There is something satisfying in simplicity on a grand scale. At AL-KO’s Best Aussie Vans 2018, the Crusader Excalibur Prince gave me this feeling. The longest and with the tallest body, looking at the Crusader from any angle it had presence but it was never busy, never overdone. Externally it sits well on its twin axles with the road-centric suspension giving it a friendly height for anyone less mobile but one look inside and your satisfaction levels reach new heights.
It has space aplenty including for the lanky among us as the tall body creates over 2.03m of internal headroom. This added volume cannot be understated as like a high ceiling height in some houses, the added volume multiplies the sense of space the layout has. The space theme continues with good elbow room around the toilet and a full size shower while in the kitchen, clever draws and a 700kg payload give owners room to bring everything needed on their big journey. The only van with a rear club lounge, centre en suite and front bedroom, it reaffirmed my love for the socially minded layout. This is a van for two that value privacy as well as space.
Crusaders Sales and Marketing Manager, Max Mayo, who expertly guided the nearly 10m tow-length through the river gums around Edwards Camp, told us that although the Crusader was entered into the road focussed category, it was more than capable on graded dirt roads and equipped for short off-grid stays. A quick look under and the outline of a 95 litre grey tank complete with washout valves was a welcome sight. Couple this with ample gas, good fresh water reserves and moderate solar and Max’s assertion is right on the money. If you are doing a relaxed lap of the land and want to spend a night or two in our glorious national parks, you have the capacity.
Standouts for the judges were unsurprising in layout and creature comforts. I found them sitting back in the sumptuous club lounge as the day drew on a couple of times, its comfort was well received. A deserving winner in its category, Innovation may not have been the Crusader’s strong point but luxury and fantastic layout were.
JUDGE 1: PETER QUILTY
The Crusader Excalibur Prince offers a dollop of affordable luxury at a tad under $80K. Make no mistake, this is one tough road tourer. The Excalibur will go beyond the call of duty, even when ‘put to the sword’! Its structural soundness is highlighted by a Duratech 6in box steel chassis and A-frame, designed to Crusader’s specification, along with a fully independent Ultra trailing arm suspension. But the Excalibur’s ‘one-piece de resistance’ (apologies for the corny phraseology) are indeed the one-piece composite roof (30mm) and one-piece composite floor (42mm).
The roof incorporates high density polystyrene foam for greater protection against the weather. The fibreglass top skin offers additional protection against hail and other debris such as small branches; in fact, the roof is strong enough to walk on. And it actually extends from the top of the front checkerplate, up and over then down to the bottom checkerplate on the back wall.
Meanwhile, the floor supports the smooth Alupanel walls which in turn support the roof so together they form a flexible load sharing structure aligned perfectly to ensure that all internal fittings such as cabinets and windows fit perfectly into pre-designed locations. It also comprises a top layer of industrial strength vinyl on a one-piece plywood board then a massive 30mm of high density polystyrene foam insulation and lastly a skin of hard-wearing fibreglass which acts as a shield against road debris, mud and other substances. The fibreglass underbody skin and the high density foam act as a reliable insulator against cold or heat creep from the ground.
The Excalibur also ticks the open plan living box. And one has to appreciate the expansive, fully equipped kitchen and higher 80-inch ceiling which generates a sense of space. I also appreciated the split ensuite with separate fibreglass shower cubicle (with drain and grate), ceramic swivel toilet, inset ceramic vanity basin and top-loading washing machine.
All overhead cupboards (12mm European ply and screwed to the wall from the outside) have soft-closing struts and full-width piano hinges for increased strength. And the cupboard openings are finished with rounded mouldings. There’s added convenience in the boudoir courtesy of 12V Sirocco fans mounted on the bedhead sides, plus robe cutouts with double powerpoints and double USB ports. But the clear standout internally is a wraparound rear lounge, with increased depth, that converts to a double berth.
JUDGE 2: JOHN 'BEAR' WILLIS
If there’s just one thing I demand of any accommodation it’s a comfortable seat at the end of a long day. As a mobile writer and photographer, having somewhere to sit down at a desk or table is essential, but then when it’s time to eat and maybe enjoy a few drinks with friends, a big, thickly upholstered club lounge/dinette is just the ticket. It seems that the good folk from Crusader were thinking the same way with their Excalibur Prince.
It’s a large van that reaches out at 9.6 metres overall length and weighs in at a considerable 2763 kg tare and 3500 kg ATM, but only has one Queen bed, making it a big road tourer for a couple who like some space and don’t mind towing it.
This was the only caravan in the BAV field that had a centrally located ensuite that you had to walk through to get to the forward bedroom. I quite liked the layout as guests walk through the rear door to the kitchen and club lounge/dinette leaving the bedroom enclosed at the other end of the van. I know some of the other judges were less keen, but there's a range of layouts available if you’re purchasing.
The Excalibur is really destined as an overnighter or weekender, if you're without external power and water as there's only one battery and 95L of water storage. It does feature 160W solar with regulator but, with only one battery, you’ll be hoping the sun keeps shining.
This regal beauty rides on a traditional galvanised trailer chassis and uses the strong ARB independent trailing arm suspension. While it’s a strong construction, it’s still classified as a tourer, rather than an offroader - particularly with those long dimensions.
As well as the comfy lounge, I loved the available bench space inside, with a large fridge/freezer, oven and grill plus washing machine. The Excalibur has the payload and storage capacity, including a full width tool box, for carrying plenty of toys for an extended holiday.
There were a couple of minor trim issues but overall it has a very good presentation representing reasonable value for money for those crusaders who want some space and comfort.
JUDGE 3: MALCOLM STREET
Crusader’s Excalibur Prince has a club lounge layout, that is a front island bed with a rear club lounge. That’s one of the reasons for the 7.22m (23ft 8in) body length and why the DuraGal box section chassis has 150mm/6in rails and similarly sized (extended) drawbar rails. A point of note on this van is that the plumbing and electrics in the sub-chassis area are all strapped up very neatly out of the way.
Although the Excalibur is a road tourer van, it does have 3500kg rated independent suspension, fitted with coil springs and shock absorbers, and 12 inch electric brakes are fitted to the 15 inch alloy wheels.
Above the chassis, the one-piece, 42mm thick composite floor with under-body fibreglass protection, gives the underneath area a very clean look. The walls are made from 30mm Alupanel composite cladding, to give good body strength and minimise water leaks. For extra protection on the lower walls, black alloy checkerplate is fitted all round, including on the rear wall. Good sized, double glazed acrylic awning windows are fitted all round and the door is a full security item.
Alloy checkerplate plate is also used for the generously sized storage box. Fitted with slides on both sides, it could be used for a generator and/or a chest-style fridge/freezer. Since jerry can holders are fitted to the storage box as well, and there is a front tunnel boot, it would be prudent to do a tow ball mass check when the van is fully loaded.
Inside the van, the ceiling height is a very generous 2.03m (6ft 8in). All the overhead lockers have aluminium extrusions top and bottom and, like the cupboards, they have piano hinges. Post-form bench tops are fitted and the door/drawer handles are easy to grab for opening.
For me, what stood out were the price and the layout. The rear club-lounge layout is a refreshing change from the usual front-bedroom, rear-bathroom layout that is so common these days. It’s a layout that provides plenty of internal storage. Not everyone likes the split bathroom arrangement but I reckon it works well and separates the bedroom and living areas quite effectively.
JUDGE 4: LAURA GRAY
Coming in just a touch below the $80K cut-off for this category, the long Crusader Excalibur Prince is a lot of van to like. Designed as a rough-road, rather than full offroad, tourer, it still comes with the same build and many of the bells and whistles of Crusader’s offroad models.
It’s very well kitted out in terms of self-sufficiency: power, water, solar, etc. - especially for a rough-roader, and I was really impressed to see a grey water tank as standard. We’re starting to expect those on offroaders, finally, but they’re definitely rarer on non-offroad vans.
For me, the Excalibur had the most impressive layout on test - thanks wholly to its wonderful rear club lounge. There’s no doubt this van will be the social hub of whatever caravan park or campsite it’s parked up at. The lounge is huge and, most importantly, supremely comfortable and will attract Happy Hour friends likes bees to honey!
In order to make space for the rear lounge, the Excalibur gets a split central bathroom with the toilet on one side, the shower on the other, with a walkway to the front bedroom in between. This layout has its pros and cons but I think it’s worth it for that excellent club lounge. Did I mention I like club lounges?
The Excalibur’s finish was largely good but some pretty excessive silicon-work under the chassis and very burred edges of the mirrored bulkheads inside really stood out to me. But both are minor issues that could be remedied in the blink of an eye.
Although the van is built with a traditional timber frame,Crusader has gone to extraordinary lengths to improve its strength, with a comprehensive system of bolting and bonding it all together. I still think it’s time to move past timber frames, though.
JUDGES' AVERAGE SCORE: 79.625
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Overall length 9500mm (31’1”)
Internal body length 7137mm (23’5”)
External body width 2430mm (8’0”)
Travel height 3080mm (10’1”)
Internal height 2032mm (6’ 8”)
ATM 3500kg 3500kg
Ball weight 288kg
Frame (if relevant) One piece fully insulated composite roof and floor with underbody protection
Cladding - Smooth alupanel composite
Chassis Duratech 6” box steel chassis and drawbar
Suspension Ultra Duty Independent with shock absorbers and coil spring
Coupling Alko 50mm ball
Brakes 12” Drum
Wheels Alloy 15” x 235” all terrain
Water 2 x 95 litre valved separately
Battery 120ah deep cycle
Solar 160w with regulator
Air-conditioner Ibis3 reverse cycle
Gas 2 x 9kg with protected regulator
Sway control (Yes (brand) /no/optional) No
Kitchen (if relevant)
Cooking Gas electric cooktop, grill and fan forced oven
Fridge Dometic 190 litre AES
Microwave NEC “no carousel” mounted low under the bench
Washing Machine 3kg top loading
Hot water Gas electric hot water with internal start
Shower One piece f
ibreglass shower cubicle with mixer taps
Finscan control panel, gas heater
To enquire about this caravan, please visit www.caravanworld.com.au or phone (03) 9408 0166