With some major changes, Crusader’s Excalibur SCV adds a fair few luxuries to an already excellent van to take home a category win.
Image credits: Phil Cerbu, Cam Inniss, Marcus Cozzolino and Matt Williams
TIM VAN DUYL
Back to back! Sing it with me! Back to back! Yep, Crusader have done it again with a class-win at BLA CZone’s Best Aussie Vans 2019. In Echuca/Moama last year, Max Mayo and the Victorian team behind Crusader sent the Excalibur Prince, a luxury touring van measuring out at 22 feet. This year we had the Excalibur SCV, a limited edition luxury touring van with a 22-foot body — familiar then, but with some notable differences.
Crusader won yet another award with the SCV, this time 2019 Manufacturer of the Year from the Caravan Industry Association, or CIA for short. The CIA’s award focuses on the practices behind the scenes, things like the company's quality control procedures, health and safety for its staff and contractors and dedication to manufacturing regulations.
How the SCV differentiates itself from the Prince seen last year is substantial with an Intel chassis made of tougher steel, a new draw bar design, a bigger fridge and bigger TVs to name a few, though it keeps its single piece roof and floor and fully insulated composite walls.
So, we had an award-winning company provide a similar caravan to what won last year. It was always going to be tough for the competition to beat and they gave it a red-hot go with the runner-up, the offroad Highline Matrix, finishing only half of a point out of a possible 450 behind the Crusader — this year marks the closest we have ever seen.
Max did not make it down this year, which is a real shame as he is one of the kindest and more sincere people in the industry, but his choice to send the founders of the Crusader Fan Club was inspired. Shelley and David Ridgley helped the judges understand what it was to be a Crusader owner as well as helping with the specs and key attributes. You have our thanks Shelly and David.
Crusader promoted their participation at BAV beforehand, and it was evident at the Showcase with some visitors coming specifically to see the SCV, including the sister of a recent WA purchaser who wanted to see what had her brother so excited. Like the judges, the public appreciated the tall ceilings and separation between the living, communal and ablutions areas that the slideaway doors created, both of which no doubt helped give the SCV the highest score across all caravans at BAV for Liveability.
But to win takes more than a single high score in one field and the Crusader did exceptionally well across a number of criteria. It stood out for Value for Money and Build Quality, as well as Innovation and X-Factor to give a strong judges average score of 65.4.
Well done Max, Shelly, David and the team at Crusader Caravans on winning yet again.
With a price point of $89,000, the Crusader is at the top end of its category at this year's Best Aussie Vans. The Excalibur SCV is well-finished and roomy, with 21’4” of interior length for a couple to enjoy. I liked the quality hardware on the joinery, the close fit of the comfortable upholstery and the door to close off the bedroom, all of which add to the more upmarket feeling.
Vans in this size range are among the most popular in the on-road touring category, so competition is fierce. Couples will be attracted to the Excalibur’s fresh look and modern exterior as well as contemporary features including the Wi-Fi lighting, the electric entry step and little extras, like ample USB points throughout the van.
Described as a semi-offroad van, travel conditions include tar roads and unpaved roads that are reasonable for most vans. They offer a two-year factory warranty and a five-year structural warranty. Appliances are covered by the relevant supplier, and I’m told a dedicated Customer relations and warranty team and a network of service agents make every effort to ease the process.
Tare weight is 2610kg so with a payload of 690kg, the ATM would be over the Trailblazer's capacity, but well within limits when empty for the test. We had no issues, even in the strong wind, and I found no jerking or harshness through the 50mm ball. The Tuffride independent suspension successfully soaked up the undulations. Although we didn't have an issue during the tow test, I felt the decorative plate on the drawbar could be vulnerable over any high ground.
The construction of the 6.59m (21ft 7in) Crusader van is a mix of more traditional and newer technology. Forming the base of the van is a galvanised box section designed chassis with 150mm x 50mm (6in x 2in) used for both the main and drawbar rails, the latter item running right back to the suspension mounts. Between the main rails, the 95-litre water tanks are fitted fore and aft of the suspension mounts and the grey tank is fitted towards the rear. Most pipework and cabling is strapped up out of the way, but the grey water drain does hang down a bit.
The van is described as semi-offroad and hence is fitted with Tuffride independent suspension — trailing arms, coil springs and shock absorber. It does, though, have a ball coupling.
Somewhat odd was a decorative item on the front drawbar. With its low position, it seemed peculiarly vulnerable to road and track damage. Designed to prevent the metal edges causing a foot injury, it was a bit excessive. Also on the drawbar is a good-sized storage box and jerry can holders, both made from black alloy checkerplate which matches the lower wall area of the van.
For the body construction, a Meranti timber frame is used and the walls, body and floor are all built from composite fibreglass. The roof is a one piece, 30mm thick item to minimise leaks, with high density polystyrene foam for insulation against hot and cold weather. Similarly, the out of sight floor is a one piece, 42mm thick item and designed to be load sharing, so that all the cabinetry fits together properly, as well as an insulant. Mobicool double glazed awning windows are fitted all round, and the habitation door is a Camec with a separate security screen.
Inside the van, the front island bed/full width rear bathroom was mostly familiar, but having the fridge butting up against the bedroom area meant, if needed, it was simple to close off the bedroom with a partition off the opposite side and a sliding door.
VIV AND RON MOON
The Crusader Excalibur is designed for long distance touring and is rated as a semi-offroader, which means it can wander down a graded dirt road to such places as Gregory National Park in far north Queensland or out to the backroads to Mt Augustus in central Western Australia.
Supported on a coil sprung Tuffride independent suspension featuring a single shock absorber on each of the four wheels, this tandem axle caravan proved to be stable and towed well on our bitumen road circuit. There was a little movement at times from the 50mm ball coupling and I would have liked to see a better offroad type coupling fitted. Still, for long distance trips on the various road surfaces you meet around Australia, the Excalibur fits the bill.
With two 95-litre water tanks, the Excalibur carries more than enough for two people (which this van is designed for) on the road anywhere in Aus, depending on how often and how long you use the shower for. Fitted with a 95-litre grey water tank as standard gives you the option of staying at freecamps and the like without dumping dirty water straight on the ground — which most councils frown on!
Add to that its storage capability and a monster 224-litre fridge and you have a recipe for happy campers touring the highways and byways of Australia for a month or more.
The 12V system, also important when you are off the grid, consists of one 120Ah AGM battery charged by two gutsy 170W solar panels as standard. Our van on test had an extra battery, and the second one is an extra option we'd go for. Still the one battery you do get as standard fare would keep you running for a day or two with little trouble.
The gas system is pretty standard coming with two 9kg gas bottles designed to keep the fridge running, the stove cooking and the hot water bubbling for quite a few days.
Then there is the aforementioned large fridge, the excellent storage drawers and cupboards and the great bench space, all of which makes an extended stay away from the crowds an enjoyable matter.
There are times when it is the big, loud and extravagant accessories and features that have the biggest impact or hold your attention for just that little bit longer. Other times, it's the subtlety of a design that makes you nod your head and think to yourself, “That's a bloody good idea. Why don't more manufacturers do that?”
When I was casting my eye over the Excalibur SCV from Crusader Caravans, it was certainly the latter case for me.
Sure, it was another dual axled, big white box with powder coated black checkerplate protecting the lower section from stray rocks flicked up when travelling down the occasional dirt road. Sure, it has a heap of solar capacity, an AGM battery and both fresh and grey water tanks for getting, and staying, off grid for a bit longer. Sure, it has an impressive amount of payload and an equally impressive array of storage solutions both inside and out. Sure, the Excalibur SCV runs a standard interior layout with the bed at the front, kitchen/dinette in the middle and the ensuite down the back.
But it was a subtle difference that got me nodding my head. You see, this caravan has a sliding door that separates the bedroom from the kitchen/dinette area.
While you lose the open plan layout you normally get in a two-berth van, you get it back in spades by having a totally private bedroom. Based on my own personal experiences, especially when my wife and I travel around in motorhomes, this would be an absolute godsend. While I like to get up early for sunrise, my wife doesn't mind an extra hour of shut eye. The Excalibur SCV also comes with two 32” TVs as standard, so you could even watch different shows at the same time.
Another little feature that the Excalibur brought to BAV 2019 was the use of remote switching for the van's LED lighting. Three portable switch plates enable you to control both interior and exterior lighting from the palm of your hand. Dimmable interior lighting allows you to create a bit of mood in the evening as well.
In a world where we seem to need power for everything, it was great to see this van using the LED reading lights with incorporated USB charging points because you can never have too many of them.
VALUE FOR MONEY
SUITABILITY FOR INTENDED TOURING
HOLDEN HAULED — Ged Bulmer
Fuel Consumption: 17.0L/100km
Tow Rating: 3/5
The Crusader felt significantly more comfortable behind the Trailblazer than some other vans, moving the vehicle around less and exhibiting less yaw movement. The steering also felt a little more direct despite this van’s heavier 2830kg tare weight and 210kg ball weight, both of which placed it equal sixth towards the heavier end of this group. The extra weight did seem to sit the van down a bit more, possibly because it was better at resisting the constant buffeting cross winds. While trailer stability was improved by the extra weight, the extra kilos didn’t seem to dent the performance of the engine and drivetrain, which remained resolute and handled the rig easily. However, the 17.0L/100km fuel consumption placed the Excalibur mid field (4th) for thirst, while an average speed of 55.6km/h also placed it around the middle of the pack.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Overall length: 9m (29ft 6in)
External body length: 6.6m (21ft 8in)
External body width: 2.5m (8ft 2in)
Travel height: 3m (10ft 2in)
Interior height: 2m (6ft 6in)
Tare: 2564kg (estimated)
Ball weight: 214kg
Frame: Meranti timber
Cladding: Composite panel
Chassis: Gunmetal grey Intel 3mm box steel rated at 450MPA
Suspension: Tuffride Independent 3.3kg
Coupling: AL-KO 50mm ball
Brakes: 10in electric
Battery: 1 x 120Ah deep cycle
Solar: 2 x 170W
Air-conditioner: Ibis 4
Gas: 2 x 9kg
Water: 2 x 95L (fresh), 1 x 95L (grey)
Sway control: Optional
External kitchen: Optional
Cooking: Fan-forced Swift oven, cooktop and grill
Fridge: 224L Dometic AES
Bathroom: Oversize internal one-piece shower cubicle and Dometic porcelain toilet
Hot water: Truma gas and electric
Washing machine Qflow 2.5kg front load
No options fitted
PRICE AS SHOWN
$79,990 on road, Vic
To enquire about this caravan and find your local dealer, contact Crusader Caravans, 8 Dreamhaven Court, Epping, Vic 3076. Web: www.crusadercaravans.com.au