Spinifex Caravans is one of the big guns to come out of Queensland, producing serious, extreme offroad, all terrain caravans that are custom built in the true sense of the word.
Spinifex’s mission is to deliver the best offroad caravans in Australia and they come at a price — Spinifex was among the four manufacturers at this year’s awards with an entry priced at over the $200,000 mark, but that’s what you should expect to pay for a fully customised offroader with remarkable off-grid self-sufficiency.
The Electrex Premier is a gasless van. While other entrants make the same claim, the Spinifex has no gas fitted whatsoever — the barbecue is electric, water is heated by diesel.
But while the Spinifex Electrex is designed to go bush for extended periods, you won’t be roughing it. The fixtures and fittings are high quality — we’re talking leather lounges, inside and outside kitchens, a queen-sized bamboo pocket spring, pillow top mattress and built-in Foxtel.
Let’s see what the judges had to say.
Allison Watt - Caravan World Deputy Editor
The Spinifex is an extreme offroad, all terrain caravan designed to go off-grid and stay there almost indefinitely.
There is no gas fitted so the Electrex is true to its name. The power supply is massive, from the OzXcorp DCX 14.3W lithium battery mounted underneath in a fireproof, waterproof and crushproof box, 5000W inverter/charger and 1720W of high-voltage, commercial solar power. This system has enough solar-generated power to run domestic appliances effectively for days.
So out in the bush in the middle of summer you can sleep with the air conditioning running all night, wake up in the morning, flick on the kettle and pop some bread in the toaster — these creature comforts of home are not a problem for the Spinifex.
The Pulse electric Weber barbecue and induction cooktops both inside and outside take care of the cooking requirements and diesel is used for heating and hot water. Add to that 440L of water capacity — and a pump to draw water from a nearby river or creek — and 230L of fridge space and you’ll be comfortable in the harshest of Aussie environments.
Spinifex is not a cookie-cutter manufacturer by any stretch. Every van is custom built and not just the colour of the upholstery and cabinetry. Spinifex works closely with every owner to ensure that every minute detail meets their individual needs, which is why the company only produces four vans each month at its Deception Bay, Qld, headquarters.
The van we judged this year belongs to Spinifex Managing Director Steve and his wife Elise, and there won’t be another like it out there. Everything about it reflects their individual needs and Elise’s tasteful style. The interior is a standout — matt black cabinetry and waterfall benchtops, light wood panel walls, black Italian leather lounges and the absence of high cupboards over the bed and in the bathroom to create a spacious feel.
The appliances are also next level. The wall-mounted 3kg front loader NCE washing machine in the bathroom is also a dryer and there is a handy built-in dirty clothes cabinet underneath. A lot of cooking is done on the outside barbecue and slide-out kitchen, but inside there is a 45L oven which is a microwave, grill top and bottom and an air fryer, all in one.
Another simple innovation that I really liked was the bin mounted on the inside of the entry door which is a great use of otherwise unused space.
Tim van Duyl - Caravan World Creative Director
Firstly, can I just say well done to Steve, Elise and the Spinifex team for taking out Caravan of the Year 2023 presented by MSA 4x4 Accessories. This was Spinifex’s first foray in an event like this and although I had high expectations from what I knew of the brand, the Electrex still wowed and in a big way. Well done, everyone, on the overall win and on taking out Best Build Quality along the way.
Its name says it all — Electrex. This is a caravan built with the intention of creating a haven where power is never a concern and by using the OzXCorp DCX system, there is little to think about in terms of how it goes together or operates too.
With up to 4000W of solar input and enough panels on the roof (1720W for this van), it has the capacity to run AC without discharging from the batteries (it will still run through them so don't go unplugging your battery bank!) and its 51.1 nominal voltage means it does not require heavy gauge wiring to bring enough power to appliances like 12 and 24V can. But what stands out is how it is packaged by the specialist RV-electronics builder.
DCX comes as modules that can be slung between chassis cross-members with relatively simple connections to solar, house appliances, their 7kW or 14kW (as seen here) battery banks and external power supplies. The simplicity of the system is a positive as it allows for simpler (lower cost) installation and easier support, should there be any required across its astonishing five-year warranty.
With 440L of freshwater capacity, including the 80L drinking water tank, a frugal couple should see up to 10 days before needing to hit emergency jerry can supplies or refilling of the tanks. Be more liberal with water and 440L should still see in the region of seven days’ comfortable living. It should be noted that the 80L grey tank won't hold all of what comes out so you might want to run a hose from the shower when not in national parks.
Rivetting the body frame was a considered decision and one I see the logic in. As big boxes on wheels, caravans need some flex and rivets allow just enough to reduce stress points in the frames but without the danger of rot like wooden frames can succumb to. Between the frame and 4mm Corematt fibreglass skin is cut to measure insulation which should reduce heat-soak from the dark exterior of the van.
The cabinetry is outstanding with notched main joins and the use of quality hinges and handles. As you would expect of a van of its calibre, the appliances are all equally high end like the Bushman 12V fridge, Westinghouse induction cooker and Truma Combi D6 diesel water and space heater.
The use of disc brakes on the Cruisemaster XT air suspension is as good as it gets. The chassis is a work of art made in-house by Spinifex — the finish is exquisite and being hot-dip galvanised, durable.
We’ve only scratched the surface of how impressive the build quality of the Electrex was at Caravan of the Year 2023, the detail goes on. Deservedly, the Electrex came through as the caravan with the highest score in this critical criteria; the Spinifex Electrex is the 2023 winner of Best Build Quality.
Spinifex has now built over 550 vans and I’d hazard to guess more than half have been bought on the recommendation of an existing customer. The team’s work is as good as it gets and the small company’s focus on having all customers be part of a Spinifex family suggests they get it right. There is a dedicated warranty officer that we heard was as much employed to help customers better understand and use their vans as they are to support actual faults, further reinforcing that the company stands by its product and owners, even if the three-year manufacturer's warranty is less than some of its main rivals.
John Ford - Caravan World Editor-At-Large
Wow. A few vans claimed heavy-duty payload capacity at this year's event, but Spinifex came prepared to prove the point. The Electrex on show is the company owner's van. It was loaded with a few months' travel paraphernalia, including a tow vehicle with a 3.5m tinny on the roof rack and a 15hp engine at the toolbox. Their 200 Series LandCruiser has a GVM upgrade to cope with an all-up weight of somewhere around 4000kg.
I can’t pretend we didn’t notice the van hitched up behind, but there was more than sufficient power to get us over our steep mountain course. Handling was exemplary, with no pitch, sway or pushing us around from the heavy load. The disc brakes did their bit to bring us to a halt when we tried them at the sharp corners on the steep descent. The Spinifex is over 8m long and 3m high, so care is needed in the bushy bits, as I found when I misjudged a tight corner and had to have a second go. Tare weight is nearly 3T, and most versions will be at least 4T ATM, so you need an upgraded tow vehicle. A Prado isn’t going to cut it, and neither will any of the twin cab utes, so consider this when picking your combination.
As we have seen, the van is a unique build for the company owners, so the layout and furniture are a one-off design. This highlights that Spinifex is a custom builder, and it's unlikely that any of their hundreds of vans on the road are the same. A big part of living in a van for months at a time is how the van feels. How the colours blend. How easy it is to move around, and so on. The immediate impact on stepping aboard is a real eye-opener. The perfectly rendered interior is a pleasant surprise for a go (nearly) anywhere van.
A powerful electronics package gives almost unlimited 240V power for a range of household appliances and this makes a big difference to how you live on the road. You can cook on an electric barbeque or induction cooktop, boil a jug without lighting gas and run the air-con.
Even entertainment options change. Hook up to Foxtel and watch your favourite sport or drama on a big screen smart TV or pump out as much sound as you like. I could get used to that.
Malcolm Street - Caravan World Field Editor
A price tag of $208,000 certainly puts the Electrex Premier into the expensive category, especially when a heavy-duty tow vehicle is also thrown into the equation. A problem exacerbated by rising costs in just about any industry you care to name. However, the Electrex Premier was not built with price in mind, well not much. It was designed as a caravan capable of serious offroad travel and with all the comforts of home built in.
Since 2007, Spinifex has steadily built a reputation for building custom offroad caravans, an area where the van's features are equally as important as the price. That might sound like needing an open-ended budget, but it is more like choosing the most desirable features rather than a ‘take it or leave it’ approach. Since this caravan was built for the boss, it naturally has the best of everything, but it also has everything that has been ‘tried and tested’.
Some of the finer things in the world of caravanning are certainly the X-Factor on the Electrex Premier. Starting with the 14.3kW/hr OzXcorp DCX system, a huge battery capacity by anyone’s standards. It’s designed to run the air-conditioner, kettle and toaster all day. It operates at 51V DC to achieve that, which means far less operating current, less cable size and less efficiency losses. A little differently, the solar panels are like those used on houses, again for efficiency reasons, but it does mean the electrics need to be worked on by a licensed person.
The Electrex Premier does have a generator optioned in as an upgrade but, unsurprisingly, it has had little use! What gets more use is the slide-out kitchen with a Weber Pulse electric barbecue. Instead of being manufactured from stainless steel, the slide-out’s framework is all aluminium.
Disc brakes are a little unusual in the caravanning world, but the Electrex Premier has them fitted to the 17in alloy wheels, along with the Cruisemaster air bag suspension. Less obvious but still effective items include the narrow shelving that’s built into the outside of the bathroom wall. It makes a very practical, easy-to-access pantry adjacent to the kitchen. Also, the custom-made kitchen drawers that are designed to fit appliances. Above the entry door are two raiseable aerials, one for AM/FM radio and the other for boosting a 4G signal.
From the outside, the Premier is a deceptive van. In some ways, it looks like a few other caravans in the offroad category, but getting under the skin reveals a very purpose-built van worthy of further investigation.
OVERALL WINNER - CARAVAN OF THE YEAR
WINNER - VALUE FOR MONEY, BUILD QUALITY
EQUAL WINNER - X-FACTOR
Spinifex Electrex Premier Specs
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
|8.68m (28ft 6in)
|External body length
|6.02m (19ft 9in)
|External body width
|3.1m (10ft 2in)
|1.98m (6ft 5in)
|3500kg – up to 4500kg
|Frame Aluminium interlocking U-channel
|Corematt fibreglass (4mm thickness)
|Hot dip, galvanised steel
|Cruisemaster XT 4500 Airbag with disc brakes
|12in disc brake
|BFG KO2 all-terrain tyres
|360L freshwater, 80L drinking water, 80L grey water
|DCX 14kW lithium at 51V
|Webasto top trail Ct24
|Rear separate ensuite
|3kg front loader NCE washer/dryer
|Truma Combi D6 water/air heater
Spinifex Electrex Premier price from $207,000
- Premium leather
- Slide-out kitchen
- Generator 2.2kVA
Spinifex Electrex Premier price from $215,000
P: (07) 3888 2221
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