New Zealand, America, Canada, Britain and just about all of Europe. There are various reasons for it, but one of the problems is that if just one manufacturer drops out of a particular sector, it leaves a gap. For instance we have no local manufacturers of A-class motorhomes, while the luxury end of the market is relatively thin.

something fresh out of the factory – like their brand new Element 27.

Base Vehicle

F

or good reason, like load capacity, Latitude has opted for an Iveco Daily 70C17 cab-chassis for its 8.5 m (27’ 11”) Element. Quite a few manufacturers try to get under the 4500 kg gross vehicle mass (GVM) limit for driving on a car licence, but that often introduces design compromises. I reckon Latitude has been smart not doing that, instead taking full advantage of the Iveco Daily’s 7200 kg GVM and minimising the engineering compromises.

Ben and Michael MacLean – the crew at Latitude Motorhomes – having had some considerable success with their Titanium Mercedes-Benz Sprinter conversion, have obviously seen the need and decided there is a On weighty matters, mathematicians might gap in the luxury segment that can be filled with note the advised payload of a very generous


60 | Tested 1550 kg does not agree with the subtraction of the tare weight (5150 kg) from the GVM (7200 kg). However, that’s because the payload is calculated with all the water tanks and gas cylinders filled: A slightly unusual (for the RV industry) but probably more realistic method of figuring out the available payload. Included in Latitude’s Iveco Daily specification is self-levelling rear air bag suspension. It’s a great idea in a vehicle this size, because the conventional steel suspension is designed for much heavier loads and in a normal commercial vehicle situation, ride quality isn’t a priority.

Body Building

L

ike many motorhomes these days the Element 27 uses a composite body structure, with the roof measuring 80 mm thick and the walls 30 mm. A syncropulse welded aluminium frame gives the motorhome body the necessary strength, something essential since much of the driver’s-side wall area is taken up by a slideout. Despite a length of 4.5 m (14’ 9”), the slide-out is a very smoothly operating piece of machinery and although the extension of 0.6m (2’) might not sound much, it offers a considerable amount of interior space.

A near-full-length driver’s-side slide-out houses the head of the east-west queen bed, plus the cafe style dinette. Storage lockers are built into the slide-out and are high enough to avoid stooping while being accessed.


Tested | 61 Given the length of the Element 27 it’s not surprising it has a considerable amount of exterior locker space. A great feature is that all the storage lockers have electronic locking, including the lockers built into the lower wall of the slide-out. The latter item is an interesting and welcome development because quite a few motorhomes have lockers built into the motorhome body, below the extended slideout. They are therefore awkward to get, but building them into the actual slide-out solves that problem nicely. Another couple of items that are often difficult to lift in and out are the gas cylinders. In this case, their kerb-side locker has a slide-out tray

on which both 4.5 kg cylinders are mounted, making things easy. Also easy, in the adjoining locker where triple 120 AH deep-cycle batteries and assorted electrics are fitted, is the fuse panel, which is actually labelled. This is rather a novel approach in the RV industry and certainly a welcome one! Built into the body work of the Element 27 are quite a few extras, like the satellite dish, rear wall folding ladder and a Fiamma bike rack. There is also a mounting for the spare wheel. That might sound a slightly odd place, but it’s certainly easier to get at than some I have seen.

Gas cylinders are mounted on a handy slide-out tray in their own sealed locker. In the adjoining sealed locker are 3 x 120 AH deep-cycle house batteries. Backed by 600 W of solar panels and an on-board generator, electrical capacity will never be an issue in this motorhome!


62 | Tested Welcome Aboard

S

tepping onto the Element 27 reveals a layout that looks a bit familiar (from the Latitude team’s previous experience), but also has a few differences. Filling the slide-out is a traverse queen bed at the rear, a café style dinette in the middle and the fridge up front. Across the rear wall is a full width bathroom, while a kitchen bench fills the kerb-side side wall area. Both cab seats swivel, but having the fridge behind the driver’s seat and a full height cabinet behind the passenger’s seat does seem to detract from the potential full lounge/ dining area. However the reason for that is the

Above: Cab seats swivel but don’t ‘mesh’ in with the dinette, although this really only becomes an issue if you have a group of people over for drinks. Top: The unusual fridge location, between the cab and dinette, is in response to customer input that a compressor fridge by the bed is too noisy at night.


Tested | 63

Above: Open plan living is the order of the day, but it would be good to have some kind of partition or curtain to provide bedroom privacy when desired. The angled white door at the end of the aisle is for the shower, and also swings across to close off the full-width rear bathroom. Below: Kitchen bench space is generous and it’s good to have a full cooker on board. The TV is also well-positioned for viewing from bed or the dinette. alternative position for the fridge is beside the bed and apparently user feedback suggests the compressor is too noisy during the night. All cabinetry is interlocked, bonded and screwed together. To ensure everything stays where it should when travelling, Blum Legrabox drawer and hinge systems, and minimal-butstrong stainless steel door handles are used. The matt finish high pressure laminate on all cupboards and drawers is the type that doesn’t leave finger prints, which is often a problem with some finishes.

Kitchen

T

here’s a bit of the conventional and unconventional in the kitchen. Certainly quite usual is the three-burner cooker with grill/oven alongside the stainless sink/ drainer. The microwave, oft found in the overhead locker area, is fitted below bench level, between the main kitchen bench and the


64 | Tested rear wardrobe. The has the double effect of reducing OH&S issues and increasing bench space. It’s not kitchen use, but where the microwave might be in the overhead locker space, there’s a flat screen TV instead that can easily be seen from the bed, and with a little bit of effort, from most of the seats at the front. Overall there is a generous amount of overhead locker space and drawer capacity – something further enhanced by the half-width cabinet on the other side of the entry door, behind the passenger seat. Beside drawer and cupboard space there is also a slide-out shelf that comes with a coffee maker and all the necessary components for drinking it!

Dinette

T

his motorhome is a customer order and has a café style dinette complete with four seat belts because the owner wants to have passenger carrying capability. It doesn’t really detract from the seating comfort, which is very good for just two people. Alternatively, an L-shaped lounge/dinette is available and it might work better with the swivelled cab seats, which at present don’t really ‘mesh’ with the dinette.

Overnight

A

benefit of having an east-west bed in a slide-out is that there are less restriction on the length. In this case the bed measures 1.92 m (6’ 4”) by 1.52 m (5’). There is, of course, storage space under the bed and it can be accessed when the slideout is retracted. If requested, the bed can be made to lift to get to the bathroom in the rear, although a different kitchen shelf has to be fitted (I’d be ordering that - Ed). Occupying the wall space at the base of the bed is a good sized wardrobe with hanging space and decent sized drawers.


Tested | 65

The shower is generous and even has a moulded seat in the corner, while the bathroom is nicely appointed and has plenty of storage.

Bathroom

M

ost of kerb-side rear corner of the bathroom is taken up by the shower cubicle. It’s not square – the door being set at an angle – but it’s part space saver and the door can also be used to close off the bathroom from the bedroom. In the main bathroom a vanity cabinet occupies the rear wall, leaving space in the driver’s-side corner for a Thetford cassette toilet, complete with an SOG fume extractor on the tank. Naturally, the bathroom is fully kitted out with towel rail, wall mirror and handy shelf space.

Off Grid

D

eep-cycle house battery capacity is an impressive 360 amp-hours, backed by a whopping 600 watts of solar panels, ensuring the ability to live sans mains power for a considerable period of time. For mains power requirements a 1600-watt inverter can power

the essentials, like the hair dryer and laptop computer chargers (not forgetting the coffee machine, of course – Ed). That’s with noise restrictions of course, otherwise the Dometic Tec29 generator could be fired up! The only real limitation to long-term off-grid living would be the 310 litre water tank, although it’s not that limiting!

What I Think

T

he Element 27 has a remarkable list of standard features, many more than mentioned here, making it an impressive motorhome to say the least. It seems to be very well put together and combines high end materials and inclusions with Ben and Michael’s previous years of luxury motorhome manufacturing experience. It’s a breath of fresh air at the premium end of the market and one that will doubtless find a ready market. You could say the pair are now in their element. Soon, it’s likely many customers will be too…


66 | Tested

Specs GENERAL Make

Latitude

Model

Element 27

Type

B-Class

Berths

2

Approved Seating

2 (option for 4 extra in rear)

Licence

Light Rigid

VEHICLE Make/Model

Iveco Daily 70C210

Engine

3.0 L 4-cylinder turbo-diesel

Power

150 kW @ 3100 - 3500 rpm

Torque

470 Nm @ 1400 - 3000 rpm

Gearbox

8 speed automatic

Safety

ABS, ESP, EBD, Hill Hold, dual air bags

Fuel

100 L

WEIGHTS Tare Weight

5150 kg

Gross Vehicle Mass

7200 kg

Max Payload (with full water and gas)

1550 kg

Braked Towing Capacity

3500 kg

DIMENSIONS Overall Length

8.50 m (27' 11")

Overall Width

2.47 m (8' 1")

Overall Height

3.25 m (10' 8")

Internal Height

2.02 m (6' 7")

Bed

1.92 m x 1.52 m (6 ' 4" x 5')


Tested | 67

Specs EQUIPMENT Slide-Out

4.5 m (14' 9") long and 0.6 m (2') wide

Awning

Electric

Entry Steps

Electric

Cooktop

3 burner Thetford Triplexz, grill & oven

Rangehood

Yes

Sink

Stainless steel with drainer

Fridge

216 L Dometic RUC 8408X 240V/12V compressor

Microwave

LG

Lighting

12 V LED

12 V Sockets/USB Outlets

2

Air Conditioner

Air Command Ibis 3

Space Heater

Eberspacher diesel

Hot Water System

Aqua Go instantaneous

Toilet

Thetford cassette

Shower

Separate cubicle

CAPACITIES Batteries

3 x 120 AH AGM

Solar

600 W

LPG

2 x 4.5kg

Fresh Water

310 L

Grey Water

95 L

Hot Water

Instantaneous

Toilet

19 L (cassette)

Pros… • Quality • Standard equipment • Off-grid power capability • Iveco Daily load capacity • Air bag suspension • External lockers in slide-out • All round electrical capacity

CONs… • Requires LR licence • Cab seats don’t mesh with dinette • Batteries awkward if needing removal

PRICE ON ROAD QLD As Tested

$269,900

Warranty - Vehicle

3 years/200,000 km

Warranty - Motorhome

3 years/200,000 km

Warranty - Appliances

As per manufacturers

CONTACTS: Click for Google Maps

Latitude Motorhomes 13/14 Rothcote Court Burleigh Heads, Qld. 4220. T: (07) 5606-8000 E: info@latitudemotorhomes.com.au W: latitudemotorhomes.com.au


Go Remote trakka.com.au


70 | Tested: Horizon Motorhomes Melaleuca Appeal

SURPRISE APPEAL! Horizon’s new entry-level Melaleuca Appeal certainly took us by surprise… by Richard Robertson


Tested | 71

Horizon Motorhomes specialises in van conversion motorhomes and at 5.99 m the Melaleuca is it’s entry level range. The new Melaleuca Appeal balances price and features without sacrificing comfort, while the latest Fiat Ducato is a fun drive ideally suited to conversion.

H

orizon Motorhomes has carved an enviable niche in the Australian motorhome market. It’s model range is exclusively van-conversion based and the company has built a loyal following, while its conversions have an enviable reputation for quality, durability and liveability. It’s no secret I’m a great fan of van conversion motorhomes – witness our own Project Polly – as distinct from ‘coachbuilts’, which have a seperate body built on a cab-chassis. In both markets Fiat’s Ducato rules the roost as the most popular base vehicle, closely followed by Mercedes’ Sprinter. A van conversion’s strengths are its structural integrity due to the vehicle basically being a big metal box; its durability for the same reason, and being narrower than a coachbuilt, manoeuvrability. Some models, including the Melaleuca Appeal reviewed here, are short enough to park in a single car space, while fuel economy is better due to reduced frontal area and usually lighter

weight. The disadvantage are reduced living space – vehicle width is a double-edged sword – and the ‘whizz-bang’ sliding door, although in truth such doors are quieter and easier to use these days (and the Sprinter can be optioned with a remote-operated electric side door). A large part of Horizon’s success has been its evolutionary model development. Rather than come up with new designs each year, Horizon refines and improves its layouts based on buyer feedback and manufacturing experience. Each layout is proven and highly liveable, but over the years the improvements have lead to what a tax accountant might call ‘bracket creep’. In motorhoming terms it means the equipment list keeps getting longer, but with creeping costs. A new model from Horizon is a rare thing and the company kept this one a closely guarded secret. At very short notice I was invited to review it, prior to it’s launch at next week’s Queensland Caravan Camping and Touring


72 | Tested Supershow in Brisbane. Until now Horizon’s entry-level model has been the Melaleuca. Built on the Fiat Ducato, it’s compact and particularly popular with solo travellers. It’s also very well equipped, but over the years the price has crept up. Enter the Melaleuca Appeal: an entry level version designed to better balance price and equipment.

What’s the Appeal?

N

o budget priced ‘stripper’, the Melaleuca Appeal still has a decent level of standard equipment. It has also been designed using an interesting philosophy, best explained by Horizon’s managing director, Clayton Kearney: “The Appeal has the capability to be upgraded Right: The side door has a stop to prevent it opening far enough to hit the rear side window. Below: The door only opens about half its original length, which is fine for access and has the added bonus of reducing closing effort and noise. In action it’s both light and quiet.


Tested| 73

at anytime. If you (later) decide you really can’t live without a TV or filter water tap, or that you would like additional reading lights, they can all be easily added – the base set up includes all wiring and necessary outlets for all those little extra comforts.” It’s an interesting move and one that adds value because it means future upgrades shouldn’t be as expensive as if starting from scratch. Truth be known I was concerned the bean counters might have pared too much equipment in their pursuit of increased affordability. In reality they seem to have struck a good balance, although I think there is room for adjustment in the equipment list that could either lower the price further without sacrificing comfort and/or convenience, or keep it the same but make it even more liveable. Anyway, here’s what’s missing compared to a standard Melaleuca:

Top: Huge barn doors and a U-shaped dinette/bed allow easy relaxing to take in the views. Add the optional full rear insect screen for maximum usability. Above: Swivelling cab seats provide comfortable secondary seating; handy if your partner goes to bed early.


74 | Tested

• Opening, double-glazed windows in rear doors (fixed glass now) • TV (but the Winegard Sensar aerial is still there!) • Removable table between cab seats • Turbovent front roof hatch (standard hatch now) • Filtered drinking water system • Entry step • One of two external lights • 200 AH house battery (now 100 AH) • 4 extra reading lights (2 in the cab and 2 in the rear) • Wall mounted magazine holder in dinette area • External shower • Cupboards above rear doors • Floor-level drawer under the dinette (now a removable shelf) • Automatic gearbox The result is a $102,500 drive-away price for the manual Appeal, or $105,550 for an auto. By comparison, the ‘full strength’ Melaleuca costs $112,500 on the road.

Above: The Appeal loses the transverse cupboard above the rear doors, but that adds headroom and a feeling of spaciousness. Below: The bathroom light cycles through dim and bright white, then blue. It’s a nice touch, especially at night. Bottom: The removable betweenseats table is gone, which is a pity.


Tested | 75

You can sleep east-west and leave the table in place, plus have a pair of inwards-facing seats at the front. Very versatile‌


76 | Tested What’s the Box?

T

he Melaleuca Appeal is built in – Horizon calls itself the Built In Specialists – a long wheelbase Fiat Ducato van. Ducato vans are ideally suited to motorhome conversion due to their very square shape. Being front-wheel drive they have a low floor height because there’s no drive shaft or bulky rear axle/ differential, while more under-floor room allows for a bigger water tank. That lower floor height means increased headroom without the need for a high roof, plus the Ducato is wider than its rivals, meaning for many people an east-west bed is viable. Add to that a higher gross vehicle mass (GVM) rating, which means increased

payload, a larger 125-litre fuel tank and a lower price and the it’s no wonder the Ducato is king of the van-conversion crop. New for 2017, all Fiat Ducatos get a 2.3-litre Multijet2 turbo-diesel that’s Euro 6 emissionsstandards compliant. Melaleucas have always had a 2.3-litre mill under the bonnet (a 3.0-litre engine has been standard on all other Horizon Ducato-based models until now) producing 110 kW of power and 350 Nm of torque. The new engine ups the torque ante to 380 Nm, which is a real bonus. For those who want maximum power a version of the new 2.3-litre engine is optionally available with the same 130 kW/400 Nm of the superseded 3.0-litre donk, if desired.

Decent ground clearance and a shortish wheelbase with minimal front or rear overhang means the Melaleuca Appeal can get you to places bigger vehicles can’t. The strong metal box of the Ducato’s body is also highly durable and secure. Love-it-or-hate-it, white remains the most practical colour as it shows dirt the least, reflects heat in summer and is easily colour matched if scratched.


Tested | 77

Above: The bathroom is a good compromise for the size of the vehicle, but there’s no storage space. Note the tap, which pulls out to become the shower. Below: A removable hatch allows long items like snow or water skis to be easily carried. If you could remove the central U-section of the bed it would allow bikes, a kayak or similar to be securely carried inside, which would only add to the Appeals, um, appeal. It’s an interesting move that the Melaleuca Appeal comes with a six-speed manual gearbox (the six-speed auto is an option, and still standard on the ‘full strength’ Melaleuca). I say interesting because Australian motorhome buyers have shunned manual gearboxes for some time – witness the demise of the Ford Transit as a base vehicle predominantly for that reason. It’s certainly a move to help bring down the price and in my opinion a good one; giving buyers a choice denied for some time. Fiat’s standard equipment list is still generous and includes remote central locking, electric windows and mirrors, cab airconditioning, a touch screen infotainment centre, cruise control with speed limiter, height-adjustable and swivelling cab seats, height adjustable headlights, and now, even a pair of cup holders! Safety items include dual front airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, electronic traction control, and a hill-


78 | Tested

The Ducato comes with factory-fitted seat swivels that are the best in the business. The driver’s seat swivel is restricted by the fridge cupboard placement, but that’s unavoidable in a vehicle this size. The seats themselves are very comfortable, while the Ducato’s cab remains the most car-like. holder function. The only obvious omission is side and/or curtain airbags, which aren’t even optionally available.

Driving the Box

A

ll Ducatos are light, easy and fun to drive and this one is no exception. The new Multijet2 engine feels just like its predecessors and we only put a few kilometres on it, so I can’t comment on its open road abilities (although I have no doubt they’d be fine, especially given the increased torque). The test vehicle also had the auto gearbox, which in truth is an automated manual (sans-clutch) and called the Comfort-matic Transmission in Fiat-speak. It’s an interesting gearbox that you drive like a conventional auto, but which still pauses slightly between shifts as a computer changes gear. For my money, however, I’d take the manual. Funnily enough I’m just back from a week in a manual Ducato

in New Zealand. It’s my second NZ rental experience in such a vehicle and I really enjoyed it. While I wouldn’t buy a manual car, somehow a manual motorhome/light commercial vehicle feels right. In any case, Fiat’s manual gearbox is precise if a little notchy, while the clutch is light and progressive. Perhaps it’s a function of the smaller/lighter engine, but the Melaleuca Appeal felt lighter to drive than usual. Mrs iMotorhome also commented on how light and easy it was to drive as she did laps of the beachside area for the camera. Visibility was as good as ever, ditto cab comfort, and all-in-all this sixth generation Fiat Ducato remains a terrific motorhome base vehicle.

What’s in the Box?

I

n a 5.99-meter long box there’s only so much you can fit in and so many ways to arrange it. Up front is the cab, in the middle are the


Tested| 79

Above: There’s no shortage of fresh air or light and the side door window makes a handy kitchen serving hatch. Right: Abundant kitchen drawer space is good as there are no cupboards overhead. There’s also no rangehood, but a small fan hatch in the roof is fitted. Note the flip-up bench extension, which adds valuable work space. kitchen and bathroom, and at the rear the combined dinette/bedroom. It’s standard Horizon Melaleuca stuff and you can read all about it in my review of the ‘full strength’ version in Issue 102 from last September. It’s a layout that works particularly well despite the vehicle’s sub-six metre length. The good news is, despite the lighter list of standard equipment the character, comfort and ‘appeal’ of the Melaleuca are minimally impacted. Appearance wise you’d be hard pressed to pick the differences, at least at a casual glance. Stepping inside, the differences aren’t all that obvious either, with the missing TV the most apparent. Interestingly, Mrs iM commented the TV’s absence gave the dinette/bed area a slightly less cluttered feel, which added to an overall “sense of simplicity” she found quite appealing. The Melaleuca’s floor plan has always been appealing in its simplicity and practicality, but


80 | Tested it’s the dinette/bed that stands out. U-shaped across the rear, it can provide an east-west double bed across the back, with dinette up front that you can leave in place at night. Or, you can remove the multi-adjustable Lagun table and have single beds down the sides, using the piece in between (by the rear doors) as a bedside table. Alternatively, you make the whole thing up into a giant king bed! There’s full-width storage under the rear of the bed too, accessible through the back doors and also via a removable board that provides access for long items into the aisle.

bikes/surfboards/kayak or whatever down the aisle would be a real bonus. Food for thought…

What I Think

D

espite its entry-level status, Horizon’s new Melaleuca Appeal is aptly named. It retains the original Melaleuca’s strengths without sacrificing its character or charm, and that’s no accident. It’s what happens when you take a highly developed design and refine it to a specific end. Perhaps the surprise is its appeal despite the lighter equipment list. In fact it’s very appealing indeed…

All cabinetry, fixtures and fittings are the usual high quality Horizon items, while decor and design are a nice balance of functionality and appeal (there’s that word again). The kitchen remains a good size and well equipped; the bathroom is compact but functional and all you need (although a mirrored shaving cabinet would be good), and there’s enough storage space for any owner’s reasonable needs.

In a Perfect Box…

P

ost review, Mrs iM and I spent time thinking about the Melaleuca Appeal’s equipment list and wondering what, if anything, we’d do differently. We think we’d retain the TV, especially as the aerial is already there and most people are addicted to it. We’d also keep the removable front table, because a secondary seating/dining/working area is invaluable in any vehicle. However, the awning and front roof hatch could go, and also the microwave as we’re primarily free campers. The external 240 V power point could go too, ditto the mains water connector. I’d also order the manual and would love Fiat’s leather steering wheel over the standard plastic hoop if available. One other thought: The ability to remove the rear centre bed section and just have two long beds – like a traditional campervan – to put

The Appeal looses the regular Melaleuca’s opening rear-door windows, swapping them for Fiat’s fixed glass, which are actually bigger and provide more light and view. Swings and roundabouts…


Tested | 81

“A new model from Horizon is a rare thing and the company kept this one a closely guarded secret.�


82 | Tested

Specs GENERAL Make

Horizon Motorhomes

Model

Melaleuca Appeal

Type

Van conversion

Berths

2

Approved Seating

2

Licence

Car

VEHICLE Make/Model

Fiat Ducato LWB

Engine

2.3 L Multijet2 4-cylinder turbo-diesel

Power

110 kW @ 3600 rpm

Torque

380 Nm @ 1500-2250 rpm

Gearbox

6-speed manual

Safety

Driver/passenger air bags, ABS brakes, ESC & hill start

Fuel

125 L

WEIGHTS Tare Weight

3150 kg

Gross Vehicle Mass

4250 kg

Max Payload

1100 kg

Braked Towing Capacity

2500 kg

DIMENSIONS Overall Length

5.99 m (19' 8")

Overall Width

2.05 m (6' 9")

Overall Height

2.62 m (8' 8")

Internal Height

1.90 m (6' 3")

Single Bed Option

1.87 m x 0.66 m (6’ 2” x 2’ 2”)

Double Bed Option

1.85 m x 1.22 m (6’ 1” x 4’ 0”)

King Bed Option

1.87 m x 1.85 m (6’ 2” x 6’ 1”)


Tested | 83

Specs EQUIPMENT Slide-Out

No

Awning

Fiamma wind-out

Entry Steps

Optional

Hob

3 x gas burners, glass lid

Rangehood

No (fan hatch)

Sink

Round with fold-down mixer tap, glass lid

Fridge

Waeco 136 L 12/240 V compressor

Microwave

Yes

Lighting

12 V LED

12 V Sockets/USB Outlets

Yes

Air Conditioner

Optional

Space Heater

Optional

Hot Water System

Truma LPG

Toilet

Thetford cassette

Shower

Flex hose, adjustable height

Pros… • • • • • • • • • •

Price Quality Upgradability Storage Simplicity Liveability Drivability Economy Payload Warranties

CONs… • Nothing obvious

CAPACITIES Batteries

1 x 100 AH

Solar

Optional

LPG

2 x 4.0 kg

Fresh Water

150 L

Grey Water

55 L

Hot Water

10 L

Toilet

19 L (cassette)

PRICE ON-ROAD From

$102,500

As Tested

$102,500

Warranty - Vehicle

5 years/200,000 km

Warranty - Motorhome Conversion

3 years

Warranty – Appliances

As per manufactures

Contact Ballina Campervan and Click for Google Maps Motorhome Centre 299 River Street Ballina NSW 2478 T: (02) 6681 1555 E: info@horizonmotorhomes.com.au W: horizonmotorhomes.com.au


84 | Tested

“Horizon’s new Melaleuca Appeal is aptly named. It retains the original Melaleuca’s strengths without sacrificing its character or charm.”


86 | Tested: Revolution Envy

Revolution Envy! It would be easy to be envious if all revolutions were like this… by Malcolm Street


Tested | 87

The Envy blurs the line between campervan and motorhome, combining the size of the former with the facilities of the latter. However, because it includes a bathroom, by our definition it’s certainly a motorhome. The driver’s-side sliding door on the test vehicle is peculiar to it and not a feature of production models.

T

oyota’s HiAce van has long been popular with the campervan fraternity in Australia and New Zealand. Although designed as a delivery van for use in crowded South East Asian cities, it also doubles as an excellent campervan conversion prospect, mostly because of price and the fact it comes with that legendary Toyota reliability. That is why there are a considerable number a decade or more older still circulating the Island Continent and the Land of the Short-Stunted Vowel, without any problem. However, it does come with a few disadvantages compared to it’s principal rival, the VW Transporter: The main ones being it has less interior space and that there is no walk-through access to and from the cab. Compounding the space issue, no one has developed a satisfactory swivelling cab seat,

meaning the cab can only be used for driving and not really for camping.

Revolutionary Thoughts

S

o, what would you say if I told you someone has developed a HiAce van conversion that not only has a slide-out but a permanently made-up double bed; an onboard bathroom and swivelling cab seats? Revolutionary? Or maybe I’d lost the plot or something. Well I haven’t because, enter stage left – the Revolution Motorhome’s Envy. Just digressing slightly here, I’m not sure whether this is a campervan or a motorhome because traditionally a HiAce has always been a campervan, but it does have a bathroom (my personal definition for a motorhome)….


88 | Tested Envy

R

evolution Motorhomes is a new name in the RV market, but the designers are not, certainly having plenty of experience in the motorhome world. The iMotorhome team has been the first to have a look at this prototype model – the Envy – which did have all the major items completed in situ, but with a few refinements still happening. Cutting to the chase, the major design features on the Envy are the 800 mm (2’ 7”) slide-out built into the driver’s-side, air-ram operated cab seats that lift and swivel, plus the not-soobvious carbon fibre reinforced roof, which is designed not only to reinforce the van body’s structural strength, but will fully support the weight of something like an air conditioner.

Also, in place of the standard HiAce windows, Dometic double glazed acrylics are fitted. Slightly ironically, given the weight problems on the caravan side of the RV industry, the Envy – with a GVM of 3200 kg and a tare of just 2480 kg – has a payload of 720kg. It’s a figure most travellers won’t be getting close to, given the HiAce is more in keeping with light weight travel.

Slide-out

T

he observant might notice that the slideout doesn’t have an outer-edge flange, which is something normally used, along with a seal, to keep water out when closed up. The disadvantage of the flange system is that the top can collect leaves and twigs

Swivelling front seats in a Toyota HiAce – who would have thought? And if you don’t want a whizz-bang side door, Revolution can fit a normal motorhome door in its place.


Tested | 89 that become wedged in with the seal. What Revolution has done is use a regulated air pressure seal inside the vehicle wall, so that the seal is in contact with the slide-out module all the time, effectively wiping it clean and dry of water on retraction. It also makes it easier to repair, should there be a problem. It’s the slide-out that allows for both the fixed double bed and a small bathroom area at the foot of the bed. Meanwhile, the swivelling cab seats get around the problem of having a dinette taking up valuable internal space. Instead, a removable and adjustable table is provided for each seat. About the only conventional interior item is the kitchen bench along the driver’s-side wall, but even that is different as a second bench is located in part of

the sliding side door space. It’s small enough to allow for a small wardrobe that butts up against the bedroom/bathroom area. To say the least the overall effect of this design is quite amazing! Something not used in the fit-out of the Envy is the time honoured marine ‘carpet’, so often used on walls. Instead, vacuum formed streamlined panels are used, something essential in the rear ‘wet’ area. Even the rear door has had a makeover from the usual campervan finish, with slimline blinds on the rear window that are not only functional but look good too. Not so obvious is the high tech insulation used throughout, even under the floor, to improve the thermal characteristics.

The slide-out is ingenious and beautifully engineered. It self-cleans as it retracts and sits fully flush when stowed.


90 | Tested Dining

T

he swivelling cab seats are the star attraction here, using patented rotating bases with a central compressed-airoperated ram to raise them for easy rotation. Once swivelled you release the air and they drop down into place. Innovation aside, it’s no exaggeration to say they transform the interior ‘usefulness’ of the vehicle. Having individual tables for the front seats is a clever idea. Both the 0.6 m x 0.4 m (2’ x 1’ 4”) are quite stable and there’s even a cushion on the engine cover to make sliding across the seats easier. Both seats have reading lights, which are

The kitchen is enormous by campervan standards and bigger than in some full-size motorhomes. The patented, swivelling seat bases are ingenious and effective, while individual, removable dining tables are another clever feature.


Tested | 91

The bed is a standard double and left permanently made up. When extended, there is walk-through access to the rear door and the space can be curtained off as a compact bathroom. The potti is accessible via a hatch for emptying.

in positions that are user friendly even when driving. Easy TV viewing is assured because the purpose built high-tensile alloy TV bracket, not the more usual swivel mounting, sits atop the kerb-side wardrobe and can be swivelled so as to be seen from either the bed or front seats.

Double Bed and Bathroom

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he 1.88 m x 1.38 m (6’ 2” x 4’ 6”) double bed has its head in the slideout. When extended, it allows for a walkway at the foot of the bed to the rear door, which also doubles as a bathroom. To maximise available space the bed lifts up and a floor-to-ceiling curtain slides around a roof mounted track to enclose the shower area. To minimise water going everywhere, a moulded, recessed shower base with water drainage slots an integral part of the floor. For those who dislike wet shower curtains sticking to them, magnets are fitted to the bottom of the


92 | Tested

curtain and there’s powder coated steel in the floor for them to stick to. Given the position of the shower hose, it can also be used outside the motorhome.

Kitchen

T

here’s no doubt the Envy kitchen is a cut above the standard campervan arrangement (and puts some motorhomes to shame - Ed). There are the usual items like a combo three burner cooker/ stainless steel sink and an 80-litre compressor fridge, but there are also soft closing drawers and a surprising among of bench space, aided by a slide-out bench extension. On the opposite side of the van, the waist-high bench contains a microwave, a couple more soft close drawers and yet more bench space. Handy to this area are both 240V and 12V/5V USB outlets.

What I think

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o say the least, the Envy is an amazing design. It contains several items that are radical but also carefully thought out and engineered. And that’s not to mention a number of innovations like the slide-out seal and composite roof. All this comes at a price of course and the Envy certainly isn’t cheap, especially if you tick the options boxes. That said, if a small motorhome is desired – one which relatively speaking has plenty of interior space, plus permanent bed and a bathroom – the Envy has much to offer. Especially for a cashed-up solo traveller, this might well be the ultimate compact motorhome. Viva la Revolution!

Revolution has a number of alternative HiAce designs. The base model, the Desire, starts at $99,000 and is a more traditional HiAce design because it lacks the slide-out and bathroom. Mid range is the subject of this review – the Envy – while for those who like the finer things like leather seats, a motorhome side entry door and underfloor heating, there’s the aptly named Indulgence. In addition to all that, there’s a long options list, including a petrol or diesel engined HiAce and manual or auto gearbox. They also wanted to point out that the HD TV/DVD combo shown is standard. However, an $785 upgrade option is available for the latest 24” Smart LED LCD TV/DVD with inbuilt Wi-Fi, Netflix, Google Maps, etc, and an RV Wi-fi 4G modem combo. Also, the rear protection bar with entry step is an $658 option. In addition to the HiAce, on the drawing board is the Nirvana range, with both the Mercedes Benz Sprinter and Fiat Ducato getting the Envy design philosophy. We’ll be watching with interest.


Tested | 93

OFFER As an introductory offer, Revolution Motorhomes will absorb the newly introduced Qld 2% Luxury Tax on registered new vehicles over $100,000 Therefore the price of $125,345 remains the same. Also, the next two Envy motorhomes purchased will receive a Dometic Air Command Sparrow Air conditioning unit, trimmed genuine leather seats, 100-watt solar system, remote control for the seat swivels and a custom bedding package – valued at $6845 – FREE. Revolution Motorhomes T: 0437 000 599, (07) 5578 1268 E: info@revolutionmotorhomes.com.au W: revolutionmotorhomes.com.au


94 | Tested

Specs GENERAL Make

Revolution

Model

Envy

Type

Van Conversion Motorhome

Berths

2

Approved Seating

2

Licence

Car

VEHICLE Make/Model

Toyota Hiace SLWB

Engine

3.0 litre turbo diesel (opt)

Power

100 kW @ 3400rpm

Torque

300 Nm @ 1200 - 2400 rpm

Gearbox

4 speed auto (opt)

Safety

ABS, VSC, Hill start, Brake Assist, driver and passenger air bags

Fuel

70 L

WEIGHTS Tare Weight

2480 kg

Gross Vehicle Mass

3200 kg

Max Payload

720 kg

Braked Towing Capacity

1400 kg

DIMENSIONS Overall Length

5.38 m (17' 8")

Overall Width

1.88 m (6' 2")

Overall Height wihtout a/c

2.61 m (8' 7")

Overall Height with a/c

2.69 m (8' 10")

Internal Height

1.88 m (6' 2")

Main Bed

1.88 m x 1.38 m (6' 2" x 4' 6")


Tested | 95

Specs EQUIPMENT Slide-Out

Yes

Awning

Dometic PerfectWall 1500

Entry Steps

No

Cooker

3-burner Dometic stainless steel sink combo

Rangehood

Dometic

Sink

Stainless steel

Fridge

80 L Dometic Coolmatic

Microwave

20 L LG

Lighting

12 V LED

12 V Sockets/USB Outlets

3 twin and 1 single USB

Air Conditioner

Opt - Air Command Sparrow

Space Heater

Opt

Hot Water System

Truma Ultrarapid

Toilet

Dometic Waeco SaniPottie 972

Shower

Flick mixer, flexible hose

Pros… • Slide-out • Bathroom • Swivel seats • Build and engineering quality • Compact dimensions • Toyota reliability • Liveability

CONs… • Price • HiAce driver appeal and safety

CAPACITIES Batteries

1 x 110 AH

Solar

1 x 100 AH

LPG

1 x 4.0 kg

Fresh Water

70 L

Grey Water

25 L

Hot Water

14 L

Toilet

9.8 L

PRICE ON ROAD NSW From

A$125,345

As Tested

A$134,253

Warranty - Toyota

3 yrs/100,000 km

Warranty - Conversion

2 yrs/100,000 km

CONTACTS: Revolution Motorhomes T: 0437 000 599, (07) 5578 1268 E: info@revolutionmotorhomes. com.au W: revolutionmotorhomes.com.au


96 | Tested: Revolution Zenith

Zenith Heaven Revolution Motorhomes’ Zenith reaches new heights in the van conversion market‌ Story by Richard Robertson Images by Malcolm Street


Tested | 97

VW’s new Crafter is a good looking machine and brings real choice and difference to the motorhome scene. You’d be hard pressed to pick the Zenith’s slide-out at a casual glance as it’s a very neat installation.

F

ollowing the mid-2018 release of the Envy – a ‘revolutionary’ Toyota HiAce van conversion with slide-out bed – Revolution Motorhomes has raised the bar with the Zenith, a VW Crafter conversion with fulllength kitchen/bedroom/bathroom slide-out. Not only is this the first conversion we’ve seen on the all-new Volkswagen Crafter, to our knowledge it’s the first van conversion anywhere to feature a full-length slide-out. Interestingly, Revolution plans to install the same thing on its ‘little’ Envy, which will transform the Hi-Ace into something more closely resembling the Tardis! Conventional wisdom dictates slide-outs to be the province of coachbuilt motorhomes. Van conversions are often seen as stepping

stones between campervans and ‘proper’ motorhomes; their more compact dimensions suit those who value manoeuvrability, ease of parking and economy over ultimate living space. Conversely, coachbuilts – be they A, B or C-class – are often seen as the ultimate motorhome, with slide-outs as the ‘ultimate ultimate’ in providing mobile real estate. So, does the marriage of a slide-out with a van conversion make it the ‘ultimate ultimate ultimate’ by providing the best of both worlds?

Crafting the Base

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n the motorhome world the Fiat Ducato and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter reign supreme. Volkswagen’s Crafter has only ever been a bit player, gaining most success Down Under in the rental business.


98 | Tested In case you’re unaware, the Crafter and Sprinter were near-identical twins that started life on the same Mercedes-Benz production line. Towards the end of production the Crafter was moved to Volkswagen’s own assembly line, where its unique engine, transmission, trim and body fittings were added. However, that arrangement ended last year because Mercedes-Benz needed all the production space for its booming Sprinter business. This forced Volkswagen to reinvent its own wheel, this time drawing on the expertise of its MAN truck division. The result was the MAN TGE and VW Crafter. If the Sprinter and Crafter were near-identical twins these two are identical, they just wear slightly different clothes. The all-new Crafter has been in Australia for a little while now, but only in front wheel

drive form. Rear and all-wheel drive models are just arriving and you can expect to see then become a more visible part of the local motorhome scene as RV manufacturers look for something new and different. Whereas the previous Crafter was a bit of an ugly duckling, it’s now right up there in looks as well as specifications. Visually, it echoes current VW passenger car design language, with that influence extending into the cab.

Advantage VW

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ew Crafter actually has one up on the Sprinter in that it now offers an eightspeed ZF automatic transmission. This is a ‘proper’ automatic, not the lumbering automated manual previously offered, and it’s a beauty. By comparison, Mercedes-Benz is

Two lockers in the slide-out house the gas cylinders and provide good room for hoses, power leads and the like. There’s a third locker on the kerb-side for storage or optional generator.


Tested | 99 sticking with its seven-speed auto in the allnew Sprinter. New Crafter’s other big attraction will be its affordable all-wheel drive option. Called 4Motion, it’s about a quarter the price of the new Sprinter’s admittedly ‘proper’ four-wheeldrive option, but for most people just having all-wheel drive ability will be more than enough. Power now comes from a twin-turbo 2.0-litre diesel producing 130 kW and 410 Nm, both much more competitive than before. Naturally, new Crafter comes with a full suite of safety equipment including front, side and curtain airbags for both cab occupants and all the expected electronic aids: Front assist with city emergency braking and multicollision brakes, anti-lock brakes, electronic

stability control, traction control, hill-hold, crosswind assist and more. Along with properly engineered crumple zones it’s good to see light commercial vehicles finally achieving passenger-car safety standards, both passive and active. I only took the Zenith for a 10 km run ‘around the block’, but found the new Crafter to be comfortable, quiet and, as expected, very easy to drive. The small, sporty, flat-bottomed steering wheel is a delight to use, although in a vehicle at this price point it would be good to have it leather-wrapped. I found the gearbox quite a departure from standard automatics and at first thought it to be a DSG because up-shifts were made in a fraction of a second, accompanied by a flick of the tachometer

New Crafter’s interior is a big step forward and in line with current VW passenger car design language. Sporty flatbottomed steering wheel is a beauty, but should be leather wrapped at this price point.


100 | Tested needle. Engine response is good and the vehicle gets up to speed nicely and is very quiet. While the dashboard is contemporary with VW’s passenger cars, I have to say it’s not as ‘swish’ as the all-new Sprinter. However, that certainly wouldn’t put me off and it was good to see connectivity like Apple Car Play as standard. Volkswagen backs the new Crafter with a five year unlimited kilometre warranty and three years roadside assistance, while servicing is only required annually. I should point out that the test vehicle is built on a long wheelbase (LWB) Crafter with frontwheel drive and a 3550 kg gross vehicle mass

Top: When retracted the slide-out sits over the cassette toilet. Production models will have a full rear wall to ensure bathroom privacy. Above: The 3.9 m slide-out seems very well engineered and is rock solid when extended. Built-in storage lockers are a nice touch and the Zenith has more external storage than is usual in a van conversion.


Tested | 101

The slide-out is smooth and ‘lipless’, meaning any water or debris on top is simply pushed off when retracted. (GVM). That’s because this is the prototype; production vehicles will come standard on the LWB Crafter with 4Motion – yes, all-wheel drive as standard – and a 4495 kg GVM. Revolution reports that the test Zenith, filled with freshwater, diesel and 256 kg of people, tips the scales at 3226 kg. That leaves a respectable payload of 324 kg payload for food, clothing, camping equipment and whatever, and means the full production vehicle will literally have a ton of load carrying capacity.

Body Beautiful

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nyway, that’s enough now about the new Crafter, I know it’s the body you really want to hear about.

The slide out runs the full length of the driver’s side, between the cab and rear barn doors. It appears to be well thought out and engineered, and incorporates a high tensile alloy frame to ensure structural integrity. As with the slideout on the HiAce-based Envy, this one is also sealed by an air-operated system to ensure


102 | Tested

Individual tables are an interesting feature that generally work well, but aren’t really conducive to intimate dinners for two. The passenger-side table can be left in place when travelling, if desired, too. Production Zeniths will have a proper motorhome side entry door rather than the dreaded ‘whizz-bang’. watertightness and is ‘lipless’, so any water or debris is simply pushed over the rounded edges on retraction. At 850 mm this is a deep unit, yet when fully extended it feels rock solid and there’s no apparent movement. The slide-out houses the kitchen just aft of the cab, the bed in the middle and the bathroom vanity unit at the rear end. Production Zenith’s will not only feature 4Motion all-wheel drive and a 4495 kg GVM, they will also have a proper motorhome door in place of the test vehicle’s ‘whizz-bang’ side door. The floor plan, however, will remain the same and features swivelled cab seats for after hours relaxation and dining, the mid kitchen opposite the entry door, the bed (with its


Tested | 103 head in the slide-out) aft of that and a fullwidth rear bathroom. Most slide-outs stop short of incorporating a bathroom section, but Revolution has made the most of the available space and it works wonders in this small van. An interesting side effect of this big slide-out is its reported benefit to vehicle stability. That’s because some of the heaviest items – the kitchen unit and bed – move into the centre of the vehicle when the slide-out is retracted. As is usual with van-conversion motorhomes, external storage is at a premium, but better than most. There are two lockers built into the forward section of the slide-out, the front one for storage (it would be the place for hoses, power leads and tools), while the other contains a pair of four kilogram gas cylinders, although twin nine kg cylinders are optional. On the kerb side a single storage locker houses the optional sine wave generator, which on production vehicles will be externally vented to allow for operation with its door closed.

Inside Story

B

ecause the slide-out is so deep, when retracted there’s not a lot of room inside. Having said that, you can still (just) move from the cab into the kitchen and bedroom area, although if you want to get to the bathroom you need to extend the slideout. The lack of bathroom access isn’t unique to this vehicle and in this instance is a small price to pay. Also, you can’t use the bed until the slide-out is extended because the bottom half of it automatically folds up against the wardrobe as the slide-out is brought back in. When extended, the slide-out transforms this vehicle and it feels like a ‘proper’ motorhome – and a decent sized one at that. It’s quite a revelation (revolution?). I’ll go so far as to say this is the first van conversion that made me think I could live in it long-term.

Top to bottom: When travelling, the bed automatically lifts as the slide-out is retracted. It blocks bathroom access, but the toilet is covered by the vanity anyway, so it’s not really an issue. However, the kitchen can be accessed and it’s a great size.


104 | Tested Upfront, the cab seats swivel to become your dining and after-hours seating. Individual, polemounted tables are provided for each seat and the passenger’s table can be left in place when driving as there’s still just enough room to squeeze past it to get to the kitchen. The kitchen itself is well equipped and has a very deep benchtop, courtesy of the depth of the slide-out unit. All cabinet doors and drawers lock automatically when you drive off and there is plenty of storage; indeed the size of this kitchen puts many larger motorhomes to shame The east-west bed is a double and it comes with a small table on each side, but if you want more sleeping room you can lose one of them and choose the optional queen size bed, which would be my choice. The same actuators that lift the bottom half of the bed as the slide-out comes in can also be used to lift it when fully extended, to access storage space below. This is really the only bulky-item storage space suitable for outdoor chairs, table and the like. Opposite the bed is a good size mirrored wardrobe unit with a very sturdy, swivel TV mount on top that allows easy viewing from the bed or cab seats. Forward of the wardrobe and protruding partially across the side door opening (opposite the kitchen) is slightly curious bench seat; the base of which swivels up to become a small desk! You’d need a stool or chair to use it, but it’s a novel solution to providing extra workspace. Across the back, the bathroom has the shower in the kerb-side rear corner, cassette toilet in the middle and vanity on the drivers side. There’s a mirrored sliding door to provide privacy which, cleverly, automatically locks in the open position when travelling. The shower cubicle is generous and there’s good room between it and the vanity for drying off and getting dressed. In production vehicles the bathroom will have a full back wall with a small

Top to bottom: A small inwards-facing lounge sits inside the side door and is interesting, but the base sits as a slight awkward angle. However, it swings up to become a handy work station (you just need a stool or small chair). The kitchen is huge by van standards and has plenty of storage. Drawers lock when travelling, for added safety.


Tested | 105 There’s a ham in every shower.


106 | Tested amount of storage shelving on the outside, accessed through the barn doors.

Standard Features

T

he difficulty writing about complex motorhomes is getting all the details in and doing it justice. The Zenith certainly falls into this category and its standard equipment list is impressive. Highlights include, but aren’t limited to: • 120 Ah lithium house battery • 2 x 100 W solar panels • 140 L fresh water (59 L grey water) • Reverse cycle air conditioning • Instant hot water system • Electric entry step with LED light • 24 inch LED smart TV with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth built-in DVD • RV-specific Wi-Fi with 4G modem • 6 x double and one single USB charging ports • 2 x thermostatic, variable speed and multi direction roof hatches • Filtered drinking water • 1 x set of steak knives (well, room for them at least)!

What I Think

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e had just a few hours to go over Revolution Motorhomes’ new Zenith and it certainly impressed. So much so we’re trying to organise few days to take it away once properly finished – this was the working prototype – to see just how liveable it really is. As anyone experienced in motorhomes can tell you, there is no such thing as perfection.

Top to bottom: The compartment for the optional generator will be ventilated to allow closed-door operation; Roof-top aircon can be swapped for a diesel heater and the generator for offgrid travellers; Electric entry step has an LED strip light built in above. Nice…


Tested | 107

Everything is a compromise and personal preferences rule, but the Zenith raises the bar for innovation and features in this market segment and both Mrs iM and I can’t wait to properly try it out, so watch for our report. Price is projected to be around the $182,000 mark on the road for the full production version, which includes 4Motion all-wheel drive and the upgraded GVM. Meanwhile, Revolution is offering to pay the GST on the first two orders, so if interested you need to get in quick. Make no mistake, this is a groundbreaking vehicle and it should have great appeal. Revolution is living up to its name and Zenith seems apt, although doubtless the company will continue to push the boundaries. Watch this space…

The bathroom is difficult to photograph but runs full width across the back and is generously proportioned. Shower size is good, hot water is instant (continuous) and there’s even the option of a small washing machine!


108 | Tested

Specs GENERAL Make

Revolution

Model

Zenith

Type

Van conversion

Berths

2

Approved Seating

2

Licence

Car

VEHICLE Make/Model

VW Crafter 35 LWB FWD (Crafter 35 4Motion AWD std on production)

Engine

2.0-litre 4-cylinder twin-turbo diesel

Power

130 kW @ 3600rpm

Torque

410 Nm @ 2000 rpm

Gearbox

8-speed automatic

Safety

6 Airbags and a full suite of electronic safety aids

Fuel

75 L

WEIGHTS Tare Weight

3226 kg with fuel, fresh water and 2 passengers

Gross Vehicle Mass

3550 kg on test vehicle

Max Payload

324 kg on test vehicle

Braked Towing Capacity

2500 kg

DIMENSIONS Overall Length

6.84 m (22' 5")

Overall Width

2.43 m (8' 0")

Overall Height with a/c

2.79 m (9' 2")

Internal Height

1.95 m (6' 5")

Main Bed

1.88 m x 1.38 m (6' 2" x 4' 6") Est. Queen optional.


Tested | 109

Specs EQUIPMENT Slide-Out

Yes (3.9 m)

Awning

Dometic PerfectRoof 3.75 m

Entry Steps

Electric with automatic LED light

Cooker

3-burner Dometic stainless steel sink combo

Rangehood

Dometic

Sink

Stainless steel

Fridge

140 L Dometic CoolMatic 12 V compressor

Microwave

25 L LG

Lighting

12 V LED

12 V Sockets/USB Outlets

6 double and 1 single USB

Air Conditioner

Dometic Air Command w reverse cycle

Space Heater

Opt

Hot Water System

Instant LPG

Toilet

Cassette - swivel

Shower

Separate cubicle

CAPACITIES Batteries

1 x 120 Ah Lithium

Solar

2 x 100 Ah

LPG

2 x 4.0 kg (2 x 9 kg opt)

Fresh Water

140 L

Grey Water

59 L

Hot Water

Continuous

Toilet

19 L

PRICE ON ROAD QLD From (2019 Crafter 35 4Motion LWB)

A$182,270

iMotorhome reader offer First 2 orders only

A$165,700

Warranty - VW

3 yrs/unlimited km

Warranty - Conversion

3 yrs/100,000 km

Warranty - Appliances

As per manufacturer

Pros… • New VW Crafter • Standard all-wheel drive • Standard 8-speed auto • Long warranty • Space efficiency • Standard equipment • Large kitchen • Large bathroom • Total storage space • Value

CONs… • New manufacturer • Individual tables not ‘cosy’ • No ‘driving’ bathroom access • No ‘driving’ bed use

Contact Revolution Motorhomes T: 0437 000 599, (07) 5578 1268 E: info@revolutionmotorhomes.com.au W: revolutionmotorhomes.com.au


110 | Tested

Zenith Update: We strive to bring you correct information, but are at the mercy of details supplied by manufacturers and vehicle suppliers. Between previewing the prototype and going to press, specifications and information relating to the Revolution Zenith have changed/been updated as follows: 1. Production Zeniths will be on the 2019 Crafter 35 LWB with 4Motion, which has a GVM of 3550 kg (not 4495 kg). 2. A rear-wheel drive Crafter with 4495 kg is optionally available at additional cost. 3. Zenith says the tare and payload weights quoted for the prototype already incorporate the 127 kg weight increase of the production 4Motion Crafter. 4. Buyers looking for off-grid living can opt to swap the rooftop aircon for a diesel heater and sine-wave generator at no cost. 5. Note: Revolution says the Crafter’s warranty is 3 yrs/Unlimited km, although Volkswagens’ website says 5 years/Unlimited km on 2019 models.

“Make no mistake, this is a groundbreaking vehicle and it should have great appeal. Revolution is living up to its name and Zenith seems apt, although doubtless the company will continue to push the boundaries.”


112 | Tested: Roller Team 259

Touchdown!

Roller Team lands Down Under… by Malcolm Street


Tested | 113

Although 3 years old this year, this ex-rental Roller Team Zefiro 259 has just 75,000 km on the clock (Project Polly had 245,000 km after 5 years). And although built on the lowest powered Fiat Ducato cab chassis (96 kW/320 NM), it’s also a featherweight, with a tare of 2800 kg – subject to conformation – and a GVM of just 3500 kg. So performance is still good, aided by streamlining from the raked nose.

T

rIt might sound like I’m starting an NZ motorhome review but this little Trivial Pursuit question is about Australia. Can you tell me the name of an Italian motorhome, complete with a habitation door on the kerb side that is currently available for sale in Australia (and more than one at that)? Roller Team is the answer, and a most un-Italian name if I have ever heard one.

Their provenance is interesting. Across the Tasman for the last couple of years, THL has had a deal going with a company called Just Go in the UK. Just Go is a motorhome rental mob with Roller Team motorhomes on its fleet. When they’re a year old they’re shipped to NZ and sold there as second hand motorhomes. I’ve seen a few – both C and A-class models – and they seemed to be in reasonable condition. What’s interesting is that some have kerb-side To be precise it’s the Roller Team Zefiro 259 habitation doors and some are on the ‘other’ and NZ conglomerate Tourism Holdings Limited side. – aka THL (think Britz/Maui/KEA) – or at least their company owned dealerships like the RV THL in Australia has obviously been looking at Super Centre in Melbourne, have them for sale. this arrangement and maybe testing the waters These are not new motorhomes but ex-rentals, because I have to say I was surprised when albeit with a curiously low mileage on them, I saw them available on the RV Super Centre around 75,000km. website. A call to the THL team revealed there


114 | Tested was one available out of its Sydney depot and we were away, ‘Bound for Botany Bay’ as that old song goes…

Motive Power

W

ell there are no surprises here. You would expect to find an Italian built cab-chassis, aka a Fiat Ducato (the company and model with the lion’s share of the European motorhome market), underneath an Italian Roller Team. Indeed, in this case it’s a Multijet 130, which means the lowest powered turbo-diesel in Fiat’s range, at just 96 kW. Although quite a few Euro-built motorhomes come with a manual gearbox, this one has the six-speed Comfortmatic automated manual transmission, or AMT. The chassis has just 3500 kg GVM rating, so it is quite light weight.

Body Beautiful

L

ike many of its Euro contemporaries, Roller Team’s motorhomes are built with a composite wall and roof structure; the walls having an external covering of fibreglass with laminated plastic on the inside and Styrofoam and extruded plastic in between. The roof is much the same, except that the interior sheeting is fibreglass (in a similar style to the floor, but the latter is 54 mm thick for a extra strength where it counts). One oddity is the trunking that runs up beside the habitation door. It looks like an awning support but there isn’t one. Hmmm. Although the motorhome I had a drive of was all white with no decals and just a lower waistline of grey, it did have a fairly stylish look. To my eyes the Polyvision acrylic windows

Decor is Euro light and modern, if nothing exceptional, and leans more towards the functional. Note the drop-down secondary bed, with cupboards below.


Tested | 115 looked on the small side, but I suspect that is more about keeping heat in during colder European months rather than looking for cooling breezes.

drop-down double bed above the central area. All beds are different sizes, the rear being 1.96 m x 1.3 m - 0.92 m (6’ 5” x 4’ 3” - 3’), the drop down 1.9 m x 1.37 m - 1.27 m (6’ 3” x 4’ 6” 4’ 2”) and the dinette, the smallest of the three, In keeping with quite a few rental models the 1.8 m x 0.97 m (5” 11” x 3’ 2”). This means external bin space is relatively small, with just that for a couple there’s a choice of beds one at the rear driver’s side that gives access to that do not have to be made up each night. the under bed area. It passes the camp chairs, Either that or the partners can have one each. hoses, power leads and tool box test, however, Naturally being multi bed it’s also good for a which is important. Plastic roller bins for wet family. gear would be an asset though. Although there is a bin with a single 9.0 kg gas cylinder, it has When the drop-down bed is fully lowered there room enough for two. is just enough room to get out of the door whilst crouching down. To use the dinette bed as well the upper bed would have to be Stepping Inside raised a bit, but there is a good sized ladder for urprising for its size of just 6.9 metres access. (22’ 6”), this B-class motorhome has approved seating for 6 and sleeps 5, Internally, the colour scheme is mostly darker making it great for a young family or older folks hues for the faux timber but much lighter and grandkids. That’s been achieved by having shades for everything else, including the a French bed in the driver’s-side side corner, a cupboard and locker doors. Just about all the dinette behind the drivers’ seat and an electric windows are the usual top-hinged style, except

S

This is one of the first of the current X295-series Fiat Ducatos, so although the dash has been updated it retains the large, easy-to-read instrument cluster of the previous model. That’s since been ditched in favour of more stylish but difficult to read dials, which is a retrograde step. Note reversing camera display in the rear view mirror.


116 | Tested for the slider by the dinette; the latter being unusual as this type is usually found behind an opening door.

Cooking-up Anything Really

I

must admit this is not the micro kitchen that I have come to expect in a Euro motorhome. Some space has been saved by having a combo cooktop and sink unit, while what bench space there is has been created by having an under-bench 100-litre fridge. Given the oven-with-griller is also fitted into the underbench area, storage is limited to three different sized drawers and a couple of overhead

lockers. The latter are neatly partitioned to prevent things moving around too much and there is also a small bar across the front of the lockers to prevent stuff falling out when the door is opened: Simple but effective!

Internal Storage

I

n a six berth motorhome getting enough usable storage is a bit of a trick, but there are overhead lockers in all the obvious places, including under the drop-down bed. Additionally, a waist high cabinet behind the front passenger seat offers both a large drawer with plate and bowl racks, two hinge-out shoe

The dinette is generous and solid, although the rear facing pew precludes the driver’s seat from swivelling. Note the sliding window, which is unusual given there is no entry door beside it to hit the usual swing-out style. It’s possibly a throwback to the vehicle’s left-hand-drive origins.


Tested | 117

Even with the roof bed lowered you can scoot through underneath. Just… storage compartments and a bit of bench top area. Between the café style dinette and the rear bed, a full-height cupboard offers both hanging space and a cupboard below. Also stored there are the timber bits required to make up the dinette bed. The forward seat base can be lifted for extra storage, but the rear seat has a water tank underneath (the Euro habit is to mount the water tanks where they won’t freeze in winter). In the rear there is of course the fairly spacious under-bed area, but that also doubles as the external storage as well. Generally speaking on the storage front, the 259 scores quite well.

Sitting Back

A

lthough this is a six berth motorhome, the café style dinette is really for four people. With the reward-facing dinette seat back where it is, swivelling cab seats really aren’t going to help much. That said, the seating is quite comfortable and the table a good size. Watching the TV is a bit of a trick, given it’s located on a shelf above the

passenger seat and that it has quite a small screen. I’m thinking that a keen TV viewer will be purchasing a larger free-standing TV that sits on the cabinet opposite the dinette when parked-up. It can’t be a wall mount because of the drop down bed, but will improve evening entertainment considerably.

Ensuite

S

queezed in between the bed and the kerb-side corner, the bathroom isn’t particularly spacious but everything is there – a semi circular shower cubicle, cassette toilet and a small vanity sink and mirror. A non-fan hatch above the shower and a small window provide the ventilation.

Electrics

C

learly this 259 has had it’s electrics modified for Australian use, although I sometimes think it would be nice if the power points for instance, were colour coordinated instead of being stark white. Still, they were all located in the most user friendly places. There were even 12 V USB charging points; one under the table and one on the


118 | Tested

Above: The small TV looks like an afterthought, while the useful cabinet opposite the dinette prevents the passenger seat swivelling. Such are the compromises in a small van built for many people. Left: The roof bed is electrically operated and has safety nets to stop careless occupants tumbling earthward in the night. Its underside is festooned with LED downlights to brighten the interior after dark. wardrobe wall at the base of the bed – a slightly odd location but better than nothing. Not totally electrical, but the Truma Combi 4E heater provides both hot water and hot air when needed. Reading lights are fitted to the main bed and both the drop down bed and the dinette get an LED strip light mounted on the wall. Ceiling lights are fitted in all the required places, but strangely there is no external wall light fitting. However, I think retrofitting one might not be too difficult. Either that or get a decent LED strip with rechargeable battery that hangs off the door or window.

Overall Condition

G

iven this is a used (by any number of people) motorhome I had a good look around to see how used and abused


Tested | 119 it was. Generally speaking the external body work was in a fair and reasonable condition. A curiosity inside was that the most obvious signs of use were to be found in cupboards and drawers, rather than on the cabinetry. Either THL has done a good clean-up job or the overall finish is quite resilient. Other obvious wear and tear was on the front seats, but I discovered the faux leather seats were actually seat covers and so the original seats were in quite good condition underneath. When driving, there was a rattle somewhere, either a window or from the drop down bed, which I’d need to track down if I was the owner… I briefly ponder the issue of spare parts given Roller Team motorhomes are not common in Australia, but both the Fiat Ducato and any number of the appliances and components are quite common to any number of RV manufacturers. That only leaves body work and any specialty fittings, which could probably be sourced from Europe quite readily if required.

What I think

A

lthough there were clear signs that this motorhome has been on the rental circuit, I was surprised at its generally good overall condition. Maybe the relatively low kilometre reading might have something to do with it, but it was notable. Being a six berth means it lacks the island bed some couples desire, but unlike some multi-bed motorhomes I’ve seen, this one can easily be used by a couple, a family or with the grandchildren on occasional trips. Judging the manufacturer Roller Team; I obviously have not spent much time driving its motorhomes in Australia but have driven several in New Zealand. My overall impression is Roller Team is a competent builder and very much in the European style. Check it out!

The rear corner bathroom is nicely finished if a bit basic, but includes a separate shower cubicle. The window is a nice touch, although it lacks a blind (loo with a view?), while the sharp handbasin corner is likely to cause some grief.


120 | Tested

Specs GENERAL Make

Roller Team

Model

Zefiro 259

Type

B-class

Berths

5

Approved Seating

6

Licence

Car

VEHICLE Make/Model

Fiat Ducato Multijet 130

Engine

2.3 L 4-cylinder turbo-diesel

Power

96 kW @ 3600 rpm

Torque

320 Nm@1800 rpm

Gearbox

6 speed automated manual (AMT)

Safety

ABS, ESP, Dual front air bags

Fuel

90 L

WEIGHTS Tare Weight

2800 kg (To Be Confirmed)

Gross Vehicle Mass

3500 kg

Max Payload

700 kg (TBC)

Braked Towing Capacity

1500 kg (TBC)

DIMENSIONS Overall Length

6.90 m (22' 8")

Overall Width

2.31 m (7' 7")

Overall Height

3.30 m (10' 10")

Internal Height

2.08 m (6' 10")

Main bed

1.96 m x 1.3 m - 0.92 m (6' 5" x 4' 3" - 3')

Elevating bed

1.90 m x 1.37 m - 1.27 m (6' 3" x 4' 6" - 4' 2")

Dinette Bed

1.80 m x 0.97 m (5" 11" x 3' 2")


Tested | 121

Specs EQUIPMENT Slide-Out

No

Awning

No

Entry Steps

Moulded

Cooker

Smev 3 burner S/S combo with sink

Rangehood

No

Sink

Stainless steel combo

Fridge

100 L Dometic RM 8501 3-way LPG/12V/240V

Microwave

No but Smev grill/oven

Lighting

12 V LED

12 V Sockets/USB Outlets

TBC

Air Conditioner

Air Command Ibis 3

Space Heater

Truma Combi 4E

Hot Water System

Truma Combi 4E

Toilet

Thetford Cassette

Shower

Separate cubicle

CAPACITIES Batteries

100 AH

Solar

100 W

LPG

1 x 9.0 kg but space for two

Fresh Water

100 L

Grey Water

105 L

Hot Water

10 L

Toilet

19 L

PRICE - ON ROAD NSW From

$104,990

Warranty

Check with dealer

Pros… • Compact at less than 7 m (23’) • Easy to drive • Choice of beds for a couple • Fully appointed, including air conditioning and heating • Generous internal storage • Drop down bed operates very smoothly

CONs… • • • • • •

Lowest powered Fiat engine Small screen TV No external light No awning External bin space No microwave oven

CONTACT: RV Sales Centre Central West Business Park Click for Building 2 Google Maps 9 Ashley St Bray brook. VIC. 3019 T: (03) 8398 8848 E: info@rvsalescentre.com.au W: rvsalescentre.com.au


122 | Tested: Spectrum RV Emerald Coast Sorrento

Taking the Fifth!

Spectrum RVs’ new Emerald Coast Sorrento fifth wheeler is wo th taking anywhere you can… by Malcolm Street


Tested | 123

In North America, fifth-wheelers rule the roost on the Interstates, largely due to an abundance of huge tow vehicles, like the dual-rear wheel Ford pictured here. The Emerald Coast Sorrento is a big fifth-wheeler and requires a big tow vehicle, but the limited vehicle choice and significant costs – on top of the substantial cost of the fifth-wheeler itself – will be major factors in its market acceptance.

S

pectrum RV is a small but long established importer of US built fifth wheelers, based on Queensland’s Gold Coast. Fifth wheelers are very much a North American institution but strangely, considerably less popular in Australia. That said, the Spectrum RV team under the direction of David and Jennifer Thorley have maintained an active presence in the Australian market. The company’s modus operandi to date has been the importation from the USA of fifth wheelers to customer order and the subsequent compliance and rectification work necessary to bring them up to Australian standards. For the most part that’s been limited

to engineering and build items (not exactly a small process) rather than décor items.

All Change

T

hat’s why when I stepped into one of their latest fifth wheeler, the Emerald Coast with three slide-outs, I received something of a surprise. I was expecting the typical North American interior look that does not always gel with Australian buyers. Instead, it was clear the Spectrum RV team has gone for a very contemporary look; somewhat European and one that is not only appealing to the eye, but one that is good for space perceptions as well. Not that the latter is really necessary as


124 | Tested the 11.2 m (36’ 9”) external length– combined with the open slide-outs – give a considerable amount of interior space. What has made this considerable change possible is that instead of relying on US manufacturers for the basic product, Spectrum RV has set up its own factory in Elkart, Indiana. It’s a fairly radical step, but one that eliminates the ‘rebuild’ process and includes items like the wheels and suspension, which have always been something of a weak point on US products. Also of course, it means a full habitation door can be built into the kerb side.

Construction

L

ike many a US product the Sorrento has a powder coated steel chassis, with 75 mm aluminium for the sidewall frames

and 125 mm for the roof trusses. Under the fibreglass mouldings and composite walls, batten insulation is used. Up top is a seamless one-piece commercial grade rubber roof (not used in Australia before), while underfoot the fibreglass and composite flooring has a thickness of 80 mm. According to David Thorley, although much attention has been placed on preventing water ingress, where possible materials that are not affected by water have been used, thus if there is a leak the damage is minimal. It’s not often a subject of major discussion, but the entry steps made by MORryde are worth a comment. For a start they give easy access, while secondly they are very easy to lift up and down, with minimal effort.

Because of the lounge slide-out the awning only runs half length, which looks odd but is quite effective.


Tested | 125 Large tinted windows give this fifth wheeler quite a distinctive look, although compared to their size they have relatively small openings

Inside

A

nyone desiring a spacious layout need look no further. Indeed, this is one clue that the Emerald Coast comes External Storage from the USA, where many rigs are built for ne of the more noticeable features of predominantly inside living. What makes most the Sorrento is its external bin space. of the living space are the opposing slideIt’s behind the overhang and enormous, outs; the driver’s-side one running the entire to say the least. Additionally, there is access length of the main living area while the deeper, from both sides and the front, under the kerb side one basically runs from the rear to overhang. Conveniently, both side bin doors the habitation door. Combined, they add an lift up, so there is some protection in wet amazing amount of living space to the rig. weather. Not taking up any of the main space, in separate bins are both the gas cylinders and To the left of the entry door are steps up to the bathroom and bedroom areas. Walking forward batteries. leads to the catering department, including a substantial island kitchen bench, leaving the rear area for the lounge, dining and reclining.

O

All systems are neatly integrated and well thought out. Bin space is significant, in keeping with the rig’s overall size.


126 | Tested Oh, and there is one other USA clue here – a fireplace in the rear wall; something oft seen in US rigs, but not here, where ducted heaters are far more common.

Small Things

A

s well as the big things in this fifth wheeler it’s the little things that count, and there are plenty of them. For instance, there are no door catches to be seen as Hettich extra grip ‘no screw’ hinges are used on the doors; all the metal-sided drawers have fascias that can easily be removed for repair or changing the finish, while the electrical

control panel (which sits in a ‘drawer’ under the bathroom steps) has all the circuits clearly marked – a feature that seems to defy many local manufacturers. Other little items like the garbage bin in the kitchen – a solution to the problem of where to hang the plastic bag when you don’t have door handles – and the table with its extension flap out of the way on the wall side all make a difference. Even lighting in the Sorrento is quite unique and certainly not your run-of-the-mill fittings, nor standard US fare. In some cases its custom made by proprietor Thorley. Now that is dedication!

Opposing slide-outs create a spacious living and entertaining area, although Malcolm’s not sure about the electric fireplace in the end cabinet, which is a standard feature in most new, big rigs in the US.


Tested | 127

Decor is a world away from the the clunky wooden cabinets and dark colours that (still) characterise American RVs. Bright, subtly lit and attractive, the Emerald Coast’s interior is equal to any contemporary city apartment.

Domestic cleaning isn’t something most people get their jollies from, except from the satisfaction when finished, but this RV is going to take a little longer than usual given the amount of real estate. That’s why the built-in vacuum system with a hose long enough to reach every corner is going to help speed up the process…

Kicking Back

I

f there’s layout designed for sitting back and relaxing, this is it. There’s the choice of an enormous sofa-bed lounge, two recliner chairs or the more formal dining table setting. Just like the dining table, the coffee table does a fancy trick too: its top can be lifted to act as either a dining table or a work table for the lounge. The observant might notice the lack of a TV but it is there, just hiding in the cabinet across the rear wall and waiting to rise into viewing position at the touch of a button.


128 | Tested Kitchen space is significant and well thought out, and comes with an island bench and massive four-door fridge-freezer.

Catering

T

here are kitchens and there are kitchens, with many looking the same, but that’s not the case here. Certainly, the island bench that contains a double sink and plenty of cupboard space cuts a difference, but there’s the 225-litre, 4-door fridge/freezer and an acre of bench top space too. Surprisingly, the four burner cooker with grill and oven is a standard Thetford Caprice unit. A non-kitchen item but still useful (well maybe for some who like to look neat) is the ironing board, built into the end wall unit.

Up Front

A

s with everything else, the bathroom and bedroom have been designed in the knowledge a lack of space really wasn’t a consideration. That’s especially true as a third slide-out contains the head of the queen size bed and thus allows for plenty of walk around space when extended. All the nose cone area at the front is dedicated to a wardrobe and clothing storage, except for the driver-side side corner, which is fitted out to accept a washing machine. Much of the kerb-side wall area is fitted out with cabinetry that not only contains drawers, but also the mounting point for a second flat screen TV. A bathroom with two entrances – one from the bed side and one from hallway – isn’t something seen in every RV, but this one has one. With enough space for a good sized shower cubicle, black-tank toilet, vanity cabinet and a linen closet, it’s all finished in a very classy style indeed.


Tested | 129


130 | Tested The bedroom sits over the tow vehicle and is huge by RV standards. The bathroom is also large and has two doors: one from the bedroom and the other from the hallway. Of course…

Electrics

Y

ou’ll have no worries remote camping with this unit. Indeed, I suspect there is many a caravan park it wouldn’t fit in to. Six hundred and sixty amp hours of deep-cycle batteries keep the twelve volt electrics running, backed up by an eight hundred watt solar panel installation. On the water front, a 350-litre fresh water tank is standard, with the option of a second. Grey water is 175 L, as is the black water (toilet) holding tank.

Towing

W

ith an ATM of 900 kg, the Sorrento certainly needs a heavy-duty tow vehicle. In saying that, an fifth wheeler this size is a much better towing proposition than an equivalent size caravan. Apart from anything the overall caravan towing length would be substantially more, given the bedroom of a fifth wheeler sits about the tray of the tow vehicle. A point of note here also is the relative ease with which the towing combination can be turned around. When reversing it’s possible to get into an almost jack knife situation, which makes doing a slightly odd U turn very practical. Don’t try that with a caravan!


Tested | 131

The queen bed has its head in its own slide-out, creating a spacious bedroom anyone would be happy to call their own. Note the ducted airconditioning.

What I Think

I

t’s hard not to be impressed by the Emerald Coast Sorrento. It’s very different to a fifth wheeler that I last saw from Spectrum RV and poles apart from the standard US RV product, especially in looks and finish. There has been a considerable amount of attention paid to details and some very obvious user experience built in. My only criticism is that the Sorrento’s size might be a turn-off for some buyers because of the lack of appropriate tow vehicles. However, I understand there is a smaller unit on the way; one well suited to being towed by something like a Ford Ranger. Bring it on I say!


132 | Tested

Specs GENERAL Make

Spectrum RV

Model

Emerald Coast Sorrento 35RE

Hitch type

MORride

Beds

4

WEIGHTS Tare Weight

6050 kg

Aggregate Trailer Mass

8000 kg

Max Payload

1950 kg

Pin weight

1050 kg

DIMENSIONS Overall Length

11.20 m (36’ 9")

Overall Width

2.50 m (8’ 2")

Overall Height

4.00 m (13’ 1”)

Internal Height main area

2.70 m (8’ 10")

Internal Height bedroom

2.05 m (6’ 9")

Main Bed dimensions

2.03 m x 1.53 m (6' 8" x 5') or 2.03 m x 1.83 m (6' 8" x 6')


Tested | 133

Specs EQUIPMENT Slide-Out

3 x Electric

Leveling

Equalizer 4 point Hydraulic Auto Leveling

Awning

6.4 m (21')

Entry Steps

MORride

Cooker

4-burner (3-gas/1-electric) Thetford with grill & oven

Rangehood

Integrated 12 V

Sink

Double Bowl large underslung

Fridge

385 L 4-door Dometic Gas/240v

Microwave

Convection

Lighting

LED

12 V Sockets/USB Outlets

4 x 12 Vand 4 x USB

Air Conditioner

2 x Dometic 15,000 BTU

Space Heater

LP Gas Underfloor/Electric Fireplace/Optional Carbonic Floor

Hot Water System

Fast recovery 240/LP Gas

Toilet

Dometic Electric Flush with Tank and Mascerator

Shower

Double Size with Turbo water pressure button

Pros… • Light and airy Euro finish inside • External bin capacity • Electrical and lighting setup • Good sized kitchen • Considerable number of detail enhancements • Still manoeuvrable despite size

CONs… • Finding a suitable tow vehicle • Fitting into caravan parks • Price • Don’t know about that fire place!

CAPACITIES Click for Google Maps

Batteries

660 AH Sonnenschein Super Deep-Cycle Gel

CONTACT:

Battery management

Victron

Solar

800 W Flat walk-on flexible

Inverter

Victron 3000 W

LPG

2 x Auto-changeover 9.0 kg

Fresh Water

350 L (2nd 350 L optional)

Grey Water

175 L

Spectrum RV 339 Reedy Creek Road, Burleigh Heads. Qld. 4220. T: 1300 789 604 E: sales@spectrumrv.com.au W: www.spectrumrv.com.au

Hot Water

38 L Fast recovery

Toilet

175 L

PRICE - ON ROAD QLD From

$223,000

As Tested

$249,000


134 | Tested

“Spectrum RV has set up its own factory in Elkart, Indiana. It’s a fairly radical step, but one that eliminates the ‘rebuild’ process and includes items like the wheels and suspension, which have always been something of a weak point on US products”.


SEE A 3D WALKTHROUGH

https://my.matterport.com/show/?m=N7EgY3Eq2AV OR scan the QR code above with a QR reader app

5 STAR 36ft Triple Slide • EUROPEAN LOOK • AMERICAN MADE • OUTBACK TOUGH High gloss stylite acrylic interior cabinetry Superior fiberglass gel coat Girard Electric/Sensor Awning – Integrated into the roofline Morryde ‘Step Above’, flip down stairs Front pass through area fits kayak/bikes/fishing rods Hettich hinges and soft close drawers Full size floor to ceiling wardrobe Waterproof cabinetry Bulletproof tyres Gold Coast Sales 1300 789 604 www.spectrumrv.com.au sales@spectrumrv.com.au


136 | Tested: Suncamper Sherwood S Series 4x4

Compact & Capable!

Suncamper’s compact Sherwood 4x4 is capable and still on the money… by Malcolm Street


Tested | 137

Apart from exploring densely overgrown terrain the Sherwood 4x4 is well suited to off-road adventures. It’s compact with minimal overhang, while the HiLux is capable and reliable. Suncamper has been building Sherwoods for years and the design is proven and well sorted.

F

our wheel drive motorhomes are a bit of unique category in the Australian RV industry: The choice being either something based on a Toyota HiLux 4x4 or Ford Ranger 4x4 cab-chassis, a MercedesBenz Sprinter van 4x4 conversion or for the most part, something considerably more expensive!

However, a solution is at hand in the form of a GVM increase via a suspension upgrade. This is what Suncamper has done with the latest generation of its Sherwood 4x4 range – the S Series – offering the option of the HiLux’s GVM being increased from 3000 kg to 3450 kg.

Since most potential owner’s budgets aren’t unlimited, the choice often comes down to either the HiLux or Ranger as a base vehicle. A weighty issue with these vehicles is the standard gross vehicle mass (GVM), which can lead to a nominal amount of payload capacity. It’s a problem manufacturers like Suncamper Motorhomes has with its HiLux conversions, particularly the 4x4 models.

oyota’s HiLux is certainly a popular vehicle in this genre of motorhome, especially with its four-wheel drive capability. In this case the SR model is the base vehicle, which comes with a 2.8-litre turbo-diesel that delivers a maximum power of 130 kW and a healthy 450 Nm of torque. For those who like to cruise along, there’s a six speed full auto gearbox, but for the drivers a manual shifter is also available. Our review vehicle came with a few extras like

Motive Power

T


138 | Tested Clearview mirrors, tow bar, Diesel alloy wheels and Falken tyres.

windows are quite large and are the familiar double-glazed acrylic awning style.

Construction

Helpfully, the door comes with its own security screen and electric steps, which are handy given the height of the door off the ground. A weakness often with this style of motorhome is the lack of external storage, but this one scores well with a tunnel boot at the rear. Unusually, the doors are different sizes but I don’t see that being a problem. Although only a single four-point-five kilogram gas cylinder is supplied there is room and a spare mounting bracket for a second. In my book, two gas cylinders, unless you are forgetful, always means not running out of gas at inappropriate moments.

V

ariations of Suncamper’s popular and proven Sherwood have been available for years. However, the new S Series has a couple of differences to the usual layout, which I will get to in a moment. Externally there are no surprises in the body construction. Suncamper uses fibreglass composite panels with corner mouldings on the rear wall, to take away the square look. To add to the off-road look, the obligatory strip of alloy chequer plate has been added to the lower body walls. All

You’d probably be surprised where a 4x4 Sherwood would take you…


Tested | 139 Powering the 12 V electrics is a 120 Ah gel-cell battery. There’s an option for a second battery and also a 200 W solar panel, which was fitted to this motorhome. At 86 litres the freshwater capacity is on the small side and anyone considering remote travel might like to think about a second tank. Certainly the grey water tank is sized for quite regular draining, but these lower capacities are to try and balance weight and payload, even with the increased GVM.

Inside

W

ith this length of motorhome (5.8 m/19’), layout variations aren’t numerous and some items are more or less fixed in space, like the bed over the cab and the bathroom cubicle behind the cab. A spacious kitchen bench fills the kerbside wall and that leaves room for a decent sized lounge/dinette seat around the driver’s-side rear corner, plus a small cabinet by the rear-set entry door. All the cabinetry is built using light weight plywood and the overall finish results in a bright and breezy interior.

The rear-set entry door necessitates an L-shaped dinette, which is fine as it’s surrounded by windows. Although compact the interior is practical and well suited to organised couples. It’s also great for a solo traveller, although through-cab access is an issue.


140 | Tested Moveable beds

T

he over-cab bed makes this a C-class motorhome, albeit at the smallest end of the size spectrum. It has been designed so it can either be used as a transverse double measuring 1.94 m x 1.75 m (6’ 4” x 5’ 9”) or two singles: the kerbside one having a length of 2.13 m (7’) and the other being shorter at 1.75 m (5’ 9”). It’s an interesting idea that only works if one of you is short enough, but it’s good to be given the choice. Above the bed the ceiling height is 0.8 m (2’ 8”) and for getting into the double a small step (complete with a hinge lid for storage) is fitted against the kitchen bench. Reading lights are provided at

Top: A security door is standard, as are electric steps for the reasonable climb up. Above: Cleverly, this extension (plus an infill cushion) turns the passenger side of the bed into a long single


Tested | 141

Above: The over-cab bed would usually be used east-west, while windows and lights at both ends lets you choose which way is best depending on terrain. Below: The fridge is the new slimline, 141-litre 2-door Thetford.

both ends of the bed, but the driver’s-side light is optional. Between the bathroom and the bed is a half height wardrobe that also provides a bit of bedside shelf adjoining the double bed.

Chow Time

F

itted into the benchtop is a Thetford three-burner hob with a stainless steel combo sink. That allows for a reasonable bit of bench top working space, especially as the microwave is fitted in the cupboard area. Two large drawers, two cupboards, two overhead lockers and one wire basket provide overall kitchen storage. Of interest is the Thetford 141-litre three way fridge; one of the new slimline designs I’ve seen a fair bit in New Zealand motorhomes over the past few years but which apparently have only just arrived here. The cupboard under the fridge contains the battery charger, 12 V fuse panel and 240 V circuit breakers.


142 | Tested Combo Bathroom

I

n a motorhome this size the bathroom is always going to be fairly small as there’s really only room enough for the essential; things like the flexible hose shower, Thetford cassette toilet and small vanity wash basin. In addition, there is good sized wall mirror, collapsible towel rail and fan hatch.

Rear Dining

I

t’s not quite an NZ Back layout (a U-shaped rear lounge with windows on all sides), but both the side and rear seats have large sized windows behind them that give a good view of the outside world. A Lagun mount is used for the table and it’s nicely located so that it both swivels effectively and is reasonably stable when leant on – not always the case with some I have seen. By the door the half-height cabinet is a neat little multi purpose item that doubles as a switch panel, device charging panel and a neat bit of shelf space. The wall area above is used for the flat screen TV mounting point.

What I Think

G

iven the Sherwood S Series has a tare weight of 2680 kg it does make the standard 3000kg GVM practical – just – but if a number of options are being considered (and the list is quite long), the GVM upgrade is a wise move. It’s interesting how the best point of something can also be its worst. The Sherwood has a small interior compared to the average motorhome, yet it also means it’s well sized for four-wheel drive travel. Short and narrow enough for open country off-road exploring, it also has living space adequate for two without being squashy. Suncamper has done well with its latest design and it will undoubtedly contribute to this popular model’s longevity.

Top to bottom: Kitchen bench is big for a small motorhome; New combo cooker and sink works well; New HiLux cab modern and comfortable, but access is best from the living area. Use the main door going the other way!


Tested | 143

Clockwise from top: Corner unit has charging outlets and power controls, but TV location could be a bit awkward; Compact wet bathroom uses a combo tap and shower nozzle; High-set fridge and lower chest freezer is a great idea; Kitchen has plenty of storage.


144 | Tested

Specs GENERAL Make

Suncamper

Model

Sherwood S Series 4x4

Type

C-class

Berths

2

Approved Seating

2

Licence

Car

VEHICLE Make/Model

Toyota HiLux SR

Engine

2.8 litre turbo diesel

Power

130 kW @ 3400 rpm

Torque

540 Nm @ 1600 - 2400 rpm

Gearbox

6 speed auto

Safety

ABS, EBD, BA, TRC, driver and passenger air bags

Fuel

80 L

WEIGHTS Tare Weight

2680 kg

Gross Vehicle Mass

3000 kg (3450 kg optional as tested)

Max Payload

320 kg (770 kg)

Braked Towing Capacity

2800 kg

DIMENSIONS Overall Length

5.80 m (19')

Overall Width

2.09 m (6' 10")

Overall Height

3.25 m (10 " 8")

Internal Height

1.93 m (6' 4")

Luton Bed

1.94 m x 1.75 m (6' 4" x 5' 9")

Single bed configuration

Lengths - 2.13 m (7') & 1.75 m (5' 9")


Tested | 145

Specs EQUIPMENT Slide-Out

No

Awning

Fiamma F45

Entry Steps

Electric

Cooktop

Thetford 3 burner combo with sink

Rangehood

Finch

Sink

Stainless steel

Fridge

Thetford N3141 141 litre 3 way

Microwave

Yes

Lighting

12 V LED

12 V Sockets/USB Outlets

2 x 12 V /5 V USB

Air Conditioner

Belair 2400

Space Heater

Opt

Hot Water System

Swift gas/elec

Toilet

Thetford cassette

Shower

Flexible hose, combo unit

CAPACITIES Batteries

1 x 120 AH

Solar

200 W

LPG

1 x 4.5 kg (room for 2)

Fresh Water

86 L

Grey Water

43 L

Hot Water

20 L

Toilet

19 L

PRICE ON ROAD As Tested

$146,100

Warranty – vehicle and motorhome

TBA

Warranty – structural

TBA

Roadside Assistance

TBA

Pros… • 4x4 • Toyota quality • Optional GVM upgrade • External storage capacity • Rear seat layout • Double or single bed layout option • New slimline Thetford fridge

CONs… • Water tank capacity • Single bed configuration won’t suit two tall people • Limited through-cab access

Manufacturer Suncamper Motorhomes 3/9 Sefton Road Thornleigh, NSW. 2120 T: 1300 416 854 E: sales@suncampermotorhomes. com.au W: suncampermotorhomes.com.au Click for Google Maps


Hitting the great outdoors this year? Book a check-up appointment at motorhomedoctor.com.au All makes all models


148 | Tested: Trakkaway 700

Trakka’s popular Trakkaway 700 is more capable than you might think‌ by Allan Whiting of outbacktravelaustralia.com.au


Tested | 149

T

rakka’s latest FWD Trakkaway 700 may well be the motorhome for people who want some modest rough-terrain ability, without the complication, increased floor height and additional cost of a 4WD motorhome.

At Outback Travel Australia we usually evaluate only 4WD machinery, but we make exceptions where we feel they’re warranted. For example, we checked out the Peugeot 2008 (model, not year!) 2WD SUV, because of its off-road traction control program. The 2WD Trakkaway 700 also has enhanced tractive ability.

The latest model Fiat Ducato is a good looking vehicle and Trakka has done an excellent job of seamlessly integrating the body and cab. In many ways it’s better than an A-class as it retains the convenience of both cab doors but loses little in terms of view or living space.


150 | Tested Underneath

hangs down inside the approach angle.

he Trakkaway 700 is based on the front-wheel drive Fiat Ducato platform that is now powered by a four-cylinder, turbocharged and intercooled 2.3-litre Euro 6 engine. Outputs of 130 kW (180 hp) and 400 Nm are the same as those of the previous 3.0-litre engine, but weight is some 40 kg less.

It might seem odd to start off a motorhome evaluation discussing its off-road ability, but we were keen to find out how it compared with 4WD models. Were the Fiat Ducato a narrow, low-profile camper van we’d rate it behind the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 4X4 and well behind

T

The cab and powertrain module is connected to an AL-KO, hot-dip galvanised chassis that mounts an Al-KO rubber-bushed torsion bar, independent rear suspension. The front suspension struts are also AL-KO components that increase ride height and suspension travel by 40mm over the standard Ducato front end.

the Iveco Daily 4x4 campers, but if compared with wider and taller 4WD motorhomes the Trakkaway 700 scores very well. It won’t go seriously off road and tackle steep trails or soft sand, but it can manage the lumpy, loose ground you might find when looking for a secluded campsite. If stuck, the Trakkaway’s high ground clearance means that dropping front tyre pressures way down, for increased traction, won’t see it scraping its bumper.

Ground clearance is 190 mm – around the same as many 4WD utes and wagons – but those who want to venture onto rocky terrain should fit an underbody guard, because there’s We asked Trakka’s founder and managing plenty of expensive aluminium underneath the director, Dave Berry, why he never built a front end! Also, the intercooler bottom hose

Cab seats easily swivel and are ideal for after-hours reading or TV viewing. Note handy flip-up table; ideal for coffee, drinks and snacks.


Tested | 151 motorhome on the extremely off-road-capable Iveco Daily 4x4 and he told us that he didn’t think many people would risk damaging expensive, wide and high motorhome bodywork on steep, rocky trails. Also, he pointed out that many Australian tracks are narrow and have overhanging branches that preclude high, wide vehicles. For Trakka customers who want off-road agility the company produces the more compact Sprinter-based Jabiru and VW Transporterbased Trakkadu models.

Average fuel consumption was 13 L/100km (21.7 mpg) – way less than a typical 4WD tow vehicle and caravan combination. Performance was quite good, although 4.5 tonnes with 400 Nm of torque isn’t ever going to set a hill-climbing record. Over flat and slightly undulating country the Ducato was happy to cruise at 110 km/h, with less than 2000rpm on the tacho.

Driving the Trakkaway 700

W

e spent five days in the new motorhome and didn’t really want to give it back! We drove it on mainly freeways from Sydney to Old Bar in NSW; then up the steep and rough bitumen climb to Uralla; stayed there in wildly-variable weather – from a sunny 30ºC to a wet and windy 8ºC – and then returned to Sydney via the New England Highway.

Top: Forward facing dinette seat is belt-equipped for two and has a massive picture window alongside for excellent viewing. Above: The Ducato has the most modern and car-like cab of any motorhome-suitable cab-chassis. Nice touches include the leather steering wheel and stubby gear lever.


152 | Tested The Ducato comes with a six-speed ‘Comfortmatic’ automated manual transmission (AMT), so it’s a two-pedal machine. The rationale is ease of driving, but with manual-box fuel economy, and it worked well. Early-generation automated manuals were a pain to drive, with delayed shifting and frequent ‘neutralising’, but we were impressed with Fiat’s 2017 effort. Shifting wasn’t as seamless as with a torque-converter automatic box, but the computer picked the right ratio for every occasion. The stubby gear lever was easily reached when the driver wanted to flick manually up

or down for a ratio change, or when holding the box in manual mode while manoeuvring. The downshifting programming was excellent, with the box automatically picking lower ratios for engine braking when the Trakkaway was descending grades, while engine braking was much better than we expected from a 2.3-litre engine. Ride and handling were excellent, thanks to great matching of the AL-KO front and rear spring and damper rates. The Trakkaway 700 felt like a big car, not a top-heavy motorhome. Big disc brakes with ABS and electronic distribution washed speed off very effectively.

The pole-mounted dining table has an any-which-way mount that provides a wide range of adjustment when dining for two, three or four. Note Trakka’s trademark roller-shutter cupboard doors and contemporary styling.


Tested | 153

The island bed is accessible when the rear slide-out is retracted, although not all the way around. A rear slide is excellent because if anything goes wrong the vehicle is still drivable. It’s also Trakka designed and engineered, and very solid. Our off-roading was confined to some rutted tracks with sandy and stony surfaces and the Trakkaway handled that ground with some intervention of the traction control system. Thanks to its independent suspension all around it kept good surface contact and we reckon it had better grip than a rear-wheeldrive motorhome with live rear axle. Very steep, loose uphill climbs might be its nemesis, but it should be easy enough to reverse up those if you had to.

motorhome. Two of us could have the front seats spun around on their swivel bases; the dinette table in place on its simple push-in pedestal; the powered entry step and power awning fully deployed; camp chairs in place; the powered bed slide-out extended and the screened hatches and windows opened in around five minutes. On a powered site it took little effort to couple grey water and mains water hoses, and to connect the captive electrical lead to a power box.

Living in the Trakkaway 700

Standard travel seating is ADR-approved for four, while an additional seat-belted space is optional. We sat four around the dinette and its auxiliary second table, in good comfort.

Having spent many years travelling this wide brown land we’re passionate about ease of use. Anything that’s difficult to operate becomes a major irritation after a few days on the road. Okay, what was our major irritation with the Trakkaway 700? The door-mounted, flip-top garbage bin had sharp upper edges that cut the sides of the plastic bag liners we used. That meant we had to put the torn bag into a second bag to carry rubbish to a bin. That was our only complaint! Setup was the easiest we’ve ever had in a

The Trakkaway came with ducted air conditioning – the Truma unit tucked neatly under the bed, out of harm’s way – and ducted diesel heating. Hot water was diesel and 240volt powered, while the hotplate was also a diesel unit. We’ve never been all that keen on diesel stoves, but Trakka’s Alex Berry had given us the heads-up: “Turn it on before you start your food prep and


154 | Tested

Above: Looking forward from bed. The bedroom has its own TV and a concertina divider that makes it nicely private. Left: The bathroom is all-in-one, but the loo slides away beneath the vanity when not required, leaving a surprisingly spacious shower space. it’ll be nicely hot when you’re ready to cook”. That’s what we did; got it going while we cut the bacon to pan-size and cracked the eggs into a bowl. One end of the ceramic surface had the bacon sizzling and the other end was warm enough to keep the cooked bacon hot while we fried the eggs. The combined toilet/bathroom looked a little squeezy, but with the toilet module powered away under the vanity the shower area was quite roomy. External access to the toilet cassette was simple. Initially, we thought there wasn’t a great deal of storage space, but there were cupboards of varying sizes all around the interior, accessed via Trakka’s trademark roller doors, and a roomy ‘boot’ at the back. Those who want even more storage or bed space can opt for a Luton peak over the cab.


Our test vehicle was fitted with an optional Alfresco Pack that includes a 51-litre exterior fridge, a drawer and a pull-out sink with tap and basin. It comes with an additional solar panel, taking the rooftop power from 240 W to 360 W.

Tested | 155

The panels and a 25 A charger fed an optional pair of 100 Ah lithium batteries (AGMs are standard). Fluid capacities were quite generous: 120 litres of diesel; 165 litres of fresh water and 135 litres of grey; 10 litres of hot water and a 19 litre toilet cassette. An additional 55 litre fresh water tank is optional. The Trakkaway 700 has a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of 4495 kg, so all you need is a car licence to drive it. In standard trim Trakka claims a tare weight of 3590 kg, leaving an impressive payload of around 900 kg for people, fluids and freight. Summing up, if you don’t need full-on bush driving capability the Trakkaway 700 could be just the ticket. It’s easy to drive and live with, and backed by Trakka’s highly regarded reputation for build quality and service.

Top: The large electric step is a beauty: Middle: The toilet unit, extended. Below: A glass-topped diesel-fired cooker takes pride of place in the quite spacious kitchen.


156 | Tested

Specs GENERAL Make

Trakka

Model

Trakkaway 700 Remote

Type

B-class

Berths

2

Approved Seating

4

Licence

Car

VEHICLE Make/Model

Fiat Ducato with AL-KO Chassis

Engine

2.3 L 4-cylinder turbo-diesel

Power

132 kW @ 4000 rpm

Torque

400 Nm @ 1500-2500 rpm

Gearbox

6-speed automated manual transmission (AMT)

Safety

ABS, Stability Control, Traction Control, Dual airbags

Fuel

120 L

WEIGHTS Tare Weight

3590 kg

Gross Vehicle Mass

4490 kg

Max Payload

900 kg

Braked Towing Capacity

1500 kg

DIMENSIONS Overall Length

6.99 m (22’ 11”)

Overall Width

2.40 m (7’ 10”)

Overall Height

2.90 m (9’ 6”)

Internal Height

2.20 m (7’ 3’)

Main Bed

1.95 m x 1.35 m (6’ 5” x 4’ 5”)

Luton Bed - optional

2.15 m x 1.30 m (7’ x 4”)

Dinette Bed

N/A


Tested | 157

Specs

Watch:

EQUIPMENT

To watch Allan’s video review of the Trakkaway 700 click HERE

Slide-Out

Rear – Bedroom

Awning

Dometic Electric

Entry Steps

1 x Electric

Cooker

Webasto diesel with glass ceramic top

Rangehood

Externally vented with LED lighting

Sink

Dometic round with fold-down flick mixer, glass lid

Fridge

Waeco 136 L compressor

Microwave

Sharp

Lighting

12 V LED

12 V Sockets/USB Outlets

3 x 12 V, 6 x USB

Air Conditioner

Truma Saphir reverse cycle

Space Heater

Truma Combi diesel-fired

Hot Water System

Truma Combi diesel-fired

Toilet

Thetford cassette - retractable

Shower

Flexible hose

CONs…

Batteries

2 x 100 AH AGM

• Not 4WD • Not much else

Solar

2 x 120 W (3 x 120 W with Alfresco pack)

LPG

N/A

Fresh Water

165 L

Grey Water

135 L

Hot Water

10 L

Toilet

19 L cassette

CAPACITIES

PRICE - ON ROAD NSW From

$175,000

As Tested

$180,000

Pros… • • • • • • •

Quality 2WD ability Innovation Comfort Quick set-up No LPG Driving experience

CONTACT:

Click for Google Maps

Trakka Pty Ltd 9 Beaumont Rd Mt Kuring-gai, NSW. 2080. T: 1800 TRAKKA (1800 872552) E: trakka@trakka.com.au W: www.trakka.com.au


158 | Preview: Trakka Trakkaway 720

Single Minded Trakka releases a single-bed version of its popular Trakkaway 720 and it’s looking good‌ by Richard Robertson


Preview | 159

The Trakkaway 720 rides on a Fiat Ducato with AL-KO chassis and suspension upgrades, and as such feels much more ‘sorted’ than a standard, Fiat factory cab-chassis. It’s easy to drive, comfortable and economical, which is what you want in a modern motorhome.

I

t has been interesting watching the evolution of Trakka’s range over the last 20 or so years. Always premium products, the company’s coachbuilt models in particular have undergone a transformation that combines Euro-style and design philosophy with proven Australian engineering.

I remember talking with Trakka founder Dave Berry and he related how he and some of the team had been to the giant U.S. trade-only RV show at Louisville to look at slideouts. There are companies that manufacture and supply them to RV manufacturers and Trakka was interested to see what was available.

The range grew for a while to encompass triaxle Fiat chassis and a variety of body lengths and floorplans, but it seems the sweet spot was hit upon with the release in 2012 of the Trakkaway 700. Compact enough at 7 m (23’) to go almost anywhere (it’s only about 0.6 m/2’ longer than our Ford Transit) it’s highly liveable and broke new ground by featuring a rear slide-out island bed of Trakka’s design and making.

“After checking them all out what we learned was how NOT to build them,” he quipped. “So we came home and designed and built our own”. Apart from its rigidity and smooth, quiet operation, the real advantage of Trakka’s rear slide-out is it doesn’t disable the vehicle in case of a major system failure: The Trakkaway 700 can still be driven with the bed extended.


160 | Preview The Trakkaway 700 was an instant hit and is now in its third series, each subtly building upon the success of its predecessor. In that time Trakka has quietly discontinued its other coachbuilt models, given buyer preference for the 700. However, the growing demand for single beds left them out in the proverbial cold, and so the new Trakkaway 720 was born.

Identically Different?

B

eds aside, at first glance the 700 and 720 appear identical. However, as is often the case, appearances can be deceiving: The Trakkaway 720 is 20 cm (8”) longer than the 700 – hence the model name –

and lacks the rear slide-out, but gains a 24 cm (9.5”) deeper boot. For comparison purposes, the 700’s slide-out adds 50 cm (1’ 7”) to overall length when extended. Alex Berry from Trakka says that for her, the 720 feels more open at the back. “It has a ‘ginormous’ rear window and feels incredibly open and breezy, while the single beds make for an uninterrupted sleep. There’s also more flexible use of the rear area, which is great for lounging and you can take a friend away travelling,” she said. “There are adjustable headrest on both sides, so you can choose your angle to lounge at, plus a new bedding foundation with double memory foam and a

The huge rear window makes the Trakkaway 720 easy to distinguish from its 700 sibling. The rear slide-out is gone, but the body is 20 cm longer to compensate, while the boot is deeper too.


Preview | 161 layer of the DUNLOP Enduro foam for extra comfort”. Alex also noted the overhead locker storage down either side, plus a central bedside table with a large drawer underneath and a lift-up cupboard on top at the rear, complete with 12 V, USB & 240 V outlets inside. “The rear lounge has an additional mounting point, so the dining table can also be used down there, and like the 700 the leg is offset for easier access. There’s still just a single wardrobe – it sits between the bathroom and kerb-side bed – but it’s wider than the 700’s and has a shelf below that’s also fitted with a

range of power outlets. And, additional storage is provided courtesy of a pair of 59 cm-deep drawers under each bed,” Alex explained. The Trakkaway 720 is a B-class motorhome because it lacks an over-cab bed. This makes it a four-seat, two-berth unit, but Trakka offers an optional ‘Aero4’ Luton with overcab bed for a reasonable $3500, making it a full four-seat/four-berth proposition. Speaking of prices, the Trakkaway 700 and 720 are identical in this regard, with an on-road cost in NSW of $180,000, or $185,000 with the popular Alfresco outdoor fridge/sink/hot water unit by the entry door.

While the Trakkaway 720’s single beds are mainly about sleeping versatility, the bedroom can also double as an alternative dining/games/escape room. That’s especially good news if you order the optional Aero4 over-cab bed and make full use of the four seat/four-bed capability.


162 | Preview Both Trakkaways also get the patented Switch Mode Bathroom SMB; an all-in-one ‘wet’ bathroom, but one in which the toilet electrically retracts out of the way. Personally I still prefer a split bathroom or at least a separate shower cubicle, but the SMB works well and its bonus is an especially spacious showering space. Horses for courses…

Fiat Flavours

B

oth Trakkaway models ride on the latest X295-series Fiat Ducato and are powered by the ‘full fat’ 180 Multijet2 version of Fiat’s new Euro 6-compliant 2.3-litre turbo-diesel. The 180 stands for horsepower,

Top: The retractable ‘loo’ is the centrepiece of Trakka’s patented Switch Mode Bathroom. Above: Rear seats are comfortable for distance travel and there’s a huge side window for excellent sightseeing. Optional tan leather upholstery is stylish and also easy to keep clean.


Preview | 163

Above: As a B-class motorhome the cab and body blend nicely to aid aerodynamics. Below: There’s still only one wardrobe, but now it’s wider.

which in metric-speak is 130 kW, while torque is a healthy 400 Nm – the same as the superseded 3.0-litre engine. Drive is though the front wheel via Fiat’s proprietary six-speed ‘Comfortmatic’ automated manual transmission (AMT), which you can drive as an auto or in manual mode. If you’re new to Fiat Ducatos it’s worth knowing a bit about them. Basically they come in two flavours: factory cab-chassis or factory cab/AL-KO chassis. The factory cab-chassis is the cheaper option and features on lowcost Ducato-based motorhomes (often with a less powerful version of the same engine). There’s nothing really wrong with it – factory cab-chassis are the usual offering from truck manufacturers – it’s just that the AL-KO chassis is so much better. Fiat provides a specially engineered cab that AL-KO attaches its lightweight aluminium chassis to, complete with custom rear torsion


164 | Preview

bar suspension in place of the standard chassis’ leaf-springs. The result is less weight and a lower chassis-rail height, which in turn means a lower motorhome floor/entry-step height and more internal headroom. AL-KO works with motorhome manufacturers to tailor the chassis to their specific needs, positioning crossmembers to allow for optimal water tank location and weight distribution, for example, plus providing a choice of chassis heights. The independent rear torsion bar suspension includes level control, which compensates for loading to keep the motorhome on an even keel. AL-KO also makes a replacement front suspension Macphersonstrut-and-spring combination for the Fiat Ducato, which addresses the model’s nose-

Top: The Trakkaway 720 is LPG-free, meaning cooking is done on a diesel-fired cooktop. The kitchen is nicely sized and has plenty of storage. Above: The rear boot is 24 cm (9.5”) deeper than the Trakkaway 700’s; something every owner will appreciate.


Preview | 165 down stance and dramatically improves ride quality and driving enjoyment. All these AL-KO ‘goodies’ are standard on both Trakkaway models and add considerably to their appeal.

Steak Knives?

B

ut wait there’s more – of course – although no steak knives. This is just a preview of the new Trakkaway 720 as I haven’t yet seen it in the flesh/metal. The good news is we’re going to take this demo model away for a few days to try it out and bring you a proper ‘living-in’ report. We’re still finalising dates, but it will be sooner than later and Mrs iM and I are really looking forward to it. Meanwhile, the current Trakkaway 700 – with its island bed – is one of our favourites. However, we’re fans of single beds where they add space and extra living area ‘utility’ and are keen to try the adjustable backs on the 720’s single beds for sitting up to read, watch TV and/or enjoy a cup of tea or glass of something sparkling (that’s not water). We like the way Trakka’s designers have kept the back wall uncluttered by cupboards and other ‘impediments’, which will make sitting-up that much easier. In the mean time, going on our many nights already spent in the 700, if you’re after a quality, compact motorhome for two (or four), put the Trakkaway 700/720 on your shopping list. It’s proof good things come through ‘single minded’ development…

Top to bottom: Simple but well thought out, the bedroom is open and spacious, and comes with single beds whose ends tilt up for added versatility. The between-bed storage unit has a lift-up lid that reveals 12 V socket, USB and 240 V power outlets, so all your device charging options are covered.


166 | Preview

Specs GENERAL Make

Trakka

Model

Trakkaway 720

Type

B-class

Berths

2

Approved Seating

4

Licence

Car

VEHICLE Make/Model

Fiat Ducato with AL-KO Chassis

Engine

2.3 L 4-cylinder turbo-diesel

Power

132 kW @ 4000 rpm

Torque

400 Nm @ 1500-2500 rpm

Gearbox

6-speed automated manual transmission (AMT)

Safety

ABS, Stability Control, Traction Control, Dual airbags

Fuel

120 L

WEIGHTS Tare Weight

3590 kg

Gross Vehicle Mass

4490 kg

Max Payload

900 kg

Braked Towing Capacity

1500 kg

DIMENSIONS Overall Length

7.2 m (23’ 8”)

Overall Width

2.40 m (7’ 10”)

Overall Height

2.90 m (9’ 6”)

Internal Height

2.20 m (7’ 3’)

Kerb-side Bed

1.97 m x 0.80 m (6’ 5” x 2’ 7”)

Drivers-side Bed

1.83 m x 0.80 m (6’ 0” x 2’ 7”)

Luton Bed - optional

2.15 m x 1.30 m (7’ x 4”)


Preview | 167

Specs EQUIPMENT Slide-Out

No

Awning

Dometic Electric

Entry Steps

1 x Electric

Cooker

Webasto diesel with glass ceramic top

Rangehood

Externally vented with LED lighting

Sink

Dometic round with fold-down flick mixer, glass lid

Fridge

Waeco 136 L compressor (+ 50 L compressor with Alfresco pack)

Microwave

Sharp

Lighting

12 V LED

12 V Sockets/USB Outlets

12 V & USB

Air Conditioner

Truma Saphir reverse cycle

Space Heater

Truma Combi diesel-fired

Hot Water System

Truma Combi diesel-fired

Toilet

Thetford cassette (retractable)

Shower

Flexible hose

Pros… • Single bed flexibility • Living area flexibility • Extra boot space • Quality • Design integration • AL-KO chassis and suspension • Standard equipment

CONs… • Premium price • Looks like you still can’t put a bike rack on the back wall • Not much else

CAPACITIES Batteries

2 x 100 AH AGM

Solar

2 x 120 W (3 x 120 W with Alfresco pack)

LPG

N/A

Fresh Water

165 L

Grey Water

135 L

Hot Water

10 L

Toilet

19 L cassette

Manufacturer

From

$180,000

As shown with the following options:

$193,750

Trakka Pty Ltd 9 Beaumont Rd Mt Kuring-gai, NSW. 2080 E: trakka@trakka.com.au W: www.trakka.com.au

PRICE ON ROAD NSW

Alfresco pack ($5000), 1600 W inverter ($2350) Leather upholstery ($3500), LED light bar ($950) Tower & electrics ($1950)

Click for Google Maps


168 | Preview


Calling All Wilderness Explorers

trakka.com.au


170 | Quick Spin: Trakka Torino and Torino Xtra Remote

Twins Under The Skin! Same parents, different personalities‌ By Richard Robertson


Quick Spin | 171

I

t’s interesting to watch the evolution of companies. When iMotorhome launched in 2012, Trakka had a full line-up of coachbuilt motorhomes and it seemed to me that van conversions were seen as a stepping stone between a Trakkadu campervan and ‘the big time’.

Fiat Ducato van, but calling it extra long is a bit of a misnomer because at 6.363 metres long it’s far from huge. To put it into perspective, it sits between the medium wheelbase and long wheelbase Sprinter vans, which are 5.926 and 6.961 metres, respectively.

Both Torinos are two berth motorhomes, but Fast forward to 2016/17 and Trakka has while Torino is a two seater, Torino Xtra seats reduced the coachbuilt lineup to a single model four. How so, you ask? Easy. Torino has a pair – the Trakkaway 700. One of our favourites and of lengthways single beds that can convert a top seller, it’s as close to the perfect balance into a near-kingsize. Torino Xtra, on the other of size, features and liveability as you’ll find. hand, has an across-vehicle double bed that Over that same time period Trakka’s van-based cleverly hinges up on one end to provide walklineup evolved into a two vehicle range: Torino through rear access and enough space to carry on the Fiat Ducato and Jabiru on the Mercede- a motorbike. Turning the bed sideways frees Benz Sprinter. It has been a strategic move that up enough space for a permanent dinette, has concentrated on a limited number of niche with forward-facing seating for two extra models, and it came at a time the whole vanpassengers. Spin the cab seats and it’s dinner conversion market was experiencing significant for four – no reservations required! Meal time growth. Part prescience and part good fortune, in the two-seat Tornio is no chore, however, as today Trakka’s van conversion range sits at the you have a choice of front or rear dining areas. top of a booming market segment. Up front, a removable table slots in between the swivelled cab seats, while down the back you can use the foot-ends of the single beds Tale of Two Sisters as lounges and pop in a larger, removable table orino started out as a single model that between them. Presto! was later joined by Torino Xtra. Both use the same extra-long wheelbase (XLWB)

T


172 | Quick Spin

Above: A corner table in Torino makes a good little workstation from the driver’s seat, while a small pole-mount table slots in between the seats. Below: Torino Xtra’s east-west bed hinges up to provide walk-through access and great cargo space. As standard, Torino and Torino Xtra come with gas cooking and hot water, plus the option of a diesel-fired room heater. Add the Remote Pack to either model and you do away with gas. Cooking and water heating become diesel-fired and room heating is included. The Remote Pack also adds significantly more thermal and sound insulation, plus 135-watts of solar panels to charge the (standard) 2 x 100-amphour deep-cycle house batteries. A 1600-watt inverter is optionally available. All Torinos carry 120-litres of fresh water, have an 80-litre grey water tank and 19-litre toilet cassette.

new Torino and Torino Xtra Remote out for a day to play catch-up on recent developments, it seemed an offer too good to refuse.

Big Day Out.

L

ooking back through the iMotorhome archives (blow dust, cough, wheeze) it seems we’re reviewed Torino once (Issue 44 15/3/14), but Torino Xtra thrice – issues 58 (18/10/14), 79 (5/9/15) and 102 (3/9/16). So, when Alex from Trakka suggested we take a

The planned route was from Trakka’s Mt Kuring-Gai showroom on Sydney’s northernmost fringe to the Pines Campground in Olney State Forest, in the hinterland between the Central Coast and Newcastle. It provided about 90 minutes driving each way and while


Quick Spin | 173

Torino Xtra has passenger seats and a flip-up coffee table, plus a removable dining table. that was mostly freeway, it also entailed some winding back roads and a decent dirt road run into the woods. I drove the Torino up and Torino Xtra Remote back and it was an excellent opportunity to compare identical vehicles with different suspension.

Remote Control

T

he Torino Xtra Remote was also fitted with the optional Outback Suspension Pack. That meant it came with ALKO’s Comfort Suspension (ACS) up front and ARS – I kid you not – at the back (who said Germans have no sense of humour?). ARS stands for AL-KO Rear Suspension, which involves new shock absorbers and a set of ‘helper’ coil springs to assist the standard leaf springs. It provides a more controlled ride with less bottoming and body roll; ideal attributes in a laden motorhome. Up front, ACS brings replacement suspension struts and springs.

Not only do they provide better control, plus increased wheel travel and ride comfort, they raise the nose 40 mm to provide a level ride (Ducatos sits nose-low in standard form). On the freeway the Torino, with its standard Fiat suspension, rode well enough. On backroads things got a bit bumpy in the front over broken and uneven bitumen, which is a Ducato norm, but nothing untoward. Heading down the dirt road into Olney State Forest, however, things got tougher. Long stretches of corrugations tested our tooth fillings and required a distinctly defensive driving approach, while potholes hidden in dappled light produced crash-bangs. Coming out of the forest in the Torino Xtra Remote, the Outback Suspension Kit transformed the ride. The front end had noticeably more wheel travel and was better controlled, and while the corrugations still shook us they were far less intrusive. Also, the crash-bang was gone from unseen potholes.


174 | Quick Spin Overall the Torino Xtra felt more composed, controlled and comfortable – more complete – and this would be the first option I’d be ordering.

Details Details...

I

f the Devil is in the detail he’d be right at home in either of the latest Torinos. It’s interesting to look back at my earlier reviews and see just how far the detail finish has come. What at the time seemed cutting edge has evolved to the point now where the level of sophistication isn’t just market leading, it’s world class – in every sense of the term. From decor colours and style to finishing trim and fabrics, Trakka’s visual and tactile aesthetic is outstanding. A clever mix of concealed and conventional lighting – all LED of course – provides an ambience to match any mood, while features like a TV that can be positioned in the bedroom or dinette via a height-adjustable pole mount is simple and

East-west bed in Torino Xtra is long enough for all but the tallest.


Quick Spin | 175 clever. As much as anything it reflects a level of thoughtfulness that comes not just from years of motorhome construction – there are plenty of companies out there with decades of experience – but from actually using the vehicles they design and build, and caring about the user experience. I’ve written at length in past issues about the design features and benefits of both Torino layouts. In that regard nothing has changed much and both vehicles are as practical as ever, with the notable exception of enhanced utility via Torino Extra’s hinged bed (earlier models had an electrically height adjustable bed). A patented Trakka trademark is the Switch Mode Bathroom (SMB). It’s a slightly larger than usual all-in-one design, with a toilet that retracts by remote control beneath the vanity when not required. The SMB also has a sliding roller-shutter door that doesn’t intrude into the cubicle or aisle. It can be left open when Spacious single or giant king. Torino provides multiple sleeping options.


176 | Quick Spin

Poles in kitchen and bedroom hold the TV on its removable mount. Kitchen pole lets TV be swivelled for outdoor viewing, too. showering because a wrap-around shower curtain press-studs into place to keeps towels, loo roll and the doorway dry, so it doesn’t flap or try to cling to you. The only downside is you still need to dry the floor after showering to use the loo, but a teak duckboard makes that easier. As design compromises go it’s an easy one to live with.

What I Think

T

orino and Torino Xtra are twins with differing personalities. Each suits different buyer preferences and either is a terrific van-based motorhome. Torino provides the most sleeping room and the choice of single or a near-kingsize bed. It also has two dining options plus a clever little workstation when the driver’s seat is swivelled. If you don’t need to carry extra passengers and like room to stretch out at night, this is the one for you. Torino Xtra is ideal if want or need to carry passengers and/or value a permanent dinette. It’s east-west bed is less spacious, but

surprisingly I found it long enough for my 1.85 m frame simply by lying on my side with legs slightly bent, which is the norm. The bonus is the bed that hinges up on the driver’s side, making it a full walkthrough van with a huge rear cargo area ideal for all manner of lifestyle equipment (and it even has tie-down points). Unusually for van conversions, both models have concertina bedroom dividers so one of you can retire early while the other sits up and plays computer games. Or something… Add the Remote Pack to either Torino and you add true versatility for all-weather touring and off-grid living. Add the Outback Suspension Kit and you’ll be driving the best handling Fiat Ducato on the road. For twins, Torino and Torino Xtra do their parents proud. Maybe it’s the DNA, but both get under your skin and are well worth getting to know. For full details and prices, click here.


Quick Spin | 177

Pros… • Style • Quality • Innovation • Comfort • Convenience • Liveability • Practicality

CONs… • Vans aren’t for everyone • Semi-wet bathroom • No electric option for side door

CONTACT:

Click for Google Maps

Trakka Pty Ltd 9 Beaumont Rd Mt Kuring-gai, NSW. 2080. T: 1800 TRAKKA (1800 872552) E: trakka@trakka.com.au W: www.trakka.com.au


SWITCH A great place to start

making the motorhome lifestyle easy

www.sunliner.com.au


179 | Tested: UniCampa M4

Master Stroke?

Renault’s Master heads up the new budget Unicampa range‌ by Malcolm Street


Tested | 180

Unicampa is a new budget brand from Sunliner RV. The Renault Master is an interesting choice and seems to work well as a motorhome cab-chassis. Renault has played around the edges of the local motorhome scene for years but never really made inroads. Also used by Jayco, it will be interesting to see if the brand manages to break into the mainstream here. The Unicampa body is finished in all-over white with bright graphics and you’d never mistake it for anything else!

I

n Australia, as in many other countries, the most popular motorhome cab-chassis is the Fiat Ducato, followed by the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. The third, which is priced between the two but with more rated carrying ability than either, is the Iveco Daily. Waiting in the wings with newer models are both VW with the all-new Crafter and Ford, with a soonto-be-auto Transit. The odd man out in the pack is the Renault Master, which appears from time to time with various motorhome manufacturers. Our test vehicle is a Renaultpowered Unicampa M4, and just in case you don’t recognise the name, Unicamper is a new budget range by Sunliner RV.

The Master

U

ntil recently Renault’s Master was a rear-wheel drive vehicle, but now it has joined the Fiat Ducato in being frontwheel drive. It has a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of 3800 kg and a maximum payload of 700 kg, given the tare mass is 3100 kg. Underneath the Master’s bonnet is a 2.3-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel with a maximum power rating of 110 kW and torque of 350 Nm, while drive is through a six-speed automated manual transmission (AMT) During my travels, the Renault Master performed willingly enough despite the relatively modest power figures, and it seemed to me


181 | Tested the gearbox showed a little less hesitation than most AMTs. I should point out the motorhome was lightly loaded, but overall it is quite an easy driving motorhome.

Body Building

I

t might be because the Unicampa M4 is aimed that the budget market, but the fibreglass composite and moulded body does have a somewhat square look about it, from both back and front. All the windows are the standard double-glazed acrylic items with integrated blinds and insect screens, whilst the entry door (sans any sort of screening) is the familiar Dometic item. Given it is hinged on the forward side it does clash with the adjacent window unless care is taken. Often in budget orientated motorhomes

external bin space is minimal, however the M4 scores quite well in this department with a through-boot across the rear of the motorhome. It’s not quite in the category of a Euro motorhome style ‘garage’ – mostly because the gas cylinder bin sits in the way – but should still hold all the camping essentials.

Stepping Aboard

S

ince the Unicampa has approved seating for four it’s handy for a family. However, given the size of the over-cab bed the ‘upstairs’ occupants would have to be fairly small in stature. That aside, I have to say the interior has a somewhat square, rental motorhome look and feel about it. That’s not to say it isn’t practical because it is certainly is, and unlike most rental

Decor is simple and no-nonsense, but the standard equipment list ticks all the expected boxes for the class. Note the over-cab bed that hinges up for easy cab access.


Tested | 182 motorhomes the M4 has an island bed at the rear. Because the entry door is mid way along the side, the kitchen bench is to the left as you step inside and it faces a café-style dinette across the aisle. That leaves the area in front of the island bed for a combo bathroom on the driver’s side and a fridge cabinet to the right of the entry door. Above the cab is a bed that can be tilted out of the way if not needed, but because it measures just 1.85 m x 1.0 m (6’ 3” x 3’ 3”) it is really only a single.

table is really going to be come the default food preparation area. Drawers are definitely the storage theme, with four of various sizes provided and, of course, a couple of overhead lockers.

Cooking Up

Dining

he kitchen bench looks somewhat Euro sized because the three burner cooker and grill butts up right against the stainless steel sink/drainer. The cooker does have a hinged lid, of course, but the dinette

tilising the swivelled cab seats in this design is definitely a good idea. The swivelled driver’s seat can be used with the table and forward-facing dinette seat behind it, but because of the rather square shape of the dinette’s cushions the cab seats

T

Fridge space isn’t neglected thanks to a good sized Dometic 190-litre 2-door unit. It’s floor mounted, so the Sharp Carousel microwave above is at a reasonably user friendly height and there is still space for a cupboard above it.

U

There’s no kitchen bench space, so the table becomes the default work area. It’s good to have a full oven and grill, though.


183 | Tested might well be the better choice for relaxing in. A nice touch is the non-rectangular shape of the table, which makes it easy to move around but also isn’t a stretch from either of the seats to be reasonably comfortable for dining.

Ensuite

G

iven the M4’s external length of just over 7 m (23’) and having an island bed, it’s not surprising that the bathroom is a ‘wet’ one, with flexible hose shower, cassette toilet and vanity wash basin all sharing the same space. In fact both the toilet and sink are part of the same moulding, which provides an extra bit of space

The Master’s cab is simple but functional, although looking a bit dated these days. An automated manual transmission is standard and surprisingly smooth by class standards.


Tested | 184

An island bed will please many buyers, as will the decent storage, big windows and roof hatch. Overall internal storage is good, plus there’s a through-boot outside for your camping essentials.

saving. A decent sized wall mirror is fitted to the door and this means it can easily be used from inside or outside the bathroom.

Bedroom

A

t the rear the 1.88 m x 1.42 m (6’ 2” x 4’ 8”) island bed takes up most of the space. Good ventilation is assured thanks to large windows on both sides and a decent sized roof hatch. At the bedhead, wardrobes are fitted on both sides, while three lockers run across the top of the wall, above. There are also bedside shelves on both sides and a handy shelf on the wall above. Walk-around space at the base of the bed, particularly the driver’s side isn’t great, so doing something like making up the bed is a bit of a fiddle.


185 | Tested

Having a ‘wet’ bathroom won’t please everyone, but like the rest of the vehicle it’s simple and straightforward.

Power and Water Matters

N

aturally, the M4 comes with both 240 and 12-volt electrical systems and although mains power points aren’t prolific, there are enough of them. A single 12 V 100 AH battery is located under the rear seat, along with mains charger and 12 V fuse panel. A little surprisingly the 12V fuses were well labelled – not always a common occurrence in the RV industry. Also under the rear seat is the Girard instantaneous hot water heater, but the downside is there’s no space for anything else. Given the 100-litre water tank and lack of a solar panel, the M4 really couldn’t be used for more than a couple of days in a remote location.

What I Think

T

he Unicampa M4 might be something of a basic motorhome with a plain interior, but it does have all the essentials the current generation of motorhomers have come to expect, including a decent amount of storage space both inside and out.


Tested | 186


187 | Tested

Specs GENERAL Make

Unicampa

Model

M4

Type

C-Class

Berths

3

Approved Seating

4

Licence

Car

VEHICLE Make/Model

Renault Master

Engine

2.3 L 4-cylinder turbo-diesel

Power

110 kW @ 3500 rpm

Torque

350 rpm @1500 rpm

Gearbox

6 speed AMT

Safety

ABS, EBD, ESC, dual air bags

Fuel

100 L

Fuel

98 L

WEIGHTS Tare Weight

3800 kg

Gross Vehicle Mass

3100 kg

Max Payload

700 kg

Braked Towing Capacity

2500 kg

DIMENSIONS Overall Length

7.20 m (23' 7.5")

Overall Width

2.31m (7' 7�)

Overall Height

3.07 m (10')

Internal Height

2.1 m (6' 11")

Main Bed

1.88 m x 1.42 m (6' 2" x 4' 8")

Luton Bed

1.85 m x 1.0 m (6' x 3' 3")


Tested | 188

Specs EQUIPMENT Slide-Out

No

Awning

Fiamma f45

Entry Steps

Pull out

Cooker

Thetford Triplex & grill

Rangehood

Finch Belair 2400

Sink

Stainless steel & drainer

Fridge

190 L Dometic RMDX21 3-way

Microwave

Sharp Carousel

Lighting

12V ED

12 V Sockets/USB Outlets

Cab only

Air Conditioner

Finch Belair 2400

Space Heater

No

Hot Water System

Girard instantaneous

Toilet

Thetford cassette

Shower

Combo, wet cubicle

Pros… • Budget price • Easy driving • Island bed • Seats four • External storage • Big fridge

CONs… • Renault dealer network? • Basic looking interior • Bed walk around space • Wet bathroom • Narrow over-cab bed

CAPACITIES Batteries

1 x 100AH

Solar

No

LPG

2 x 4.5 kg

Fresh Water

100 L

Grey Water

60 L

Hot Water

Instantaneous

Toilet

17 L

PRICE ON ROAD NSW As Tested

$119,990

Warranty - Motorhome

TBA

Warranty - Renault

3 yrs/200,000 km

Manufacturer: Unicampa PO Box 554 Bayswater. Vic. 3153. E: info@unicampa.com.au W: www.unicampa.com.au

Supplied thanks to: Australian Motorhomes Click for Google Maps 31 Pacific Highway Bennetts Green, NSW 2290 T: (02) 4948 0433 W: australianmotorhomes.com.au


189 | Tested


NEW RV’S AT

VALUE PRICES

VALUE FUNCTION DESIGN

www.unicampa.com.au

MOTORHOMES & CAMPERVANS

Profile for iMotorhome Magazine

iMotorhome Magazine - 2018 Australian Road Test Yearbook  

A massive 190 pages covering 13 road tests, 1 new release and a 2-vehicle 'quick spin', the iMotorhome Magazine 2018 Australian Road Test Ye...

iMotorhome Magazine - 2018 Australian Road Test Yearbook  

A massive 190 pages covering 13 road tests, 1 new release and a 2-vehicle 'quick spin', the iMotorhome Magazine 2018 Australian Road Test Ye...

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