Ahhh, the Cape. The Tip. Cape York. All of those combinations of one syllable words tend to have the same effect on me. I take a deep breath, sink back into my chair a little more, tilt my head as my eyes glaze over and drift off to places like the Dulhunty River, Vrilya Point (when you could go there) or Nanthau Beach. And let's not forget to mention the crowd favourites of Eliot Falls, Lakefield and Punsand Bay.
The Cape has got it all — remote locations, awesome campsites, epic scenery, some pretty good 4WDriving and the fishing ain't too bad either.
So when the team from Aussie FiveStar Caravans named their full offroad spec van The Cape, it immediately conjured up images of being able to handle the rough stuff, while being equipped for moderate stays away from re-stock points.
Let's dig a little deeper to see if this 5.6m (18ft 6in) double bunk family van lives up to its namesake.
Before we hitched up to the Ranger WildTrak dual cab at the yard, I got to have my first look at The Cape.
Without even being handed the marketing brochure, I could see The Cape had those characteristics which have become standard fare for offroad — and sometimes not even full offroad — vans. A high waist of powder-coated black aluminium checkerplate (for that rugged look), a 6in extended A-frame and Cruisemaster DO35 hitch for strength and articulation, as well as all-terrain tyres, strong enough for endless corrugations often encountered on outback roads.
One thing that did stick out, for what is obviously an offroad van, and something that I have become accustomed to seeing, was the lack of stone shield mounted to the A-frame. After having a chat with Luke from Sunshine Coast dealer, Caravan World (yep, we share the same name!) he advised me this was done as a weight saving measure, as most stoneguards weigh around 25kg.
On discussion with potential buyers, Luke said they strongly recommend the use of rock tamers or similar to be fitted to the tow vehicle to protect the front of the van from stone damage.
After a short blacktop drive to our setup location, we unhitched and my offsider for the day, Marty, went to work getting everything all set up.
For the little time I had The Cape behind the dual cab, it felt solid, stable and well-balanced. The grunt of the Ranger had no trouble whatsoever with the 2120kg tare, while the ball weight of 140kg had little effect on the ute's rear suspension.
Due to time constraints, we didn't get a chance to put The Cape through an arduous test offroad. However, we did manage to find a few gullies and some fast gravel sections. Again, The Cape performed capably, tracking well behind the Ranger.
In saying that, while I am only speculating, in a serious offroad situation, the considerable rear overhang and low-slung spare tyre may end up resulting in a few scrapes and bruises.
FROM THE GROUND UP
If the eyes are the window to a person's soul, then underneath a caravan must be the RV industry equivalent. It's where secrets can't be hidden, and the truth will always come out.
That's why I love crawling underneath the vans I get to review. You can tell a lot by what goes on underneath the plywood (as is the case with The Cape) or composite floors.
Holding that plywood floor in place is a 150 x 50mm chassis and 50 x 50mm cross supports. This is on top of the 150 x 50mm A-frame that continues all the way through to the axle. As you've probably noticed in the pics, The Cape only has one of those.
Alpha Components X-Treme independent trailing arm suspension with coils and Pedders shocks help keep the ride smooth over all surfaces. Having Pedders shocks fitted will ensure that if you ever have an issue, it will be a simple task to get hold of a replacement. Offroad traction comes by way of 245/75R16 all-terrain tyres on alloy rims, and 12in electric brakes help to pull the van up.
A pair of 95L poly fresh water tanks sit forward of the axle, with the 100L grey water tank to the rear. Simple zincalume sheet is used to provide protection to the poly tanks when offroad. For ease of cleaning, the grey water tank has been fitted with a 50mm outlet — a damn good idea if you ask me.
Also found below the floor line are a pair of chassis mounted battery boxes. These are located behind the driver's side wheel and each house a 100Ah battery.
Underfloor services have generally been run out of harm’s way, but there was some loose and untidy wiring that could become snagged on a branch.
Waterproof connectors for the trailer brakes wouldn't go astray either, especially on an offroad van.
When you've found that perfect camp site at Hann Crossing, you'll be happy to know it won't be long before you're kicking back and enjoying the serenity, while keeping an eye out for crocs.
There's heaps of room in the full-width tunnel boot for your camp chairs and a picnic table, which will fit perfectly under the rollout awning. Grab the barbie out while you're there, hook it up to the gas outlet located under the tunnel boot and get those sausages sizzling.
If listening to some tunes while you're off grid is your thing, The Cape has got you covered with a stereo system as well as waterproof external speakers — you can even bring the 24in TV outside if you feel the need. A pair of LED lights will ensure you don't trip over anything in the dark.
At the rear of the van, a two-bar rear bumper provides the mounting point for the single spare and an external shower is perfect for a quick rinse after you've been out fishing for that elusive barramundi. Fitted as standard is a high mounted reverse camera, which provides an added help when negotiating tight tracks or heaven forbid, a van park!
Something I didn't see at the back of the van on my walk around were a couple of recovery points. For a dedicated offroad van, I would think these would be a standard fitment in the event a sticky situation was ever encountered.
Mounted on the A-frame are all the standard items: a pair of 9kg gas bottles, fresh water tap, safety chains, jockey wheel, hand brake and electrical connections.
On the offside at the rear, another hatch provides access to a storage locker that can also be accessed from inside the van.
On stepping up inside, and knowing it was also a family van with twin bunks, I was seriously surprised to see a north-south, island, queen-sized bed — for sure, I was expecting to see an east-west bed configuration, of which I am not the greatest fan. Somehow, though, the design team from Aussie FiveStar Caravans have been able to fit in an island bed, and I was pretty impressed.
The interior colour palette of the van follows what seems to be the overriding trend in modern vans these days — all white with grey upholstery and accents. While the bright white walls and LED lighting give that feeling of spaciousness, I'm wondering when a manufacturer is going to pull the trigger on a new colour scheme to grab attention?
The overall floor plan of The Cape is rather standard fare of what you would find in much larger vans, with main bed at the front, kitchen and dinette taking up the central section and ensuite and double bunks occupying the rear of the van.
Other areas have felt the effect of fitting the island bed, and you would struggle to fit a family of four around the L-shaped dinette — one of your camp chairs might have to be used for a family dinner around the table.
The kitchen has also had a visit to Weight Watchers, with the use of the 150L Thetford slim-line compressor fridge shaving off a few inches. By using the slim-line fridge, the designers have maintained a decent amount of bench space in the kitchen, as well as more than adequate storage.
Things are also pretty tight in the ensuite, but considering how little time you spend in there, I don't see that as a major issue. Even in this smaller space, there is still ample storage with vanity cupboard and an overhead locker.
In fact, storage is pretty good throughout the van, with hanging space and overhead lockers at the front of the van, as well as above the kitchen and dinette. There is more storage under the queen bed and dinette seats, along with under the bottom bunk.
As for the bunks, I wasn't overly endeared by the access ladder to the top bunk. To me, it looked rather awkward and narrow, with the rungs/steps quite a distance apart, but perhaps I'm looking at it from the perspective of someone in their 40s, not from that of a nimble and rubber-jointed 10-year-old!
Considering how power hungry our lives are these days, it was great to see 12V and USB ports throughout the van. The use of integrated USB points in the reading lamps for both the main bed and the bunks will be well received by the families when on an adventure.
OFF GRID ADVENTURES
For me, one of the most annoying things when travelling this vast country of ours is having to work out when and where I can re-stock when away for extended periods of time.
I know, right? First world problems.
So, how does The Cape stack up when it comes to those off-grid endeavours?
Without water, we die. We all know that. The Cape comes standard with 190L of the wet stuff, so as long as you're pretty frugal with your showers, you've got a decent reserve there. There's space underneath for another tank, but you also have to be mindful of your payload.
As for the electrical system, 200Ah of AGM battery power will look after your power requirements. When you're parked up at Somerset Beach for a couple of days of ‘RnR’ before heading south, the two 160W solar panels will keep those batteries topped up. Inside there is heaps of pantry space for your food, and the 150L fridge will keep your perishable items fresh. As for cooking that food, 18kg of LPG means that it's going to be quite some time before you're looking for a re-fill when on the road.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So what is the answer to my question from way back at the start of this review. Does The Cape live up to its much revered namesake? Is this a fully-fledged offroad caravan?
The foundations are definitely there, that’s for sure. It definitely has enough capacity for moderate off grid wanderings, and it looks the part.
The Cape from Aussie FiveStar Caravans shows great potential as an offroad adventure machine for the young family wanting to discover more of our untouched natural wonders.
And considering you get all this for under $60K, it really is one of the best value for money, offroad family vans on the market and will provide years of creating memories, both on the road and off.
Two-year structural / three-year chassis, one-year appliances and fitting
RVMAP Accredited? No
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Overall length 7.39m (24ft 3in)
External body length 5.64m (18ft 6in)
External body width 2.5m (8ft 2in)
Travel height 3.15m (10ft 4in)
Internal height 1.95m (6ft 5in)
Payload 580kg (calculated)
Ball weight 140kg
Bed size Queen (north/south)
Cladding Composite panels
with composite roof
Chassis 6in steel drawbar and chassis
Suspension Alpha X-treme Duty Independent Suspension with twin shocks and coils
Coupling Cruisemaster DO35
Brakes 12in electric drum brakes/brake safe unit
Wheels 16in alloy rims with 245/75R16 A/T tyres
Water 2 x 95L (potable),
1 x 100L (grey)
Battery 2 x 100Ah AGM
Solar 2 x 160W
Air conditioner Houghton Roof A/C
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control AL-KO ESC
Cooking Swift 3+1 gas/electric cook top w/ grill
Fridge Thetford 150L 12V compressor fridge/freezer
Microwave 25L microwave
Bathroom Ensuite with separate shower, toilet and vanity
Washing machine Daewoo 2kg wall mount
Hot water Swift 26L gas/electric HWS
PRICE AS SHOWN
7071 Bruce Hwy, Chevallum
Ph: (07) 5445 2215