Travel has its relaxing moments but isn’t inherently relaxing. Many of us arrive at camp in a state of voluptuous restfulness, ready to unwind a tapestry of undemanding hours spent reading, planning, messaging relatives and listening to the radio. But this calmness balances on a delicate membrane of worn-out tempers and can easily be shattered by a complex setup or a convoluted lay-out.
The Golf Tourer 650 strikes me as a van that’ll make evening hours just as enjoyable as daylight adventures. Its welcoming interior is bound to corral your mood in the right direction and, given the van is capable enough to be unlimiting during the day, you know you’re onto a winner.
WEIGHTS AND SIZES
For a tandem axle van with a body length of 6.5m (21ft 4in), the 2270kg tare is excitingly low. Even after you’ve loaded 600kg to reach the 2870kg ATM, it will remain comfortably within the 3t–3.5t towing limit of most modern wagons and utes.
The ball weight, at tare, is by design less than 10 per cent at 160kg — the less weight there is levering down the vehicle’s rear end, the better contact and steering the tow vehicle’s front tyres will have. With the Tourer, I’m glad to see this bias exercised in moderation. As with all vans, when loading the front you can easily increase the ball weight, but by starting low, you need not be too anxious about it.
With the aforementioned length, plus a 3m (9ft 10in) height and a 2.47m (8ft 1in) width, you’ll likely have to store the Golf 650 Tourer on your driveway, on a flat patch, or in a big shed. Especially narrow or overgrown tracks may be off-limits. The exchange is greater liveability and reduced set-up at camp.
The 1.8m (6ft) chassis is made by the Rollcraft factory here in Australia, which belongs to the same group of companies as Avan. It’s double hot dip galvanised, but only after drilling and construction, unlike some other instances where the chassis is welded together after the original hot dip, therefore creating a corrosion-vulnerable point at the cold-dipped join. The Australian steel used is raw, not recycled, ensuring it has the right carbon content.
The review model featured a circular seven-pin plug, but this can be modified to suit your vehicle’s arrangement. AL-KO dominates external fittings, with an AL-KO swivel hitch, handbrake and jockey wheel, plus optional AL-KO electronic stability control. Similarly, it’s AL-KO down under, with the review model featuring Enduro Touring independent coil spring suspension with one shock to each coil. You can add dual shocks and upgrade to AL-KO Enduro Outback suspension if extended offroad use is intended.
The aluminium composite walls and sleek, unimposing decals lend the van a modern appearance, as does the protective checkerplate lowdown. These 30mm thick walls are CNC-cut for precision and their extruded foam interiors are responsible for the van’s relative lightness and ability to insulate.
Meranti-free, the lower frame is of polyurethane and designed to flex slightly, therefore making the van more tolerant of the inevitable shaking and flexing. Where the interlocking furniture mounts to the interior walls, there’s a polyurethane strengthener.
The roof itself is one-piece, improving the van’s watertightness, in line with the water-resistant closed cell foam in the roof and walls. Similarly, we’re told that the roof and walls are secured every 20cm and that the edges and corners are triple-sealed.
The Golf 650 Tourer features 245/70R16 all-terrain tyres. There’s a spare on the rear bar and an included scissor jack and welded jacking points if you need to make use of it.
The Tourer sits with moderate ground clearance and is superior at keeping level because of the tandem axle, allowing for some moderate ups and downs on unsealed tracks. Underneath, the water tanks are kept out of trouble by galvanised steel shrouds.
But this van is no offroad beast, nor does it intend to be. The unslanted rear overhang is considerable and there are many wires and pipes criss-crossing the underside (though these are well-protected and secured).
To unwind the 5m box-style Thule Omnistor awning, you grab a winder handle, bring it out to your desired length, and release two in-built support legs and clip them into fixtures on the caravan body, adjusting their length to adjust the angle of the awning.
The passenger-side hatch granting access to underbed storage is accessible from under here and is perfectly shaped and placed for camp chairs. An LED strip light sits unobtrusively within the awning, so you can relax at night without rigging anything up. The hot water system’s vent is on the far side, away from living space.
There’s no external kitchen, and good riddance, given there’s a perfectly good interior one with an electric burner and that space is at a premium when travelling. Having it inside fits with the no set-up ethos of the Golf Tourer 650. Still, if you like having a gun on both hips, you can option one on, to pull out at the front under the awning.
By default, though, you have access to the front part of the underbed storage here instead, running the entire width of the van, accessible by drop-down hatches on both sides and illuminated by an LED light.
An optional picnic table drops from the van’s side, serviced by a 12V cig plug; there’s a handy cold water tap on the drawbar; and there’s an optional gas bayonet point handily located towards the front. Accordingly, the front toolbox has a drawer on this side which suits a small barbecue — the only caveat being that this would be the best space for a generator, too.
This drawbar toolbox has a hatch on the other side as well (both sides feature T-handles and locks with rubber caps). On this far side, the lid opens on gas struts and reveals a cavernous space. This space, if used to its potential, may be prone to disorganisation, but having such volume at your disposal is always a plus. An optional bike rack sits above the rear bar.
PARADISiaCAL ISLAND BED
I’m 6ft and could stand comfortably inside the Tourer, everywhere. Also, thanks to this not being a pop-top van, you don’t have to crouch when entering the door.
At the front is an island bed with wide passageways down both sides. This will allow you to continue sleeping when your partner uses the loo and prevents the necessity of acrobatics when getting in and out, something the less mobile will appreciate. The innerspring mattress is made by Crown Posture Bedding and augurs a comfortable night's sleep. Each sleeper has a double USB 12V point and an adjustable reading light nearby.
The bed base can be extended by pulling out a U-shaped insert at the toe, but the mattress remains well-supported without this. To access underbed storage, you lift the bed base and it stays up without you holding it. The space is unoccupied, barring by the battery or batteries (protected in boxes), BMS and breakaway box. The base will ‘snap shut’ if you drop it too early when lowering it, which should only dupe you the first time.
Symmetrical cabinetry sits either side of the bed, composing of a two-tiered cabinet with a drawer and a taller cupboard, which opens on to two upper shelves and a taller space with a hanging rod. A floor panel can be pulled out to grant access to the space below, which is accessible from sleeping position and also features powerpoints.
Above the bedhead, there are three cupboards with upwards-swinging doors. Each handle, here and throughout, features a soft-close catch to gently press as you open and close. These prevent the doors from clapping open and shut like the porch door during a hurricane while you’re driving, without being any hassle when inside.
Sizeable windows and a vent/skylight here open the floodgates for natural light. These, like all windows in the Tourer, are double glazed, offering privacy without blocking the view and preventing heat from invading. You can angle them out with the mesh drawn or block them completely with integrated window blinds.
Hot nights need not be so when you’re at powered camps, thanks to the reverse cycle Belaire air-conditioner (as seen). For entertainment, there’s a Finch RV CD/MP3 player with Fusion speakers. You can option on a TV (hence the TV point and roof-mounted TV antenna), which goes on a wall-mounted swing arm on the wall above the flat part of the sink.
WINING AND DINING
Opposite the entry resides the dinette, with longer seating towards the van’s front to accommodate three, and shorter seating opposite for two. It’s good to see the dinette keeping up with the bedding. The plush dinette seats can be taken off and panels lifted out to access storage underneath, also accessible from hatches on the dinette’s side.
The table can be shifted along a wall runner to create more space on either side. It can even be removed and fitted into a lower runner, where it bridges the dinette seats and is covered with the backing from one lounge to form an extra double bed for kids or shorter adults. Hence the van is actually a seven-berth — only, to use it this way, you’d have to regularly convert the dinette and be in possession of a vehicle that could seat seven and tow 2870kg.
Opposite the dinette, in an ideal position for serving the table, is the galley kitchen, built around a Swift 500 Series four burner, with one electric and three gas burners, plus a grill. This is fed by two 9kg gas bottles stored in the open air on the drawbar. In front of the cooktop there’s a window and above, a Finch rangehood.
To the cooktop’s left there’s free prep space; to its right, a deep circular sink with a hot/cold tap fed by a 12V Shurflo pump, with a neighbouring space for dry dishes. All around there’s storage, in cupboards, drawers and a pouch on the wall with tea towel tabs.
A 185L Thetford fridge/freezer and LG microwave, on the dinette side, also service the kitchen. If you want an oven or washing machine, Avan might just be able to arrange it.
Overall, the interior boasts a classy, stylish finish, particularly when the Ambience Lighting and Style Pack Cupboards are optioned on. The Ambience pack really got me going. It features hidden LED light strips at the tops and bottoms of cupboards and pantries, casting a stylish glow, without you directly seeing the light source.
PARTY AT THE BACK
At the rear, on the left if you’re facing it, are triple bunks, with the lowest on ground level. Their mattresses measure approximately 180cm by 70cm across and are about 12.5cm thick.
You can flip up a panel, enclosing the bedside for any youngsters tormented by thoughts of falling out of bed.
Each level has a long rectangular double-glazed window. The upper bunks are gained via a discreet ‘ladder’ — 2ft holes built into a stylishly designed panel. The head of each bunk features a recessed storage space and a flexible reading light yet lacks (as seen) 12V power sources. Bunks obviously suit a family, but you could also use them for additional storage space.
At the end of the passageway there’s a cupboard, with double doors opening upon three shelves, three drawers and one ground-level recess to the one side, and two spaces for hanging clothes on the other.
THE ABLUTIONS BLOCK
The ensuite is to the right at the rear. Illuminated by a vertical LED light strip and the window during the day, the ensuite features a shower, a cute bowl sink with an unlosable in-built plug, and a toilet. There’s a double USB point and double powerpoint, plus shelving and cupboards behind, above and to the side of the toilet, opposite to and around the sink, and within the shower cubicle. If your toiletries bag is always overflowing, you’ll love the amount of storage here.
No van ensuite is perfect. You’ll have to turn your head right to mark your progress when shaving; the glass door hits the bowl sink if allowed to swing open freely; as seen, there was no lock on the review model’s door nor a TP holder; and manspreaders may wish there was an inch more space for their legs at the loo.
But I applaud the ensuite overall, for numerous reasons. The separation of the shower and toilet makes the experience that much better. There’ll be no sitting down on a wet seat or straddling the loo to wash your hair. Also, at 6ft, I could stand under the showerhead, which can also be unmounted and used on its flexible pipe. Having two 95L tanks at your disposal will allow you to enjoy longer showers when you are camped away from water sources. Also, the mirror is large and therefore practical.
The holding tank for the toilet is accessed on the living/passenger side of the van, which means, at dump points, you won’t have to stand on the bitumen near oncoming traffic. A grey water tank is not standard and will cost a little over half a grand.
WILL TO POWER
As standard, the Golf 650 Tourer comes with a 100Ah deep-cycle battery and a Projecta PM200 set-and-forget battery management system. With this, the alternator charge runs via VSR and solar charge (from a 120W roof-mounted panel as standard) via a 30A PWM unit. Also included is a remote display and control panel featuring water levels, voltages, night mode, and load on/off switches.
As part of the PM300 Energy Booster Pack you can upgrade to the PM300, which sees the solar charge regulated via MPPT, increasing charging efficiency, and improves your ability to monitor the state of affairs on its LCD (up from LED) remote panel. And, what’s more, you can both control and monitor all this information from your phone thanks to Bluetooth connectivity. This Energy Booster Pack also adds a second battery and solar panel, which is great if you don’t want to feel the pressure to drive (and therefore charge) regularly.
For the 240V powerpoints to be active when away from a powered campsite, you’ll either need to grab a generator or option on an inverter.
Golf/Avan offers a two-year warranty on the Golf Tourer 650 and its components. Golf stipulates a clause regarding offroad use, so enquire about this if you plan to drive on degraded dirt roads.
The Golf Tourer 650 is an ideal van for someone upgrading, who is looking for the convenience of not having to set up at all.
It scores brownie points for its storage space, particularly the internal compartmentalisation, and for the highly practical layout and comfortable fixtures inside.
This van could launch you into the world of self-sufficient free camping or accommodate your family intermittently or for a whole gap year. And, as an added bonus, when it’s finally time to hang up the boots, the team at Avan Adelaide say that hard top bunk vans hold great resale value.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Body length 6.5m (21ft 4in)
Overall length 8.87m (29ft 1in)
Width 2.47m (8ft 1in)
Height 3m (9ft 10in)
Tare 2255kg (review model plated at 2270kg)
Payload 600kg (calculated)
Ball weight 160kg
Frame Frameless aluminium composite walls with polyurethane base
Chassis 150 x 50 x 3mm RHS steel, double hot dip galvanised
Suspension Independent coil spring AL-KO Enduro Touring with single shocks
Coupling AL-KO swivel hitch
Brakes 10in electric drum
Wheels 16in alloy wheels, with 245/70R16 all-terrain tyres (and one spare) as seen
Water 2 x 95L fresh water tanks standard, optional grey water tank
Battery 100Ah deep-cycle AGM standard, second optional
Solar 120W roof-mounted panel standard, second optional
Air-conditioner Yes, Belaire air-conditioner (as seen)
Gas 2 x 9kg holders on the drawbar, one plumbed
Sway control Optional AL-KO ESC
Cooking Swift 500 Series four burner (three gas, one electric) and grille, plus optional gas bayonet outside to suit small barbecue
Fridge 185L Thetford fridge/freezer
Bathroom Ensuite with separate toilet and shower (optional grey water tank)
Hot water Gas electric
Dealer-dependent. Base unit $61,990 from Avan Adelaide
OPTIONS FITTED (COSTS ARE AVAN ADELAIDE’S)
AL-KO ESC ($1300); Energy Booster Pack with PM300 unit with Bluetooth, plus extra solar panel and battery ($3000); Ambience lighting pack ($1750); Cupboard style pack ($1750); External picnic table ($390); Thule rear bike rack ($950); 2 x 9kg gas bottles, supplied ($259); Grey water tank ($550); Gas bayonet ($265).
PRICE AS SHOWN
$72,204 drive away (Avan Adelaide)
494 North East Road, Windsor Gardens, SA 5087
P: (08) 8261 8442
*Avan distributes Golf vans
Golf website: golfcaravans.com.au