Times change, and sometimes so do the directions and approaches of a company. Take Queensland caravan manufacturer, Spinifex Caravans, as an example. Back in early 2019 when I visited and reviewed the EpiX Premier, Spinifex were building big, heavy, fully customised offroad vans that needed a big, heavy 4WD to tow them. Fast forward to late 2020, and while Spinifex still pump out the big, full-custom vans, they have added another string to their bow.
Enter stage left, the all-new Spinifex Xscape. Born from a need for a full-sized van light enough to be safely towed behind the ever-popular dual cab ute without sacrificing strength and reliability, the Xscape creates its own place within the Spinifex family.
WEIGHT WATCHERS, HERE I COME
When it came to designing the new Xscape model, one thought was front and centre in everyone's mind — save weight wherever possible, but not to the detriment to the overall quality and dependability of the final product.
Let's look at the chassis first.
The Xscape chassis is made from a 150mm, single DuraGal beam, with an extended 2m drawbar and a heavy-duty single rear bar with single wheel carrier. By opting for DuraGal over a hot-dipped galvanised frame, around 80kg has been saved.
Also saving weight with the Xscape design, Cruisemaster CRS2 (Country Road Suspension) independent suspension has been employed. Featuring twin shocks and coil springs, the CRS2 suspension has no central cross member, making it lighter, easier to install and more economical.
While not as heavy-duty as the Cruisemaster XT, the CRS2 suspension will handle a large percentage of your offroad pursuits, as long as you drive to suit the conditions.
Now, this next tip came as a bit of a surprise to me, and to be honest, the weight saving shocked me.
Spinifex opted to run 16in alloy rims shod with 265/75R16 Falken all terrains on the new model. Just by going to a 16in versus a 17in rim and tyre combination, they have saved 12kg per corner — a saving of 48kg certainly isn't something to be sneezed at.
And what is it that they say about carrying an extra spare tyre around? Well, saving more weight is the fact the Xscape only has the one spare.
The weight savings aren't just confined to the chassis and running gear. Up top, traditional style aluminium cladding has been wrapped around the lightweight C-channel aluminium frame, instead of the increasingly popular fibreglass or composite panels. This alone saves another 40kg. A single-piece fibreglass roof has still been utilised.
All up, the Xscape has a tare of 2400kg and an ATM of 3500kg. In anyone's language, 1100kg of payload is massive — even with the three 83L water tanks filled to capacity, you have over 850kg to play with.
With the Xscape being designed with a primary focus to be pulled behind a dual cab ute, it was only appropriate that we used a dual cab ute for our tow test. Straight off the factory showroom floor with less than 100km on the speedo, we hitched the Xscape up behind a brand-new, tray back HiLux.
For our test, all water tanks were filled, and there were a couple of camp chairs, an outdoor table and a few other bits and pieces loaded into the sizeable full-width tunnel boot at the front, and the fridge was maxed out too — you need to keep your energy up when reviewing vans!
All up, we estimated around 300kg of payload, taking our tow weight to approximately 2700kg.
Behind the HiLux, and over a variety of road surfaces from the highway to station tracks, the Xscape felt well-balanced and well-behaved. Even a few slalom moves on a secondary country road felt controlled and didn't invoke a response from the BMPRO sway controller.
Over the course of the day's testing, we travelled 215km and returned economy figures of around 14L per 100km. Not bad on an engine that hadn't been run in.
ALL ABOUT OFF GRID
Spinifex Caravans pride themselves on fitting out their vans in such a way to enable longer stays away from civilisation.
I've already mentioned that the Xscape comes standard with three 83L water tanks. What I didn't mention is that the sub-frame already has the brackets in place for another two tanks ready to go. They just need to be bolted in and plumbed up. These two spots would be ideal for a grey water tank and a potable water only tank.
With our heavy reliance on electricity and technology these days, caravans virtually need to be their own sub-stations to keep everything running or charged up.
The Xscape doesn't miss out here either, with 340W of solar panels feeding down through a BMPRO BatteryPlus35-II-HA Battery Management System (now that's a mouthful!) to a 200Ah lithium battery. The use of a lithium battery gives a further weight saving.
The BMPRO BatteryPlus35-II-HA is your one-stop shop when it comes to charging and monitoring your batteries and power usage. Incorporated into the unit is a 30A MPPT solar regulator, as well as a 30A multi-stage battery charger. The system links to the TREK battery monitor display, conveniently located in the kitchen. It provides information on the state of battery charge, battery voltage and time remaining to discharge, solar input as well as up to four water tank levels.
Up front on the drawbar, protected by the full-width stone shield, is a pair of 9kg gas bottles, which will take care of your cooking needs for many a week. Speaking of cooking, the 188L Dometic fridge/freezer will allow you to stock up on your perishable items when visiting remote communities, keeping you out bush for longer.
AROUND THE OUTSIDE
Following a pretty standard format, the Xscape uses a DO35 fully articulating hitch up at the pointy end, safety chains and an Anderson plug for DC/DC charging while on the road. An AL-KO jockey wheel, hand brake and fail-safe breakaway unit can also be found on the drawbar.
As well as the twin 9kg gas bottles behind the stone guard, a large powder coated aluminium checkerplate tool box provides an excellent place for tools, spares and sullage hoses.
A water tap, hidden behind an aluminium shroud to protect it from errant rocks, is also located on the drawbar. Unfortunately, during our testing we highlighted a shortcoming of the plumbing layout when traversing steep gullies or washouts.
As the drawbar dragged along the earth, the plumbing to the tap was torn off, and if not noticed quickly could result in losing a considerable amount of your precious water. Fortunately, it's an easy fix by simply relocating the tap to the inside of the drawbar.
The ubiquitous aluminium checkerplate covers the lower section of the front and sides, while a padded vinyl stone protector provides coverage to the rest of the front of the van.
With your day drawing to a close, it is a great comfort in knowing you have somewhere to kick back and relax before worrying about dinner. The Aussie Traveller awning provides plenty of cover for a couple of chairs and a table.
There's also no need to worry about missing your favourite TV shows or listening to a few tunes. The Xscape comes standard with a 24in TV with an external, adjustable mount, as well as all-weather speakers for the stereo.
If firing up the BBQ is your thing, the Xscape has an external gas bayonet at the near side front, beneath the tunnel boot. A convenient location for both portable units and if you ever want to option your van up with a slide out external kitchen.
Last, but certainly not least, is the interior of the Xscape. When I first stepped inside the very standard layout, the first thing I felt was space and openness.
The modern palette of a predominantly white interior, charcoal accents and LED lighting obviously helps. The four large windows providing plenty of natural light and ventilation doesn't hurt either.
Up front, the full-size queen bed with inner-spring mattress provides a comfy place to end your day, or perhaps take in a movie before the bed bugs’ bite. If turning a few pages of a good book is more your thing, there's individual LED reading lamps so as to not annoy your partner.
What I liked about the centrally located kitchen and dining room, was once again, the feeling of spaciousness. For instance, if your partner was prepping dinner at the kitchen bench, you would have no issues passing behind and not having to make like a contortionist from Cirque du Soleil to do so.
As for the cooking, quality appliances like the Swift 3+1 cooktop with grill, range hood and Sharp 22L microwave will have you serving up some tasty tucker.
All throughout the interior, storage options are abundant. From overhead cupboards, hanging robes, and a heap of drawers in both the kitchen and at the foot of the bed. But the best thing is that they are all soft close — yep, even the overhead cupboards.
As well as the large windows which provide airflow and cross-ventilation, the Xscape comes factory fitted with a pair of Sirocco fans and a Truma Aventa air conditioner. Just perfect for those muggy, tropical nights.
There's no chance your devices will run flat either, with several 12V and USB charging points located around the interior. The dining table even features wireless charging for your mobile phone.
With the rest of the interior feeling so spacious in this 20ft 6in van, you may be thinking that Spinifex has robbed Peter to pay Paul by skimping on the ensuite. However, that doesn't seem to be the case. I even gave the toilet the old ‘elbows and knees out’ test and providing you're not the size of ‘The Rock’, you shouldn't have too many issues.
The single-piece moulded shower cubicle is large enough to move around in, and the ceramic vanity basin is a nice touch, as is the large mirror. To top it all off, there's more storage than what I would ever need in a bathroom and a 3kg top loading washing machine hidden inside the cabinetry.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Spinifex escape has definitely been built to fill a space in the market. While we didn't get to push the van to its limits offroad, the pedigree of the Spinifex van is clearly evident, and will be a welcome addition to this growing sector of off-road vans.
With a solid build, the use of quality components and appliances throughout, and a retail price of $89,500, the Xscape will be a worthy companion on your next adventure.
Marketed as an offroad van, the Xscape is warranted on all gazetted roads. Just remember to drive to the conditions.
WARRANTY 3 years
RVMAP Accredited No
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Overall length 8.8m (29ft)
External body length 6.8m (22ft 5in)
Internal length 6.3m (20ft 6in)
External body width 2.4m (7ft 10in)
Travel height 2.98m (9ft 9in)
Internal height 1.98m (6ft 6in)
Ball weight 160kg at tare
Bed Size Queen (north/south)
Frame Lightweight interlocking Aluminium Frame
Cladding Aluminium w/ single piece fibreglass roof
Chassis DuraGal steel drawbar and chassis
Suspension CruiseMaster CRS2 Independent Suspension
Coupling DO35 Brakes 12in electric drum
Wheels 16in alloy rims w/ 265/75R16 Falken A/T tyres
Water 3 x 83L
Battery 200Ah Lithium
Solar 2 x 170W
Air conditioner Truma Aventa
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control BMPro Sway Control
Cooking Swift 3 + 1 Electric/Gas cooktop w/ Grill
Fridge Dometic 188L 12V compressor fridge/freezer
Bathroom Ensuite w/ separate shower, toilet, vanity with laundry
Hot water Swift gas/240V HWS
Microwave Sharp 22L
Washing Machine Camec 3kg top loader
PRICE AS SHOWN
21 Imboon St, Deception Bay QLD 4508
Ph: (07) 3888 2221