Our feature on Urban's family van differs from most caravan reviews you see here or anywhere. For one thing, we are looking into three almost identical vans newly-purchased by three families. Then we get to see what it’s like as a travelling group as we cross most of the continent along the Southern Ocean.
We first experienced the Urban brand in a review through Hinterland Caravans in southern Queensland a year ago. I was impressed by the build quality and comprehensive offroad and off grid inclusions. When the story went to print, my nephew, Tom, called me and asked if the vans were as good as I had reported. He put me on the spot when he said he was looking for a full-size offroader to replace his camper. So, not to make it too easy for him, I suggested he go and have a look for himself, and within a week, he had booked in at the Newcastle dealer to go over the van. In the meantime, Tom told his sister and a mate about his plans, and the three families went along with their partners for a look. By the end of the day, they had each signed up for vans that differed only by colour inside and out.
It was nearly a year before the vans were handed over to our trio of families and, in the meantime, they all made plans for a year's lap of the country. What an excellent opportunity for Heather and me to tag along for an extended road test. And while we couldn’t fit in the 12-month full tour, we thought meeting up for a couple of months would be ideal. We hadn't seen the southern section of WA, and the opportunity was right in front of us.
The families include Tom, Tamara with children Henri and Frankie; Tom’s sister Jade and husband Dave, daughters, Imogen, Amelie, and Isla and their mates Ryan and Lisa with Sonny and Coco. Between us it’s seven kids aged between 18 months and 10 years, eight adults and four vans. It was going to take some planning to find campsites.
Since we first ran an Urban review, the company has ridden the wild torrent of success that is the local RV industry. Vans are popular if you haven't noticed. The company started in 2012 when owner Steve Trajcevski saw an opportunity to expand his caravan and furniture upholstery business into producing complete caravans. Trajvevski was no stranger to the industry, having spent his youth with his father at the family-owned Opal and Regal caravan builders. The construction model he chose was a robust titanium welded aluminium body on a traditionally rugged heavy-duty chassis. The path is well-trodden for local adventure van builders, so I suspect that even without the frenzied demand for caravans that COVIDE has delivered, the Urban brand would have taken off anyway.
The review vans are 6.4 metre (20ft 6in) Tungsten X-Terrain family models, which places them as rough road capable sitting between the more rugged X-Treme and the semi-offroad Tourer. Built on robust ARV chassis, the vans have independent trailing arm suspension rated at 4.4T and twin shock absorbers. The X-Terrain range is fitted with a DO35 hitch as standard fitment which limits the ATM to 3.5T but a 4.4T option is available by fitting a DO45 hitch and a 4.5T safety chains.
The aluminium wall frame sections are TIG (tungsten inert gas) welded using a Tungsten electrode that lends the vans their name. Each unit is then lock bolted together, allowing the right amount of flex over extreme road conditions without cracking.
Once complete, the frame bolts to Z-channel sections on the supergal chassis. The supergal process guards against corrosion and saves around 80kg compared to hot dip galvanising. Voids in the walls are filled with closed cell insulation and clad outside in aluminium composite.
Furniture is CNC (Computerised Numerical Control) cut with tongue and groove connections before being assembled with glue and screws and attached to the walls. The roof is covered in a single sheet of fibreglass.
The vans look the part, and in the style of contemporary offroaders, there are swathes of checkerplate, large toolboxes and prominent alloy wheels. They ride high on their chunky tyres to create a resolute impression of going places, especially when they rock into town behind a varied collection of Landcruisers, each colour matched to the vans.
Like most offroaders worth the name, the X -Terrains sport a recessed Cruisemaster DO-35 hitch at the front end of an extended drawbar. High stone guards protect large toolboxes, and the guards have proven strong enough on Ryan and Lisa's van to support gear bags for mats and hoses. The toolboxes must also be pretty robust as well because Ryan has a vast collection of surfboards loaded on top in protective covers. Jerry cans sit on either side of twin 9kg gas bottles.
Tom has taken the added precaution of fitting a Stone Stomper, while Ryan and Dave have opted for Rock Tamers. Even so, later in the trip, two of the vans had damage to a water tank strap on the Gibb River Road. Mind you, the damage was minor compared to the carnage around them on that track. I’m told by Urban that the 2023 X-Terrain spec has fully underbody checkerplate armour fitted as standard.
All the vans have GripSport bike racks supplied by Urban and have proven robust and easy to load. Splashes of black graphics along the sides break up the large aluminium panels, but the racing stripes over the front and rear are a unique branding message that stands out from a distance.
A full-width boot up front adds more storage, and there are handy LED working lights over the front and sides. Down the back, we see more jerry cans straddling a single spare on a heavy-duty bar.
Because the vans ride high, it's a decent step up at the front entry into a layout that includes a front bedroom, central living space and a combination rear bunk room and ensuite. Trajcevski's experience producing high-end furniture is evident in the sublime look and finish inside. Each of the three vans has a different colour scheme and a sharp, modern glow, even with all the trappings of life on the road. Tamara and Tom explained it well when they told me the colour choices were wide enough to make it feel like home. Lisa and Ryan liked that they could choose plain leather stitching on the lounge to avoid their small children stuffing their food scraps into a diamond pattern.
Access around the queen bed is easy, with wide aisles to the side. There are side tables, overhead cupboards, and a good storage space under the bed. However, kitchen bench space is limited, so most meals are done outside. The couples all told us it took a while to get into a routine of sharing the cooking and working in the confined space of a van.
At the back, the ensuite runs along the passenger side of the van opposite the bunks. Having a separate shower and toilet is a hit, making it much easier to cycle through ablutions each morning.
The rear wall between bunks and ensuite has a generous storage space over a front load washer which gets a regular workout and has proven to be a cost saver at caravan parks. Each couple has installed soft storage boxes here for clothes, and they wondered why dealers don’t offer something similar as an option.
The vans each have twin 210w solar panels and a total of 200ah of lithium power. It sounds a lot, but all the owners wished they had opted for an extra panel and another 100ah of battery for times of extended cloudy weather.
So too with water. The twin 95L of fresh is usually enough for a few days if showers are minimised, but another tank would come in handy, although there’s a realisation that managing weight is an ongoing issue. The 2023 spec X-Terrain has 2x110L freshwater tanks, 1x 65L dedicated drinking water tank and a 95L grey water tank.
We travelled with the families through South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula and over to the valley of the giants in WA, so we saw plenty of varied country and crossed over many rugged tracks and beaches without incident.
Weighing in at 2554kg when new, the X-Terrains have a generous 946kg payload for a 3500kg ATM, and I’ll bet they all run close to that a lot of the time. None of the drivers had towed a big van before they purchased their Urban. Tom and Dave progressed from camper trailers, and Ryan has a big trailer for his concreting business.
Tom admitted he was pretty nervous about hitting the road for the first time. “It's a big van sitting behind," he said. “But I soon felt comfortable, and I found it is smoother with less sway and has better brakes than my camper.” Ryan agreed. He was surprised how easy it towed behind his 200 Series and said he couldn’t fault the towing.
The group travel in a spread-out convoy, sitting around 90- 95km/h where fuel economy is around 20-22lp/h. They find that speed comfortable and safe and call trucks around on the UHF if they want to get past.
Urban warrants the structural side of the vans for five years in a comprehensive document that clearly spells out their obligations under Australian Consumer Law. Accessories and appliances have their own warranty, but Urban will assist claims through their warranty team.
In the six months the trio had been on the road, the only major problem was dust coming into Tom’s van on the Oodnadatta Track. Urban organised repairs to the faulty dust suppression system in Adelaide, and he was back on the road in a couple of days. I was told any other minor issues and things they could quickly fix themselves.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Jade reckons there’s been massive interest in the Urban brand as they travel around and regularly show people through the vans. All three couples have agreed they love their van and would buy the same one if they had the choice again but with some extra features.
In a market hungry for quality adventure vans, the Urban name is gaining strong traction through a dedication to robust engineering and contemporary style.
Sending three vans out knowing we were going to follow up on how things went was a strong indication of Urban’s confidence in its product. Sure, some little things have gone wrong, but it’s only to be expected when the vans are used how they are intended.
HITS AND MISSES
- Robust engineering
- Beautifully finished inside
- Well priced in its category
- Could use more water and power
- A diesel heater would be good
- Needs shelves in kitchen cupboards
Urban Caravans Tungsten X-Terrain Ratings
Value for Money : 9
In today’s market the Urban stands out as great value for a big and capable off roader
Towability : 8
With a 3500kg ATM it needs a capable tow vehicle but it’s stable and predictable on the road
Suitability for Intended Touring : 9
Fits a family on board for long distance travel
Build Quality : 8.5
Aluminium frame and sturdy engineering with a high quality finish inside
Liveability : 8
Homely modern interior with all the needs of a travelling family
Customer Care : 8
Five-year warranty and a company dedication to fixing any problems. The team assists with sorting issues for appliances etc
Self-sufficiency : 7
Could use a bit more power for periods of cloudy weather
Innovation : 7.5
Integrates all the right ingredients into a stylish and robust package
X-Factor : 8.5
Looks the part as a big capable adventure van
Urban Caravans Tungsten X-Terrain 20’6” (centre door bunk)
Weights and Measures
|Body length||6450m (21ft 1in)|
|Overall length||8.8m (28ft 9in)|
|Width||2.485m (8ft 2in)|
|Height||3.30m (10ft 8in)|
|Ball to Tare ratio||5.1%|
|Suspension||4X HD ARV Trailing Arm|
|Coupling||(Recessed) DO 35|
|Brakes||30cm (12in) Electric|
|Wheels||Bullet (black and silver)|
|Battery||2X 100Ah lithium|
|Air-conditioner||Dometic IBIS 4|
|Sway control (Op)||Alko ESC|
|Hot water||Swift/Casale gas/electric|
- AL-KO ESC
- Extra Anderson plug
- 12V dust reduction system
- DC2DC charger
- 4 person Gripsport bike rack
- TB-SP-02 toolbox (X-TREME)
Urban Caravans Tungsten X-Terrain price from $108,990 (2023 spec)
THE NEXT STEP
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