Franklin’s top model is best described as a blend of luxury and capability with a sprinkle of cool ideas. From the layout to the positioning of the washing machine, the little differences make it a memorable and fun caravan to review, but the underpinnings are what make or break a good van so let’s start there.
The frame is Meranti with 3mm fibreglass cladding roof which supports 340W of solar panels, a Winegard antenna and AC unit. The chassis comes from Preston and features an extended A-frame that is home to two 9kg gas bottles plus a toolbox ready to take a gen-set or an additional fridge. The underside is neat and tidy with no wires or plumbing protruding in ways that would make me concerned for gravel road driving. It was good to see a common outlet for wastewater too, plus twin alloy battery boxes to house the 100Ah batteries. Our van had no factory options fitted but a popular one is to upgrade the batteries to lithium and add another solar panel.
Along with the switchgear for the Truma hot water system and BMPRO Oddessy hub, power is managed by BMPRO with a BatteryPlus35 residing in a cupboard in inside the van. It will charge your batteries from your Anderson plug, the solar on the roof or mains power at up to 35A, which is more than enough.
A weighbridge slip reported a tare of 2895kg, and the builders plate limited the Franklin to an ATM of 3445kg leaving a payload of 550kg, which, once you fill the twin 90-litre water tanks, is a bit low, I suggest.
The standout feature of the X-Factor 210 is the double doors. The frontmost takes you straight to the main bed, in an east-west arrangement. By way of overhead bins, there is a good amount of storage around the bed and good light and ventilation from well-placed windows. Underneath is some more, though a tunnel boot consumes a decent portion. The east-west might not suit everyone, but young families will appreciate the space it creates in the central ensuite, found on the other side of a neat, folding curtain divider.
The ensuite is split, with the toilet and shower on opposite sides with plenty of room to dry off between. The shower is fully moulded and sized like at home and, importantly, there is a decent amount of elbow room around the China bowl toilet. To its side is a large mirrored cupboard with integrated lighting that had the kids in stitches with its fun surface-touch switch.
Through a second divider and you are in the kitchen with slimline Dometic Ibis-4 AC unit centred overhead and a swathe of LED lights that reflect wonderfully off the Tru-Matt and Gloss finishes. Standing and taking it all in, it has a nice feel to it. The use of the high-spec finishes is not over the top, but it is not understated, and the Franklin 210 feels like somewhere to be proud of.
Found opposite the rear door, the double bunks will be a hit with the young ones, with power-hungry considerations taken into account through a few well-placed 12V plugs, as well as their imagination through the big windows. Beside them, positioned in the very back of the van is the club-lounge. While not quite a full C-shape as the door cuts off a small amount, it is still very generous with the space for six or more. Clad in genuine leather, it is a great place to stop and unwind with the 24in foldaway TV or in earshot of the team at the action stations of the kitchen.
Residing over the axle line is the kitchen, which has to be one of my favourites. The admittedly small main bench with its full-size sink, oven and four-burner cook-top is supplemented with a secondary bench opposite. A simple approach to adding bench space, I can see it used as a sous-chef's station where the little ones can chop carrots and stir the cake batter — thankfully the high-gloss finishes will be easy to wipe clean. Under both sets of benches are good-sized cupboards with overheads above housing a full-size microwave above and to the left of the sink. Drawers and cupboards use soft-close hinges and under both benches is ample storage, with crockery drawers under the second bench and a surprise under the main.
The clever designers at Franklin knew they had to fit a decent-sized washing machine in the van somewhere but with personal space the main goal in the ensuite, the decision was made to house a frontloading washing machine under the main bench with a door on the outside of the van for access. With the outside access, you benefit from the now easy-on-the-back height from the ground. Nicely tucked under the awning, getting your arm in to find that lost sock is much, much easier thanks to this raised height and importantly, the washer, along with the fridge and bulk of storage are all centrally located above the axle line and low down. This should be a good tow.
I’ve prepared a breakout on the shiny, silver Land Rover outside this main story so head there if you need to know how it went for fuel consumption as here I’ll be covering the trailer and its performance.
As mentioned above, centrally locating the bulk of the caravan’s appliances and storage opportunities keeps weight near the centre, an important design philosophy I appreciate. With a 6.4m long body that is 2.3m wide (excluding awning) and 3.03m tall, this is a full-body caravan so it will be subject to side winds and drag when towing into a headwind. The rear of the van has some basic (and well-appreciated) under armour and all sides benefit from good shrub and stone protection through checkerplate alloy. The chassis is a quality 6in unit from Preston with Supagal coating and the suspension is from AL-KO by way of their ever-popular Enduro Outback independent trailing arm set up.
On the road, the combination performed flawlessly. The Land Rover had all the power needed to keep up with the hustling Melbourne city traffic and once on the open road we never felt uncomfortable or unsafe. At our secret testing grounds some 90km north of the city we took the Franklin around a short circuit of fire breaks and plantation roads full of washouts, ruts and loose stones. Again the combo couldn’t be faulted. No doubt aided by the layout, but also by the Cruisemaster DO35A hitch, the balance of the caravan felt perfect.
Interestingly, even though the Outback suspension is known for its raised ride-height (and more clearance) the top of the AC unit on top of the X-Factor 210 is around 3.03m from the ground. When you then take in the fact the internal height of the body is 2.03m that’s a remarkable effort.
VALUE FOR MONEY
Plenty of people will tell you that you cannot put a price on memories with your children and though I totally agree, my job is to evaluate your options so here we go. At $85,000 you’ll be hard-pressed to find a van built on an equivalent chassis, with the same appliances and with a similar layout — in fact, I couldn’t find another 2-door family bunk van like it. You will find plenty of options for offroad-ready, traditionally laid out family vans in the region of $90,000 and a few closer to the Franklin’s lower RRP before a gulf in luxury and inclusions down to much cheaper vans from the likes of Kokoda that I would not cross-shop with this particular Franklin.
A look around competitive, popular brands like Royal Flair, Halen Vans and Legend suggests there is plenty of opportunity for a 21-foot family bunk van for similar investment and with a similar luxury feel, so the appeal will really be in the layout and volume of the ensuite.
THE BOTTOM LINE
There is a lot to like about the X-Factor 210. It is luxurious, capable and well-appointed plus comes at a very competitive price. Add in the innovative layout and it will have massive appeal to young families looking to hit the road in our post-COVID world.
MY PERFECT FRANKLIN
There are a lot of positives about the layout of the X-Factor 210 but, in my opinion, it could be better still. So what would make the perfect Franklin for me? I’d keep the chassis, suspension and appliances the same as they represent great quality for the money, and I would keep the double doors, but I would invert the layout. For young kids, giving them access to the kitchen doesn’t sit well with me; I don’t fancy cleaning up the mess they could make with a bottle of sauce, nor do I like the idea of them finding my beer.
I would swap where the bunk and main beds reside while making the main bed a hi-lo. Seen in some Jayco and many Royal Flair caravans a hi-lo bed can be suspended over a club lounge allowing for a larger lounge when up and a decent size bed when down. It does come with the hassle of not having open sides around the bed, but this is a family van and as ‘young’ adults, it’s not too hard to shimmy off a confined bed.
The outcome creates a dedicated kid's area upfront without the kitchen access and an adult’s section with a bit more space to entertain.
I was stopped a few times by curious onlookers about the silver Land Rover Discovery 5 we were graciously loaned to complete this review with. Everyone wanted to know more so we commissioned a full review from auto-industry legend, Ged Bulmer (found in issue #602), but in case you missed it here are some basics.
It is pretty good on diesel with an average 17.5 litres used per hundred in our 200km long test route. We were on a tight time schedule (beating the Melbourne lockdown by hours) so travelled at a rapid but legal pace. I believe 15 litres per hundred is a real possibility for a more sedate driver towing a full-bodied van like the X-Factor 210.
In terms of tech, for a circa $160,000 vehicle, it surprisingly lacked Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, the fantastic phone integration system seen in most new vehicles, but it ticked all the current safety bits like emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane-departure warnings. However, the thing that stood out the most was what has made previous generations of the Discovery so great (and so popular) — the self-levelling and adjustable air suspension. It is the gold standard for towing and its ability to be lowered to a grass-scrapping height can really help with hitching.
Power from the turbocharged V6 was ample and visibility was actually fantastic. You sit quite high in the fifth generation Disco and although the windscreen is not as upright as older models, it still allows for an excellent view out over the bonnet. As an alternative to the ever-popular LandCruiser, it does well with a better feeling and higher-quality interior though support in the outback might be a bit of a worry.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Body length 6.4m (21ft)
Overall length 8.8m (28ft 10in)
Width 2.45m (8ft)
Height 3.03m (9ft 11in)
Payload 550kg (calculated)
Ball weight 290kg
Chassis Preston Supagal
Suspension AL-KO Outback Enduro
Brakes 12in drum
Wheels 16in Alloy
Water 2 x 90L
Battery 2 x 100Ah AGM
Solar 2 x 170W
Air conditioner Ibis-4
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control Optional
Cooking 4-burner with oven
Fridge Dometic 3-way
Bathroom Separate toilet and shower
Hot water Truma Ultra Rapid
PRICE AS SHOWN
To enquire about this caravan, head to .franklincaravans.com.au