In the Australian RV industry, particularly the caravan sector, slide-outs are something of a dilemma. There’s no doubt that they add interior space to any layout, but they also add weight, extra electrics and moving parts — something of a consideration in contemporary vans.
It was with those dynamic thoughts in mind that I approached my review of Avida’s slide-out fitted Topaz C7652SL tandem axle caravan. This review has been some while in the making because of delay’s caused mostly by COVID-19 lockdowns.
Consequently, when the van, along with a brand new Toyota LandCruiser 300 Sahara tow vehicle, became available from Clintons RV, aka Avida Sydney, I made haste to get the tow vehicle keys in my hot little hand. Not only was I interested in the van, but I had yet to get a test drive of the new LandCruiser and I was curious to see how it compared to the much-loved 4.5L V8 turbodiesel 200 Series, a subject that has been much discussed in the towing fraternity.
When looking over any slide-out layout, to me it’s important that the extra space created by the slide-out is used effectively. I’ve seen one or two layouts in both caravans and motorhomes that caused me to wonder why a slide-out was used at all. No such problems here.
The 7.65m (25ft) van has a 3.74m (12ft 3in) slide-out and it’s been designed with a front club lounge, full width rear bathroom, a kitchen area that’s partly on the nearside wall and partly in the front area of the slide-out. That leaves the mid rear area for an east-west island bed with the bed head in the slide-out and a nearside wall area full of cupboard space.
Those of us used to slide-out operation might be familiar with the ‘Slide-in’ and ‘Slide-out’ switches usually found somewhere around the habitation door area. Not here, at least not in the traditional fashion. Fortunately for me, Mike Hollister from the Sydney Avida team pointed out that the slide-out controls were to be found in the BMPRO touch panel above the doorway, along with a host of other digital switches and electrical readouts for the van. All the main controls are centrally located.
What the bathroom at the rear of the Topaz offers is room to move around. It’s a full width arrangement with an offside cassette toilet, a vanity cabinet that runs across the rear wall and a nearside shower cubicle. It has a door opening wide enough to get in and out with ease and room to turn around within. Even though there’s a top loading washing machine in the rear offside corner, there’s a decent amount of elbow space around the Thetford cassette toilet.
Fitted into the vanity cabinet is a pedestal wash basin, two door cupboard and a large wall mirror. Two overhead lockers with shelves occupy the air space above the loo, so there’s no shortage of bathroom storage space. Bathroom ventilation is supplied by a window above the loo and a fan hatch above the shower. In a confined space like the bathroom, I’d prefer two exhaust fans.
It’s not a major item but for quick roadside stops, it’s not possible to get to the bathroom with the slide-out fully closed up, it does have to be partially opened.
A benefit of a slide-out in a layout like this is that an island bed isn’t too difficult to fit in. Measuring 1.9m x 1.53m (6ft 3in x 5ft), it’s slightly longer than the average caravan bed, which is good for taller persons. Both sides of the bed get a reading light, bedside shelves and an overhead locker, but only the left hand side has USB charger points. For the person on the bathroom side of the bed, it’s a bit of a squeeze along the wall.
Given the layout with all the cabinetry opposite the bed, there’s no shortage of hanger space nor somewhere for the socks and hankies because the cupboard and drawer capacity for the bedroom is quite generous, with two wardrobes and four large drawers.
Lounging in Style
There’s no doubt about the appeal of a front or rear club lounge. In this case being the former but with windows all round, it’s a great place to relax and watch the world go by outside.
The U-shaped leather upholstered lounge is designed with comfort in mind, as well as ease of access. Asymmetrical in shape it will seat two easily and four if sitting close together isn’t a problem. The table on its Zwaardvis pedestal can be moved around easily yet is very stable at the same time. Both a magazine pouch and 230V power point are fitted into the offside corner, as is the hot water switch but that’s a somewhat awkward location. Overhead lockers are fitted above the windows, and I liked the shelf under the front window, however, there are no handy USB charger points. TVs are sometimes located in awkward viewing positions in some vans I have seen but this one, located on the wall opposite the bed, can be swung out and easily seen from the club lounge.
Catering is well handled by the split kitchen. Designed as a one-piece cabinet, the nearside kitchen bench runs back into the bedroom area, which means if nothing else extra benchtop prep space. Fitted into the kitchen component is a four-burner hob and grill, along with a stainless steel sink and drainer. Overall kitchen storage is quite good with two overhead lockers, two drawers and a double cupboard. There’s a couple of cupboards that can be used as either kitchen or bedroom storage.
Facing the main kitchen bench, the cabinetry for the fridge and microwave oven is a little different. Whilst the 188L Thetford three-way fridge is conventionally located, the Samsung microwave oven is more or less at a user-friendly height with air space below. That allows for a slide-out shelf that can be used as extra kitchen prep space when needed and gets around the problem of the wheel arch that sticks out below.
A roller shutter door hides the microwave oven and shelf when not being used. Fitting in between the fridge and microwave oven area is a double wire basket pantry and there’s three good sized drawers below the shelf space.
Power to the People
The 12V electrics are supplied by two 100Ah deep cycle batteries that are charged by 160W of solar panel capacity or the 30A multi-stage charger built into the BMPRO BatteryPlus 35-11-HA battery management system (BMS). All is controlled by the aforementioned Odyssey touch panel that sits above the doorway. The two batteries are located in the offside area of the front tunnel storage, as is the BMS but being behind the batteries it’s rather awkward to get at.
Underpinning the Topaz is a hot dipped galvanized chassis with 150mm x 50mm (6in x 2in) drawbar and chassis rails. All the water tanks, both fresh and grey, are mounted behind the suspension, and, a little unusually, so too is the spare wheel. It’s right at the rear and reasonably easy to get to but does require getting the knees dirty to get it in and out. Up front the coupling a Cruisemaster DO35 pin hitch does its job properly but is a slight challenge at hitching up time — a good reversing camera is a useful item.
Built as a Multi Terrain model, the van is fitted with Cruisemaster’s CRS, an independent setup with coil springs and two shock absorbers per wheel.
Sandwich panel construction is used throughout the Topaz for the walls, roof and floor. An aluminium extrusion is used to fit the walls to the floor and the walls are fixed to the top of the floor, not the side. To minimize leaks, one piece Fibreglass composite panels are used and have a polyurethane frame and high density polystyrene for insulation.
For storage, both a front boot and a front tunnel storage with access from both sides give a very generous are for stashing all the necessary camping items. That doesn’t include the two 9kg gas cylinders because they have a dedicated bin at the front nearside.
The Bottom Line
From my brief time with the Topaz/LandCruiser towing combination, I reckon it’s a great setup. Certainly, for anyone desiring plenty of internal living space, the slide-out fitted Topaz has much to offer. It’s a van packed with features and certainly all the necessary comfort items that we expect in a caravan today. Whilst it does make it a heavy van, the new LandCruiser certainly proved to be well and truly up to the task, thus making for a relatively relaxed towing experience.
VALUE FOR MONEY 7.5/10
“It’s certainly not a budget van but does have a high level of appointment.”
“Relatively heavy van but with right vehicle tows quite well.”
SUITABILITY FOR INTENDED TOURING 8.5/10
“Well kitted out for rough road travel.”
BUILD QUALITY 7.5/10
“Generally speaking the van seemed to be well put together but with a few minor issues.”
“Not hard to sit back and relax in this layout.”
SELF SUFFICIENCY 8.5/10
“Fitted with two 100Ah batteries, a 160W solar panel and a 125L grey water tank.”
CUSTOMER CARE 7.5/10
“3-year factory, 5-year structural, 2-year Avida RV Help.”
“Avida’s composite body structure is certainly a little different.”
“The slide-out creates a layout that’s a little different to the usual.”
AVIDA TOPAZ C7652SL
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Body length 7.63m (25ft)
Overall length 8.82m (28ft 11in)
Width 2.5m (8ft 2in)
Height 3.02m (9ft 11in)
Ball weight 272kg
Cladding Fibreglass composite sandwich panel
Chassis Hot dipped galvanized 150mm x 50mm (6in x 2in)
Suspension Cruisemaster CRS coil springs, dual shock absorbers
Coupling Cruisemaster DO35
Brakes AL-KO 12in
Wheels 15in alloy
Grey Water 125L
Battery 2 x 100Ah
Solar 1 x 160W
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control AL-KO ESC
Cooking Dometic 4 burner & grill
Fridge Thetford N614E 188L three way
Bathroom Thetford cassette toilet & separate shower cubicle.
Hot water Truma 14L
Second 100Ah battery
PRICE AS SHOWN $121,500