The last couple of years have seen caravan sales skyrocket, sending thousands of new converts out on the road. Offroad vans rate highly, especially for an adventurous mix of young families. But there are also still heaps of oldies keen to get into remote places with their van, even if it looks like some of those spots might be more crowded than usual.
High on the list of essential destinations are the many beach adventures all the way around the coast — except in Victoria, maybe. Beach driving is one of those rites of passage for many new to offroad caravanning, and happily, the opportunity was right at our doorstep for our review of this 19ft 6in Titanium Hardcore ATX.
Caravans Coffs Coast is a dealership dedicated solely to offroad vans, and they have a wide variety of out-of-the-way locations in the mountains to the west. But they also have access to the long Boambee Beach, almost in the middle of town. Unfortunately, it’s also right next to the local airport, so getting drone images was a step too far.
The range of vans on display at the dealership includes a decent mix of Titanium models, so we had our choice of couples and family vans across single axle and tandem versions, all with a choice of medium to heavy-duty applications. The 19ft 6in Hardcore ATX we see here is as tough and capable a couple’s adventure van as they come.
The size of an offroad caravan is one of the first things buyers need to consider when putting their wish list together. It determines how easy it is to tow, especially into confined spaces and how easy it is to extract from that inevitable bog somewhere down the track, and it sets the limits for your intended tow vehicle — we’ll come back to that in a minute. Of course, even a 19ft 6in van will be too big for some situations. But for, getting into a variety of campsites and handling rough, corrugated, and washed out roads it will offer a good compromise of interior space and towability.
Matching the tow vehicle and van is essential. Titanium owner Jason Grech says he is often optioning vans with as many appliances and as much solar and battery power as will fit. So, to be safe, he reckons anything over a 2900–3000kg tare (depending on what accessories are fitted to the car) will need an American ute by the time you load up all your gear.
Andrew from Caravans Coffs Coast agrees that a large four-wheel drive will tow these vans, but that any large American truck will do it with ease — so we hooked our review van to his new Silverado 1500. The dark greys of the ATX and big Chev looked a treat as we headed to the beach.
The Hardcore ATX gets its name from its super rugged build and Cruisemaster ATX airbag suspension. It’s a high riding model with much of the twin 100 x 50mm S and M laminated chassis rails on show at the wheel arches and along the sides. That’s 200mm of depth of very stout metal, demonstrating a very robust build. The independent trailing arm airbag suspension includes an offroad race spec monotube damper/shock absorber for each wheel from a control box in a hatch near the wheel well. You can raise the van’s height for slow, rough going or use the system to level the van on uneven ground when camped. An outlet at the panel also allows inflation of tyres when changing pressures for offroad driving.
A DO35 hitch at the 150 x 50mm drawbar ensures unlimited articulation over rough ground, and a full-width stone guard and mud flaps with Titanium logos should protect the front to the van. Twin 9kg gas bottles sit ahead of an XXL checkerplate toolbox that sports a Thule twin bike rack top.
To accommodate the XXL toolbox the van gets a higher more aggressive front shape, allowing for bigger tunnel boot and more under bed storage. On opening the kerbside of the toolbox, we find an example of the attention to detail that Caravans Coffs Coast bring to their vans. The slide-out features a Baby Q, the lid of which is colour coded to the electric blue of the van’s wheels and graphics. It’s one of those features that jump out at prospective customers.
More storage is found in a tunnel boot at the front of the van, and there’s the usual TV and 12V connections in a central entertainment hatch. There’s more smart thinking on the driver side, where a door opens to a cooling tower for the 12V fridge when parked in extra hot conditions. Twin spare wheels sit high out of the way on a sturdy bar, and somewhat cheeky graphics boast the Tough AF (aluminium frame).
The layout is the popular rear entry, front bedroom design that gets the bed away from the entry door for as much privacy as possible. A roomy ensuite runs across the back, with a cafe dinette on the kerbside and a kitchen running along the opposite wall.
The grey theme of the exterior carries over inside, but with lighter tones on the higher cupboards to balance the effect. The new CNC interlocking cut and joined furniture is beautifully finished, and hidden catches and locks enhance the modern look. Long windows and plenty of white finishes on walls and ceiling help create a bright open space.
I noticed in the recent change to CNC lightweight cabinetry that the piano hinges on cupboard doors have been replaced by quality Bluhm hinges. But, where necessary, up to five hinges will keep the doors in place over rough roads. The furniture interlocks in over 300 locations on a 19ft 6in. Another change is the move to synthetic leather at the dinette. It still looks great and should be exceptionally hard wearing without too much maintenance. Functional storage is found in high cupboards, the kitchen bench and under the bed and in the en suite.
OFF THE GRID
The ATX gets an impressive suite of features for extended stays in the bush. Three 85L poly tanks provide a decent water supply, especially if you are near a swimming hole or are happy with a quick shower.
Three roof-mounted solar panels supply a pair of 200Ah Enerdrive Lithium batteries through an Enerdrive charger, and a 2600W inverter will power most appliances. All the electronic monitoring and controls are gathered neatly together in an overhead cupboard, but I would like to have seen the fuse panel labelled with the relevant circuits.
The ATX sits at the top of the Titanium range, and it’s a big and impressive looking van that carries its offroad intent with pride. It’s a tough van with a well-engineered and robust chassis and frame built to withstand the tortures of harsh conditions. As costs for everything creep up, the $156,550 buy price isn’t insignificant, especially when you have to match it with a suitable tow vehicle. But against its competition, it stands up well and if you want top shelf, then expect to pay.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Overall length 8.65m (28ft 3in)
External body length 5.97m (19ft 6in)
External body width 2.35m (7ft 8in)
Travel height 3.14m (10ft 3in)
Internal height 1.97m (6ft 5in)
Payload 680kg (calculated)
Ball weight 145–160kg unladen
Frame Aluminium frame with Henrob fixing system
Cladding 3mm Composite Cladding Chassis 8in chassis includes
a 4in raiser
Suspension Cruisemaster ATX Airbags
Coupling DO35 Vehicle Components
Wheels 16/285/75 Mud Terrain incl. tyres and size
Water 3 x 85L Poly tanks
Battery 2 x 200A Enerdrive Lithium & 2600W Inverter
Solar 3 x 175W panels
Air conditioner Truma Aventa
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control No
Cooking Swift oven
Fridge Dometic 12V 224L tropical rated
Bathroom Full en suite
Washing machine Top load 3.5kg
Hot water 28L Swift
$156,550 on road
Bike rack and Weber not included
PRICED AS SHOWN
$156,550 on road
Caravan Coffs Coast
186 Pacific Hwy, Coffs Harbour NSW 2450
Ph: (02) 6652 5523