At Caravan World we often wonder at the increasingly large vans coming onto the road. Builders will say their customers demand more: more living space, more comfort, more battery power and more everything. But many knowledgeable travellers, those who’ve dragged a big van down a goat track or bogged their supposedly off-road-capable monster to the axles, might suggest that frequently, less is more.
Andy Altschwager from Caravans Coffs Coast has seen a trend to smaller caravans in the past year or so but emphasised that owners still expect high levels of comfort and plenty of off-grid capability.
Packing the features those new owners now expect into a compact van isn’t easy. But, between Andy’s team and the designers at Titanium, they have achieved a balance of usability and liveability.
When Andy suggested we review the smallest of his off-road range by dragging it down to Station Creek Beach, I agreed it would be a good test for the van. The track can be rough and corrugated, and the sandy sections are typical of the places which owners might want to explore.
Caravans Coffs Coast and Titanium enjoy a close relationship born of eight years spent working together, demonstrated by Andy’s status as the sole NSW Titanium dealer.
Both businesses are family-run by teams of caravan enthusiasts who know their products inside out and have a passion for getting things right.
Titanium builds a very tough van, while the Coffs Coast team add some pizzaz and a top-shelf after-sales experience. They only sell off-road vans, so they can confidently advise customers about the right van for them with authority.
Both Titanium and Caravans Coffs Coast customers report experiences with their vans to help improve the design over time.
Like all vans in the Titanium range, the 16.6 is a robust construction designed for hard miles of rough treatment. The base is an Australian-made chassis formed from two laminated 4”x2” (100mmx50mm) RHS members for an 8” total thickness. That’s a very heavy duty chassis for a 16’ van, and it’s matched to a 6”x2” (150mmx50mm) extended A-frame.
The caravan’s body is equally healthy, with Henrob-rivetted 25mm C-section aluminium walls and roof bolted to the chassis. Aluminium is an intelligent choice because it’s lightweight and, unlike timber, it won’t rot. The rivets allow just enough flex in the frame to avoid cracking as the van flexes over extreme terrain. And it must be “tough AF”: it says so on the van’s graphics.
Voids in the wall are filled with close-fitting foam insulation before composite aluminium cladding is riveted and bonded to the sides, and a composite fibreglass roof goes on top. Both roof and walls are hail and damage resistant, and you can choose a variety of colours for the wall cladding.
The review van earns a place in the Titanium range as a genuine off-roader. Like all the Hardcore models, it sports the Cruisemaster XT trailing arm system with twin shock absorbers which keep the wheels firmly planted on the road and help reduce tyre wear.
Wheels are 16” alloys, and the review van came with Mud terrain tyres. The jury is out on the best choice of tyres for off-road, but the sturdy sidewalls of the M/T will suit tracks with tyre-shredding sharp rocks. On the other hand, they seem to wear quicker, and I wonder about their braking efficiency.
Internal joinery is CNC-prepared lightweight Poplar ply, with a two-way interlocking system for rigidity. The close fit and fine finish help bring a touch of luxury to contrast the heavy-duty exterior.
The review van featured white cladding with black checkerplate and bright green accents on the sweeping decals. The look is well balanced and rides high on its single axle, in true off-road style.
We liked the sensible light colour for its heat insulation and conservative appeal but we can’t help but wonder if high black checkerplate has outlived its usefulness as a fashion statement.
Cruisemaster’s DO-35 hitch connects van to vehicle; it’s pretty much the go-to choice for off-road vans because of its great articulation, easy connection and reliability.
A full-width stone guard protects twin 9kg gas bottles, and there’s an extra guard for the gas regulator. The very robust jockey wheel mount is centrally mounted for ease of use.
A large checkerplate toolbox is standard, and it features slides for a generator on the driver side and a Weber opposite. In the van’s body, a through boot upfront, with an entertainment hatch, overhead LEDs, manual foldout awning and a picnic table are all standard along the side. Up on top, there’s a reverse cycle air conditioner; it takes travel height up to 3080mm, so taking notice of over-hanging branches is wise.
If you’ve been following the line that ‘small is better’ but are wondering what’s missing inside, the answer is “not much”.
Previous-generation 16’ vans left a lot to be desired when it came to creature comforts and liveability. You’d be lucky to find a combination bathroom and a north-south bed in a van this size ten years ago. However, modern 3D design programs have turned all that around, and we can now expect proper facilities in well-equipped smaller vans.
Titanium has made the most of the floor plan and upfront, we find an island north-south bed. Many vans this size have an east-west bed, but this layout avoids the sleep-depriving midnight scramble if a partner gets up for a toilet break. Oversized windows and an overhead hatch keep it bright and airy, while a central roof-mounted 12v fan cools things down, even when off-grid.
Light grey cupboards at the lower level and off-white above create a natural balance and a feeling of space. The kitchen is simple, with a Swift grill and cooktop, a small stainless-steel sink and a high microwave. You could do without the microwave to add storage, especially as it’s really a powered-site option anyway. The grill instead of an oven I can live with, as there’s the Weber outside for more complex cooking.
Further back is a 224-litre compressor fridge, and it’s a suitable size for a couple for most circumstances, particularly if you match it to a 40-60l freezer in the tow vehicle.
The café dinette is well upholstered in leather-look microfibre, and there’s plenty of room to slide in and get comfortable. Padding along the walls and pop-up footrests mean you can stretch out to watch TV, but the big window is well-positioned to take in the view too.
Across the back of the van is a sensibly sized full-width ensuite with moulded shower, ceramic toilet, floating vanity, and a large mirrored shaving cabinet. A wall-mounted washing machine leaves room to move and makes good use of the blank wall.
Twin 85-litre freshwater tanks should be enough for a couple if showers are kept short. A 95l grey tank is standard so camping is okay in National Parks that stipulate one.
Titanium uses Enerdrive as their power solution, and it seems a reliable and efficient system for off-grid power. Three 170w solar panels charge a 200-amp lithium battery through a 40-amp DC-DC charger, so there should be enough power to keep things running even in cloudy weather for a week or so. The system also includes a 240v charger.
A Tare weight of 2250kg and a payload of 550kg gives an ATM of 2800kg, so plenty of utes and mid-size 4wd tow vehicles are suitable. Andy’s tricked-out 200 Series Landcruiser looked a treat and was more than capable of moving the van. That 550kg might sound generous, but in reality you’d have about 350kg to spare once you fill the water and gas tanks. That’s enough for most, but it could be a consideration for some.
After blasting through the sandy tracks to Station Creek Beach, a quick look inside the van showed all cupboards and drawers remained in place. It was unruffled over the rough sections of road and travelled smoothly on the highway back to town.
Both Titanium and Caravans Coffs Coast have enviable reputations for customer care. The dealer spends as long as you need for a thorough handover, and they have online videos to help once you’re on the road. Warranty is two years on the internal cabinetry, five years on the structure and appliances are covered by their manufacturer’s warranties.
At $111,500, the 16.6 is only around $8000 less than an 18’6” Hardcore version, which might seem surprising. But, while there are savings on some components, there’s just as much work - and maybe more - in getting it all into the smaller foot-print and making it work. The advantages will be in fuel savings, ease of towing and less chance of getting stuck somewhere obscure.
The smallest Titanium wins by promising to get into a greater range of remote locations. To my way of thinking, it’s an off-road option for hardcore travellers who have a good grasp of real-world travel.
Titanium SS16.6 Hardcore Specs
Weight and Measures
|External body length||7750 MM (25’5”)|
|External body width||2460 MM (8’9” incl awning)|
|Travel height||3080 MM (10’1” incl aircon)|
|Internal height||1980 MM (6’6”)|
|Cladding||Premium 3mm Composite Cladding|
|Chassis||200x50mm Australian made Chassis|
|Suspension||Cruisemaster XT Coil|
|Wheels||Alloy Wheels, 265/75/16 MT Tyres|
|Water||2x 85ltr Poly water tanks|
|Battery||Enerdrive 1x 200 amp Lithium|
|Sola||3x 170w panels|
|Air-conditioner||Houghton Belaire 3400|
|Fridge||Dometic 224ltr 12v Fridge/freezer|
|Washing machine||NCE front-load, wall mounted|
|Hot water||28ltr Swift Gas / Electric|
Price as shown