Avan is a family-owned company that somewhat flies under the radar. But the team toils away at their Pakenham, Vic, factory to produce a varied and prolific range of caravans, campers and motorhomes across their stable of brands, which also includes Golf and Knaus.
The company began in the late ‘90s in a manner familiar to a number of caravan builders, when Jeff van Baadwyk started making innovative campers in his Melbourne backyard. The company took its name from the unusual folding A-frame design that has been the backbone of the company for many years.
In the last 20 years, Avan has grown to become one of our largest RV manufacturers, operating from a complex of nine factories spread over many hectares. The output is impressive, and because they are so large, they have their own R&D department as well as dedicated designers.
Like every manufacturer across the country, the last few months have had their challenges, but I'm told Avan used some of the downtime to modernise and streamline their spare parts processes. This should help address previous criticisms about spare parts delivery and consequent warranty issues that have dragged on.
One reason for Avan's success has been the way they standardise components across various models. Timber colours remain constant, and some layouts are similar through different sizes vans. For variety, they rely on choices of soft furnishings and laminates for a degree of personal preference for owners.
The latest series of vans seem to have moved away from the tradition of naming models after Van Baadwyk family members and our review van has the more stoic branding as a 587-4 in the Aspire range. It's the only slide-out in the Aspire group and differs from the longer Infinity models by sliding the lounge rather than the bed.
Avan has taken a different path on the construction of its vans than most Australian manufacturers. They have also built a business model that is truly independent and self-sufficient, making their own chassis, body components and furniture in-house. Relying on smart engineering to keep weight down, they still retain the strength required to meet the conditions of Australian roads. An example of weight saving can be seen in the punched C-section cross beams in the chassis that are lighter without compromising rigidity.
It could be said they have also bucked the trend of offering fashionable colours, instead retaining the practical white exterior, suitable to keeping the interior cool in our usually hot weather. They have held firm to the generally white theme and distinctive shape for years, so you can easily spot an Avan on the road.
The Aspire's body is a composite construction of an exterior painted aluminium sheet over structural foam with a ply layer forming the interior. The whole thing is bonded together to form a strong entity that has excellent thermal qualities. As well as the inherently robust construction, this build method solves any problems a timber frame van might have with water getting inside to cause rot.
The Aspire 587-4 is the latest release from Avan and one of four tandem axle vans with a 5.87m (19ft) exterior body length, placing it in the most popular size range for touring couples. Avan is on a winner here because this size van length is light to tow and easy to manoeuvre into tight spaces, but the slide-out gives the interior room of a larger van.
The smooth, bright white aluminium exterior has lower skirts of contrasting black checkerplate that blend with the dark windows and simple black and grey graphics. Going with well-balanced lines, it's a pleasing look, able to maintain a broad appeal that should stay fresh over time.
A simple 50mm ball connecting to the tow vehicle is suitable for most formed road travel and further back a pair of 4.5kg gas bottles ride on the A-frame. There's no stone guard, but it might be a sensible option if travelling on dirt roads is part of your plan because it would better protect the gas regulator, window and high padded vinyl panel across the front.
The van came with an adventure pack which offered higher-riding and heavier roller rocker AL-KO leaf springs, more robust axles, 16in instead of 15in wheels and a fold-out step to help entry with the extra height of the van. The standard 130x50mm chassis is also upgraded to 150x50mm rails on the Adventure pack, and an offroad hitch is an option. Brakes are electric 10in drums on all wheels.
All plumbing and electrical installation was neat, and I liked the way the builders have led the hand brake cable along the side of the chassis to protect it instead of underneath as seen on many vans, including some offroaders.
Storage and quick access to often used tools are essential on any medium or small size van, so finding the various winders and wheel braces had their own place inside the well-lit and neatly lined tunnel boot was a pleasant surprise. It was also reassuring to see a properly certified gas compliance plate attached there as well.
One of the features along the side that add to the neat appearance is the Thule wind out awning, which has the legs built-in rather than being attached to the caravan wall. Not only is the system quick and easy to use, it means there is no conflict with window operation or location.
Down the back, a two-arm bar holds a single spare, and a wide window opens to the rear ensuite.
The white fibreglass Dometic security door leads to a well-lit interior with an ensuite across the back and bed upfront.
The interior colour scheme is a Smoked Ash timber laminate which gives a retro image that has come back in the last year, so it's right on trend. However, you can choose gloss two-toned cupboard doors, which go well with the curved faces of the joinery. There are also a variety of soft furnishings to add some sparkle.
Our review van was optioned with an Ambience pack, which includes strip lighting under the benches and cupboards, LED spots overhead and USB points on all the reading lights.
A rear-entry rear bathroom layout appeals for the quick access from outside and the preferred privacy of the bed away from the door. So, it also makes sense to have the toilet on the near side rather than look straight into it from the doorway. The Avan has this arrangement and also the benefit of that big rear window, so the room doesn't feel too confined.
A couple of features right at the doorway show smart use of space: the small cupboard right at the step is creative, and the map holder on the ensuite bulkhead and a brolly stand lower down will be handy.
A 186L three-way (gas-electric) fridge lives opposite the entry with room for a microwave and storage cupboard above. Further back is the slide-out section, and its club lounge makes a big difference to the liveability of the van. Like most folk, I'm a big fan of a decent place to relax when camping and a club lounge offers enough room to spread out or invite some friends round for a quiet drink.
The kitchen on the review van had a Thetford Mini grill with a full oven as an option, and I liked the way the air from the rangehood was neatly ducted outside the van. Other neat features are the slide-out bench extension and a wine rack in a narrow space below the bench.
The storage space under the bed includes access to the through boot, which could be handy. A 110Ah battery and the Projector charger are also here. While the wiring looks exemplary, I'd like to see some separation from the storage space to stop items rolling around and hitting the electronics.
An 80W solar panel charges the battery and a display panel at the doorway monitors the system. Given the van isn't a dedicated offroader, this is enough power for occasional stays off-grid. For longer trips, you could opt for more battery of course and the twin 85L water tanks are enough for most circumstances.
When empty, the 587-4 weighs in at 1980kg and can carry up to 520kg for an ATM of 2500kg, putting it in the towing capability of some medium SUV’s as well as most twin cabs.
Towing was effortless behind the Supercentre's Ford Ranger Wildtrak as we travelled at legal speeds on the Freeway and across backroads and into the hills around Beerburrum. The ride was smooth with no vibration or harshness through the trailer connection.
Warranty is two years for the van and three years for the Thetford appliances. The Avan warranty is unequivocal in what it covers and is one of the best in terms of meeting Australian Consumer Law. However, the document incorrectly states that warranty for third party items, like appliances, is the responsibility of those suppliers.
Driveaway price is $65,990 including the options of the Adventure pack, improved lighting, security door and the solar panel. You would have to agree this is pretty tempting, and remember it includes $6000 of options.
The Aspire is a comfortable van for couples thanks to the extra room and ambience of the slide-out. The Adventure pack extends the van’s horizons to more comfortable runs over formed dirt roads to reach some of those more remote national parks and camps.
The Avan Aspire delivers sensible towing weight and innovative construction without pretending to be the most rugged or luxurious van on the market. The Aspire is more of a reliable all-rounder, and as such, it plays right to the heart of most caravanners.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Overall length 7.55m (24ft 6in)
External body length 5.87m (19ft 2in)
External body width 2.45m (8ft)
Travel height 2.9m (9ft 5in)
Internal height 1.92m (6ft 3in)
Ball weight 120kg
Frame One-piece composite aluminium sandwich panel
Cladding Polymar internal rib framing
Chassis Hot-dipped galvanised
Suspension Rolla Rocker
Coupling AL-KO 50mm ball — optional swivel
Wheels LT245-70R16 w/ Primal Alloys
Water 2 x 95L freshwater, optional 95L grey water
Battery 100Ah AC Delco sealed lead acid
Solar 80W w/ Projecta pm200 Battery Management System
Air conditioner Houghton Bel Air 3400
Gas 2 x 4.5kg
Sway control Optional AL-KO ESC
Awning Thule 5200 Omnistor
Cooking Swift Minigrill — optional oven
Fridge 186L Thetford AES N185
Microwave LG 23L
Bathroom Thetford Cassette Toilet
Washing machine Optional top or front loader
Hot water Swift gas/electric 23L storage unit
Adventure pack Chassis, 12W solar panel, security screen door, Ambience LED Lighting pack
PRICE AS STANDARD $59,990 Drive Away QLD
PRICE AS SHOWN $65,990 Drive Away QLD
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