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iMotorhome magazine

2020 Yearbook 241 pages of Road Tests, Tastes & Previews...


ON MY MIND

End of the Beginning? As we dust ourselves off from the most difficult year in memory, we look forward to 2021 and remember the words of Winston Churchill:

but even when things ease it’s unlikely there will be much international travel demand before 2022. So, 2021 should very much be the year of the recreational vehicle…

“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”.

The uncertainties and lockdowns that affected us all impacted our ability to access and review campervans and motorhomes. That’s reflected in this year’s roadtest program, which I had to improvise in order to maintain even a basic level of content. Moving into 2021, things should begin to return to normal, although it’s now difficult to access vehicles due to the high sales demand. If there is a specific make or model you would like to see reviewed, drop a line to richard@ imotorhome.com.au and I’ll see what I can do.

After drought, heat, bushfires and a pandemic – all on an epic scale – it’s difficult to believe we survived and can actually look forward to better times ahead. Indeed, in the midst of this cool, wet summer, surrounded by green fields and with the first stages of a global vaccine rollout, it’s difficult not to feel at least slightly optimistic. The Australian Recreational Vehicle Industry has largely come out of 2020 in good shape, with healthy order books and production capacities stretched. Of course the year didn’t start that way and when the Nation shut down at the end of March it really felt like we were staring into the abyss. While some manufacturers in the crowded caravan and camper trailer sector collapsed, the smaller campervan and motorhome segment endured well and there have been no closures I’m aware of.

Enjoy this compilation issue and keep it handy as a reference. It’s a little different this time – kind of like an all-in compendium that includes a couple of Kiwi tests – while the eagle-eyed will spy a Horizon Melaleuca review from the last issue of 2019. That’s because we didn’t manage to get Ballina this year for a sneak-peek at Horizon’s secret new model, but the Melaleuca is a classic in its own right and well worth inclusion.

If you’re in the market for a new campervan or The Federal Government’s Cash Flow Boost and Job motorhome you’ll need to be patient, but the wait will Keeper programs saved the bacon of many smaller be worthwhile. Safe travels if you’re already out there; businesses, this one included. Despite prolonged State here’s dreaming of the time when lockdowns will be border closures and strict lockdowns in some parts of a distant memory, borders wide open and the road’s the country, people are travelling domestically again siren song stronger than ever… and recreational vehicles are in high demand. This is largely helped, of course, by the continued closure of our border to residents wishing to travel overseas,

Richard

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iMotorhome Magazine iMotorhome Magazineis free, independent and published monthly. Download issues HERE or read online HERE Publisher/Editor

Richard Robertson (+61) 0414 604 368 richard@imotorhome.com.au

Published by iMotorhome Pty Ltd PO Box 1738, Bowral. NSW 2776. Australia. ABN: 34 142 547 719 T: +614 14 604 368 E: info@imotorhome.com.au W: www.imotorhome.com.au

Technical

© 2020 iMotorhome Pty Ltd.

Allan Whiting (+61) 0410 677 966 allan@imotorhome.com.au

Contributors

Robert ‘Bobby’ Watson Warren McCullough

All content of iMotorhome Magazine and website is copyright and cannot be reproduced in any form without the written permission of the Publisher. While every effort is made to ensure the accuracy of content, no responsibility is accepted for any inconvenience and/ or loss arising from reading and/or acting upon information contained within iMotorhome+Caravan magazine, in the app or on the website.


CONTENTS

7

AVIDA

119

LATITUDE MOTORHOMES

29

CARADO

134

SLRV EXPEDITION VEHICLES

44

CI

141

SUNCAMPER MOTORHOMES

57

EARTHCRUISER

161

SUNLINER RV

67

HORIZON MOTORHOMES

175

TRAKKA

84

IVECO

211

VW

92

JACANA MOTORHOMES

219

WINDSOR

102

JAYCO

230

WIRRAWAY

113

KNAUS

6


AVIDA

• Longreach C9536SL • Silverton C7134SL


TASTED: AVIDATASTED LONGREACH C9536SL

L O N G r e a c h ?

Unchanged for years, does Avida’s flagship Longreach still deliver the goods? by Richard Robertson Images by Malcolm Street and Avida

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TASTED

I

magine having bought a new car six or seven years ago and deciding it's now time to upgrade. In that period, safety equipment has dramatically improved, ditto engines, gearboxes and fuel economy. Meanwhile, occupants now experience unprecedented levels of safety, comfort and convenience. So imagine going back to the dealer to find they're still selling your old model, brand-new, and really all that’s changed is the price? That's basically the situation the owner of an older Longreach would have walking into an Avida dealer. And yet, new Longreaches continue to be sold and the model is still viewed by many as aspirational. What's its secret? Is it really so good it doesn't need improving, or is its continuing popularity one of the ultimate marketing jobs (and dare I say, something of a long reach)? Or could it be something in between? Read on‌

9


TASTED

More is More

I

sitting above both is the Tiffin Allegro Breeze – a luxury A-class motorhome that’s in a price, style and refinement class all of its own.

f you want to go on the road full-time and value living as well as personal space, there's no substitute for real estate. Whilst less is often more, sometimes it's not and you just want lots of it, plus the ability to carry plenty of stuff – and maybe even tow. This is where the Longreach excels: At 9.5 m (31’) long and with an 8.7 tonne gross vehicle mass (GVM), it’s a big piece of mobile real estate. It also looks somewhat like an A-class motorhome but actually is a C-class, courtesy of having a separate cab-chassis and over-cab bed.

The Monte Carlo and Longreach are interesting to compare because their manufacturers have gone down different design routes on what, underneath, are identical chassis. While the Monte Carlo is billed as a luxury motorhome, the Longreach – still very comfortable and well appointed – is less ‘glamorous’, but feels more practical; it’s the one you're most likely to be comfortable getting dirty. Because both share the same Isuzu truck cab-chassis it means no matter how you dress them up there's no escaping their utilitarian underpinnings; something only too apparent in the driving/cab experiences and which, to a large degree, defines their characters.

This is an exclusive and rarefied end of the RV market because of the price (just over A$300,000), size and the need for a medium rigid (MR) driver’s licence. Motorhomes in this category sell in small numbers, but the Longreach doesn't have things all to itself. Its closest competitor is Sunliner’s Monte Carlo, while

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TASTED

Evolutionary…

A

vida is a conservative manufacturer given more to evolution than revolution. There’s nothing wrong with that and its products are proven, popular and backed by a national dealer and service network. The Longreach’s biggest attraction – it’s size – is also it’s biggest limitation. That’s because its Isuzu NQR 450 Long cab-chassis is built for heavy-duty truck applications and was never intended for motorhome use. Isuzu is the top selling truck brand in Australia and has built a legendary reputation for Japanese reliability. It also has an impressive national dealer and service network. However, Isuzu isn’t a great innovator and it’s products seem to take years to evolve. Fortunately, this model is offered with a Premium Pack that adds some comfort and convenience items and it is what the Longreach includes. transmission (AMT). It also comes with a driver’s suspension seat, however that's not available in the Longreach due to it being what Isuzu calls an ‘engine access hatch model’ (required for servicing as the cab can't be tilted).

The Premium Pack adds an instrument panel multiinformation display (service interval/ fuel consumption/ etc), cruise control, climate control air-conditioning, chrome grille, fog lights, driver’s foot rest and – most importantly – a six-speed automated manual

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Although long-serving, the NQR 450 has received some modernising touches over the years and these include a Euro-5 emissions-compliant engine (no AdBlue required, although it has a diesel particulate filter), dual front air bags with seatbelt pretensioners, anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronic stability control, heated electric mirrors and cornering lamps, plus remote central locking. It also features a 6.2 inch LCD touchscreen infotainment system that includes DAB+ digital radio and Bluetooth with voice recognition, while the unit doubles as the display for the reversing camera. The engine remains Isuzu’s big (by motorhome standards) 5.2-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-diesel that puts out a relatively leisurely 140 kW @ 2600 rpm and 513 Nm @ 1600-2600 rpm. These are hardly groundbreaking figures but they do bode well for longevity. In fact the engine has a B10 rating, meaning there is a 90% chance it will make 500,000 km without issues. Also the same for a very long time is the six-speed AMT, which can be driven either as an automatic or in manual mode. A feature common to Japanese trucks and which, unfortunately, European manufacturers don’t embrace is the exhaust brake. It works well for holding speed down-hill and for washing it off when slowing for a corner or approaching a slower vehicle. It also helps extend brake life. Speaking of brakes, they are front discs/rear drums, while Avida adds helper airbags to the front suspension to ‘civilise’ the ride somewhat. Given this is a big and heavy vehicle, expect average fuel consumption to be in the 15-25 L/100 km (19-11 mpg) depending on cruising speed, load and terrain. That means the 140-litre fuel tank should be good for 500-900 km. 12


TASTED

Back to the Future

I

n researching this story I dusted off the iMotorhome Magazine archive and revisited the Longreach test in Issue 33 from September 2013. What struck me was that almost seven years on to the day, virtually nothing has changed and that's what got me started on the theme of this story. Because so little has changed it’s well worth reading Malcolm’s Street’s review and you can download the issue here. Talk about back to the future. What I want to talk about for the remainder of this article is how the Longreach has fared over the years and see if it still stacks up as a desirable and worthwhile motorhome. Lest you think I'm being uncharitable, I have to declare a personal interest in the Longreach: The world has turned upside down due to Covid-19 and Mrs iMotorhome appears to be on track for early retirement. That, in turn, has fast-forwarded a range of options previously on the back-burner. One is selling-up and going on the road for a couple of years in a vehicle big enough to double as a house, until we reinvest in bricks and mortar. There are few motorhomes capable of filling that role for us (and being vaguely affordable) and I remembered back to 2013 when I drove the Longreach because Malcolm ‘only’ had an LR licence. By the end of the day it struck me that I ‘got’ what it was all about and could see the attraction. That thought has lingered ever since, hence this revisit.

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TASTED

Wonder Years he Longreach is a development of the earlier Alpine, back in the days when both were called Winnebagos. It's little wonder that over the years things have moved-on across the industry and this is evident in some aspects of the Longreach’s standard features.

T

cassette. Surely something like a150-litre black water tank would now be acceptable and preferable, given the prevalence of RV dump points across the country? Having said all that, you can certainly live with the Longreach at its current specification level, but it could easily be so much better.

The equipment list that used to seem generous now appears a little wanting, especially considering the size and intent of the vehicle; things like just 160-watts of solar panels and 3 x 100 amp-hour house batteries. Yes there is a 3.6 kVa remote start Onan generator to top things up, but like all such units it is campsite and peace-and-quiet unfriendly and also requires a separate fuel supply as it runs on petrol.

As mentioned, the great compromise in the Longreach is the chassis. Ironically, it is also one of its greatest attributes. I have no doubt the average owner will wear out the body long before its Isuzu underpinnings. However, it's still an short-haul truck chassis and that means no walk-through cab; sitting over the front axle and riding up and down over every bump, plus sitting over the engine while it works away. None of these are deal breakers and might even appeal to former truck drivers – or those who wanted to be one. It certainly gives the Longreach a distinctive character and presence, but Isuzu needs to bring its chassis up-todate with things like adaptive cruise control, a proper automatic transmission and some steering-wheelmounted controls. Hino has done/is doing this and more, so fingers crossed Isuzu plays catch-up sooner than later.

Then there is the water capacity: 250-litres of fresh and 125-litres of grey. Considering there’s something like 1.7-tonnes of payload available, couldn’t the fresh water capacity at least be doubled (or more) without much effort or expense? That would greatly enhance the Longreach's remote camping ability, which is certainly one of its great attractions. And then there’s the use of a cassette toilet, albeit with a spare 14


TASTED

Living Space

A

ll talk so far has been on things mechanical and equipment levels, but of course that's only half the story. Inside is where the Longreach shines and so here's a quick review of its features. Worth noting is that Avida provides a range of decor choices, but the overall look and feel is modern and clean without being over the top. I should also note the Longreach has two slide-outs and both are on the driver’s side; one for the lounge and dinette, and the other for the bedroom. Earlier models had the bedroom slide-out on the kerb side, but that interfered with outdoor living space and the current arrangement is best.

15

“The Longreach is basically unique in the Australian RV landscape...�


TASTED

The floor plan is straightforward even though there is no walk-through cab access. Rather, there is a clamber-through-a-big-hatch access and of course, the seats can't be swivelled and don't form any part of the living area. That’s the biggest downside to living with a Longreach, but it’s something you’d get used to. An upside is if you curtain-off the hatch, the cab airconditioning should do an excellent job of keeping you cool when travelling on even the hottest day. Also, the over-cab bed, which lifts on gas struts for improved cab access, only needs a short ladder to reach. The motorhome entry door is just after of the cab and because of the vehicle’s size it’s a climb to get inside. There are two electric entry steps plus internal steps to reach floor level, but it's worth the effort because being high up you get extra good viewing from the windows. Upon entry there is an angled corner storage unit to the left, between the door and cab, which houses a pop-up TV. It’s best viewed from the L-shaped lounge, opposite the entry door, which is extendable and which, along with the sizeable cafe-style dinette, sits in the large slide-out. The kitchen is immediately to the right of the entry door and it has a relatively small amount of bench space to go with the cooker/oven and sink. Moving aft, there’s a pantry unit next with a slide for your Nespresso machine (yeah!) and then a two-door fridge-freezer. Across the aisle is the forwardfacing dinette seat and this marks the division between the Longreach’s open-plan living area and its private bathroom and bedroom.

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TASTED

The bathroom is split, with a large, rearward angled shower on the kerb-side and a toilet/vanity cubicle across the aisle. The latter’s door can close off the bathroom and bedroom for privacy, while the queen bed is mounted east-west, with its head in its own slide-out. There’s plenty of cupboard and drawer space throughout the Longreach, as you’d expect, including under the main bed, which lifts on gas struts.

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TASTED

Outside, there’s a ton of bin space – access to which is made easier by side-hinged doors. There’s also an outdoor entertainment system and even a bar fridge and washing machine to go with the outdoor kitchen. The Longreach comes standard with a 3000-watt inverter and it has airconditioning ducted throughout the ceiling, plus webasto diesel-fired heating with multiple ducted outlets at floor level. All-in-all it’s well set up for long term living and long distance travel. Well, mostly. While the Longreach has a huge awning it’s not electric, which is especially bewildering considering the purchase price.

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TASTED

What I Think

R

evisiting the Avida Longreach has been an interesting exercise. On one hand it's still largely king of the road yet on the other it's something of a dinosaur; albeit one offering almost unrivalled reliability, living space, utility and load capability for the money. A potential buyer needs to weigh up the points raised, take one for a proper test drive and really consider their wants and needs. They also need to factor in the not inconsiderable costs of registration, insurance, servicing and tyres. The Longreach is basically unique in the Australian RV landscape and certainly worth investigating – and it's no long reach saying there could be one in our future‌ 19


SPECS GENERAL Make

Avida

Model

Longreach C9536SL

Type

C-class

Berths

6

Approved Seating

6

Licence

Medium Rigid (MR)

Pros... Liveability Slide-Outs 6 Seats/Berths Equipment Storage Payload Isuzu Reliability Improved Suspension Towing capacity

VEHICLE Make/Model

Isuzu NQR 450 87-190 Premium

Engine

5.2-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel

Power

140 kW @ 2600

Torque

513 Nm @ 1600-2600 rpm

Transmission/Drive

6-speed AMT/Rear-Wheel Drive

Safety

ABS, ESP, Traction Control, 2 air bags

Fuel

140 L

WEIGHTS Tare Weight

7000 kg (approx)

Gross Vehicle Mass

8700 kg

Braked Towing Capacity

3500 kg

DIMENSIONS Overall Length

9.59 m (31' 6")

Overall Width

2.49 m (8' 1")

Overall Height

3.64 m (11' 11”)

Internal Height

1.98 m (6’ 6”)

Main Bed

1.94 m x 1.53 m (6' 4" x 5')

Cab Bed

1.91 m x 1.42 m ((6’ 3” x 4’ 8”)

Cons...

EQUIPMENT Slide-Out

2

Awning

Roll Out

Entry Steps

2 x Electric

Cooker

3 x LPG/1 x Electric, Grill & Oven

Rangehood Sink Fridge Microwave Lighting 12 V Sockets/USB Outlets Air Conditioner Space Heater Hot Water System Toilet Shower CAPACITIES Batteries Solar LPG Fresh Water Grey Water Hot Water Toilet PRICE - drive-away From Warranty

Yes Stainless Steel w Drainer 186 L 2-Door 12/240V/LPG Yes 12 V LED Yes/Yes Yes - Ceiling Ducted Webasto - Ducted LPG/Electric Cassette Separate Cubicle

Size MR Licence Weight - road limits Cab access Manual awning Water capacity Running costs

3 x 100 Ah 2 x 80 W 2 x 9 kg 250 L 125 L 23 L 17 L x 2 (cassette)

Manufacturer

Avida RV 32 David Rd Emu Plains NSW 2750 T: (02) 4734-8116 W: avidarv.com.au Find a Dealer HERE

A$310,000 approx Click for Details

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TASTED: AVIDA SILVERTON C7134SL

PURE

by Richard Robertson

SILVERTON The Silverton is pure Avida and brings Mercedes-Benz prestige back to the model line up…

t the 2020 Victorian Caravan Camping and Touring Supershow, in February, Avida released the allnew Silverton. Little did we know it was to be the only major city RV show for the year, and so Avida’s timing was especially fortunate.

A

any Sprinter: It rides on a uniquely motorhome-specific Sprinter 418 cab-chassis, which not only doesn’t exist on the Mercedes-Benz website, it's configured unlike any other Sprinter we’ve encountered. But first, a little background refresher…

Slotting in between the 7.01 m Ceduna and 7.39 m Birdsville, the Silverton measures a trim 7.135 m long, has a single slide-out and can be driven on standard car licence. It's available as a C-class (with over-cab bed) or a B-class (sans over-cab bed), but each shares the same, open floorplan.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter model designations might seem confusing, but there is Teutonic logic in the apparent madness. Sprinters have a three number designator that works like this: The first number indicates the gross vehicle mass (GVM) while the second two indicate the engine output in horsepower. So for example, a Sprinter 316 has a GVM of 3.55-tonnes and 160 hp (120 kW) engine.

The Silverton is Avida’s first model for a while on the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter cab-chassis, but it's not just

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TASTED

Where the all-new Sprinter does have it all over the ageing Ducato is in terms of safety and technology. It fairly bristles with electronic assistance including Active Brake Assist, Adaptive Electronic Stability Control, Attention (Achtung?) Assist, Crosswind Assist and Anyway, the Sprinter 418 beneath the Silverton Start-Off Assist. That’s in addition to Anti-Lock Brakes appears to be a hybrid and must have its origins in the European motorhome market. It has a GVM of plus front, side and head airbags for both occupants. 4.2-tonnes and a 2.3-litre engine output of 180 hp (177 This particular model also comes with the upgraded to be precise), which equates to 130 kW, and produces 10.25 inch high resolution MBUX multimedia system that includes Apple Car play and Android Auto as well 400 Nm of torque. On top of that it has a nine speed automatic transmission which, to the dismay of diehard as ‘Hey Mercedes’ voice control capabilities. All-in-all Mercedes-Benz Sprinter fans, drives the front wheels. it’s pretty impressive. Heresy! Not having driven a new Sprinter with front-wheel drive These specs are identical to the new Fiat Ducato, which nor the nine-speed auto I can’t comment on its ride, also has a 2.3-litre, 130 kW/400 Nm engine that drives handling or responsiveness, but I’d expect them to be the front wheels through a 9 speed automatic, although class leading. Mercedes-Benz has put a lot of effort it has a 200 kg higher GVM and thus better payload. into the ergonomics of the new Sprinter’s cab and from Given the Ducato accounts for 75% of European experience in rear-wheel drive versions I can tell you motorhomes, perhaps Mercedes-Benz has thought that it’s a refined and relaxing place to pass the miles. if you can’t beat ‘em you might as well join ‘em? Why horsepower? Probably because it's all Americans understand, while 316 sounds more impressive than 312 – but I'm speculating.

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TASTED

Body & Soul

T

he Silverton is a thoroughly conventional looking motorhome, although the body does look a little dated alongside the sleek lines of the new Sprinter. Inside, of course, is where you'll find it's soul… Stepping through the entry door, which is immediately aft of the cab, you find swivelling cab seats to the left plus a forward-facing two-seat dinette opposite. The kitchen is to the right, the bedroom sits across the middle and the bathroom is full-width across the rear. Construction-wise the Silverton follows Avida's proven path of a steel floor with waterproof protection underneath; sandwich-panel walls with an aluminium frame and insulation in between, and one-piece rubber-covered roof. It also uses Avida’s trademark louvred side windows, which while not looking as sexy as more contemporary units have the advantage of being able to be opened in the rain, while also providing better security against break-ins.

The Silverton's small slide-out – Avida calls it ‘compact’ – is on the driver’s side and provides space to extend the east-west mounted main bed. It sits directly above the rear axle, which should provide added stability when extended. External standard equipment includes a roof-mounted air conditioner, 12/240-volt/LPG hot water system, entry door with four-point lock and security screen, electric step and three smallish, external storage lockers. Fresh and grey-water capacities are a bit lighton at just 100-litres each, while hot water is 14-litres and the toilet cassette the usual 17-litres. Also a bit light-on is a single house battery of 100 amp-hours capacity, especially given that solar is an option. Internally, the Silverton comes with an LCD control panel for energy management and operating various systems, soft-close drawers and handle-free overhead cupboards, plus 12 V LED lighting throughout, a smart TV and a USB charging station. 24


TASTED

Decor and More

T

he Silverton's interior is open and has a contemporary look and feel. It features flat-fronted overhead cupboards that don’t intrude and the overall finish is a mixture of gloss white and grey. I remember it being quite striking and perhaps even a little overpowering – there’s a lot of white – but you can't accuse it of being dark and gloomy, and it should be easy to wipe over and keep clean. The most unusual interior feature is the unit immediately to the left of the entry door, which runs from the floor to the base of the over-cab bed. On the plus side it provides a sturdy grab handle and an open storage area for thongs and the like right by the door. Up top, it has a handle you pull down to reveal a couple of shelves and a hinged bench extension that mates with the end of the kitchen bench top. On the minus side, the bench extension blocks the doorway when in use and the whole unit limits the swivelling of the passenger’s cab-seat/occupant legroom. It's a curious arrangement that doesn't appear to have any particular advantage, but a number of disadvantages, and I can't help thinking the Silverton would be better off without it. Of course, that's just my opinion…

25


TASTED

As previously mentioned, the Silverton has an open plan layout and it certainly provides a spacious feel. The dinette and kitchen are practical and usable, with the former having a table with a swing-out extension leaf tucked neatly underneath, should extra dining space be required. The kitchen bench actually continues into the bedroom where it tapers, eventually terminating against the end of the wardrobe, which forms the boundary between the bedroom and bathroom. The main bed lies east-west and has its head in the small slide-out, also as mentioned early. When extended there’s easy walk-through access to the bathroom, but when retracted the bed snugs-up against the drawers and storage space beneath the extended kitchen bench, preventing bathroom access. Although the bed lifts on struts, providing storage space underneath, it can't be lifted when the bid is fully retracted.

lightweight things like jackets. At night it’s accessed by a centrally-mounted aluminium ladder. The bed also hinges up for easier cab access. At the very back of the Silverton is the full-width bathroom. There's a vanity unit with freestanding ceramic sink and wall mirror to the right as you enter; a separate shower cubicle in the left-hand corner and a cassette toilet slightly offset from the doorway so as not to put you on show when in use! Privacy is fully achieved thanks to a sliding door.

From bed it would be easy to watch the smart TV, mounted high on the wall opposite. Unfortunately, it appears this is the only practical place to watch TV, except perhaps from the swivelled driver’s seat. In the C-class model shown, the secondary bed above the cab also provides useful additional storage for 26


TASTED

What I Think

T

here appears to be a lot to like about the new Avida Silverton, starting with its unique MercedesBenz Sprinter chassis. Providing class leading safety and comfort, it's also powerful and should prove economical. The open plan living area is a favourite with many people and works well in warmer climates, even though it does compromise privacy, especially if one person wants to go to bed early. Other than that the floorplan works well, apart from the unusual unit that compromises space for anyone sitting in the swivelled passenger cab seat. The Silverton's compact dimensions should ensure easy driving and ease of access to places larger motorhomes can't reach, especially for the more streamlined B-class version. And of course it's backed by a national service and dealer network as well as an extensive warranty. If you're in the market for a modern motorhome with that little bit of extra space only a slide-out can provide, be sure to check it out.

27


SPECS GENERAL Make

Avida

Model

Silverton C7134SL

Type

C-class

Berths

4

Approved Seating

4

Licence

Car

Pros...

Make/Model

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 418CDI

Engine

2.3-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel

Power

130 kW @ 3800

Torque

400 Nm @ 1400-2400 rpm

Transmission

9-speed automatic/front-wheel drive

Safety

ABS, ESP, 6 air bags & more

Fuel

93 L

Mercedes Sprinter Compact size Open plan living Slide-out bed 2 or 4 berth Dealer network

VEHICLE

WEIGHTS Tare Weight

3500 kg

Gross Vehicle Mass

4200 kg

Braked Towing Capacity

2000 kg

DIMENSIONS Overall Length

7.14 m (23' 5")

Overall Width

2.32 m (6' 7")

Overall Height

3.32 m (10' 11”)

Internal Height

2.14 m (7’ 0”)

Main Bed

1.97 m x 1.4 m (6' 6" x 4' 7”)

Cab Bed

TBA

Cons... Odd front cabinet Limited fresh water Single house battery Solar optional

EQUIPMENT Slide-Out

1

Awning

Dometic Roll Out

Entry Steps

Electric

Cooker

Dometic 3 x LPG/1 x Electric

Rangehood Sink Fridge Microwave Lighting 12 V Sockets/USB Outlets Air Conditioner Space Heater Hot Water System Toilet Shower CAPACITIES Batteries Solar LPG Fresh Water Grey Water Hot Water Toilet PRICE - drive-away From Warranty

Yes Square stainless steel w folding tap 2-Door 12/240V/LPG Yes 12 V LED Yes/Yes Yes Opt Truma LPG/Electric Cassette Separate Cubicle

Manufacturer

Avida RV 32 David Rd Emu Plains NSW 2750 T: (02) 4734-8116 W: avidarv.com.au Find a Dealer HERE

1 x 100 Ah Opt 2 x 4 kg 100 L 100 L 14 L 17 L (cassette) A$156,500 Click for Details

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CARADO • T135


TESTED: OPINION CARADO T135

C O A S T I N G A L O N G

Malcolm Street goes coastal touring in Carado’s compact T135… 30


TESTED

O

n a normal visit to New Zealand I don’t stray much further than the outer suburbs of Auckland or Christchurch. However, on my most recent assignment in NZ I had a couple of jobs in Hamilton and Tauranga, which made a nice change and gave me an opportunity to spend a bit of time in the east coast township of Mount Manganui. For my little trip I borrowed a Helix 2 rental motorhome from Wilderness. The Helix 2 is a 2-berth, 4-seat B-class motorhome that’s better known in the retail market as a Carado T135. It’s also a motorhome that has an external width of 2.3 m (7’ 6½”), which makes it ideal for touring on some of the narrower NZ roads.

31


TESTED

Background

C

arado is a German manufacturer, part of the giant Hymer group and one of quite a few European manufacturers who sell their motorhomes in New Zealand. Wilderness runs a fleet of German-built motorhomes which, apart from anything else, gives the discerning renter a good choice of stylish rental vehicles. Those same motorhomes are also sold into the retail market, so it’s also an opportunity for a potential buyer to try before purchase. Wilderness fitout their motorhomes for freedom camping, hence the company name, and consequently the motorhomes have a few extras not usually found in rental motorhomes.

32


TESTED

Motive Power

L

ike many a Euro-built motorhome, the Carado T135 has a Fiat Ducato Multijet 130 cab-chassis with the 2.3-litre 96 kW/320 Nm turbo-diesel and 6-speed AMT gearbox. Getting to a few statistics, the 5.9 m (19’ 4”) Helix 2 has a tare mass of 2715 kg and a GVM of 3495 kg. Designed and built for motorhome use, Fiat’s Ducato comes with a reinforced cut-away cab, flat-top chassis rails for ease of body mounting, the best seat-swivel mechanism in the business and, being front-wheel drive, simple but light weight and effective rear suspension. More than 2.6 million have been produced since 1981 and the Ducato accounts for about 75 percent of all motorhome base vehicles in Europe, so it’s more than proven.

33


TESTED

Build

U

nlike some Euro motorhomes I have seen, the Helix 2 has better than usual ground clearance, which is very handy if negotiating undulating terrain. Built using a fibreglass composite body structure, the Helix 2 is quite streamlined looking and comes with a skyview hatch above the cab. Double glazed Seitz awning-style windows are fitted all ‘round; the habitation door has an electric step and at the kerb-side rear there is a decent external storage locker. That also gives access to the under-bed area, which is handy when retrieving gear from the inside. It’s a deeper-than-usual storage locker because of a stepped design that improves the available space and provides room for all the essential camping gear.

34


TESTED

Freedom Camping

A

feature of all Wilderness motorhomes is that they are well set up for remote/freedom camping. For starters, there’s a 120-litre fresh water tank and a 90-litre grey tank. A pair of nine kilogram gas cylinders, stored in the kerb-side mid-wall locker are good for the hob, water/space heater and three-way fridge. That leaves the electrics, which comprise a pair of 90 Ah batteries and a single 150 W solar panel, plus a 1000 W inverter. The inverter gets around the little problem of there being no USB charger hubs in the rear. Experience has taught me to carry around a small power board for all my electrical gear as power points aren’t always in a convenient place.One of the benefits of the Helix 2 layout is that it’s quite a compact but liveable arrangement. That means a sub-6m (20’) length but still plenty of features, something the Euros are very good at.

35


TESTED

By Night

Built neatly into the rear kerb-side corner is the 2.0 he floorplan has a French (rear corner) bed and m x 1.35 m (6’ 7”) French bed with a good sized wall bathroom at the rear and a mid-area kitchen. That window. The bed is a chamfered shape that allows leaves the cab and front area for the swivelled cab easy access to the bathroom, alongside the bed in seats that form an integral part of the dinette, which the drivers’-side rear corner. Overhead lockers are includes a forward-facing rear seat fitted with seat fitted along the wall and across the back. A handy little belts. A typically efficient German motorhome layout? feature at the base of the bed is the cabinet shelf that Jawohl! The LED lighting is done in a very fine style sits between the bed and dinette. It not only provides using a mixture of recessed and strip light fittings. shelf space for things like electronic devices being Such is the switching that any sort of lighting mood you charged, but also handy compartment and cupboard like can be created. storage as well.

T

36


TESTED

Amenities

T

he rear corner bathroom cubicle is quite a snug arrangement. It has a bench style cassette toilet at the rear, a swivelling wash basin, a cabinet and wall mirror above. The swivelling wash basin is one of those apparently simple ideas that is a very effective usage of the space above the loo: A hinged acrylic door can be used to close off the toilet area when the shower is being used, thus keeping it relatively dry. It’s still a wet bathroom though. Outside the bathroom, between it and the kitchen bench, is a wardrobe that offers plenty of hanging space. Being a rental motorhome, it’s also where items like the blankets and towels are to

37


TESTED

Catering

B

y the entry door, along the driver’s-side wall, the kitchen unit is a relatively small one. Fitted into the short bench top is a three-burner hob and a round stainless steel sink, whilst under the bench is a 122-litre 3-way fridge. Being a rental vehicle and very handy for someone like moi, the kitchen cupboards and overhead lockers are full of all the necessary cooking and eating items, including a plunger coffee maker. That said, there isn’t an oversupply of space for food supplies in the immediate area, but the lockers above the table are generously sized and fitted with shelves.

38


TESTED

Upfront

E

nhanced with the entry door open, the impression up front is of plenty of window space, aided by both the cab windows and big roof hatch. It’s an effect that works well in a relatively small area. Four seats surround the table and certainly the cab seats are better for kicking back than the squarer rear seats, but at least there is room to sit around the table without too much trouble. The front seats are also useful for TV watching, since it’s mounted on a slider in an overhead locker between the bed and dinette. A power point is located under the table and it’s a bit awkward to get at but, that’s where I use my power board.

39


TESTED

What I Think

I

reckon the Helix 2/Carado T135 is an ideal little motorhome for a couple or single person planning on a rental motorhome tour of NZ. It’s also great for anyone who doesn’t particularly desire to own a large motorhome, yet wants something that offers decent interior space. Carado has designed a practical interior that is quite functional and like the rest of the motorhome is more pitched to those who prefer a light weight mode of travel. In these eco times, that is no bad thing.

40


GENERAL Make

Carado

Model

T135

Type

B-class

Berths

2

Approved Seating

2

Licence

Car/WOF

Pros...

VEHICLE Make/Model

Fiat Ducato 2.3 130

Engine

2.3-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel

Power

196 kW @ 2900-3500

Torque

320 Nm @ 1500-2600 rpm

Transmission/Drive

6-speed automated manual (ATM)/FWD

Safety

ABS, ESP, Tracction Control, air bags & more

Fuel

90 L

WEIGHTS Tare Weight

2757 kg

Gross Vehicle Mass

3500 kg

Braked Towing Capacity

2000 kg

Cons...

DIMENSIONS Overall Length

5.90 m (19’ 4”)

Overall Width

2.30 m (7' 7")

Overall Height

2.80 m (9’ 2”)

Internal Height

2.00 m (6’ 7”)

Bed

2.0 m x 1.35-1.1 m (6’ 7” x 4’5”-3’7”)

Size Easy driving Well appointed Lighting Storage Freedom camping ability

Power point location Small kitchen Inverter location Handing back keys...

EQUIPMENT Slide-Out

No

Awning

No

Entry Step

Electric

Cooker

Thetford 3-burner

Rangehood Sink Fridge Microwave Lighting 12 V Sockets/USB Outlets Air Conditioner Space Heater Hot Water System Toilet Shower CAPACITIES Batteries Solar LPG Fresh Water Grey Water Hot Water Toilet PRICE As Tested – 2019 model Warranty – Chassis & Habitation Warranty – Water Tightness

Dometic Stainless Steel 113 L Thetford N3112 3-way (240v/12v/LPG) No 12 V LED Cab only No Truma Combi 6E LPG/Electric Truma Combi 6E LPG/Electric Thetford cassette Separate Cubicle 2 x 90 Ah Ah 150 W 2 x 9 kg 120 L 90 L 10 L 17 L (cassette)

Contact North Island

SmartRV Auckland 11 Pavillion Drive Airport Oaks. Auckland. 2022. T: 0800 007 627 E: sales@smartrv.co.nz W: smartmotorhomes.co.nz South Island

SmartRV Christchurch 3 Export Drive Harewood. ChCh. 8051 T: 0800 007 628 E: ccsales@smartrv.co.nz W: smartmotorhomes.co.nz

NZ$119,900 2 Years 5 Years

41


TOURING

On the Road

A

s noted earlier, many of my trips are work related, but one of the benefits of touring in NZ is that distances are relatively short and it’s quite easy travelling around. Therefore, I gave myself a day off and headed out to Mt Manganui. I haven’t been there for some years and one of my favourite little memories is of the Beachside Holiday Park, which sits in the shadow of Mount Manganui – Mauao – to give its Maori name. If you get there early enough you can snag one of the almost-beachfront sites, but sadly not on this occasion – obviously everyone else had the same idea. Still, it’s a great location. Mauao is actually a big hill and only 232-metres high, but it’s there to be climbed or walked around and has some great ocean and Port of Tauranga views. Nearby Tauranga is much more industrial than the coastal Mount Manganui and also hosts cruise ships from time to time. At the time of year I was there, swimming and walking were clearly popular activities, as was visiting the local restaurants and cafes. My tip – go there, but in less busy times or book ahead for the caravan park! Also be prepared for some early morning wake up noises: there is the surf beach of course, plus the sound of runners pounding the board walk, and if you happen to be closer to the Mount, then it will be the sound of sheep baaing!

42


Leave ordinary behind

No road restrictions, modern self-contained motorhomes and outstanding customer service. Experience New Zealand your way in a premium rental motorhome from Wilderness. Find out more at wilderness.co.nz 53


CI

• Kyros Duo Prestige


TESTED: CI KYROS TASTED DUO PRESTIGE

o a i c

amici! Story and images by Malcolm Street. Extra images supplied by CI. 45


TESTED

C

iao amici! There are some motorhomes around that have very exotic sounding names, the product doesn’t always live up to the expectation. When I came across CI’s Kyros Duo Prestige – an exotic name if ever I heard one – I wondered how it would stack up. A brief look at this handsome Italian motorhome suggested that further, thorough investigation was definitely warranted. Capito? CI motorhomes are imported into New Zealand by Walkabout Motorhomes and whilst most of the stylish range are B & C-class motorhomes, the Kyros Duo Prestige is a large van conversion.

46


TESTED

Converted Vans

I

like large van conversions for a couple of reasons: For those who desire a fully functioning but compact sized motorhome, they are ideal. The second is that because designers have a finite space in which to work it’s always interesting to see what they (especially the Europeans) come up with. Being an Italian motorhome an Italian cab-chassis might be expected. Indeed, the Kyros Duo is based on a converted Fiat Ducato Multijet 130 XLWB van. In this case it was a very eye catching metallic gold colour with a simple decal scheme. Factory fitted 16in alloy wheels round off the generally smart look of the van. Being a fully imported European-built motorhome, the sliding side door is on the driver’s side. Being a ‘slider’ means that even when opening the door on the traffic side of a road, it doesn’t stick out

into the path of cars. Very handy! And although it’s not high off the ground, as electric step is a thoughtful touch for clambering in and out. Around the outside there are a few clues that the Kyros Duo is not a delivery van, but a classy looking motorhome. There are a minimum number of cut-outs in the van body; the passenger side having the toilet cassette door, heater exhaust outlet and 230-volt connection point, whilst on the opposite side is the water filler and the fridge vents. The gas cylinder locker (1 x 9 kg) sits just inside the passenger-side rear barn door. More or less out of sight on the roof are the satellite dish and solar panels. It’s not visible, but the Kyros Duo does have factory fitted insulation. Consisting of polyester fibre with aluminium backing, it’s used all over for the floor, walls, and roof.

47


TESTED

Windows

T

he bubble-style tinted acrylic windows add a touch of style. Like many a large van conversion built in Europe, there are no windows on either side at the rear. The back doors have opening windows that look quite large, but actually have smaller openings, and these help provide nighttime airflow. Not having an opening window on the driver’s side, does resolve the issue of accidental conflict with the sliding door! While a weakness with this style of motorhome is that an open sliding door will let in the local insect population, in this case a concertina screen covers the entire door opening when pulled across.

48


TESTED

Hop Aboard

T

he initial impression when stepping aboard the Kyros Duo is that of a slightly cramped interior. However, that is somewhat misleading because the Fiat van does have plenty of interior space and European motorhome builders are masters at the use of it. Overall the layout matches that found in larger motorhomes; that is there’s a front lounge/dining area, a driver’s-side kitchen with bathroom opposite and a bedroom in the rear. Done with a bit of Italian flair, the colour scheme is a mixture of beige, brown and white in various shades. No dark colours in this confined space makes all the difference. Eco leather upholstery is used for all the seats to give a good service life. That comes from experience in the Walkabout rental fleet where the same material is used. Surprisingly, there are three different floor levels in this motorhome: one for the cab, a lower one for the mid area and an extra high one in the rear (this to create an underfloor storage area).

49


TESTED

Flexible Table

U

pfront, swivelled cab seats form an integral part of the lounge/dining area and they are more comfortable than the somewhat square rear seats. However, being seat-belt equipped the rear seats do let you carry two additional passengers. A little bit of space saving and practicality has been achieved with the table, which can be lifted out of the way if not needed. Interestingly, it’s hinged down the middle and has an extension piece that swings around to the driver’s seat. There are power points and light switches located under the overhead lockers above the table.

50


TESTED

What’s Cooking?

L

ike any delivery van, Fiat’s sliding door opens much wider than is needed in a motorhome application. What CI has done is use part of the doorway for the kitchen bench. That’s quite handy when the door is open because cooking odours can waft straight out without circulating through the van first. Built into the bench top is a two burner hob with a moulded sink alongside. There really isn’t any bench-top space, but there is a hinged bench extension that takes up most of the rest of the door space. Underneath the bench top are three good-sized kitchen drawers, more or less essential in a van space like this one. Adjacent to the bench top, towards the rear, is a cabinet that contains a Dometic 80-litre fridge above and small wardrobe below.

51


TESTED

Washroom

I

have to say that the bathroom in the Kyros Duo is a bit like Dr Who’s Tardis – it looks bigger inside. There’s just enough space for a Thetford cassette toilet, wash basin, a flexible-hose shower that uses the same faucet as the wash basin and a couple of cupboards – quite amazing. There’s an opening window but no fan hatch. It’s a wet bathroom, there’s not really any choice about that. However, there is a shower curtain that does cut down the arm waving space, or an alternative that utilises the studs under the overhead lockers. A curtain can be draped over the toilet and sink to keep them reasonably dry – much better than a wet shower curtain.

52


TESTED

Down the Back

T

here’s considerable flexibility built into the bedroom area. For sleeping, the options are 1.9 m x 0.8 m (6’ 3” x 2’ 7”) single beds or a 1.9 m x 1.6m (6’ 3” x 5’ 3”) double. All have reading lights and both single beds can be lifted and attached to the wall to improve the already generous storage space. Overhead lockers are fitted along both sides and across the rear wall, and there’s a small locker under the first step. Apart

from the gas cylinder locker (kerb-side) and water tank (driver’s-side) there is still plenty of storage under the beds. Two of the floor lockers under the driver’sside bed can actually be removed – ideal for storing something like bikes – and left at home if desired. Items like camping chairs and a table could easily be stashed under the false floor area, which is accessible via the rear barn doors.

53


TESTED

Off-Grid Living

C

ertified as self-contained, the magic number for the Kyros Duo seems to be 100: Both fresh and grey water tanks are 100-litres, the house battery is 100 amp-hours and the solar panel is rated at 100 watts. About the only thing not 100 is the 15-amp smart charger, which can only be used with mains power anyway!

54


TESTED

On the Road

A

bsolutely no surprises in the motive power department: Fiat’s 2.3-litre 96 kW/320 Nm turbodiesel in tandem with the six speed AMT gearbox propels the Kyros Duo along well enough. To say the least, given its 6.36 m (20’ 10”) length, it is a very easy handling motorhome along the highway. It’s also not too much drama when trying to park. There are not too many squeaks and rattles, either

55


TESTED

What I Think

C

I’s van conversion is well designed and ideal for a single or couple who like to have all the motorhome comforts, yet not travel around in an overly large vehicle. And what CI has done in the rear for storage, for instance, is quite creative in that it helps with the problem that many a large van conversion has, which is lack of any external bins. I reckon the Kyros Duo is a grande camper – that’s Italian for great motorhome in case you are wondering. Arrivederci!

56


EARTHCRUISER • Extreme •G-Pro Escape


PREVIEW: EARTHCRUISER EXTREME

by Robert ‘Bobby’ Watson

EXTREME MACHINE H

ere in the locked-down U.S. we watch with interest developments Down Under. Your off-road campers, motorhomes and trailers – sorry, ‘caravans’ – are awesome and amongst the best made anywhere in the world. You’re also home to EarthCruiser, maker of extreme expedition-grade RVs and a company with an affiliated but independent factory over here that just can’t seem to keep up with demand.

motorhome cabin, it will have everything two people need to brave the elements.

Soon, EarthCruiser’s Australian HQ will be putting a wedge-top camper atop a Toyota chassis for the first time and understandably calling it the Extreme (XTR). Combining the ’79-Series LandCruiser ‘Troopy's’ legendary capability with added cab comfort, an off-grid solar power system and a cozy two-sleeper

Before EarthCruiser gets to work securing its module to the Land Cruiser's bones, it'll add a 5-cm suspension lift, larger leaf springs, differential and axle upgrades, and entry steps. It'll also throw on an 80-litre water tank, with a 200-litre tank optional. It will also offer the option of supplementing the 79's own

Still in the works at this stage, the XTR will have a 4.2-tonne gross vehicle weight rating, become the most compact chassis-mounted motorhome in EarthCruiser's current lineup, slotting in just under the 4.5-tonne G-Pro Escape.

58


PREVIEW

130-litre fuel tank with an extra 110-litres. A snorkel will sit comfortably along the A-pillar, helping the 148 kW 4.5-litre turbo-diesel V8 breathe, and the seats will come neatly trimmed in leather.

particularly dirty adventurers can get clean without traipsing through the entire motorhome. A slide-out toilet will be included. According to the preliminary spec-sheet, the XTR will also include a 400-Ah lithium battery, touchscreen command centre, 540-watt solar charging, a 3,000-W inverter, plus diesel air and water heating. A front passthrough will allow occupants to move between cab and motorhome without ever stepping outside.

The camper box itself will feature EarthCruiser's fully moulded composite construction, with a pop-up roof adding ample headroom above. To squeeze everything inside the limited cubic footage, EarthCruiser plans to push the main 155 cm x 215 cm bed up into the pop-top. Downstairs, the floor plan calls for a rear corner kitchen with diesel cooktop, a sink and a fridge/freezer. Just forward from there, the two-seat dining area will have an indoor/outdoor table and convert over into an extra single bed. Like larger EarthCruisers, the XTR will have an entryway wet bathroom, a solution that ensures

The XTR is still under development, but EarthCruiser tells us pricing will start at AU$240,000 for the complete RV. Plans call for the first model to be finished by July and we'll take a closer look once the finalised details and photos are released. In the mean time, stay up to date on the EarthCruiser website by clicking HERE.

59


TASTED: EARTHCRUISER G-PRO ESCAPE

Go Pro EarthCruiser’s Merc-based G-Pro pop-top crams a lot of features into a small, go-anywhere package… by Allan Whiting of Outback Travel Australia 60


TASTED

I

Standard equipment included an automatic transmission, front and rear differential locks and allcoil-spring suspension. Should the unforeseen occur and traction was lost, Earthcruiser fitted 13.500 lb power winches front and rear.

n the second half of 2018, EarthCruiser added the Mercedes-Benz G-Pro to its motorhome vehicle range. It had a 4.5t Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) rating and therefore could be driven by the holder of any standard passenger car driver’s licence. The G-Pro Escape allowed owners, “To explore without the constraints of normal all-terrain vehicles”.

61


TASTED

A

3.0-litre V6 Mercedes-Benz diesel V6 engine squeezed under the G-Pro’s stubby bonnet delivered maximum power of 135kW, with peak torque rated at 400Nm. EarthCruiser fitted uprated shock absorbers, an onboard air compressor and 250-litre tanks for both fuel and water. The latest lithium battery technology powered the electrical system and recharged through solar panels when stationary, or via the 120-amp vehicle alternator when on the move. A rear mounted, independent air conditioning unit kept the luxury accommodation cool, while the G-Pro cabin had its own integral air conditioning unit on the move.

62


TASTED

H

ome comforts included an upright 122-litre capacity fridge/freezer; internal shower and toilet, plus a supplementary external shower module. A standard double bed was complemented by a sky bed option that slept three.

Catering was made easy and safe by the fitment of a diesel-fuelled cooker.In addition to the standard inclusion of telematics with satellite tracking and monitoring, vision from five externally mounted cameras provided forty five days recording in real time, with global systems control via an IPAD touch screen.

63


TASTED

C

ommunications options included an 80-channel UHF radio, with a DVR/GPS/4G solid state cellular hot spot via a 6-dB(A) gain antenna. Charting your progress was also made easy, with the onboard navigation system pre-loaded with Hema mapping, Bluetooth and iPhone connectivity. World travellers should note that the compact external overall dimensions enabled you to slot your adventure traveller into a standard ISO container for shipment.

64


TASTED

W

e inspected the Escape model several times during its development at EarthCruiser’s Wollongong (NSW) factory and were most impressed with the behind-the-facade work that was necessary to convert what is a military vehicle into a recreational one. For example, the cab rear wall was replaced by one that allowed more seat travel, in addition to a walkthrough doorway. The EarthCruiser range is available in a variety of formats and sizes to suit specific requirements, together with a choice of host cab/chassis from manufacturers that include Mercedes-Benz, Iveco and Fuso.

65


TASTED

E

arthCruiser’s 2020 Extreme version is being built on the more popular and lower-priced Toyota LandCruiser 79 Series cab/chassis, with several chassis and suspension modifications to increase its GVM. Keep a look out, we’ll have more information on this vehicle in the next few months. In the mean time, for further information on any of the EarthCruiser range call Mark on (+61) 0412 642 437 or email sales@earthcruiser.net.au.

66


HORIZON • Melaleuca


NEWS

3


TESTED: TESTED: HORIZON AIR MELALEUCA OPUS

COLOUR me

HAPPY!

69


TESTED

A

ppearance-wise, the motorhome world could be called the Land of the Long White Box. Decorwise, it could be the Land of the Woodgrain Panel (or the Land that Style Forgot, and possibly with a spin-off TV mini-series). Yes, white stays coolest in summer and oddly, shows dirt the least, but it’s also the colour of appliances and delivery vans. While white still largely rules the world of coachbuilt motorhomes, buyers of van conversions have more choice. Horizon Motorhomes is a specialist manufacturer of van-conversion motorhomes and over the years, iMotorhome has reviewed most if not all its models. That specialisation has allowed Horizon to refine both its design and construction process, and an ever-growing band of happy, loyal and often repeat customers is testament to the company’s success. The hallmark of a Horizon motorhome is no-nonsense design and rock-solid construction; the result of evolution rather than revolution. That said, a small

revolution began a few years back when Horizon embraced the first of a new wave of brightly coloured Fiat Ducato vans. Red, blue, gold and Horizon’s iconic, orangey-bronze (my description!) motorhomes began brightening owners’ driveways, although inside woodgrain still ruled. Then, at the 2019 Let’s Go Queensland Caravan & Camping Supershow, the colour revolution moved inside… Pride of place on the Horizon Motorhomes’ stand was an orangey-bronze Melaleuca, unmissable not only in colour, but also because HORIZON was emblazoned diagonally down the sides. Inside, bright orange and white – they call it ‘retro styling’ – transformed an otherwise conservative design into something fun and funky. Okay, bright orange might not be to everybody’s taste, but other colours were mentioned, including lime green, plus grey and white for the more conservative buyer still looking to escape woodgrain’s clutches. 70


TESTED

Sweet Little Honeys

I

’ve reviewed the Melaleuca three times (issues 25, 102 and 114) and while the base Fiat Ducato has changed, the conversion largely remains the same – and with good reason: It works.

However, the subject of this review is the ‘full strength’ Melaleuca (full strength being no exaggeration given the vibrant colour scheme!).

Just on the subject of price, it’s often what you The Melaleuca is Horizon’s entry level motorhome, don’t see in a motorhome that plays a big part in its starting at $119,000 drive-away in NSW, and measures suitability for purpose and long-term enjoyment. Take just 5.99 m (19’ 8”) long, meaning it can legally park Horizon’s standard fitment of a 210 Ah deep-cycle in a standard 6 m car space. Just. Being small but house battery and 40-amp DC to DC 3-stage battery fully self-contained makes the Melaleuca a favourite charger as an example: it’s serious capacity – 100 amongst solo travellers, and to help keep things Ah is the norm for a house battery, while chargers as affordable as possible Horizon also offers the are often significantly lower capacity – meaning much Melaleuca Appeal, a slightly lower-specced version longer free camping that can even negate the need from $106,000 drive-away in NSW. The Appeal loses for solar. Also look at water capacities, insulation, some cupboards and lights, has no entry step and plumbing fixtures and fittings, things like a standard some other detail bits, but the biggest difference is drinking water filter, compressor fridge and so on. a manual gearbox. If changing gears doesn’t bother Quality is what makes for happy ownership long after you it’s well worth a look, especially as some of the price is forgotten, but it’s not always apparent… the ‘missing’ features can later be added if desired.

71


TESTED

Fiat Updated

M

elaleucas are built ‘in’ the latest iteration of the Fiat Ducato, which is now in its third generation. I say “latest iteration” because within this generation there has been a significant engine update across the range to comply with Euro 6 emissions requirements. While the Ducato range has lost its 3.0-litre turbodiesel in favour of a smaller but equally powerful 2.3-litre engine, the Melaleuca has always had this smaller motor. The good news is that while it puts out the same power – 109 kW – torque has increased from 350 Nm to 380 Nm, an 8.5% bonus. Also good news is that the Ducato doesn’t require AdBlue fuel additive to achieve it’s emissions targets. While the front-versus-rear-wheel-drive argument still arises, in practice the fact that drive is via the Ducato’s front wheels is a non-issue: Traction control, a hillholder and all the usual safety systems, including stability control, are all standard. The Ducato’s ‘auto’ gearbox – Fiat calls it Comfort-matic – is better explained as an automated manual transmission or ATM. Later in 2020 we’ll see the arrival of a conventional automatic in the Ducato, and a 9-speed unit at that. Is it worth waiting? That depends on your time constraints and financial situation – the new gearbox will likely be dearer – but in reality there’s nothing wrong with the current shifter.

Things that make the Ducato stand out as a vanconversion motorhome are 1: Its square body profile. 2: Extra 57 mm width compared to a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. 3: Higher gross vehicle mass (GVM) and 4: Factory swivelling cab seats. The square body provides maximum usable internal space, while the extra width makes sleeping across the vehicle realistic for taller people and also provides a little extra room to move. The 4250 kg GVM provides considerable additional payload, which in the case of the test vehicle was weigh bridge-certified at 1139 kg. That’s after filling the 125-litre fuel tank, 115-litre fresh water tank and the pair of 4kg LPG cylinders. Finally, the factory swivelling seats are the best in the business in terms of simplicity and ease of use, while the seats themselves are very very good. On the road the Melaleuca is comfortable and relaxed, with excellent visibility and an easy driving style. Its compact length means you can nose or reverse into many more parking spots than bigger vehicles, although if you fit a nudge or bullbar you’ll be just a bit too long for that standard car space. That extra width can make itself felt, however, when parking between cars, but exercise a little common sense and you’ll avoid problems.

72


TESTED

Sweet Space

A

s mentioned and colours aside, the Melaleuca really hasn’t changed inside because the layout is enduringly practical and liveable. Despite its length Horizon’s designers have packed a lot in: Lounge/dining areas front and rear, a decent sized kitchen, a basic-but-acceptable bathroom and a versatile U-shaped sleeping area at the rear that can be single beds, a double or king. On top of that is excellent cupboard and drawer space, a large boot and a high level of standard equipment.

73


TESTED

Compromises

O

f course, every design has its compromises and in the Melaleuca they are most obvious around the front dinette and bathroom. While the cab seats swivel the driver’s is constrained by the wardrobe and fridge cabinet immediately behind it. The seat does swivel most of the way around, but not totally, unlike the passenger’s seat. Fit the small pole-mounted table between the seats and space is pretty tight, and works best when both seats directly face each other. That said, it’s still a comfortable and practical space, and one that can keep a second occupant well out of the chef’s way at meal times. The wet bathroom is compact and minimalist, occupying as little floor space as possible but while still remaining practical. It features a cassette toilet, mirrored medicine cabinet and a corner basin with mixer tap that doubles as an extendable shower. Really, what more do you need? 74


TESTED

Cooking

T

he main kitchen unit sits between the sliding side entry door and U-shaped lounge/bed area. It features a combined three-burner gas cooker and sink unit, the latter with folding tap, while both sections have glass lids to maximise working space. There’s also a flip-up bench extension, which is essential in

a small space like this. An under-bench microwave is fitted, along with six drawers of varying sizes that should accommodate all your cooking needs. That’s just as well as there are no overhead cupboards (and therefore no range hood) because of the side door.

The TV, on a swivel mount, nestles above the cooker and against the end wall of a U-shaped set of cupboards above the bed. In days gone by Horizon positioned all electric switches and gauges on the wall above the cooker, where they were easily and instantly readable and accessible. Now, however, they’re in the first overhead cupboard across the aisle and you have to lift the door to see and access them. It’s certainly neater, but not as practical.

75


TESTED

Directly across the aisle as you enter the Melaleuca is the 136-litre compressor fridge. It sits in a cabinet beneath a double cupboard that provides shelves on the left and a small hanging wardrobe on the right, and also houses the table and pole for the front dinette. Beneath the fridge is a shallow drawer ideal for thongs and outdoor shoes. 76


TESTED

Snoozing Shape

A

t the rear, the lounge/sleeping space is U-shaped and can be had as a pair of lengthways single beds or a widthways single, or double. You need to decide on bed design when ordering, because when built as lengthways singles you get two neat cupboards with padded lids between the beds, by the back doors. One lid opens to the left and the other to the right, and they double as ‘his-and-hers’ bedside tables/drawers. Order a widthways single or double bed set-up, however, and you lose them. Whichever bed arrangement you order the whole rear area is still U-shaped, with the ends closest to

77

the kitchen and bathroom doubling as inwards-facing seats. Complete with a Lagun-mounted dining table, these are the most spacious and convenient seats at meal times. There are reading lights in each corner beneath the overhead cupboards, windows on each side and a roof hatch, plus openable windows in the rear barn doors – an excellent point of difference to most competitors. Order the optional airconditioner and it goes where the over-bed roof hatch is, but there’s still plenty of fresh air and light thanks to all the windows.


TESTED

While there are no external storage lockers, which is the norm in a van-conversion, the rear barn doors open to reveal an impressive amount of space beneath the bed/lounge and it’s more than enough for chairs, an outdoor table, hoses, leads, tools and the like. You can also access this space from inside via a small hatch, plus there is a long-but-shallow drawer beneath the slightly raised floor in the main dining area.

78


TESTED

What I Think

B

ack in 2013, Mrs iM and I escaped for a couple of nights in a Melaleuca and it made us rethink just how much motorhome we/you really need. Despite its diminutive dimensions it’s surprisingly practical and comfortable for two – even for extended touring – and a perfect motorhome for a solo. Additionally, there’s no fear of overloading. It’s fuel efficient, only requires a car licence and is backed by a five year Fiat warranty and three year Horizon warranty. You can also chose from a comprehensive options list and really customise it, but in standard form it’s got all the essentials, and then some. If you’re after a compact and affordable vanconversion that’s quality built, backed by one of the best manufacturers and one you know will hold its value and be sought after as a second-hand buy, best you check out Horizon’s Melaleuca. Whichever decor you choose it will colour you happy, simply because it’s a great little van… 79

Grey and white is one of several alternative decor choices


GENERAL Make

Horizon Motorhomes

Model

Melaleuca

Type

Van Conversion

Berths

2

Approved Seating

2

Licence

Car

Pros...

VEHICLE Make/Model

Fiat Ducato 2.3 150

Engine

2.3-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel

Power

109 kW @ 2900-3500

Torque

380 Nm @ 1500-2600 rpm

Transmission/Drive

6-speed automated manual (ATM)/FWD

Safety

ABS, ESP, Tracction Control, air bags & more

Fuel

125 L

WEIGHTS Tare Weight

3111 kg - certified as tested, wet

Gross Vehicle Mass

4250 kg

Braked Towing Capacity

2500 kg

DIMENSIONS Overall Length

5.99 m (19’ 8”)

Overall Width

2.50 m (8' 2")

Overall Height

2.62 m (8’ 7”)

Internal Height

1.91 m (6’ 3”)

Bed – 2 x Singles

1.87m x 0.66 m (6’ 2” x 2’)

Cons...

EQUIPMENT Slide-Out

No

Awning

Fiama F65 3.7 m

Entry Step

Electric

Cooker

3 x gas, glass lid

Rangehood Sink Fridge Microwave Lighting 12 V Sockets/USB Outlets Air Conditioner Space Heater Hot Water System Toilet Shower CAPACITIES Batteries Solar LPG Fresh Water Grey Water Hot Water Toilet PRICE New – Driveaway NSW As Tested – Driveaway NSW Warranty – Fiat Warranty – Horizon/Appliances

No Round with folding tap and glass lid 136 L Waeco 12/240-volt compressor Yes 12 V LED Yes/Yes Optional Optional Truma LPG SOG cassette Wet bathroom, flexible hose

Size Comfort Liveability Decore choices Internal storage Economy Quality Price

Driver’s seat swivel Switch gear location Compact bathroom Manufacturer

Horizon Motorhomes E: info@horizonmotorhomes.com.au W: horizonmotorhomes.com.au

Sales

BCMC

1 x 210 Ah Optional 2 x 4 kg 115 L 55 L 10 L 17 L (cassette)

299 River St, Cnr Tweed St Ballina. NSW. 2478. T: (02) 6681-1155 E: info@ballinacampers.com.au W: bcmc.com.au

A$119,000 A$126,700 5 Years/200,000 km 3 Years/As per manufacturers

80


EXTRA

Happy Anniversary!

N

ext year – 2020 – marks Horizon Motorhomes’ 25th anniversary, an impressive milestone for any company. During my time in Ballina reviewing the Melaleuca I had the chance to visit Horizon’s expanded manufacturing operations and have to say I came away impressed.

Speaking of servicing and replacement parts, as Horizon Motorhomes are only available through its sister company, Ballina Caravan & Motorhome Company (BCMC), owner and managing director Clayton Kearney understands the absolute necessity of providing the best service and parts support. To that end the company always has something like a dozen vehicle builds worth of parts and appliances in stock, meaning regardless of the original manufacturer’s stock, a specific part is always on-hand and can be dispatched as quickly as possible.

From literally humble beginnings, Horizon’s factory is now a best-practice, purpose-built manufacturing facility that’s spacious, clean and modern. From 3D computer aided design software to computer controlled milling equipment, it’s a highly organised and professional set-up.

The other standout is the meticulous attention to detail at every point where a van body is cut: The metal surfaces are carefully treated to prevent rust before a window, hatch or whatever is fitted. Given how many Horizon Motorhomes spend their time close to the ocean, such care is vital.

One thing that stood out is how every ‘build’ is individual, with all components from cabinetry to accessories and everything in between selected from the store, checked-off and placed on a large trolley beside the vehicle. That way construction can’t be held up by the sudden discovery that some part isn’t in stock, and everyone involved in the construction process knows exactly where to find every part. Also, wiring is now supplied by a specialist manufacturer as a model-specific, plug-and-play loom. That means every electrical item, from lights to appliances, can simply be unplugged if servicing or replacement is required.

If you’d like to have a look at Horizon’s manufacturing facility for yourself, just call the team at BCMC on (02) 6681-1555. They’ll be only too happy to arrange a factory tour and explain every step of the process, plus why it’s the things you often don’t see that make the difference between hand crafted quality construction and mass produced, bargain priced trouble.

81


TESTED

“Whichever decor you choose (the Melaleuca) will colour you happy, simply because it’s a great little van…”

31


IVECO • Daily 50C17


DRIVEN

Daily

driver

Daily driving impressions of the Iveco Daily‌ by Richard Robertson 85


DRIVEN

T

hey say it's not what you know but who you know, and the older I get the more I find that to be true. Remember back in the September issue, project Polly had a new hot water system installed by our friends at Suncamper Motorhomes up in Thornleigh, in Sydney's North West. At the time there was an unusual vehicle being constructed right alongside Polly; a mobile billboard/promotional truck based on an Iveco Daily, for a company called Streetfighter Media. It turns out the truck and company are owned by the daughter of Suncamper CEO Keith Harrison, and the truck is destined to spend its life plying the streets of Sydney and surrounds promoting various products and services.

Imagine my surprise a couple of months later to get a call from Keith asking if I'd be interested in some ad hoc driving work; specifically, the billboard truck. It seems daughter Ruth was after some older drivers fuelled more by experience and caution than testosterone to ply the city’s streets in her unusual baby. Of course I said yes – these days you have to grab every opportunity that comes along – plus I was actually keen to spend some time really getting to know the current model Iveco Daily.

The Iveco in-build, on the hoist.

86


DRIVEN

Unique Platform

I

t's doing this truck a disservice to refer to it simply as a mobile billboard. In fact the whole concept behind it is as a mobile mural. Streetfighter Media specialises in outdoor promotions and operates all across Australia, and the concept behind the truck is unique: Imagine a mobile easel that can set-up in busy locations while a talented mural artist or two transforms the huge canvas into a work of art. It would intrigue and engage passers-by and become a local point-of-interest, before taking to the road with the finished work to promote the sponsoring cause. And that’s exactly what it does… If you check out the body you'll see it's a regular aluminium tabletop with the towering framework for the ‘canvas’ positioned immediately behind the driver, leaving the rest of the space open for the artist to work. Equipped with a set of motorhome-style electric steps and railings around the side, the body also doubles as artist only paints the side facing the kerb, with the other a mobile stage, making the truck even more useful for side featuring a regular poster of what the mural will eventually become. promotional work. And in case you're wondering, the

87


DRIVEN

A reversing camera makes parking easier.

Daily Driver

M

easuring eight and a half metres long and four metres high, this unique vehicle cuts quite an impressive site on suburban streets. However, it weighs less than three tonnes, meaning it can be driven on a car license and also access many otherwise weight-limited local streets. It also has rare suspension, with the driver’s-side airbag at a higher setting to compensate for the A-frame’s weight and keep the tray level. I spent seven days behind the wheel of this unusual vehicle, with each eight-hour day spent in a different area of Sydney: Day one Balmain to Leichhardt, day two St Leonards to Hornsby, day three Bondi to Maroubra, day four Manly to Mona Vale, day five North Sydney to St Leonards, day six North Sydney to Mosman and day seven Sydney's CBD and surrounds. As you can imagine, after this, which equated to around 60 hours driving time, I was feeling pretty comfortable with the Iveco Daily and had had plenty of time to really assess its plus and minus points. 88


DRIVEN

Plus Points

O

n the plus side I found general drivability to be excellent, with good overall visibility and a surprisingly tight turning circle – just the thing for doing (many) 180° turns on small roundabouts. Driver’s seat comfort was excellent with no aches or pains during or after the whole experience; aided no doubt by it being a weight-adjustable suspension seat that’s also heated. Cab access was good and there was plenty of storage space for my basic needs, including cup and bottle holders and deep door pockets. It also came with climate control and the touchscreen infotainment centre with a myriad of options and I Bluetoothed my phone for easy hands-free calling. With 125 kW and 430 NM powering less than 3 tonnes, performance was impressive as you would expect, not that there was much call for it (slow and steady wins the mobile billboard race!). The most impressive driving aspect, as expected, was the eightspeed Hi-Matic gearbox, which performed flawlessly. Crisp, smooth changes up and down are its hallmark and never once did it hesitate or hunt for the right gear. I also came to appreciate the gear selector and especially the P button (for Park), which I regularly used at traffic lights and even in bumper-to-bumper

traffic. It significantly reduced fatigue from holding my foot on the break and selection of Drive took about a second when it was time to go. The gearbox features Eco and Power modes, and naturally I drove in Eco, with just the occasional experiment to see how Power responded. As expected, it held gears longer and was more aggressive with changes; entirely unnecessary attributes tootling around the city. Finally and more an observation, I was pleased to be driving a European light truck because of the car-like cab and suspension arrangement, rather than sitting over the front axle and feeling every bump as I would have in a Japanese equivalent.

89


DRIVEN

Minus Points

T

here are no deal breakers in the Iveco Daily’s driving experience, only some disappointments and signs of an ageing underlying design. For starters, the steering wheel has no tilt adjustment, only reach, and that's less than ideal. Iveco’s proprietary touchscreen infotainment system isn't bad, but it lacks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration for your smart phone. I ran my iPhone in a windscreen mount, connected to a dash-top USB outlet, and that worked fine. Cruise control is operated via a separate, stubby ‘wand’ to the left of the steering wheel and it's the same unit Fiat has used in its Ducato for years. It's not so much there's anything wrong with it, but it's now old tech, lacking a digital readout or speed setting. Also,

the cruise control itself is ‘old tech’, unlike the new Ford Transit, for example, which has adaptive cruise control as standard. One limitation that took several days to realise and is really only applicable in heavy traffic environments like city driving, is just how much vision the thick A-pillars and large side mirrors restrict, when looking for pedestrians at crossings or small cars and motorbikes coming out of side streets. In a motorhome application for those touring the countryside it's basically irrelevant, but something to be aware of in built-up areas. I'm sure it's also not a fault of the Daily specifically, it's just I haven't spent as much time in any other vehicle in a similar situation.

90


DRIVEN

It’s a Wrap


A

fter an intensive week behind the wheel I came away impressed with the Iveco Daily as a genuine daily driver. It's comfortable, performs well, economical (I think it used an average $20 of diesel a day), manoeuvrable and more than a bit of fun to drive. There was never a moment where I found it a chore to drive, nor was there a morning where I headed out thinking, “Oh no not this again”.

meaning it has big truck DNA and that bodes well for durability. The company also has a strong presence in the Australian trucking industry and a national dealer and service network, which is something to be considered when heading out in the motorhome on the Big Lap.

In a motorhome application the Iveco Daily should prove as comfortable and capable is its rivals, with just some engineering updates and tweaks needed to keep it at the cutting edge. It could also do with a bit more sound deadening material to refine the driving experience, but then again it is a truck. Speaking of that, Iveco builds big trucks and the Daily is entry level,

91

This wasn't a one-off driving week. As Streetfighter Media’s business case for this unique outdoor promotional unit builds, I'm sure I'll be back behind the wheel. If you're driving around Sydney and see it, toot and wave! And if you can see an opportunity to use it, drop me a line and I’ll let Ruth know. Because as I said at the beginning, it's not what you know but who you know…


JACANA • Hiker • Seeker


TASTED

Hiker Calling Allan Whiting answers the call of Jacana's new HiAce conversion, the Hiker...

93


TASTED

T

aree-based Jacana Motorhomes is best known for its conversions of coaches and 4X4 trucks, but the company is now employing its expertise on smaller vehicles. The Hiker is based on Toyota’s new HiAce van and can be ordered in 2WD and, most interestingly, 4WD configurations. The standard rear wheel drive HiAce van has diesel or petrol power and comes with manual or automatic transmission, in a choice of long and super-long

wheelbases. Jacana does the Hiker conversion on all these variants and Bus4x4’s 4WD conversion can also be fitted to any HiAce variant. Jacana’s campervan conversion starts with an inhouse, fibreglass pop-top roof, plus moulded rear window extensions/pods that increase the width of the van at the rear. This allows for an east-west double bed.

94


TASTED

U

nder the memory-foam bed is a folding lounge with seat belts that can seat two people during the day and double as a kids bed for two. Both beds can be left made-up. Also under the bed is a multi-drawer module that can be accessed through the rear doors. The drawer module, galley and wardrobe are constructed from lightweight marine-grade plywood.

95


TASTED

T

he interior floor plan takes the space-saving advantage of an optional swivelling passenger seat. The galley sits immediately behind the driver’s seat and features a 65-litre front-opening fridge/ freezer, a sink with hand pump and a diesel cooktop. A wardrobe with shelf flanks the galley.

96


TASTED

E

lectrical system inclusions are an external 15-amp socket, 120 Ah deep-cycle battery with mains and 12 V charging, 150W solar roof panel, power outlets, LED lighting and USB outlets. Water supply to the sink comes from a 55-litre tank. Options include diesel room heating, a manual awning, flyscreens, TV with external aerial and DVD player, and a body wrap.

97


TASTED

T

he photographs are of a 2WD HiAce, but the Bus4x4 conversion looks the same, other than for a massive increase in ground clearance that necessitates the inclusion of an entry step. We’re planning an evaluation of the Jacana Hiker just as soon as the world returns to some semblance of normal, but until then you can get further details from Jacana’s website.

98


TASTED: JACANA SEEKER

adventure SEEKER Jacana’s new Seeker brings a fresh face to the van-conversion motorhome market, says Allan Whiting...

A

vailable in medium and long-wheelbase variants, Volkswagen’s latest Crafter 4Motion is the ideal base for a medium-mobility campervan. While it won’t go where a fully-kitted, hard-core 4WD ute will go, it suits those who want a compact RV that can get off the beaten track. Jacana Motorhomes is best known for its large 4WD truck-based motorhomes, but has recently moved into the van market, with conversions for HiAce, Crafter and Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans.

The Jacana Seeker medium-wheelbase (MWB) model suits a travelling couple, while the long-wheelbase (LWB) model has more interior room and seatbelted places for four people). The LWB’s secondary passenger seat doubles as a dinette and both front seats swivel to make four-facing seats around a removable table. In the MWB model the driver and passenger seats swivel to form a two-seat dinette. The standard gross mass rating of the MWB model is 3.5 tonnes, but that can be increased to 3.88 tonnes 99


TASTED

in conjunction with the 4Motion 4WD option. The LWB 2WD and AWD models both have a 4.0-tonne GVM. Both models have an east-west double bed that can be fixed, with storage space underneath, or be a liftable type so that a dinette or ‘toy’ space is available under it. Bed length can be increased by the fitment of optional ‘spoiler’ window extensions on both sides of the van body. Standard equipment in the MWB Seeker includes: double-glazed windows with screens and blinds; a Fiamma 3-metre awning; insulated roof; lightweight plywood cabinetry; waterproof flooring with vinyl overlay; under-bed storage with inside and outside access; dinette table; stainless steel sink with mixer tap; 150-litre 12V/240V fridge/freezer; diesel cooktop;

800W microwave; exterior fold-down table; 70-litre water tank; diesel water heater; water pressure pump; mains water inlet; fibreglass shower module; Thetford cassette toilet; 15-amp electrical socket; lithium house battery; 200W solar panels with regulator; 240V/12V charger; flush-mount LED lighting and USB outlets. Options include 4Motion with GVM upgrade; loft bed; TV; 240V aircon roof-mounted unit; diesel room heater, rear dinette under loft bed; door flyscreens, powered entry step and an outside shower kit. Standard equipment in the LWB model is as for the MWB model, plus a passenger seat with seat belts; wardrobe and 95-litre water tank in lieu of 70-litres capacity. Options are the same.

100


TASTED

O

utside the standard layout and popular options, Jacana is happy to incorporate additional owner requirements and we inspected a Seeker MWB model that was quite different from the standard layout. In their vehicle the very experienced remote-areatouring owners opted for a forward position of the toilet and shower module, along with a liftable bed over a rear four-seat dinette. They also stipulated upgraded electrics, with a 2000-watt inverter. The forward shower/toilet location allowed the plumbing, toilet dump and electrical system components to be arranged in a single location, behind the RHS sliding door. Pricing for Jacana Seeker models starts at $139,600. For further information visit the website HERE.

101


JAYCO

• Conquest RM.19-1


TASTED: JAYCO CONQUEST RM.19-1

Bargain

Basement?

Is Jayco’s entry level motorhome the bargain it appears. asks Richard Robertson...

I

t’s little wonder first time RVers get confused, given the industry itself can’t even decide what to call different styles of vehicles. Take the Jayco Conquest RM.19-1 for example, it’s what I call a vanconversion motorhome (motorhome because it has a bathroom), but Jayco calls it a campervan. Semantics aside, this style of vehicle is becoming increasingly

popular as people find van conversions provide an excellent balance of size, features, economy and price. Incidentally, in the Conquest name, RM stands for Renault Master and 19 means length in feet. Well, approximately. Actually, the little Conquest is 6.2-metres (20’ 4”) long, 2.78-metres (9’ 2”) tall and 2.15-metres (7’) wide – not counting mirrors. 103


TASTED

Speaking of price, Jayco set the cat amongst the RV pigeons last year with the RM.19-1 by pricing it at just $81,900 drive-away. The combination of Jayco’s enormous buying power and massive production facility means it can build motorhomes with economies of scale others can only envy, but price alone isn’t everything. Is it actually any good? iMotorhome Magazine reader Mark sent this message through our Facebook page, “Hi all, I'm so glad I've come across your FB page and reviews. I really appreciate your down to earth and practical reviews. Is it possible to review the "cheap" Jayco RM.19-1 Campervan? So many of the vehicles reviewed are out of my price range and I'd love to know your thoughts.” Well Mark, you piqued my interest and so here goes, even though getting hold of a vehicle in Covid times is difficult and the best we can do for now is bring you a ‘taste’ of it…

104


TASTED

Back to Basics

T

he most obvious cost-saving feature of the Conquest RM.19-1 is the Renault Master; now a superseded model at that. There’s nothing wrong with the Master, it’s well proven as a delivery van in Australia, it’s just that Renault has never been able to crack the local RV market and must be offering them at bargain prices. On paper the Master stacks up pretty well: Power is 110 kW and 350 Nm from a 2.3-litre 4-cylinder turbodiesel that drives the front wheels through one of the best 6-speed automated manuals available. Anti-lock

brakes, traction and stability controls, all-wheel disc brakes and dual front airbags are all standard, as are remote central locking, power steering, electric windows and mirrors, cab air-conditioning, a multifunction steering wheel, cruise control and Bluetooth. It also comes with a generous 100-litre fuel tank, so a 1000 km range should be quite realistic, and a 2500kg braked towing capacity. Tare weight is 2750 kg (approx) and gross vehicle mass (GVM) is 3510 kg, leaving an on-paper payload of around 760 kg. Not bad at all…

105


TASTED

The Master’s cab is bland with acres of grey plastic and a spartan feel, but has no impact on drivability or practicality, only the aesthetic. Where Jayco has saved money and where it does impact liveability/practicality is in retaining the Master’s standard three-seat cab. While it provides the ability to carry a third person, it’s at the expense of walk-through cab access and would be especially inconvenient in bad weather and/or if a solo traveller wanted to depart a campsite without exiting the vehicle. Another saving has been made by omitting a reversing camera – an unfathomable oversight. Having driven several Renault Masters over a couple of model iterations it remains an underrated favourite. The only real issue I can see is the sparse dealer network if genuine Renault service is desired or required. As a new vehicle it comes with a 3 year/200,000 km warranty and roadside assistance, while the motorhome conversion is backed by Jayco’s 2 year manufacturer’s and 5 year structural warranties, plus a national dealer network. That takes care of the Renault side of things, but what about the rest of the vehicle? 106

“Despite its bargain basement price the Conquest RM.19-1 actually stacks up well in the standard equipment department...”


TASTED

Well Stacked

D

espite its bargain basement price tag the Conquest RM.19-1 actually stacks up well in the standard equipment department. Roof-mounted air conditioning, 100 amp-hour house battery, 120-watts of solar, a 12/240-volt compressor fridge, Furrion AM/FM/CD/ DVD entertainment system and 24-inch LED TV/ DVD, Winegard aerial, LED strip lighting, microwave, external 240-volt power point, entry step (manual), 3.7-metre Fiamma wind-out awning and an LED exterior light are all included. By comparison, there are more expensive motorhomes I can think of that don't include air conditioning, solar or a separate entertainment system in their standard equipment list. The RM.19-1 also comes with proper, opening motorhome windows on the sides rather than fixed automotive glass, although the latter is used in the rear doors. Where the Conquest RM.19-1 does show cost-cutting is in things like a foam mattress, refrigerator – 60-litres compared to 85-litres, which is the norm in this size vehicle – and fresh and grey water capacities, which are 60-litres and 45-litres, respectively. So while on the electrical front you should be able to freedom camp for days at a time, you're going to need to be very frugal with water usage to make it happen. I guess in reality a night or two between caravan park stays is the likely usage pattern for this vehicle. Finally, I can't find any reference to insulation, but would like to think there must be some in there somewhere‌. 107


TASTED

Glitz and Glamour?

W

hile you would hardly call the RM.19-1 glitzy or glamorous, Jayco’s designers have done a decent job on the interior for the price. The layout is almost identical to Project Polly’s, with the exception of through-cab access. The bathroom is immediately behind the driver's seat, with the fridge and microwave in a unit behind it. The kitchen is immediately to the right of the sliding side-door, while down the back are a pair of single beds that double as the dinette, and thanks to a removable table can also be made into a large double bed. It's all basic van-conversion stuff and there are no surprises, including the extensive use of grey marine carpet for wall trim, plenty of bare metal around the doors and the ubiquitous light woodgrain cabinetry used throughout. While the three opening motorhome windows include integrated privacy and insect screens, the fixed glass windows at the rear make do with the most basic of curtains. There are no blinds on the windows in the cab, rather, just a curtain between the cab and living area – again, just like Project Polly. 108


TASTED

Living Room

A

t first glance the little Conquest’s interior is a pleasant surprise. However, the closer you look at it the more you realise the compromises that have been made to not only keep the sticker price low, but to accommodate everything in this relatively short van. For example, there is no wardrobe or hanging space, although there is a decent amount of cupboard space above the beds and storage beneath them. The kitchen unit is tiny, with just enough space for the round stainless steel sink and two-burner cooker; the former with a clunky round cover made of benchtop material and the latter with the usual flush glass lid. It’s good to see a small flip-up bench extension, but there’s just a single drawer for cutlery and three cupboards to

accommodate all your kitchen needs. That’s apart from a cupboard under the high-mounted fridge, opposite. The dining table mount is another indicator of price, it being of the cheaper chrome tube type rather than the more substantial Lagun system. Finally, I can't see any 12-volt or USB charging outlets and the 24” TV appears somewhat oversize and could get in the way, given its location at the end of the fridge cabinet. The bathroom is an all-in-one wet design and although basic, it’s not as basic as Project Polly’s. That’s because it at least gets a small corner hand basin with its own mixer tap, separate to the height-adjustable, chrome flex-hose shower. There is also a fan hatch in the ceiling – another win over Polly!

109


TASTED

“I can't find any reference to insulation, but would like to think there must be some in there somewhere….”

Come bedtime you have the choice of a pair of singles or you can fill in the aisle with boards, move the back cushions across and make it up into quite a decent double, which is actually closer to king-size. Opening windows on either side would provide airflow, which is good because there is no roof hatch (only the air conditioning unit).

110


TASTED

What I Think

I

n the RV world, like every other, you basically get what you pay for. If we were all super rich we’d be driving bespoke motorhomes crafted by artisans from the finest materials. However, when every dollar counts you have to spend them as wisely as possible. The Jayco Conquest RM.19-1 presents the budget conscious or financially constrained with a genuine alternative to buying used. For the money it has an extensive standard equipment list and delivers the security of buying new, knowing it’s backed by solid warranties. Sure it's built to a price and that's reflected in various aspects of the design and finish. Nevertheless, aside from the glaring omission of a reversing camera and the considerable inconvenience of no walk-through cab access, it’s likely to fulfill its intended role well. It will be interesting to see if the RM.19-1 soldiers on once stocks of superseded Renault Masters are exhausted. I suspect Jayco will keep a budget priced entry-level motorhome in its range (even if they call it a campervan!) to entice buyers into showrooms and, hopefully, bring them into the family. In the meantime, the littlest Conquest is worth investigating if you can live with its compromises, and isn’t that what most bargains are about? 111


SPECS GENERAL Make

Jayco

Model

Conquest RM.19-1

Type

Van Conversion

Berths

2

Approved Seating

2

Licence

Car

VEHICLE Make/Model

Renault Master

Engine

2.3-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel

Power

110 kW @ 2500

Torque

350 Nm @ 1400-2500 rpm

Transmission/Drive

6-speed AMT/Front-Wheel Drive

Safety

ABS, ESP, Traction Control, 2 air bags

Fuel

100 L

Pros... Price Standard Equipment Range Self-contained Warranties

WEIGHTS Tare Weight

2750 kg (approx)

Gross Vehicle Mass

3510 kg

Braked Towing Capacity

2500 kg

DIMENSIONS Overall Length

6.20 m (20' 4")

Overall Width

2.15 m (7' 1") exc mirrors

Overall Height

2.78 m (9' 2”)

Internal Height

1.88 m (6’ 6”)

Single Beds

Check with Dealer

Double Bed

TBA

Cons... No cab access No reversing camera Limited water Limited storage Superseded Renault

EQUIPMENT Slide-Out

No

Awning

Wind-Out

Entry Steps

1 x Manual

Cooker

2 x LPG

Rangehood Sink Fridge Microwave Lighting 12 V Sockets/USB Outlets Air Conditioner Space Heater Hot Water System Toilet Shower CAPACITIES Batteries Solar LPG Fresh Water Grey Water Hot Water Toilet PRICE - drive-away From Warranty

No Stainless Steel 60 L 12/240-volt compressor Yes 12 V LED No Yes Opt LPG Cassette Flexible Hose/Wet Bathroom

Manufacturer

Jayco 1 Jayco Drive Dandenong South. Vic. 3175 E: info@jayco.com.au W: jaycocom.au Find a Dealer HERE

1 x 100 Ah 1 x 120 W 1 x 4 kg 60 L 45 L 23 L 17 L (cassette) A$81,900 Click for Details

112


KNAUS • Brand Overview


REVIEWED REARVIEW

Enigma Machines German brand Knaus keeps such a low profile you’d hardly know it’s available… 114


REARVIEW

T

here are three motorhome brands in Australia that fly well below the radar: Winnebago, Adria and Knaus. The first two are part of the Apollo RV empire and frankly, the marketing behind them is a mystery: Winnebago is the world’s best known RV brand and yet it has almost no presence here, whilst Adria, from Slovenia, makes desirable and affordable motorhomes, yet how often do you see them? Those two aside, the other European brand almost invisible in the marketplace is Knaus, from Germany. Marketed – and I use that term very loosely – in Australia by Avan, it's a high quality product that deserves much more success. I have a particular interest in Adria and Knaus products, because it’s no secret I'm a fan of European motorhome design. Coming from a part of the world where space is at a physical and financial premium, European designers are the masters of multifunctionuse and space efficiency. I know many Australians find European motorhomes claustrophobic, and if you're used to a motorhome with slide-outs and acres of open floorspace, I can understand that. However, what is the price of that space? It should also be no secret I'm not a fan of slideouts. Apart from adding weight and cost they add complexity, and on more than one occasion a motorhome I've been reviewing or renting has had slide-out issues. They’ve ranged from uneven extension and/or retraction to not being able to retract at all. I know that in Australia, like the USA, we are used to big houses and lots of room to move. However, in a motorhome you're mostly sitting down and I honestly don’t see the value in large, open floorspace when it comes at considerable cost. Apart from designs where a slide-out provides bedroom space in a shorter vehicle, my personal opinion is they are basically unnecessary (let the hate mail begin!).

115


REARVIEW

German Mouthful

T

his issue I want to take a quick look at Knaus – pronounced ‘Kunous’, I’m told – as it’s the only German-manufactured motorhome in Australia. That is, apart from Concorde, but who’s had a Lotto win? Knaus Tabbart, to give the company its proper name, is a major player in Europe and produces Knaus, Tabbert, Weinsberg, T@b and Morello RVs, plus operates Rent And Travel, with some 150 rental depots across Germany. The Group annually manufactures around 26,000 units, roughly equal to or slightly exceeding the total of all RVs made in Australia. Importantly, Knaus (like Adria) is one of the few European manufacturers to have the entry door on the correct side for right-hand drive markets. Even industry giants like Hymer can’t be bothered doing that, even though they sell large numbers in the U.K. To me, stepping into a Knaus is like entering a cosy home: There’s no excess room to move, but the quality is excellent and it’s warm and inviting. It’s true European RVs in general don’t suit ‘big’ people and the Knaus is no exception. If you’re on the ‘robust’ side of average it might not be the motorhome for you… 116


REARVIEW

Knaus by Avan

I

n Australia, Knaus is sold under the Avan umbrella, to the point it's given the Knaus by Avan moniker (much as I like Avans, it’s a bit like saying BMW by Holden!). You won’t find much information online as it seems the brand is very much second fiddle in Avan’s mind. The website is basic and there’s scant attention paid to detail, with one model’s tare weight listed as 2987mm! All-in-all it’s shoddy and shows how seemingly disinterested Avan is in doing justice to the Knaus brand. Apparently, two models are offered now, not the three in the pic below: the 6.69-m Sky Wave 650MF and the 7.47-m Sun Ti 700LEG. Both are stylish B-class (no over-cab bed) motorhomes and feature a coachbuilt body on a Fiat Ducato cab-chassis. I say apparently, because the website photos of each are on Fiat Ducatos a couple of models old and there is very little

technical or specific information. Interestingly, because the models are made in Germany and shipped as whole units, they wear the Knaus badge on the grille rather than Fiat’s. In the past there have been issues regarding warranty for fully imported vehicles like these, but I believe that was resolved some years ago following a ‘directive’ from Fiat’s head office to its recalcitrant local operation. At the 2019 Victorian Caravan, Camping & Touring Supershow I remember asking a salesperson about Knaus and why we never see them marketed. He replied that they sell all they can get hold of and there's no need. I suspect the reason might be now Avan has ‘Euro-refreshed’ it’s line-up there’s more money in local manufacture than imports. Whatever the reason, if you track down a Knaus it’s well worth a look.

117


REARVIEW

Knaus use solid-core walls for weight saving and strength, and have a false floor that keeps all plumbing inside to avoid freezing, as well as the water tanks. Features that stand out for me include the side access locker for water and electricity connections (everything in one place); the big through-garage (boot) on the larger model, the split bathroom – and the coffee machine! Yes, the twin beds are way up high to accomodate the garage, but it makes the most of available space. Up front, the dinette is cosy, there’s plenty of internal storage and the decor is Euro-chic. Also, on the smaller model with its rearcorner (French) bed, apparently there’s the option of a ‘variable foot area extension’ to fill in the chamfered corner. Nice. I think I’ve seen more Knauses than Adrias or ‘new’ Winnebagos on the road, so they are out there. If you're after something different and like the idea of a quality European motorhome, it's worth tracking down a Knaus for inspection. Enigma it might still be, ignorable it’s not. Happy hunting…

118


LATITUDE • Element 27


TESTED: LATITUDE MOTORHOMES ELEMENT 27

Still in their

by Malcolm Street

E L E M E N T 120


TESTED

Forward

W

e ran this review back in the August 2018 issue, when brothers Ben and Michale McLean debuted the Latitude Element 27, their first luxury coachbuilt. It followed the release of the Titanium, an equally luxurious conversion of a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter van. That was their first foray into manufacturing, following the unexpected demise of the family business, Paradise Motorhomes.

“Latitude Motorhomes’ luxurious Element 27 continues Ben and Michael McLean’s fullcircle journey…”

In the two short years since, Ben and Michale’s business has thrived and Latitude Motorhomes has built an enviable reputation for quality and desirability, as witnessed by solid customer orders. The business has also become a specialist service and repair centre for Paradise Motorhomes, adding a second string to its bow. Having featured mainstream motorhomes in the past few issues, it seemed time to revisit a more bespoke manufacturer. Covid restrictions, however, preclude us from crossing the border to visit, and so with the relevant updates it seems entirely appropriate to re-run Malcolm Street’s review. Enjoy! 121


TESTED

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. 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 gap in the luxury segment that can be filled with something fresh out of the factory – like their brand new Element 27.

122


TESTED

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. On weighty matters, mathematicians might note the advised payload of a very generous 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 selflevelling 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.

123


TESTED

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 syncro-pulse 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 slide-out. 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. 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 slide-out. They are therefore awkward to get, but building them into the actual slideout solves that problem nicely. 124


TESTED Another couple of items that are often difficult to lift in and out are the gas cylinders. In this case, their kerbside locker has a slide-out tray on which both 4.5 kg cylinders are mounted, making things easy. Also easy are things in the adjoining locker, where an Enerdrive 200 amp-hour lithium battery and Redarc Redvision electrical control system are fitted. Ditto 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.

125


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 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 minimalbut-strong 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. 126


TESTED

Kitchen

T

here’s a bit of the conventional and unconventional in the kitchen. Certainly quite usual is the threeburner 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 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 slideout shelf that comes with a coffee maker and all the necessary components for drinking it!

127


TESTED

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.

128


TESTED

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 slide-out 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.

129


TESTED

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. A washing machine is now standard, plus there is an option for a marine flushing toilet.

130


TESTED

Off Grid

D

eep-cycle lithium house battery capacity is an impressive 200 amp-hours, backed by a whopping 720 watts of solar panels, ensuring the ability to live sans-mains power for a considerable period of time. For mains power while off-grid, a 2000-watt inverter can power the essentials, like a hair dryer, laptop, coffee machine or toaster. And if 2000-watts of 240-volt power isn’t enough, the Dometic Tec29 generator can 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!

131


TESTED

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…

132


SPECS GENERAL Make

Latitude Motorhomes

Model

Element 27

Type

B-class

Berths

2

Approved Seating

2 (option for 4 extra at dinette)

Licence

Light Rigid (LR)

VEHICLE Make/Model

Iveco Daily 70C

Engine

3.0-litre 4-cylinder bi-turbo-diesel

Power

150 kW @ 3100-3500 rpm

Torque

470 Nm @ 1400-3000 rpm

Transmission/Drive

8-speed automatic/Rear-Wheel Drive

Safety

ABS, ESP, Traction Control, Air bags

Fuel

100 L

Pros... Quality Equipment Off-Grid capability Payload Air-bag suspension Lockers in slide-out Electrical capacity

WEIGHTS Tare Weight

5150 kg

Gross Vehicle Mass

7200 kg

Braked Towing Capacity

3500 kg

DIMENSIONS Overall Length

8.5 m (27' 11")

Overall Width

2.27 m (8' 1")

Overall Height

3.25 m (10' 8”)

Internal Height

2.02 m (6’ 7”)

Bed

1.92 m x 1.5 m (6' 4" x 5')

EQUIPMENT

Cons...

Slide-Out

Yes

Awning

Electric

Entry Steps

Electric

Cooker

2 x LPG/1 x Electric, Grill & Oven

Rangehood Sink Fridge Microwave Lighting 12 V Sockets/USB Outlets Air Conditioner Space Heater Hot Water System Toilet Shower CAPACITIES Batteries Solar LPG Fresh Water Grey Water Hot Water Toilet PRICE - drive-away As Reviewed Warranty

Yes Stainless Steel with drainer 216 L Dometic 2-Door 12/24-volt compressor Yes 12 V LED Yes/Yes Air Command Ibis 3 Eberspacher Diesel Aqua Go Instantaneous Cassette Separate Cubicle 1 x 200 Ah 720 W 2 x 9 kg 310 L 95 L 23 L 17 L A$285,900 3 years/200,000 km

133 33

Require LR Licence Cab seats don’t mesh with dinette

Contact

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


SLRV

• Custom Hino 817 4x4


CUSTOM: TESTED: HINO 817CARADO 4x4 SLRV T135 EXPEDITION

Beryl’s Unhappy Marriage 135


CUSTOM

Hino’s capable 817 4x4 hasn’t marriedup well to SLRV’s impressive expedition motorhome body, reports Allan Whiting of OutbackTravelAustralia…

S

pecialist off-road motorhome manufacturer SLRV Expedition Vehicles has fitted a motorhome body to the Hino 817 4x4 chassis, but with mixed results. When we first drove the Hino 817 4x4 light truck we thought it would make an excellent motorhome base, but the SLRV Expedition Vehicle we’ve reviewed is not the happiest marriage between body and chassis.

Before checking out ‘Beryl’, this new custom motorhome, our experience with the Hino 817 was confined to loaded tray-bodied vehicles with low centres of gravity that behaved quite well on fire trails and steep gradients The fact that the Hino’s double chassis at the rear made its frame height about 150 mm higher than the Fuso Canter’s and 80 mm higher than the Isuzu NPS 300’s shouldn’t be an issue, but this vehicle has a substantial suspension lift as well, making it sway-prone when cornering and off-road. 136


CUSTOM

Yet another factor is SLRV bodywork, which is flexibly mounted. That suits flexible European chassis very well, but doesn’t meet Hino’s body installation requirements. As a result, when SLRV put a motorhome body on the 817 chassis the company found that handling was less than desirable, with pronounced body sway in a standard lane-change manoeuvre, which SLRV performs with all its motorhomes. Several suspension modifications later, including leaf spring changes and the fitment of a rear anti-sway bar, the Hino behaved much better, but not to the same level as European models – or the Isuzu NPS

300 4x4. As a result, SLRV told me it doesn’t intend to do any more motorhome conversions on the Hino 817 chassis. Sure, a motorhome wasn’t one of the primary vocations intended by Hino for its 817 4x4, but the truck’s leading specifications should have suggested its appeal to the motorhome fraternity. Despite our urgings during 2016/7, Hino did no prerelease investigation of the effects a wide-single-tyre conversion would have on steering and handling, but Hino has now fitted four 285/70R19.5 tyres on ATW wheels to a development truck and we did a backto-back drive with this modified truck and a stock standard one in March 2019.

137


CUSTOM

On and Off Road

W

e conducted our own test on the SLRV-Hino, with the kind permission of its new owner, and came away a little wary of what is still a work in progress.The Hino’s specification list is ahead of the opposition’s, with traction control, stability control and four-wheel disc brakes as standard and that was the attraction for its owner. However, when we drove the vehicle its lifted and revised-rate suspension was still being refined.

The loaded machine tipped the scales at a shade under seven tonnes, so it deserved some respect through the twisty bits. However, the fitment of a nonstandard anti-sway bar to the rear axle kept body roll controllable. The principal issue was steering action that was reluctant to return to centre after a turn. It was difficult to keep the truck on line during a rightangle turn, so the owner has to do some fiddling with steering geometry and free-play to get that sorted.

After driving Hino’s own truck that’s fitted with single 285/70R19.5 tyres front and rear, we think the steering eccentricities of this motorhome are related to the suspension height increase that has altered the front end steering geometry – particularly castor angle. The single-tyred Hino with standardsuspension rode, handled and steered very well. Hino has noted the effects of the suspension height increase and intends to liaise with the owner of this motorhome to help have the problem rectified. Off-road, the Hino 817 was very capable and conquered our rocky climb test without more than the odd bout of slight wheel slip, while downhill control was also excellent. However, any hint of side-sloping saw too much body sway for our liking and we think the SLRV bodywork is too heavy for serious adventuring with the 817.

138


CUSTOM The SLRV design has a fixed-height roof, so there was, literally, no set-up time: just open the side door; press the electric step button and walk in. Inside, the layout included a vented bathroom with cassette toilet. We particularly liked the diesel stove, twodrawer pull-out fridge-freezer unit and the secondary fridge outside, with a drop-down MSA4x4 slide unit. Conveniently, the bed remained made up and the dinette was always in place. The fixed-height roof made installation of large side windows, a TV aerial, 240V aircon and interior 12V fans straightforward. There were also ample storage compartments plus a custom spare wheel frame at the rear, with winch-operated lowering mechanism. On the subject of winches, the Hino was fitted with forward and rear-operating electric winches, for selfrecovery. The owner had extensive bar work fitted up front to protect the cab, its auxiliary lights and aerials, plus roof access via a stylish inbuilt ladder. Fit and finish was exemplary on this bush home away from home and it’s a pity the issues between the body and chassis/revised suspension have resulted in a less than ideal set-up in this otherwise impressive 4x4 expedition motorhome.

139


CUSTOM “When SLRV put a motorhome body on the 817 chassis the company found that handling was less than desirable, with pronounced body sway in a standard lane-change manoeuvre, which SLRV performs with all its motorhomes...”

140


SUNCAMPER • Sherwood Conqueror 4x4


TESTED

Mighty

CONQUEROR by Richard Robertson

142


TESTED

“There are now five Sherwoods, but the (original) E-Series is still the most popular. ..”

N

ot many motorhome manufacturers have iconic models that define them. Sydney-based Suncamper, however, does and it’s the Sherwood, which first rolled out of the factory when Adam got his licence and took Eve travelling (you know, after the ‘apple’ incident).

Toyota’s HiLux, in two or four-wheel drive. Despite producing a wide range of models, the Sherwood is still Suncamper’s number-one best seller and that proves it’s a sound design.

Ideal for solo travellers and well-organised couples, the original Sherwood – now called the E-Series – has Sherwoods are ‘baby’ C-class motorhomes, meaning an east-west bed over the cab, a rear dinette for two they’re small and have a purpose-built body with an to take advantage of the wrap-around windows, a over-cab bed that rides on a separate cab-chassis. mid-positioned kitchen and a (basic) bathroom. Fully In the Sherwood’s case that has almost always been self-contained yet legally able to park in a single car 143


TESTED

space, the Sherwood must have the longest continuous production history of any motorhome in Australia. It also has a hugely loyal following and has been proven time and again in the toughest conditions across the country. There are now five Sherwood series – E, L, R, S and T – offering various combinations of queen or single beds, wet or dry bathrooms, dinette layouts, seating and sleeping capacities, but the E-Series is still the most popular. Perhaps like Smith’s Chips, the original really is best? Building on that popularity, Suncamper has upped the visual and capability ante with the tough-looking Conqueror: A rugged bells-andwhistles Sherwood with attitude, ability and appeal… 144


TESTED

Oh What a Feeling!

A

s mentioned, Sherwoods have almost always ridden on Toyotas and the Conqueror is the first to ride on the latest generation of the SR 4x4 HiLux. Toyota has needed to play catch up with the 2020 model HiLux due to increasingly stiff competition from the likes of the Ford Ranger and new Mazda BT50. For starters, it has increased the gross vehicle mass (GVM) to 3050 kg. Suncamper increases this on its ‘standard’ 4x4 Sherwoods to 3500 kg, but the Conqueror raises it to 3620 kg. Fully engineercertified, all GVM increases are accomplished through substantial suspension upgrades by specialist company, Pedders. Even with all its bells and whistles the Conqueror has a ‘wet’ tare weight of 3140 kg, leaving a payload of 480 kg on the current 3620 kg GVM. The HiLux has a 5850 kg gross combination mass (GCM), meaning it can tow 2230 kg at the Conqueror’s upgraded GVM. However, Suncamper has fitted a 1500 kg-rated towbar, which should be more than enough for most users and provides an increased margin of safety. Suspension improvements aside, the Conqueror rolls on great looking 17-inch alloys shod with chunky Maxis Razar 265/70R 17 mud terrain tyres.

The extra water tank is in place of the original spare wheel.

145


TESTED

To keep ahead of the game, Toyota has upped the output of its 2.8-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel to 150 kW and 500 Nm. However, it still ‘only’ drives through a 6-speed automatic transmission. Ford’s Ranger has a 10-speed option, so 6 is beginning to look a little passé. Apart from the GVM upgrade, Suncamper has also replaced the standard 80-litre fuel tank with a 140-litre long-ranger. The latest Hilux also benefits from Toyotas Safety Sense system, which builds on its recently attained five-star ANCAP safety rating. Safety Sense includes high-speed active (adaptive) cruise control, a precollision safety system with pedestrian and daylight cyclist detection, lane departure alert and road sign assist, plus the usual traction control, anti-lock braking, electronic stability control, etc. Add to that seven airbags and it's as far removed from an early HiLux as you can imaging. Thank goodness…

146


TESTED

Inside, Toyota has added a new sound system, a touchscreen infotainment system with eight-inch display, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Many features can be operated from the multi-function steering wheel, although it's disappointing to see it isn’t leather trimmed. To all that, Suncamper has added a tyre pressure monitoring system with a separate dash-top digital display, a GME UHF CB radio, reversing camera and a Hema GPS HX1 navigation system with on and off-road maps.

Toyota image for illustrative purposes.

147


TESTED

Oh What a Features List!

M

ore than simply a styling exercise, the Conqueror adds a wide range of features, many of which aren’t obvious, to enhance usability, utility and liveability (and possibly other words ending in ‘ity’). Externally, the Conqueror gets a good looking Rival alloy front bumper. Not only ADR compliant for the airbags, it incorporates an underbody bash plate, two rated recovery points, is winch compatible and lighter than the original. Other upgrade and enhancement items comprise a 30-inch LED light bar on the bumper, a snorkel, bonnet scoop with protective Raptor-brand paint, a Toyota TRD grill, headlight surrounds, wideangle and extendable towing mirrors, and front wheelarch flares.

148


TESTED

The bodywork also picks up roof-mounted brush bars, which at the front carry a 60-inch LED (flood) light bar plus 4 LED spotlights, switched in pairs, that have a 1.8 km range. No Conqueror driver is ever going to be afraid of the dark! There are also roof racks suitable for surfboards and/ or kayaks. Another notable feature is protection from the scrub thanks to that hard wearing Raptor paint and also some aluminium protection plate. Meanwhile, an Anderson plug is provided that’s suitable for charging a tow vehicle, external accessories or for plugging-in a solar blanket, etc. Speaking of solar, up on the roof are 405-watts of solar panels, although the optional air-conditioner reduces that to 270 W via the removal of one of the panels. On the topic of power, the Conqueror come standard with a 120 amp-hour lithium house battery and 2000-watt sinewave inverter, plus dual USB charging points and a 12 V power outlet. 149


TESTED At the rear it's difficult to miss the Conqueror’s two massive spare wheels (locked on), which provide extra safety in remote areas, plus there's a neat roof ladder with four small, fold-up steps. That pretty much takes care of the obvious external extras, but here are some you mightn't or won't have noticed… The Conqueror gets larger panoramic windows – specifically on the passenger side – than the standard E-Series. It also gets a large storage locker in the kerb-side rear corner with access under the lounge/dinette that’s suitable for a barbecue and longer items like fishing rods, while next to is a gas bayonet. Two electric entry steps and a black, threemetre wind-out awning are fitted, ditto the latest style security screen door which, unfortunately, doesn’t match the body colour. Speaking of the awning, there are LED lights on both sides and the rear for convenience and nighttime security, plus an illuminated entry grab-handle.

150


TESTED

Because the Conqueror is intended for more extreme adventures it lacks a couple of features you might expect as standard: living area air conditioning and a microwave. However, careful thought has been given to its mission profile and the water system reflects this: The main tank carries 95-litres and solely serves the shower and sink, while a 43-litre tank delivers filtered drinking water to the kitchen. The cassette toilet has its own 15-litre tank, which means you're not flushing drinking water down the loo. While a little inconvenient at fill-up time, it makes the most of available water resources and the system is sure to be appreciated on extended remote trips. Both main water tanks have lockable individual fillers, plus there's a mains-pressure water connector for the shower and sink when in a caravan park. By the time you take into account the 20-litre capacity of the hot water system, 43-litres for the grey water tank and 19-litres for the toilet cassette, the Conqueror can carry up to 235-litres (235 kg) of water. Add to that about 116 kg for 140-litres of diesel and the 2 x 4 kg LPG cylinders, it means the Conqueror’s traditional ‘dry’ tare weight measurement (with 10-litres of fuel) is around 2857 kg, Suncamper advises. 151


TESTED

Body ‘n Soul

P

roven and durable, the Sherwood features a traditional steel frame base and fully-welded aluminium framework for the walls, rear and nose, plus a single-piece roof. Underneath, a rustproofing and sound deadening agent is applied to protect from noise and road damage The walls and roof are fully insulated with fire retardant foam and then pressed together. Because the framework is extensive, every fitting is screwed into a solid spot and the walls are more than 30 mm thick while the roof exceeds 45 mm. Inside, all cabinetry is plywood that has been glued and screwed together, not stapled. General Manager Cameron Harrison is a cabinetmaker by trade and takes great pride in the design and quality of Suncamper’s interiors. While the floor plan of the Conqueror is almost pure Sherwood E-Series, it has been significantly upgraded. The cabinetry has been re-designed to give a modern, seamless look, with concealed but easily-operated 152


TESTED

latches on the overhead cupboards and a new style latch that's simple and robust, elsewhere. Leather upholstery is now the go, while the U-shaped dinette with removable table converts to a second bed if/when required. There’s good internal storage for the size of vehicle including a hanging wardrobe between the bathroom and sink unit and large overhead cupboards. Other things to note include the relocation of the electrical control panel, etc, plus light switches to the wall between the kitchen bench and overhead cupboards, just inside the door. Stone benchtops are used throughout; there’s a new Thetford two-burner ceramic glass gas cook-top and a large, wooden bench extension that easily lifts into place over the stairwell. Above the cooker is a flush-mount rangehood, neatly hidden beneath the overhead cupboards, while touch-operated-and-dimmed LED strip lighting is also concealed there. As expected, the other interior lighting is LED and has a couple of switching options to reduce electrical load and/or suit ‘the mood’. A new Thetford compressor fridge sits beneath the cooker and it eliminates external venting, significantly 153


TESTED

reducing the chance of dust ingress. It circulates air internally, drawing-in cooler air underneath and venting warm air out the top, between it and the cabinet. It will be interesting to see how effective this is in more extreme conditions and if it noticeably raises the Conqueror’s internal temperature. Across the aisle in its own cabinet is the new enamelled black sink with black glass lid and matching tap. It includes a removable drain board, cutting board, wash bowl and draining rack; all of which fit neatly together and sit in the sink, under the lid, whilst travelling. As mentioned, there is a separate filtered drinking water supply, and tap, that has a cartridge-type filter under the sink. Two excellent inclusions for remote adventures yearround are a ducted Webasto diesel heater with digital controller and 12-volt Sirocco fan; the latter positioned above the stairwell so it can be swivelled to cool the living area or bed. Also on a swing-out arm is the digital TV, above the sink, which can also be viewed from the dinette or bed. Speaking of the bed, it’s an east-west queen-size and the Conqueror has a revised step and additional grab handle for easier access. 154


TESTED

There are also blue LED reading lights above the bed head (kerbside), while a large over-bed hatch, with white LEDs in the surrounds, and windows at both ends should provide plenty of ventilation. The only part of the Conqueror I can see that remains untouched from the standard Sherwood E-Series is the bathroom. Directly opposite the entry door, between the bed and wardrobe, it's a basic all-in-one wet design. Features comprise an opaque door, Thetford bench-style cassette toilet, small, corner hand basin, flick mixer tap with an extendable hose that doubles as the shower, a fold-out clothes line, mirror, LED light and a fan roof hatch. There is no storage space nor room for swinging cats, but in this size vehicle it’s what you'd expect.

155


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Impressions

I

only had half a day in the Conqueror and it had been awhile since I'd driven any Sherwood. However, it didn't take long for the familiarity to return. Being a 4x4 with revised suspension and larger tyres, you sit quite high and the elevated ride-height felt more akin to a van than even a bread-and-butter 4x4 Sherwood.

essentially obscured the view through the centre of the windscreen, but this will be addressed in production. Side visibility was excellent thanks to the large towing mirrors, split almost 50/50 between the upper, electrically-adjustable flat glass section and the lower, convex wide-angle mirrors.

Performance was surprisingly brisk, with the gearbox proving a slick shifter. Engine noise was reasonably subdued except under heavier acceleration or if it Obviously there’s no walk-through cab and due dropped back a gear on a bigger hill to maintain to Toyota’s increased safety provisions in the roof structure, only a small hatch is now available to access cruise-control speed. Ride comfort was also good, partially due to Toyota’s seats but also to the wellthe cab from the living area or vv. Actually, you’d sorted suspension. Despite the GVM upgrade, the ride probably only do it from the living area, feet first, and was well damped and although there was noticeable then only if you absolutely had to. Otherwise, it’s get thumping from the rear suspension over gaps in out and walk around. That, perhaps, is the biggest the dreaded Pennant Hills Rd and other surface limitation of this style of vehicle and not something irregularities, they were heard as much as felt. The exclusive to the Sherwood. On the plus side, the cab’s compact size, along with the front and side body increased ride height gives the Conqueror a higher centre of gravity and it was noticeable, although well overhang, means the cab is well shaded and the air conditioning should have little trouble proving effective controlled: After an initial pitch turning into a corner, the vehicle sat flat and continued without drama. The in tough conditions. wider mud-terrain tyres provided a degree of ‘wander’ at freeway speeds, but this is something you would The new HiLux is a comfortable and high-tech quickly get used to. Ditto buffeting in gusty wind office that will take a bit of time to get to know in conditions and from passing trucks. full detail. On the test vehicle, the positioning of the large reversing camera display plus the GPS

156


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What I think

T

he Conqueror elicits a kind of shock-and-awe response and it certainly created a lot of attention during my short drive. And I mean, a lot. The good news for Suncamper is it was all positive. Toyota’s latest HiLux is crammed with goodies and should prove as unbreakable as ever. Suncamper’s Sherwood has proven equally unbreakable and is more than up to the task. Together, they make a unique off-road motorhome that's small in stature but big in practicality, durability and ability. Priced at $194,990 drive-way it’s also highly competitive against rivals in the off-road motorhome segment. While any Sherwood is a fun little motorhome, the Conqueror takes that to extremes and has the potential to develop something of a cult following. More at home in wide open spaces than the confines of narrow bush tracks, it nonetheless is an extremely capable and comfortable motorhome that could literally take you all over Australia – or the world. Mighty Conqueror? Check out our first 360º tour and decide... 157


SPECS GENERAL Make

Suncamper Motorhomes

Model

Sherwood Conqueror

Type

C-class

Berths

2

Approved Seating

2

Licence

Car

VEHICLE Make/Model

Toyota SR HiLux

Engine

2.8-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel

Power

150 kW @ 3400 rpm

Torque

500 Nm @ 1600-2800 rpm

Transmission/Drive

6-speed automatic/On-Demand 4x4

Safety

5-Star ANCAP & Toyota Saftey Sense

Fuel

140 L

Pros... Looks! 4x4 Capability Standard equipment Proven engineering Clever water system Comfortable Compact

WEIGHTS Tare Weight

3140 kg with full fuel and water

Gross Vehicle Mass

3620 kg

Braked Towing Capacity

2200 kg (1500 kg towbar fitted)

DIMENSIONS Overall Length

5.85 m (19' 2")

Overall Width

2.21 m (7' 3") exc mirrors

Overall Height

3.00 m (9' 10”)

Internal Height

1.93 m (6’ 4”)

Bed

1.94 m x 1.75 m (6' 4" x 5' 9”)

EQUIPMENT

Cons...

Slide-Out

No

Awning

Wind-out

Entry Steps

Electric x 2

Cooker

2 x LPG

Rangehood Sink Fridge Microwave Lighting 12 V Sockets/USB Outlets Air Conditioner Space Heater Hot Water System Toilet Shower CAPACITIES Batteries Solar LPG Fresh Water Grey Water Hot Water Toilet PRICE - drive-away As Reviewed Warranty

Yes Black enamel, separate tap & filtered drinking water Thetford DE105 90 L 12/240-volt compressor Optional 12 V LED Yes/Yes Optional Webasto Diesel Swift LPG/Electric Cassette Wet bathroom/Flexible hose shower 1 x 120 Ah Lithium + 2000 W Sinewave Inverter 405 W 2 x 4 kg 95 L Shower & sink / 43 L Drinking 43 L 20 L 15 L Flushing tank / 19.3 Cassette A$194,990 5 Years/100,000 km

158

Cab access Basic bathroom Door colour doesn’t match body

Contact

Suncamper Motorhomes

Unit 3, 9 Sefton Rd Thornleigh. NSW. 2120. T: 1300 416-854 E: sales@suncampermotorhomes.com.au W: suncampermotorhomes.com.au


“The Conqueror elicits a kind of shock-and-awe response and it certainly created a lot of attention. The good news for Suncamper is it was all positive...�


DIY

13


SUNLINER

• Navian N601 Ltd Edition


TASTED: SUNLINER NAVIAN N601 LIMITED EDITION

Size MATTERS 162

by Richard Robertson images supplied


TASTED

Sunliner’s Navian N601 sits atop a size range that matters to those seeking a balance of practicality and long-term liveability…

T

hey say size isn’t everything, but sometimes it matters. In the RV world, there is a size limit motorhomes reach before moving into ‘mega’ territory (for ‘mega’, think the Longreach featured last issue). That limit is a function of chassis availability; specifically European vehicle chassis, which are the preference in the local motorhome scene. At this upper limit there are only two players – Mercedes-Benz and Iveco – with chassis rated to around 7000 kg. Beyond that, chassis manufacturers move to models that start around 12,000 kg and in between the only choices are Japanese trucks, like Isuzu (again, think the Longreach featured last issue). Agricultural and unrefined by comparison, they are truly a niche choice

that doesn’t suit the average buyer. With all that in mind it's easier to understand why motorhomes like the Sunliner Navian in this review represent the pinnacle of European-based motorhomes Down Under. The Navian range sits at the top of Sunliner's ‘regular’ motorhome range and second only to the luxurious, but Isuzu truck-based, Monte Carlo in terms of size and price. The range comprises two models: the Navian N541 and N601. The former measures 7.9 m long and has a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of either 4490 kg (car licence) or 5200 kg (light rigid licence). The latter – the subject of this review – is 8.5 m long, has a GVM of 7000 kg and can only be driven on a light rigid licence. 163


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The Navian 601N in this review is a Limited Edition model, specced by Australian Motor Homes in conjunction with the Sunliner factory. Whilst essentially the same as the standard N601, the Limited Edition comes with worthwhile additional/upgraded features and a slightly redesigned kitchen. As I only discovered when this story was complete and being laid out in the magazine, Sunliner has now ‘adopted’ most of the Limited Edition specifications as standard for the Navian N601, although apparently the original floorplan remains unchanged. This is a good move and a win for buyers, as the original specs were somewhat underdone. Nothing like a lengthy rewrite to celebrate a victory for common sense… Priced just below $230,000 on the road, the Navian N601 lives in rarefied territory and buyers at this level have high expectations. Sunliner certainly understands that and had already lavished the Navian series with high levels of standard equipment. It claims the Navian, “Is the ultimate mid-sized touring RV that comes fully equipped with a vast array of accessories all as standard.” It also likens it to apartment living, citing “Slide-outs and long floor plans that provide space more akin to a high-end apartment.” That's what the brochure says, now let's see how it measures up. 164


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Size Matters

T

he Navian N601 is classified as a C-class motorhome, due to it having an over-cab bed, and rides on the popular Iveco Daily 70C cab-chassis. Iveco is a truck manufacturer that also makes light commercial vehicles and as such the Daily has heavytruck DNA running through it. That should be good for longevity and it's unlikely that at its GVM limit the chassis will be overstressed. As stated, the N601 is 8.5 m (27’ 11’) long and has a GVM of 7000 kg. This Limited Edition model has a tare weight of just 5170 kg, providing an impressive 1810 kg potential maximum payload. It’s also 2.54 m (8’ 4”) wide, 3.3 m (10’ 10”) tall, has a 3500 kg maximum braked towing capacity. It is certified to carry six people, but sleep ‘only’ four. Which ever way you look at it it’s an imposing motorhome and is well suited to longdistance and long-term travel.

Iveco has done a good job of the Daily’s cab and whilst not quite as stylish as its Fiat Ducato compatriot, it manages a good compromise between commercial vehicle utility and passenger car appeal. Standard equipment includes dual airbags, remote central locking, power steering, cruise control, climate control air-conditioning, electric windows and heated mirrors, plus a touchscreen infotainment system with inbuilt GPS and Bluetooth.

The Daily 70C is powered by a 3.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel producing 125 kW of power and 430 Nm of torque. Iveco offers a 150 kW/470Nm twin-turbo version of the same engine and this Limited Edition model has been optioned-up with it, which is an excellent choice. Also optional (but not fitted) is air-bag rear suspension, which would be a great feature to The Daily provides a comfortable and reasonably have standard as it transforms the ride quality. What refined driving experience which, while it can't is standard, however, is an excellent eight-speed completely hide its heavy-vehicle heritage, is certainly automatic transmission, which drives the (dual) rear miles ahead of something like an Isuzu. Handling is wheels. The engine is Euro-5 emissions compliant, stable and predictable, with minimal body roll and meaning it doesn’t require AdBlue fuel additive, making precise steering. It also feels ‘substantial’; a subjective life simpler – and cheaper – on the road. observation I know, but reassuring in all the right ways. 165


TASTED

Body Matters

S

unliner employs a frameless, European-style body construction method that is both light and strong. All walls are one-piece, with the panels comprising a Duple Foam core sandwiched between tough outer layers, and all panels are rebated and interlocked for strength. It also means that in the event of damage a localised section can be repaired without replacing an entire wall. The floor is one piece and fully sealed underneath, while the roof also has a Duple Foam core, and the whole body structure has a high insulation R-rating. The Navian N601 has two slide-outs, both on the driver’s side. The forward slide-out contains a four-seat dinette while the aft one is home to the east-west main bed. Speaking of beds, Sunliner has done a nice job of blending the over-cab body moulding into the vehicle without it appearing blunt or too bulbous. There's a decent amount of external storage and this vehicle had lower-body chequer plate for added stone protection. Sunliner employs drop-down doors on its

external storage lockers, held open by a single strap that prevents them hitting the ground. I've always found this an odd arrangement and although I've never had to live with it, imagine it would be inconvenient trying to lift heavy things like a toolbox or gas cylinder in and out, over the door. It also means a door can fall open if you forget to latch it, something that can't happen with a top or front-hinged set-up. Hmm‌

166


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Features Matter

T

he Navian N601 already had a high level of standard equipment. It included leather upholstery, a 1000-watt pure sine wave inverter, 3 x TVs, a 3.6 kVa remote-start Onan generator, electric awning, electric step, rooftop air-conditioner, Webasto diesel heater, house entertainment system, outdoor entertainment system, 2 x 9kg LPG cylinders, external barbecue fitting, outdoor shower, washing machine and more. The Limited Edition, however, took things further in some very important areas: Think 300-litres of fresh water and 100-litres of grey, 3 x 160 W solar panels and 3 x 110 amp-hour house batteries. From what I can ascertain that's three times as much water as the original, plus an extra solar panel and house battery (with each solar panel and battery upgraded by 10-watts and 10 amp-hours, respectively). Also, the inverter has been upgraded to 2000-watts. Finally, the Limited Edition has a simplified kitchen design, plus four seat belts and a pop-up TV at the dinette. All-in-all it's an extremely comprehensive standard equipment list and one that makes the N601 Limited Edition equally at home for short or long-term travel as well as on-and-off-grid living. 167

“It's when stepping inside that Sunliner's apartment-onwheels concept hits home...�


TASTED

Inside Matters

I

t's when stepping inside that Sunliner's apartmenton-wheels concept hits home. With both slide-outs extended the interior provides spacious living, with the style and ambience of, well, a modern apartment. The layout is definitely open plan and the review vehicle combined light and dark finishes to quite a striking effect, accentuated and enhanced by extensive use of recessed LED strip lighting. The floorplan positions the entry door immediately aft of the cab. Inside, there are swivelling cab seats and a tilt-up bed overhead; a four-seat dinette in the front slide-out; mid kitchen; an east-west main bed, with its head in the rear slide-out, and a full-width rear bathroom. About the only downside is the swivelled cab seats don’t really ‘mesh’ with the dinette, but other than that it’s a liveable and practical layout. While the standard N601’s kitchen is L-shaped, the Limited’s is more conventional – and the better for it. Not only does it avoid the corners of the L-shaped design, it provides more room to move and doesn't seem to compromise workspace. The kitchen itself is well equipped, with a full oven as well as cooktop,

168


TASTED

range hood, sink with cutting-board as a cover, and a full-length window. There’s also plenty of storage space above and below. Directly across from the kitchen is the four-seater dinette, which you step-up slightly into because it sits in the slide-out. As mentioned, all four seats are seatbelt equipped, leather upholstered and generously padded. The dining table is a reasonable size and it's also removable, for more casual situations. There's a large window with a couple of cupboards above, reading lights, and a cupboard below that houses the Limited Edition’s pop-up television. This does seem a curious place for a TV, however, as it requires those sitting at the dinette to sharply turn their heads and it is, basically, right in their faces. At least it’s well positioned for the chef! Fortunately, there is another equally large pop-up television ideally positioned across the aisle from the the main bed. That’s in addition to the outdoor TV, which is in its own locker beneath the kitchen window.

the Navian’s living and sleeping areas, as does the small wall section opposite, between the two slideA tall unit at the rearward end of the kitchen bench outs. This would be an ideal place for some kind of houses the two-door, three-way fridge-freezer, with slightly angled, concertina door to provide privacy microwave above. It forms a bit of a bulkhead between between the two areas. 169


TASTED

After Hours Matters

W

hilst the N601 Limited Edition is a six-seat fourberth motorhome, it's really built for two, plus occasional guests/grandkids. To that end, the over-cab bed is for casual usage and accessed by the requisite aluminium ladder. As mentioned, it also tilts-up for easier cab access. The bed itself is quite spacious, well ventilated and has reasonable head room. From experience I know that in most C-class motorhomes this bed becomes storage for jackets, bulky bedding and other things you regularly use but can't be bothered stowing. The main bedroom, of course, is at the rear. It comprises a queen-size bed in the slide-out and has tables, drawers and slimline cupboards by the head, plus cupboards and reading lights above the bed-head window. Across the aisle is a pair of tall, hanging wardrobes, each atop a stack of four shelves, and these bookend the space between the fridge/ microwave unit and bathroom. Between them is a window, opposite the foot of the bed, with storage below it for the other pop-up TV, plus cupboards above. The bed itself lifts to provide even more storage, in case the rest isn’t enough‌

170


TASTED

A solid sliding door marks the entrance to the fullwidth rear bathroom and its most prominent feature is the corner shower, to your right as you enter. It’s generously sized and well-equipped, with clam-shell doors making access easier for those of a, um, larger disposition! In the opposite corner is a slightly L-shaped vanity unit with a small top-loading washing machine concealed beneath the lid of the return. It has storage below and cupboards above, plus a mirror in between. The cassette toilet sits against the back wall, just beside it, and there's a small window above, along with some extra bench space and shelving.

171


TASTED

What I Think

T

he Sunliner Navian N601 Limited Edition is an impressive, fully-equipped motorhome that's stylish, spacious and should provide years of comfortable and enjoyable travel. Australian Motor Homes has done an excellent job of refining the design and features, and while it’s really their baby, any Sunliner dealer can now order one. The Sunliner Navian N601 Limited Edition also makes an interesting comparison with the Avida Longreach featured in the last issue. While the N601 is about a metre shorter, both have essentially the same floor plans and near-two-tonne payloads. The Navian has better solar capacity, carries more water and comes with an electric awning, although it lacks the Longreach’s swish outdoor kitchen. Both have the same towing capacity, but the Navian N601 wins hands down when it comes to through-cab access and the

driving experience – a big consideration. Interestingly, Sunliner builds its flagship Monte Carlo on the same Isuzu truck chassis as the Longreach, making it a direct competitor. The Navian 601 Limited Edition, on the other hand, isn't an obvious competitor and yet matches the Longreach in almost every department and betters it in others. It's also more affordable, by around $70,000. All-in-all the Sunliner Navian N601 Limited Edition provides a compelling value proposition for anybody in the market for this size and style of motorhome. It's fairly dripping with standard equipment, while the Limited Edition extras have added utility and capability to the standard design. It's a credit to the team at Australian Motor Homes because their improvements matter, in all the right places…

172


SPECS GENERAL Make

Sunliner

Model

Navian N601 Limited Edition

Type

C-class

Berths

4

Approved Seating

6

Licence

Light Rigid (LR)

Pros... Standard equipment Open floorplan 2 x Slide-Outs 6 Seats/4berths Driving experience Value Payload Towing capacity Air-suspension option

VEHICLE Make/Model

Iveco Daily 70C

Engine

3.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel

Power

150 kW @ 3100-3500 rpm

Torque

470 Nm @ 1400-3000 rpm

Transmission/Drive

8-speed automatic/Rear-Wheel Drive

Safety

ABS, ESP, Traction Control, Air bags

Fuel

100 L

WEIGHTS Tare Weight

5170 kg

Gross Vehicle Mass

7000 kg

Braked Towing Capacity

3500 kg

DIMENSIONS Overall Length

8.5 m (27' 11")

Overall Width

2.54 m (8' 4")

Overall Height

3.30 m (10' 10”)

Internal Height

2.10 m (6’ 11”)

Main Bed

1.88 m x 1.53 m (6' 2" x 5')

Cab Bed

2.00 m x 1.35 m (6’ 6” x 4’ 5”)

Cons... Locker door design Dinette TV position Cab/dinette integration Single outlet Webasto heater

EQUIPMENT Slide-Out

2

Awning

Electric

Entry Steps

Electric

Cooker

3 x LPG/1 x Electric, Grill & Oven

Rangehood Sink Fridge Microwave Lighting 12 V Sockets/USB Outlets Air Conditioner Space Heater Hot Water System Toilet Shower CAPACITIES Batteries Solar LPG Fresh Water Grey Water Hot Water Toilet PRICE - drive-away As Reviewed Warranty

Yes Stainless Steel 184 L 2-Door 12/240V/LPG Yes 12 V LED Yes/Yes Yes - Roof Mounted Webasto Diesel LPG/Electric Cassette Separate Cubicle

Available From

Australian Motor Homes 31 Pacific Highway Bennetts Green NSW 2290 T: (02) 4948 0433 W: www.ausmhc.com.au

3 x 110 Ah 3 x 160 W 2 x 9 kg 300 L 100 L 23 L 17 L

Manufacturer Sunliner RV T: (03) 8761 6411 W: sunliner.com.au

A$229,990 Click for Details

173


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RV enthusiasts helping other likeminded people start their next big adventure...

RV Sales Service Centre Parts & Accessories Australia’s largest range of RVs in one convenient location. www.ausmhc.com.au Open 6 Days - 02 4948 0433 enquiries@ausmhc.com.au 31 PaciďŹ c Hwy, Bennetts Green, NSW 2290

32


TRAKKA • Akuna A2M •Jabiru J2 AWD •Jabiru M2 AWD


TESTED: TRAKKA TESTED AKUNA A2M

Akuna

MaCrafter! “Trakka’s new Akuna is VW Crafter-based and a clever move that brings choices buyers will surely appreciate”, says Richard Robertson...

176


TESTED

“These days, the Torino and Jabiru van-conversions are Trakka’s most in-demand models, with the coach-built range reduced to essentially two variations of a single Trakkaway model.”

T

here's been a subtle shift in buyer preferences in the motorhome market over the past decade. Without fanfare, the popularity of van-conversion motorhomes has increased significantly and with good cause: Van-conversions have a strong steel body that provides structural rigidity, rollover protection and ease of repair, while minimising the opportunities for water leaks. They’re also narrower and have a lower roof height than conventional coach-built motorhomes, which makes them easier to manoeuvre and park, and reduces fuel consumption. Evidence of this shift can be seen in the model range from Trakka. A decade ago the company had an extensive list of coach-built motorhomes on its books and just a couple of van-conversions. These days, the Torino and Jabiru van-conversions are Trakka's most in-demand models, with the coach-built range reduced to essentially two variations of a single Trakkaway model.

177


TESTED

Akuna

I

nto the mix, Trakka has added the Akuna range. Based on the new Volkswagen Crafter, Akuna sits between the Fiat Duacto-based Torino and MercedesBenz-based Sprinter and comes in both medium and long-wheelbases. For the back story on the new Crafter and which models are best for motorhome conversion, see the story at the end of this review.

“The Akuna A2M’s medium wheelbase gives a pleasing, stocky appearance, with one passerby commenting, “The thing appears to be smiling – and ready to pounce!”

With features and floor plans that essentially mirror the fractionally longer Jabiru, new Akuna starts at a $25,000 lower price point, which instantly makes it an attractive proposition. But there’s far more than price to the new Akuna’s appeal…. The subject of this review is an Akuna A2M – the A denotes Akuna, 2 means two-seat and M stands for medium wheelbase. Priced at $150,000 driveaway, Trakka sees the shorter Akuna as bridging the gap between its smaller campervans and longer motorhomes. Measuring 5.99 m (19’ 8”) long, 2.05 m (6’ 8”) wide and 2.77 m (9’ 1”) high (with optional aircon), the A2M can legally fit in a standard car space and at a pinch could double as a daily driver. Lacking nothing except interior space, it’s fully featured and ideal for a solo traveller or couple; the latter with one provision that I’ll get to a later.

178


TESTED

Down to Business

P

ower across the Akuna range comes from Volkswagen’s 2.0-litre bi-turbo diesel that produces 130 kW and 410 Nm. Drive is via an eight-speed fully automatic transmission, with power delivered to the front wheels. Along with an automatic stop/start system for saving fuel when stopped, it also comes with regenerative braking that converts frictional energy during braking into electricity via a generator. That power is not only stored in the Crafter’s battery, it can also be used to assist acceleration. The Akuna A2M has a Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) of 3550 kg and a Tare weight of 2941 kg, leaving a maximum payload of 609 kg. It also has a maximum braked towing capacity of 2500 kg. Like Akunas across the model range, freshwater capacity is 140-litres, grey water 80-litres (with electronic dump valve), hot water 10-litres, the toilet cassette 16-litres and fuel, a relatively small 75-litres (offset by excellent economy). Also across the range is a 200-amp-hour lithium house battery, 200-watts of solar and the very latest charging systems to manage vehicle, solar and mains power inputs. The A2M gains 5-mm of ground clearance compared with long wheelbase Akunas, for a total of 190-mm.

179


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As you'd expect, new Crafter comes with an impressive range of standard safety, comfort and convenience features. These include Front Assist with City Emergency Braking, Driver Fatigue Detection, MultiCollision Brake, Hill Hold Assist, Crosswind Assist, Front and Rear Park Distance Control, reversing camera, cruise control, and an eight-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system including Apple Car play, Android Auto, Bluetooth and Voice Control. To that standard specification Trakka adds LED headlights with automatic on/off, Rain Sensing Wipers and Front Fog Lights across the Akuna range. Unfortunately, Volkswagen only offers dual front airbags on the highroof Crafters used in the Akuna range, although up to six are available on other models. While disappointing, in a vehicle of this size frontal impact protection is the most important. The test Akuna came with the optional Volkswagen Plus Pack ($6500), adding Lane Assist, Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Traffic Alert, Side Park Distance Control, Park Assist (self parking!) Adaptive Cruise Control and Trendline Styling (additional 12 V cab socket, entry step illumination and various chrome trim elements). Given the Akuna’s attractive starting price and the range of cutting-edge technologies in this pack, it's little wonder most customers are including it. 180


TESTED Additionally, it came with Trakka’s popular Alfresco Pack ($3000), which includes an externally/internally accessible drinks fridge, a total of 440-watts of solar (200-watts already on-roof plus a 240-watt portable panel), an outdoor workbench with removable sink and an external shower that also provides hot and cold running water at washing-up time. Add to that a 2000-watt inverter system and induction cooktop ($1910) plus Saturn Black alloy wheels ($2190) and the driveaway price moves up to $163,600. That’s still $11,400 below entry-level for the Jabiru – $175,000 driveway – which admittedly is for a long wheelbase two seater (Jabiru medium wheelbase is AWD-only). Add the same options to the entry-level Jabiru LWB, however, and as far as I can work out the

drive-away price rises to $187,210, meaning the price difference rises to $23,610. Even allowing $5000 extra for an Akuna A2 long wheelbase model, it still has an $18,610 driveway price advantage. It’s also before considering Volkswagen’s new five year/unlimited kilometre warranty – by comparison, Mercedes-Benz’s offers a three years/two hundred thousand kilometre warranty on the Sprinter (Jabiru). Additionally, VW has a $2300, 5-year Care Plan that covers scheduled servicing at 12 month/20,000 km intervals. Although it must be bought prior to the first service, it’s a lot of budgetary peace of mind for an average of $460 per year for the entire warranty period…

181


TESTED

Driving Force

S

pecifications and price aside, the Crafter’s interior and driving experience are well worth reporting. Cab entry is easy thanks to wide opening doors and a deep step on each side, plus there's good clearance between the seats and dashboard. The dash itself is quite plain and flat across its full width, but features handy storage nooks and crannies, and a large, deep glovebox. Visibility is excellent and the seats comfortable, if a bit flat, although they do have electrically adjustable lumbar support.

To the left of the instrument cluster is an eight-inch infotainment system. It incorporates the reversing camera, which includes an overhead image of the vehicle that flashes in conjunction with warnings from the front, rear and side sensors, when detecting obstacles at slow speeds. The infotainment screen also provides access to a wide range of vehicle and entertainment systems and information, plus provides connectivity to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – just plug your smartphone into the dash-top USB port.

The multifunction steering wheel is small and sporty, with a flat bottom à la Formula One. I'm pleased to report that, although plastic on the test vehicle, production Akunas will have a leather steering wheel, as befits a quality European vehicle. The instrument panel is a model of ergonomic efficiency and instantly familiar to any Volkswagen owner. It's dominated by a large circular tachometer and speedometer, the latter being on the right-hand side and therefore in the correct position when glancing down from the road (European vehicles often retain the speedo on the left).

Disappointingly, there’s no climate control; occupants having to make-do with old-fashioned air conditioning with rotary knobs for guessing the temperature and setting fan speed and airflow direction. Completing this section, the gear selector sits below the air-con controls and is perfectly positioned, just to the left of the steering wheel. Conventional in operation, it has also been adapted for right-hand drive and flicks across to the right to operate in sports mode. That's a nice touch…

182


TESTED On the road the new Crafter is a delight. Mrs iMotorhome spent some time behind the wheel and fell in love with the light steering, visibility, big side mirrors and ease of driving. In particular she said she found the engine response and gearbox very car like, and appreciated the shorter overall length. The gearbox is worth singling out for its crisp, precise up-shifts and seamless operation in normal or spots modes. Combined with more than 400 Nm of torque, a relatively wide body and squat stance, the medium wheelbase Crafter is enormous fun to punt along a winding back road; it doing an excellent impersonation of a big kid’s go-kart. Of course, it's equally at home on the freeway and open roads, where it will happily cruise all day at around 1500 rpm in 8th gear. Finally, special mention must go to the Adaptive

Cruise Control. Its primary function of maintaining speed is exemplary: You can adjust desired speed to the kilometre-per-hour via the steering wheel control and it will hold it uphill and down dale, thus avoiding speeding over crests and when heading downhill. The Adaptive aspect, however, takes that further. Not only does it use radar to adjust speed and maintain distance from the vehicle in front, it slows you as traffic slows and will even bring you to a stop, before accelerating again when the vehicle in front moves off. Combined with Lane Assist, which keeps you safely between lane markings, it's almost like autonomous driving. Obviously, you must remain alert and ready to take over, but these features really take a lot of stress and fatigue out of many common driving situations.

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TESTED

The Box

T

he Akuna A2M’s medium wheelbase gives a pleasing, stocky appearance, with one passerby commenting, “The thing appears to be smiling – and ready to pounce!”. The body looks good and in my few days with the vehicle it attracted a lot of positive attention. Volkswagen's designers have done an excellent job with the front end and arguably it's the best looking light commercial vehicle currently available. Trakka capitalises on that and accentuates the style with subtle decals, plus blackouts around the dark tinted, flush-fitting windows. Like all Trakka campervans and motorhomes now, the Akuna A2M is LPG-free. Cooking, hot water and ducted interior heating are all diesel-fired, drawing a very small amount of fuel from the vehicle’s tank (with a cut-out to prevent you becoming stranded).

boot also has enough room for camping chairs, hoses, power cable, toolbox, wheel chocks and more. A nice touch is the pull-down insect screen that closes off the bedroom, meaning you can leave the barn doors open and enjoy an insect-free breeze. It's matched by another screen discreetly concealed between the Crafter’s sliding side-door and kitchen. The side door itself has an external mounting rail for the Alfresco Pack table, which conveniently sits at waist height. The table has a cut-out for a removable, collapsible silicon washtub that’s positioned towards the rear of the vehicle. This allows the Akuna’s outdoor shower to also provide hot and cold washing-up water, thanks to a magnetic shower-head holder that can be positioned where required.

Finally, it's worth noting that while a conventional TV aerial and internal connections are available, the standard fitting is a GSM cellular antenna with adjustable/movable iPad holder. Combined with a data An electric awning with LED outdoor lighting is sim card and suitable plan, it turns the Akuna into a standard, as is a portable entry step, with electric as an mobile wireless hotspot so you can stream Netflix, chat option. The rear barn doors open to reveal a sizeable on FaceTime, check your email or trade the markets as boot beneath the bed. Home to the house battery, you travel! optional inverter and Alfresco Pack outdoor table, the 184


TESTED

Inside the Box

T

he Akuna A2M’s floorplan is compact and straightforward. It utilises swivelling cab seats for after hours relaxation and dining; has a small but comprehensive kitchen unit by the sliding side door, the Switch Mode bathroom opposite and an east-west bed at the rear. Decor is Trakka-modern and the walls are fully trimmed, meaning there’s no bare metal like you often see in van conversions. Even the rear barn doors and sliding side door are fully trimmed and it makes a world of difference. The Akuna A2M features a number of Trakka signatures, beginning with roller doors on the cupboards. These are simple, light, require no locks,

have no hinges and can’t accidentally open while you drive, nor can you walk into them if left open. Another signature is the exclusive use of dimmable, strip-LED lighting – TrakLite they call it – operated by flushmounted touch sensors. There are no conventional light switches (apart from a small master switch just inside the side door), no individual globes and no protruding fittings. Trakka’s SlimTec bench and tabletop is its newest signature: Extremely thin, strong, durable and waterproof, it's a 3D laminate that's safe for food preparation, scratch resistant and is also used for the bathroom floor duck board in place of the original wood unit.

185


TESTED

The cab seats swivel easily, aided by a drop-down handbrake. The pole-mount dining table stows neatly between the driver’s seat and fridge unit, and is quick to set up and put away. Incredibly thin and strong, it’s a slightly odd shape with cut-outs for coffee mugs or glasses and takes a bit of getting used to, but it can be moved around a bit to aid seat and fridge access. There's also a small corner table between the driver’s seat and fridge cupboard, complete with mains power and USB charging outlets. Speaking of mains power, it's worth noting Trakka wires all mains power points to the inverter, unlike many others who only connect the inverter to a single power outlet. In the cupboard above the end of the kitchen bench are all the system controls, conveniently grouped together at eye height. The main touchscreen displays battery life and real-time power usage, water tank levels, fridge and vehicle interior temperatures and even the barometric pressure. There are also the control units for the diesel-fired hot water and central heating, the cooker and inverter. 186


TESTED

Between the driver’s seat and bathroom is the unit that houses the fridge, mounted at chest height. Above it is the microwave, in a cupboard, while the rubbish bin is in a pull-out unit at the base, which has a secondary storage drawer inside. The fridge itself is the amazing new 90-litre Dometic 12-volt compressor unit that is double hinged, meaning you can open the door from the left or right without having to do anything special. Buyers who tick the Alfresco Pack option box also get a 16-litre drinks fridge in the base of the forward-facing end of the kitchen unit. Until recently this fridge unit swivelled, but when facing outside it fouled the new sliding insect-screen door, and so the decision was made to fix it in the forward-facing position. Still easily accessible from outside or in, it's a sensible move that doesn’t affect usability.

point and drawer below (and the drinks fridge at the The kitchen unit has just enough room for a round bottom). The main unit has two self-closing drawers stainless steel sink with lid and lift-up mixer tap, the beneath the cooker: the top one including cutout glass ceramic cooktop and a filtered drinking water tap storage for four mugs and revealing a small, hidden in between. At the forward end is a small but welcome cutlery drawer, and the bottom one deeper for pots, flip-up bench extension, with a double mains power pans and the like. 187


TESTED Across the aisle is Trakka's patented Switch Mode bathroom. It recently received a makeover and has been lengthened to provide more standing room when the toilet is extended. It has also been slightly reshaped and has lost the entry step, making access easier. When not in use the electrically-operated toilet stows beneath a small vanity unit, which has a freestanding handbasin and the same flick mixer tap as outdoors (its head unit pulls out on a flexible hose and attaches to a wall mount to become the shower). Above the basin is a mirror with nicely integrated LED lighting that includes Trakka's logo. The original Switch Mode bathroom included a shower curtain that wrapped around the side and back walls, and covered the doorway. Whilst perhaps now considered a bit old-fashioned it served the worthwhile purpose of keeping dry the walls, door and towels, and didn't take long to dry out. Now, when you have a shower all the walls get wet and you have to put the towels out on the bed or in the kitchen. Sometimes, less isn’t more. However, it’s good to see the bilge pump under the duck board has been retained. Its way better at ensuring you don’t stand in a sudsy pool than any gravity-fed shower draining system.

188


TESTED

That brings us to the east-west bed, which has a sturdy pull-out step at the end of the aisle. There are two separate mattresses – both Dunlop double memory Endure foam – and the one closest to the kitchen hinges-up sideways on a gas strut to reveal a goodly amount of internal storage (the rear mattress sits atop the boot). Each has Trakka’s new tilt-up head end – sun lounge style – so you can sit up for a coffee, to read or whatever. There are mains and USB power outlets, plenty of overhead cupboard room, including a small hanging space, a big roof hatch, windows at both bed ends and (opening) windows in the back doors. If you order the optional air conditioning it replaces the roof hatch. Despite the external pod on the designated head-end, the bed is best for those less than six feet tall. I’d say well less in fact, if you like a full size pillow and to stretch out. A tall solo traveller could sleep slightly diagonally, but a tall couple should be ordering the long wheelbase Akuna A2, with its luxurious full-length beds. 189


TESTED

Click HERE to watch the Akuna A2M video roadtest!

What I Think

I

t shouldn’t be difficult to tell that I think the Akuna A2M – and the Akuna range – will be another winner. Trakka’s design innovation continues to lead the industry and the closer you look the more you realise just how far ahead it is. The new Crafter would be my choice for a new motorhome base vehicle at the moment. Its nextgeneration design and engineering won’t quickly age and it has the requisite bells and whistles to keep tech nerds happy. On top of that it delivers an excellent driving experience. The icing on the cake is it’s backed by an unmatched warranty and service package that makes European vehicle ownership practical and affordable. Sure you can buy cheaper than the Akuna A2M but as they say, quality is its own reward. Trakka’s move to the new VW Crafter gives an extra string to its bow that now neatly stretches across the whole van-conversion spectrum. It is indeed a ‘craftery’ move – and one certain to be right on target for many potential buyers. 190


SPECS GENERAL Make

Trakka

Model

Akuna A2M

Type

Van conversion

Berths

2

Approved Seating

2

Licence

Car

VEHICLE Make/Model

Volkswagen Crafter High Roof MWB

Engine

2.0-litre 4-cylinder bi-turbo diesel

Power

130 kW @ 3600

Torque

410 Nm @ 2000 rpm

Transmission

8-speed Auto/front-wheel drive

Safety

ABS, ESP, 2 air bags & more

Fuel

75 L

Pros... New Crafter Size Quality Innovation Liveability Jabiru price advantage

WEIGHTS Tare Weight

2941 kg

Gross Vehicle Mass

3550 kg

Braked Towing Capacity

2500 kg

DIMENSIONS Overall Length

5.99 m (19’ 8”)

Overall Width

2.05 m (6' 9")

Overall Height

2.67 m (9' 9”)/2.77 m (9’ 1”) with aircon

Internal Height

1.93 m (6’ 4”)

Bed

1.85 m x 1.37 m (6' 1" x 4' 6”)

Cons...

EQUIPMENT Slide-Out

No

Awning

Electric

Entry Steps

Manual

Cooker

Diesel

Rangehood Sink Fridge Microwave Lighting 12 V Sockets/USB Outlets Air Conditioner Space Heater Hot Water System Toilet Shower CAPACITIES Batteries Solar LPG Fresh Water Grey Water Hot Water Toilet PRICE - drive-away From As Tested

No Round stainless steel w folding tap 12V Compressor Yes 12 V LED Yes/Yes Opt Diesel Diesel Retractable Cassette Wet/Switch Mode Bathroom

Warranty - Vehicle

5 years/ Unlimited km

Size Bed size No shower curtain Contact Trakka Pty Ltd 9 Beaumont Rd Mt Kuring-gai NSW 2080 T: (02) 8294-8590 E: sales@trakka.com.au W: trakka.com.au

1 x 200 Ah Lithium 200 W No LPG fitted to vehicle 140 L 80 L 10 L 16 L (cassette) A$150,000 A$163,300

191


RELEASED TESTED

AKUNA Get away from it all in style

29 12


TESTED: TRAKKA JABIRU J2 AWD

BUSH TRAKKA VAN!

Trakka’s all-new Jabiru J2 AWD is a van just made for the bush, reports AlLan Whiting.. 193


TESTED

T

rakka’s Jabiru is its flagship van-conversion motorhome range. Traditionally built on the longwheelbase Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 419, the latest Jabiru is built on the all-new Sprinter and now comes in medium and long-wheelbase versions, each with the option of all-wheel drive. The new models build on the success of their predecessors, but add improved use of space and clever design enhancements.

“The switch to single rear wheels means the Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) is slightly reduced – from 4.5 tonnes to 4.1 tonnes – but the tare weight is less and Trakka has employed some weight-saving technology...”

The principal mechanical difference between the previous Jabiru models and the post-2019 ones is the use of single wheels all-‘round, while the latest machines can have optional 245/70R17 single tyres front and rear, to replace the undersized standard 16s.

194


TESTED

Kitted Out

M

ercedes-Benz has enhanced the standard equipment package in the new Sprinter 419, turbo-diesel V6 model, which now comes with sevenspeed automatic transmission as standard, in place of the previous five-speed. It also comes with electronic active brake assist; crosswind assist; lane keeping assist; driver fatigue monitoring and blind spot assist programs. On top of that, Trakka adds factory options including: MBUX 260 mm touch screen with CarPlay and Android Auto; keyless start; comfort swivelling front seats with armrests; 360-degree camera and parking pack; electronic parking brake (no handbrake handle to interfere with seat-swivelling); fog lights; curtain airbags; auto wipers and headlights; smartphone tray

with charging and tyre pressure monitoring. It’s an impressive equipment list that not only provides useful extra ‘kit’, it also adds considerably to the premium feel off the vehicle. The switch to single rear wheels means the Gross Vehicle Mass (GVM) is slightly reduced – from 4.5 tonnes to 4.1 tonnes – but the tare weight is less and Trakka has employed some weight-saving technology in its fit-out of the 2020 Jabirus. Examples are the use of ultra-thin laminate table and bench tops and fibreglass floor substrate, with marine-grade vinyl covering. Also, to improve weight distribution, Trakka has changed water tank design from longitudinal to transverse.

195


TESTED

T

he long-wheelbase Jabiru can be supplied with a twoseat layout (now called J2) or four-seat (now called J4) layout. The J4 has an east-west bed, with additional bed length courtesy of external window-extension ‘pods’. While the long-wheelbase J2 has longitudinal beds, the new medium-wheelbase Jabiru has an east-west bed with one extension ‘pod’ and is only available in two-berth configuration. It’s called the J2M.

196


TESTED

T

he interior layouts are broadly as before, but the latest interior has subtle, dimmable LED lighting arranged in geometric shapes and the laminated surfaces are much thinner, yet stronger. This thin laminate allows the dinette table-top to stow in a narrow slot, taking up far less space. It’s also cleverly shaped to make seating access easier and has four mug cut-outs, to make spills less likely. New windows, with concealed internal screens and blinds, look much classier and protect the blinds and screens from accidental damage. The new 90-litre fridge/freezer is a knockout, with a door that opens to the left or right. It’s also much slimmer than the previous unit, which makes it possible to have a larger bathroom that allows standing room, even when the retractable toilet is powered-out from under the vanity. All bed bases have adjustable, lifting end sections that allow comfortable sitting-up in bed, for easy reading or watching your tablet-TV screen.

cooktop, diesel-fuelled water and space heating, plus 200-watts of solar panels. It also includes new ‘fluted’ insect screens that slide easily, for the side and rear doors. Also easier than before is a new Thule powered awning that can be opened and closed without Each model comes standard with the proven Remote interfering with the sliding door.Optional is a 2000-watt Pack, closed-foam thermal insulation and an advanced inverter and portable plug-in induction electric cooktop, electrical system with 200 Ah lithium battery power as which can be used inside or outside the vehicle for a standard. The Remote Pack includes a diesel-fuelled quicker boil-up than the diesel stove provides. 197


TESTED

A

lso optional, the Alfresco Pack further assimilates indoor and outdoor camping. It features a small, swivelling drawer fridge that can be accessed whether you’re inside or outside the Jabiru. There’s also a removable work bench that attaches to the sliding side-door and features a collapsible washup basin. It also includes a hot/cold tap in the form of a shower head on a telescopic hose, so it doubles as an outside shower, and attaches magnetically to the van body wherever required. Combined, these features allow you to do the majority of the after-meal clean up before heading back into the vehicle. Roof mounted solar panel capacity is increased to 300-watts with the Alfresco Pack.

198


TESTED

First Drive

W

e had a brief on-and-off road drive and overnight stay in the new Jabiru J2 AWD. We’ll complete that testing with a ‘play’ in the J2M AWD in April – Covid-19 permitting. The evaluation vehicle was a Show machine, so was fitted with the Alfresco Pack and the additional options of aluminium wheels with mud-terrain (M/T) tyres; inverter and induction cooktop; LED driving light bar; metallic paint and colour-matched bumpers; colourmatched seat upholstery and a powered sliding door. From the ‘basic’ Jabiru J2 AWD, pricing of $200k, it was priced at $218,180 NSW-driveaway. The single-tyred Jabiru performed and handled very well for a vehicle of this size, but the M/T tyres were noisier than all-terrains (A/Ts) and had some lowspeed harshness, caused by the individual-block tread pattern. A/Ts would suit most buyers, we reckon, but the M/Ts certainly looked the part. The engine/transmission combo was almost silent, letting tyre noise intrude into the stylish interior. All campervans and motorhomes have some cupboard and drawer content rattles when driven on rough roads, but the Trakka was better than most.

The Jabiru hunted along freeways and highways at legal speeds without effort, returning an impressive 13.5L/100km (21 mpg) economy in the process. In mixed on-and-off road driving the economy slipped to a still-impressive 15.5L/100km (18 mpg).

199


TESTED

F

rom an operating perspective, ’Benz ergonomics and switch operations need to be learned because nothing – nothing – is intuitive. For example, the driver needs to be schooled in the importance of knowing that the seven-speed auto is stirred by what would be a right-hand blinker stalk in 90-percent of the vehicles (but don’t worry, you can’t accidentally select reverse when changing lanes!). Also, the steering wheel, dashboard and touch-screen controls are completely different from anything outside Germany, so owners need to study the manual! After a couple of hours poring over the handbook we felt confident in the big ‘Benz.

200


TESTED

W

e restricted our off-roading to fire trails and the Jabiru handled them quite easily. We’ve criticised the Australian-market Sprinter’s very basic 4WD system – open centre diff, no diff locks – when there’s much more available from Oberaigner in Austria, but in the case of the long-wheelbase Jabiru J2 AWD the package felt about right. It’s highly unlikely that buyers will need any more than this basic kit, because the very size of this machine restricts where it can go. The medium-wheelbase version could be a different matter, however.

201


TESTED

G

etting comfortable inside the Jabiru remote was simplicity itself: We shut the doors, popped the privacy windscreen and front window curtains into place, slid-shut the window blinds, turned on the cabin heater and were snug. Trakka has moved from a pop-up TV aerial in favour of a GSM cellular antenna, linked to a tablet bracket that can move from dinette to bedroom. It’s a sign of the times, when more and more people are using wifi streaming services and ditching traditional RV TVs. We were initially reserved about cooking on diesel stoves, but we’re used to them now and love the safety of having no LPG on board and no cooking flames inside the van. The portable induction cooktop made a kettle boil-up quicker than waiting for the diesel cooktop to pre-heat. The new dinette table is lighter, less bulky and shaped for movement around it. The mug cutouts worked perfectly. 202


TESTED

“There are very few campervans we’d be happy to live in for extended periods, but the Trakka Jabiru is certainly one.”

T

here are very few campervans we’d be happy to live in for extended periods, but the Trakka Jabiru is certainly one. We’re looking forward to a comparison with the more nimble medium-wheelbase J2M in the near future, particularly as this version comes with additional off-road protection equipment including engine and transmission shields, rear shock absorber shields, a rear diff ‘rock slider’, handbrake protector, sill plates, recovery points front and rear, a spare wheel carrier and a long-range fuel tank. Can’t wait!

203


TESTED

JABIRU AWD Off the Beaten Track

27


TESTED: TRAKKA JABIRU J2M

Blue

True

Trakka’s medium-wheelbase AWD Jabiru J2M is truly off-road capable _ even in blue.. …

I

n April’s issue we brought you a report on the Jabiru J2 AWD, the off-road version of Trakka’s ‘road-going’ Jabiru, built on the latest Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. Traditionally only available in long wheelbase, Mercedes-Benz Australia now offers the AWD Sprinter in medium wheel-base and it’s this version that off-road guru Allan Whiting has been itching to get his hands on.

Trakka calls the shorter Jabiru the J2M – M for Medium – and it’s built around the 3665 mm wheelbase Sprinter. By comparison, the normal J2 version uses the 4325 mm wheelbase Sprinter. Overall length is obviously shorter as well: 5932 mm (plus the length of the optional spare wheel carrier), compared with 7125 mm. However, gross vehicle mass (GVM) remains

205


TESTED the same at 4.1-tonnes, giving the J2M more payload capacity: 1232kg, compared with 847kg. Incidentally, the ‘2’ in J2 is the number of people it can legally carry. Trakka also makes a Jabiru J4 on the long wheelbase Sprinter which, you guessed it, can legally transport four. However, it’s only available in two-wheel drive. Like the larger four-seater, the J2M comes with an across-van double bed. By contrast, the J2 has longitudinal single beds that can convert into a larger king. Because the Sprinter isn’t the widest van available (that distinction goes to the Fiat Ducato) the J2M and J4 models are enhanced by a custom ‘pod’ window on the right hand side of the van that provides enhanced bed length. The J2M’s perceived customer base is the travelling couple with more adventurous destinations in mind. Although its minimum ground clearance of 210 mm,

with standard tyres, is the same as the larger Jabirus, the effective ground clearance is better. That’s thanks to a superior ramp-over angle (the clearance beneath the belly of the machine when traversing obstacles, thanks to the shorter wheelbase). Also, it’s better payload figure allows for increased fuel and supplycarrying capacity, and heavier trailer ball weights. Trakka fitted our test vehicle up with the expected onand-off-road options such adventurers might want: Alfresco Pack ($3000); non-metallic special colour ($950); electric sliding door ($1550); adaptive cruise control ($1200); 2000-watt inverter ($1370); 17-inch aluminium wheels and MT tyre upgrade ($5100); underbody protection pack ($2450); rear door spare wheel carrier ($3820) and fuel container and mount ($950). That list took the total RRP to $215,390 including on road costs in NSW, from a J2M base price of $195,000.

206


TESTED

Although the J2M version gains no mechanical or electronic traction improvement over the larger vans, its appearance and dimensions encourage more off-road use. That’s frustrating in a way, because of MercedesBenz’ stubborn refusal to fit a centre diff lock – a feature that every other 4WD in the world has – or across-axle locks that are available on Sprinters in Europe and Africa, means that the Sprinter’s potential cannot be realised by Australian buyers. We’ve even gone to the length of trying to import M-B-factorysanctioned parts from Oberaigner – the M-B Partner that produces Sprinter 4WD components – but they refuse to export them to Australia.

207


TESTED

On and Off-Road

T

he shorter wheelbase of the J2M Jabiru doesn’t affect the ride quality compared with longer wheelbase models. It is one of the best riding and handling vans we’ve ever tested, with excellent performance, almost imperceptible gear changes, powerful braking and great all-around vision. The Jabiru handled corrugations and potholes with ease; only saucepan-sized holes causing bottoming at the front end. On our off-road test course the Jabiru J2M went where the J2 wouldn’t, thanks to being more manoeuvrable and with better belly clearance. However, slippery sections had the traction control working overtime, doing work that simple mechanical traction aids would render unnecessary. Nonetheless, we reckon most Jabiru J2M buyers will be satisfied with its ability to handle fire trails, outback roads and tricky campsite access tracks. As for the Jabiru’s fit, finish and functionality: they’re legendary Trakka features that we love. Check out our video test below.

208


SPECS GENERAL Make

Trakka

Model

Jabiru J2M

Type

Van conversion

Berths

2

Approved Seating

2

Licence

Car

VEHICLE Make/Model

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter MWB

Engine

3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel

Power

140 kW @ 3500

Torque

440 Nm @ 1500 rpm

Transmission

7-speed Auto/all-wheel drive

Safety

ABS, ESP, 6 air bags & more

Fuel

93 L

Pros...

WEIGHTS Tare Weight

2785 kg

Gross Vehicle Mass

4100 kg

Braked Towing Capacity

2000 kg

DIMENSIONS Overall Length

6.09 m (20' ")

Overall Width

2.06 m (6' 9")

Overall Height

2.85 m (9' 4”)/3.0 m (9’ 10”) with aircon

Internal Height

1.92 m (6’ 4”)

Bed

1.86 m x 1.45 m (6' 1" x 4' 9”)

Cons...

EQUIPMENT Slide-Out

No

Awning

Electric

Entry Steps

Electric

Cooker

Webasto Diesel

Rangehood Sink Fridge Microwave Lighting 12 V Sockets/USB Outlets Air Conditioner Space Heater Hot Water System Toilet Shower CAPACITIES Batteries Solar LPG Fresh Water Grey Water Hot Water Toilet PRICE - drive-away From As Tested

No Round stainless steel w folding tap 12V Compressor Yes 12 V LED Yes/Yes Opt Webasto Diesel Webasto Diesel Retractable Cassette Wet/Switch Mode Bathroom

Warranty

3 years/ Unlimited km

Off-road ability Ride quality Features M-B Safety Quality build Payload Towing ability

Expensive No diff-lock Contact Trakka Pty Ltd 9 Beaumont Rd Mt Kuring-gai NSW 2080 T: (02) 8294-8590 E: sales@trakka.com.au W: www.trakka.com.au

1 x 200 Ah Lithium 200 W No LPG fitted to vehicle 140 L 80 L 10 L 16 L (cassette) A$195,000 A$215,390

209


TRAVEL

JABIRU AWD Off the Beaten Track

20


VW

• Crafter • T6.1


FEATURE

Crafter Comeback I

n the van-conversion market Fiat’s Ducato rules the roost, followed by the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. VW used to be a player and you can still see some ex-rental Crafter’s running around, but there were problems with the model’s clunky automated manual transmission and Crafter quietly faded from the RV scene some five or more years ago. That model Crafter was a collaboration between Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz and it was a twinunder-the-skin with the Sprinter. Both were built on the same production line, with Crafters receiving Volkswagen engines, transmissions and trim items on a separate line later in the manufacturing process. Mercedes-Benz eventually called time on the arrangement as Sprinter production outstripped supply and it needed all capacity for itself. While that left Volkswagen without a mid-range light commercial vehicle for a few years, it's turned out to be a very 212


FEATURE

good thing for the German giant and consumers, as the clean-sheet Crafter is a cracker. Actually, the new Crafter is another collaboration, but this time an internal one between Volkswagen and its heavy-truck subsidiary MAN (which sells it in Europe as the MAN TGE). Starting with a clean sheet has enabled use of the same design language, outside and in, as Volkswagen's passenger car range. This not only means the new Crafter is easily identifiable as VW, it gives it the look and feel of an upmarket European vehicle. Buyers transitioning from a Volkswagen or other Euro-brand will feel quite at home, and while the size might take a little adjusting to they’re not going to feel like they've paid big money to ‘just’ drive a delivery van. In Australia the new Crafter is available in three roof heights and wheelbases, and with front, rear, or allwheel drive, which VW calls 4Motion. On paper, the super-high-roof extra-long-wheelbase with 4Motion appears to be perfect for conversion, but apparently that isn’t the case. That's because the roof is a fibreglass pod that can't take the weight of solar panels, an airconditioner, etc. Next contender is the high-roof, which is only available in long wheelbase, although with the option of 4Motion. Unfortunately, accommodating the driveshaft for the 4Motion system raises the floor 100 mm (4”), thus compromising internal headroom too greatly. That leaves the high-roof front-wheel drive Crafter – available in medium and long-wheelbases – as the best motorhome choices, at least for volume manufacturers. Expect to see some custom and lowvolume versions of the other models, however. 213


FEATURE

Volkswagen obviously has an eye on the motorhome market again and in Europe and New Zealand the first new Crafter coach-builts have emerged. One wonders when we’ll see the first in Australia? The sole engine option is a choice between the singleturbo 103 kW/430 Nm and bi-turbo 130 kW/410 Nm versions of the Volkswagen’s 2.0-litre diesel. Both require AdBlue to met Euro 6 emissions standards and the 18-litre tank should be good for 5000-plus km. Fuel tank capacity is small at 75-litres, but at touring speeds a range of 750-1000 km should be realistic, depending on terrain, load and driving style.

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FEATURE

A lengthy options list is offered – Volkswagen claims more than 100 extra features are available – although they mainly focus on the commercial load carrying capabilities of the vehicle. Safety is an obvious priority, but not at any price. Some of the most useful safety and driver assistance systems are optional – things like adaptive cruise control, lane keeping and selfparking. Of course all the basics are covered and then some, including front and rear parking sensors and an eight-inch touchscreen with Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Crafter is now backed by Volkswagen’s new five year/ unlimited kilometre warranty, although it only comes with 12-months roadside assistance for some reason.

Match it with VW’s $2300, 5-year Care Plan that covers scheduled servicing at 12 month/20,000 km intervals and you have a winner. Although the Care Plan must be purchased prior to the first service, it’s still a lot of budgetary peace of mind for $460 per year for the whole warranty period. Having emerged from its ugly duckling years, Crafter appears set to again become a familiar face in the local motorhome scene, and likely a more successful one at that. That's good for consumers because it will keep Fiat and Mercedes-Benz on their toes, while also providing conversion companies – and therefore buyers – with new options.

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RELEASED

VW T6.1 Much anticipated, the facelifted VW Transporter is well positioned to continue its success... by Allan Whiting of OutbackTravelAustralia.com.au

W

ith the release of the pop-top-roof ‘Beach’ variant and the availability of after-market campervan furniture for the Transporter, there’s renewed interest in the Crafter’s smaller sibling. VW’s Transporter 6.1 range became available for the general public to order from August 2020. Standard equipment across what is virtually the 2021 range includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, Front Assist with City Emergency Brake (CEB),

Crosswind Assist, Side Assist including blind spot monitoring and Rear Traffic Alert, Multi-Collision Brake and, in some models, an intuitive digital cockpit. The following summary covers those variants that have 4Motion 4WD fitted.

The Transporter T6.1 van range consists of short and long-wheelbase models that have a choice of 110 kW or 146 kW diesel power, with a 7-speed automated manual (DSG) transmission. 216


RELEASED

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tandard equipment comprises: H7 twin halogen headlights; daytime running lights (DRL); sliding door, left side; lifting rear tailgate with window and wiper/washer; 16-inch or 17-inch steel wheels; fullsized steel spare wheel; height-adjustable driver’s seat with lumbar support; leather-wrapped steering wheel with height and reach adjustment; rubber flooring in the cab; electromechanical power steering; 165 mm (6.5-inch) display with USB/AUX/SD input and Bluetooth; a pair of USB-C ports and App-Connect; cruise control with speed limiter; remote central locking; electric windows and heated, folding mirrors; air conditioning; auto headlights; rain-sensing wipers; load compartment locking from cabin and key fob; Hill-Start Assist (HSA); Multi-Collision Brake (MCB); Electronic Stabilisation Programme (ESP); Traction Control System (TCS); Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and Brake Assist (BA); driver and passenger front and side/head airbags; reverse parking sensors and rear view camera.

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RELEASED

Factory or DIY

T

he factory-built campervan – the California Beach – comes with the 110 kW engine, DSG transmission, electro-hydraulic lifting roof, two powered sliding doors, rear three-place seat, second battery, cabin heater, SatNav, two-tone ‘retro’ paint option, 18-inch aluminium wheels and swivelling front seats. RRP is $94,990, which sounds a lot until you do the DIY exercise and discover that having all this kit, with a VW warranty, is not bad value for money.

For those who want to custom-fit a Transporter into a campervan there’s plenty of kit available. Best known is the Van Essa furniture from Germany that can be installed permanently or fitted to an optional floor-rail system that allows rapid conversion from ‘tradies van’ to campervan. For more information on the new T6.1 visit the Volkswagen Australia website HERE. 218


WINDSOR • Daintree


TASTED: WINDSOR DAINTREE

House of

W*I*N*D*S*O*R Is the Windsor Daintree a house-on-wheels fit for bargain conscious royalty, asks Richard Robertson...

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TASTED

W

indsor Caravans is a name many will be familiar with. The company, which was part of the troubled Fleetwood Corporation in Perth and also makers of Coromal Caravans, sold both brands to Brisbane’s Apollo RV for $1M in 2019. Apollo is primarily a motorhome and campervan manufacturer and at February’s 2020 Victorian Caravan Camping and Touring Supershow I came across a curios sight: a Windsor Daintree motorhome sitting alone is a sea of Windsor caravans. Clearly, investigation was required… Talking to the Man from Windsor, it transpired that Apollo has spied a market niche not filled by its near-invisible locally-made Winnebagos nor its under-rated and under-marketed Adria range, imported from Slovenia. Enter the first motorhome in the Windsor brand’s history.

221


TASTED

Cheap and Cheery?

L

et’s cut to the chase: The Daintree is a shot across the bow of Jayco’s Conquest; a torpedo towards UniCampa and a broadside – well, you get the picture. So the question is, is it okay? Firstly, let's define what the Daintree is: an entry-level 6.58 m (21’7”) 2-berth B-class motorhome. Featuring an electric roof bed, generous lounge/dinette, decent kitchen and a full-width rear bathroom, it packs a lot into its compact dimensions. And priced at the Melbourne show at $103,990 drive away – it now lists for $105,990 on the Windsor website – it also appears to be a compelling value proposition. So what’s the catch? When you look at the brands of chassis that motorhome manufacturers in Australia build on, you usually see Fiat, Iveco and Mercedes-Benz. In the past you also saw Ford, but the Transit fell from favour and despite the current Transit being very good manufacturers haven’t embraced it, which is a

great disappointment. Then occasionally you come across Renault – the Master to be specific – and it's always at the budget end of the market. Despite being reasonably popular in Europe, the Renault Master has never made real inroads in Australia, and that's despite it having a smoother and more driver-friendly automated manual transmission (AMT) than the Fiat Ducato. That the Daintree rides on a Renault Master is no surprise – and no bad thing. Masters sold in Australia to date have been the run-out model now superseded in Europe and are definitely last-generation in terms of interior style and design. However, the engine is strong, the transmission proven and there are a surprising number of Master delivery vehicles running around suburban Australia that prove the model’s durability. Its biggest limitation is a limited dealer and service network, but if you’re buying new you’re covered by a three year warranty and if something goes wrong, getting you to a service centre is their problem.

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While the Master’s cab interior is grey and plasticky, the ergonomics are okay and the driving experience entirely reasonable.

Standard equipment includes remote central locking, electric windows and mirrors, cab air-conditioning, dual front airbags, cruise control, anti-lock brakes, traction control, stability control, reversing camera, sound system, internally adjustable headlights and decent storage.

Power comes from a 2.3-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel that produces an unremarkable 110 kW and 350 Nm, but it feels stronger than that. As mentioned it drives through an AMT, which has six speeds and sends power to the front wheels. Fuel capacity is a generous 100-litres and with a tare weight of 3085 kg and a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of just 3800 kg, it not only provides a decent payload but should have a 1000-km or thereabouts driving range at touring speeds.

When Renault finally exhausts its stocks of right-hand drive Master cab-chassis and the much improved new version lands here (pictured below at the Dusseldorf, Show in2019), it will be interesting to see if it retains its price advantage and entry-level status in the motorhome world.

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TASTED

Body Matters

I

have to say I think Apollo has done a good job packaging the Daintree. Whilst thoroughly conventional, it's a good-looking little motorhome and the perfect size for a solo traveller or well organised couple. It's also worth remembering Apollo cut its teeth building campervans and motorhomes for the rental market, which means they know how to build things to last (our Project Polly is an example).

Standard equipment is impressive and includes a 3.2 kW reverse-cycle rooftop air-conditioner, 20-litre gas/electric hot water system, 188-litre three-way 2-door fridge-freezer, 25-litre microwave, cooker with 3 gas/1 electric burners, range hood,150-watt solar panel, 100 amp-hour deep-cycle house battery, LED lighting, Bluetooth sound system, 4-metre wind-out awning, barbecue gas bayonet fitting, security screen door, 110-litres of fresh water and 55-litres of grey, an external hot and cold shower, town water connection, 60-cm (24”) LED TV/DVD and more.

Body construction is of single-piece structural composite-panel walls, roof and floor, with gel coated interior and exterior panelling. Euro-style double glazed acrylic windows are used all ‘round and the designers There are manufacturers of more expensive vehicles have managed to incorporate a couple of external who could learn a thing or two from this equipment list storage lockers for things like chairs, table, hoses, etc. about how to provide buyer value – at any price point…

224


TASTED

Inside Story

S

tepping inside through the mid-positioned entry door reveals a pleasing story: You turn left to walk past the pair of inwards-facing lounges and dinette table, and into the cab with its swivelling seats, or right, to pass through the kitchen and into the full-width rear bathroom. There’s storage above the cab, while the electric drop-down bed runs east-west, above the lounges, and headroom when retracted is quite reasonable. Decor is plain but simple, with a combination of cream/ white walls and cabinetry plus dark grey upholstery and drawer fronts. The floor has a light woodgrain finish and overall the Daintree looks and feels modern. There’s also a surprising amount of space in the lounge/dinette, which I think could probably accommodate six people plus another couple in the swivelled cab seats.

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TASTED

The kitchen is a real surprise, with excellent bench space that includes a hinged lid over the cooker that's actually a part of the benchtop. The main kitchen unit starts opposite the entry door and runs along the driver’s-side wall to the bathroom. The two-door fridge-freezer sits across the aisle in a tall cabinet, with storage above, in the corner against the bathroom wall. Between it and the entry door is another tall unit, with a hanging wardrobe up-top and three drawers below. The TV is nestled high up on the wardrobe end panel and easily viewable from the lounge seats, cab or when in bed. The bathroom is another surprise in such a small vehicle. Being full width it has room for a separate shower plus plenty of bench and storage space, a big mirror and an easily accessible cassette toilet. There’s also room and privacy enough to do what you need to do‌

226


TASTED

Drop-down beds are always a compromise, lacking as they do the niceties of privacy, bedside tables, drawers and reading lights. However, as they go the Daintree’s is pretty reasonable and lowers considerably for easy access. It’s key operated via a switch by the entry door and can be left made-up when raised if desired (and you don’t have a million pillows – I know, it’s a girl thing).

“There are manufacturers of more expensive vehicles who could learn a thing or two from this equipment list about how to provide buyer value – at any price point…”

There’s good ventilation thanks to windows at both ends, but you’d need to be careful sitting up for a cuppa or when reading that you don’t lean on the one behind you. As I said, it’s a compromise…

227


TASTED

What I Think Since February the Daintree has been joined by two new Windsor motorhomes: the Fiat Ducato-based Simpson (centre, above) and Flinders – each well priced and equipped. Getting back to the Daintree, however, if you think I was impressed by it, you're right. In a 6.5 m motorhome it provides almost Tardis-like living space, a high level of equipment and a truly practical floor plan at a price that is near unbeatable. It also looks good inside and out, so really, what isn't there to like? I can hear some howling at the fact it's on a relatively unknown cab-chassis that you wouldn't touch with a barge pole, but this is the 21st century and there is

no such thing as a bad motorhome base vehicle. The Renault Master is backed by a 3-year/200,000 km warranty and comes with 3 years roadside assistance. Windsor/Apollo backs the Daintree with a five-year structural warranty and three-year interior warranty, and has sixteen hundred-plus service centres Australia-wide. Anyone looking at a new compact motorhome should check out the Daintree – especially those looking at a van conversion motorhome. It appears to be well built, comes from one of the most experienced manufacturers in the country and I think provides almost outrageous value. Indeed in these economically challenging post-Covid days it could be just the thing for value conscious royalty – like you…

228


SPECS GENERAL Make

Windsor

Model

Daintree

Type

B-class

Berths

2

Approved Seating

2

Licence

Car

VEHICLE Make/Model

Renault Master

Engine

2.3-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel

Power

110 kW @ 3500

Torque

350 Nm @ 1500 rpm

Transmission

6-speed AMT/front-wheel drive

Safety

ABS, ESP, 2 air bags & more

Fuel

100 L

Pros... Compact Great value Well equipped Spacious Roomy bathroom Big kitchen Warranty

WEIGHTS Tare Weight

3085 kg

Gross Vehicle Mass

3800 kg

Braked Towing Capacity

N/A

DIMENSIONS Overall Length

6.58 m (21' 7")

Overall Width

2.31 m (6' 7")

Overall Height

3.10 m (10' 2”)

Internal Height

2.07 m (6’ 9”)

Main Bed

1.90 m x 1.34 m (6' 4" x 4' 5”)

EQUIPMENT Slide-Out

No

Awning

Wind-out

Entry Steps

Electric

Cooker

Dometic 3 x LPG/1 x Electric

Rangehood Sink Fridge Microwave Lighting 12 V Sockets/USB Outlets Air Conditioner Space Heater Hot Water System Toilet Shower CAPACITIES Batteries Solar LPG Fresh Water Grey Water Hot Water Toilet PRICE - drive-away From Warranty

Yes Round stainless steel w fixed tap 188 L 2-Door 12/240V/LPG Yes 12 V LED Yes/Yes 2.3 kW Reverse-cycle Opt Swift LPG/Electric Cassette Separate Cubicle

Cons... Renault network Not much else! Manufacturer

Apollo RV T: 1800 777-779 E: info@apollocamper.com W: windsorcaravans.com.au Find a Dealer HERE

1 x 100 Ah 150 W 1 x 9 kg 110 L 55 L 20 L 17 L (cassette) A$105,99 Click for Details

229


WIRRAWAY • Model Overview


REVIEWED

BESPOKE

beauties Y

ou wouldn't pick Mildura, on the banks of the Murray in far North Western Victoria, as a motorhome manufacturing centre of excellence. And yet it is, because it’s home to Wirraway Motor Homes, a small-volume semi-bespoke manufacturer with a big reputation. Wirraway is an Aboriginal word meaning ‘challenge’ and for owners Rob and Amanda Tonkin I’m certain there’s a measure of irony in it. For the business, the Wirraway name and logo is a tribute to the first Australian-built military aircraft of World War II (a twoseat trainer) and the No 2 Operational Training Unit that flew them and was stationed in Mildura from 1942 to 1946. However, if you look closely at the logo you’ll see it’s spelled Wirr-Away, a clever and subtle play on words for a motorhome manufacturer.

by Richard Robertson

Rob and Amanda were building motorhomes in Mildura before I first met them back in the early 2000s, while working for the now-defunct Caravan & Motorhome magazine. Rob’s an engineer with an eye for innovation and while the rest of the RV manufacturing world has ebbed and flowed in the intervening years, Wirraway has navigated a steady course and in the process, built a loyal following. 231


REVIEWED

Wirraway trainer

RAAF 2 OTU Mildura circa 1944

Unlike major manufacturers with stock models and a rigid list of options, to Wirraway’s ‘stock’ designs Rob will add or change pretty much anything as long as it’s practical (or you can afford it!). That makes Wirraway something of a hybrid manufacturer, sitting between the mass market and custom one-offs. The positioning works well because it provides some economies of scale and gives buyers a starting point from which to develop their dream motorhome.

232


REVIEWED

Wirra Ways…

A

ll manufacturers have their ‘signatures’ and Wirraway is no different. Inside, that has long been the meticulously crafted Tasmanian myrtle timber finish (although gloss white is now offered). Outside, there’s the unmistakable paint scheme, the unique, toploading storage drawers and the pull-out barbecue, to name a few. Rob has long been a fan of the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and it powers most of the range. The very latest Sprinter 519 CDI adds upgraded technical features and now, 4x4 is available across the Sprinterbased range. They also come with a 5 year/250,000 km warranty and you can pre-pay 1 of 3 service plans if you want to ensure it’s looked after by experts.

Iveco’s big Daily 70C17 is a recent addition and is backed by a 3 year/200,000 km warranty. It’s the flagship of the range and provides increased load carrying and therefore more features, but for most buyers the Sprinter will be the vehicle of choice. Upgrade options across the range include a four-point hydraulic levelling system, bull bar, towbar, washing machine, inverter, satellite TV, diesel heater, UHF radio, cabin sidesteps and twin beds (a queen bed is standard). You might think some of these items should be standard on a premium motorhome, but the bottom line is everybody's needs are different and there is little to be gained by adding superfluous equipment, cost and weight.

233


REVIEWED

Wirraway 260

T

he original Wirraway model, the 260 is a 26 ft (7.9 m) B-class coachbuilt that’s slide-out-free. The layout has a front dinette, mid kitchen and bathroom, and rear bedroom. Gross vehicle mass (GVM) is 4490 kg, so it can be driven on a standard car licence, and base price starts at $209,000 plus on-roads.

234


REVIEWED

Wirraway 260 EuroStyle

P

hysically the same size and shape as the ‘base’ 260, the EuroStyle brings some Euro panache to the layout. Retaining the same swivelling cab-seat/ dinette arrangement up-front and rear bedroom options as the 260, it switches things up in the middle. There you’ll find an L-shaped kitchen and a split bathroom. Base price remains the same at $209,000 plus onroads.

235


REVIEWED

Wirraway 260 SL

T

he 260 SL features a near full-length slideout on the driver’s side, adds a full-width rear bathroom, east-west bed and revised dinette. The slide-out makes it feel much more open plan, but does sacrifice the bedroom privacy of the non-slide 260 models. It also offers the option of a high gloss Classic White Interior in place of the traditional timber finish. Mechanically, the Sprinter’s GVM increases to 5500 kg, meaning a Light Rigid (LR) driver’s licence is required. Naturally, the starting price increases, to $239,000 plus on-roads.

236


REVIEWED

Wirraway Evolution 280 SL

A

ptly named, the Evolution 280 SL sees length increase to 28 ft (8.57 m) on the Iveco Daily 70C17, plus the GVM increase to 7000 kg. Essentially a larger 260 SL, the 280 SL features a full-length slide, expands the floorplan and redesigns some of the layout, especially around the cab/dinette. It also increases payload, of course, and requires an LR licence. The starting price for this imposing motorhome is $281,750 plus on-roads.

237


REVIEWED

Final Thoughts

I

f Wirraways were bread they would be artisan bakery sourdough, a refreshing change in a world of supermarket sliced-white. Ongoing evolution and subtle innovation are the brand’s hallmark, rather than change for change’s sake. It means a 10-plus-year-old Wirraway looks remarkably like a new one – right down to the signature paint scheme – and that's no bad thing (especially when it comes to resale). The product has long been highly developed and refined, as well as highly regarded. If you're in the market for a quality, hand-built motorhome it's worth making the trip to Mildura (when possible) or catching up with Rob when the show circuit reopens. Also, be sure to check out Wirraway’s website and its galleries. To read our review of two Wirraway models, check out the surprisingly capable 260 EuroStyle 4x4 here or the impressive new Evolution 280 SL here. They’re a couple of bespoke beauties sure to impress…

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2020 iMotorhome Magazine Yearbook  

A giant 241 pages of motorhome and campervan road tests, tastes and previews. The 2020 iMotorhome Magazine Yearbook is a must-have for ever...

2020 iMotorhome Magazine Yearbook  

A giant 241 pages of motorhome and campervan road tests, tastes and previews. The 2020 iMotorhome Magazine Yearbook is a must-have for ever...

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