The premium end of Best Aussie Vans was chock-full of interesting candidates, and one of the tougher examples in the top category this year was the JB Scorpion. The Scorpion sits in the shade of JB’s top-spec caravan, the Milano, and from the moment you set eyes on it, you’ll notice its bush-ready armoury.
LAYOUT & DESIGN
The body is built in the traditional, time-honoured way – a meranti timber frame clad in silver aluminium sheeting. Powder-coated black checkerplate adorns 600mm up the lower section of the body sides and occupies two-thirds of the nose and about a third of the rear. The rear has a slight kick-up to improve departure angle, although the long overhang will reduce its effectiveness. A large, solid handle is fitted at each corner and there’s a galvanised tunnel boot at the front with locking hatches each side.
Over the wheelset on the nearside is a fold-down picnic table and adjacent to that is an entertainment hatch, comprising a 12V power socket, a 240V powerpoint, a TV aerial jack and Fusion audio remote. There’s also a good amount of external lighting, with two LED strip lights set above the nearside adjacent to the two external audio speakers, plus LED flood lights at the front and rear of the van. An unusual feature is the black awning and matching black arms. On the rear offside there’s a generator compartment, also galvanised and lockable, rounding off a very comprehensive suite of external storage.
To climb aboard the Scorpion, you have to pull out the steel step and open the rear tri-lock combination security mesh/main door. A large, illuminated external grab handle sits to the left of the door. The JB’s interior layout is a pretty familiar scene, comprising a front island bed, centre aisle through a nearside kitchen and offside dinette, and a rear bathroom.
The colour combination of white walls and ceiling with black marbled-effect cabinetry is quite a contrast, although there is a range of colours on offer if this is not to your taste.
BEDROOM & STORAGE
The bedroom is the typical island bed configuration but, unlike some, has a good amount of walkway space around it. The other thing this bedroom has that some vans don’t is a bedside table on each side. There’s a two-pole 240V outlet on each bedside and the diesel heater thermostat control on the bed’s offside. The wardrobes bookend the bedhead area and there are large lockers above the bed as well as small cupboards incorporated in each bedside table, plus under-bed storage. At the end of the bed on each corner is a triangular cupboard with a tabletop and on the nearside above the table is the 24in LCD TV mounted on its bracket.
A couple of the Scorpion’s neat internal features are the above-bed rain-sensing hatch and also the pressurising hatch to reduce dust ingress during transport. The Scorpion is also bristling with electrics, including three 150W roof-mounted solar panels, the 30A solar regulator, 1600W inverter and 60W charger.
A kitchen setup is always a compromise in a caravan but the Scorpion is one of the better ones I’ve seen. The kitchen situated opposite the dinette is pretty comprehensive, with a deep, single-tub stainless sink with single mixer, filtered water dispenser and drainer, the cooktop and then an unfettered benchtop adjacent to the door. There is a great deal of storage space here, too. Aside from the aforementioned pantry, you’ve got deep lockers above the bench, and drawers and cupboards below.
The microwave is mounted with the lockers above the bench, which is not ideal. While it’s a back-saver compared to a low-mount unit, it introduces the problem of having to lift down hot liquids from above and risking spillage.
The comprehensive Fusion audio unit is fitted above the kitchen, while a Redarc power controller is fitted on the offside pantry wall.
There’s a separate fibreglass shower enclosure on the nearside, which is not the most generous in size, but didn’t have you hitting elbows on the enclosure either. The shower has a mixer tap, adjustable rose and, of course, a ceiling hatch with extractor fan. In the centre of the bathroom is the vanity unit with a ceramic basin and mixer tap offset to the left of the unit with a mirror above.
The vanity also houses the washing machine, hidden under a hinged benchtop. Above the vanity unit are two storage lockers and below are drawers, making for ample storage in this area. To the offside of the vanity is the inset required for the external generator compartment. This makes the area remaining for the Dometic cassette toilet a little tight.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The JB Scorpion is a solid, well-executed offroad touring van with some very distinctive features that I particularly liked, such as the pressure hatch, large pantry, and front and rear spotlights. The extensive body and under-body protection gives you the confidence to delve deep into the scrub without fearing damage, while the 600kg payload allows you to take all the gear you need, and the extensive storage options give you the space to take it.
HITS & MISSES
- Extensive storage options
- Pressure hatch to avoid dust ingress
- Tough under-body/chassis
- Off-grid capability
- Bathroom space is a little tight
- Microwave is positioned quite high
- Not enough legroom at the dinette.