For adventurous travellers, there are a number of offroad caravan manufacturers that build vans suitable for towing on the rougher roads throughout Australia. Most of them, not surprisingly, are based in south-east Queensland. Apart from anything else, that puts them close to some of the best testing grounds!
Kedron Caravans falls in this category, and has several offroad caravans built for the best of the outback. One of the latest to come out of the Kedron factory door is the Cross Country XC3.
Like the rest of the Kedron fleet, the XC3 is built on a 150mm-railed hot-dipped galvanised chassis built in the box-section style. It rides on trailing arm coil spring suspension fitted with dual shock absorbers. Sixteen-inch steel wheels are fitted, but that’s unusual – normally alloys are used, designed to fit either a LandCruiser or Prado stud pattern.
Up front, the uprated 6000kg (normally 3500kg) McHitch coupling, mounted on an extended drawbar, keeps the van well and truly on the tow hitch. Fitted between the chassis rails are three polyethylene water tanks: 100L for everyday use and 60L for drinking.
To keep the XC3’s body rigid as it traverses the tracks, Kedron employs an aluminium interlocked frame, with high tensile steel rivets, except in the roof where the frame is welded. And in case you are wondering, the stand-out colour of the aluminium cladding is called ‘Champagne’. The usual features, such as the Camec security doors and tinted acrylic hopper windows, are fitted, as are two 9kg gas cylinders, a jerry can holder, mesh stoneguard and steel rack between the drawbar rails. Additional stone protection is provided via alloy checkerplate three quarters of the way up the front wall and a zipped vinyl protector across the front window.
One other feature fitted to the nearside corner, and with its own checkerplate protection, is the diesel tank for the Eberspacher space heater – an example of the logical thinking that goes on at Kedron HQ.
If there’s one thing that’s for sure about the XC3, it’s that there is plenty of external storage space. The dual-door boot up front isn’t particularly deep, but there’s enough space on one side for three house batteries, the associated charger and 12V fuses. Behind that, a large tunnel boot has a slide-out barbecue on the nearside but plenty of storage space on the opposite side. A third bin, offering space for a generator and much more, is located at the rear offside.
External living is clearly a feature of this XC3. In addition to the slide-out barbie, there’s an awning and picnic table, as well as an entertainment unit where a flatscreen TV can easily be attached. For evenings, there are three very bright LED strip fittings, not to mention a light integrated with the grab handle at the door.
The XC3’s length of 8.95m (29ft 3in) allows for a spacious interior comprised of a rear door, front bedroom, nearside kitchen, offside dinette and full-width rear bathroom.
The internal décor comes with some interesting descriptions: the laminate is ‘Lava’, the curtains are ‘Nutmeg’, the upholstery is ‘Yarra’, and the timber throughout is finished in ‘Neo American Oak’. Despite the prevailing timber look, the van throughout remains attractive. Usually, the XC3 comes with a lighter-weight pine for the cabinetry but, in this case, it was upgraded to the oak finish normally used in the marque’s Topender vans.
Cooks will certainly appreciate the large kitchen bench, not to mention the full-height, multi-shelved pantry by the entry door, so there’s plenty of room to stock up for trips to remote areas. There’s a good supply of drawers below the bench, too, as well as cupboards and overhead lockers.
The kitchen is fitted with a Smev four-burner cooktop, grill and oven, with a stainless steel sink avec drainer alongside. A microwave is mounted in the cabinetry above.
Above the rangehood are the battery charger/inverter controls, battery monitor, Eberspacher space heater switch and sound system. Although it’s a convenient location for these items, I’m never sure about putting electronics near where they’ll possibly be affected by cooking steam.
That other essential kitchen item, a Waeco 215L 12V compressor fridge, is fitted between the dinette and the bathroom wall.
Above the bench at the forward end is the mounting point for a 19in flatscreen TV, positioned so that it could be viewed from either the bed or dinette.
The dinette is simple but contemporary, with two seats, a tri-fold table and cupboard beneath. In addition, there are two inwards-facing drawers under the seats and two LED reading lights fitted. The cabinet that sits between the dinette and bedroom is a clever touch – the lower half contains drawers and a lidded storage bin, while the top half contains cupboards set back in line with the overhead lockers
BED, BATH AND BEYOND
Mounted on a posture slat 1.98x1.52m (6ft 6in x 5ft) base that allows storage underneath, the innerspring mattress bed is surrounded by wardrobes, overhead lockers and bedside cabinets.
Although many bedhead designs look the same, this one does have a bit more character, with angled lockers and a deep shelf behind the bed. Windows all-round and a ceiling-mounted Fiamma fan ensure good natural light and ventilation.
During the last few years, RV bathrooms have become larger and more sophisticated, and the XC3’s doesn’t buck this trend. Of course, there’s a 0.8sqm shower cubicle and a Thetford ceramic cassette toilet, but the vanity cabinet is indeed a thing of beauty and practicality, with a plethora of cupboards and drawers of different sizes, one accommodating a front-loading washing machine.
Putting aside the fact it doesn’t have a grey water tank, this XC3 is completely self-contained for remote travel. The three 120Ah house batteries are charged by both a 40A float charger, Anderson plug and two 130W solar panels. All those electrics are necessary to power the 12V fridge and 1800W inverter when away from mains. Also, the two-pin 12V socket (better than a cigarette lighter socket) hidden in the locker above the dinette is there for a portable inverter.
In the towing and weight department, this particular van was a custom order and had a considerable number of options fitted, increasing the van’s weight and moving it out of the Toyota Prado’s towing range – the vehicle for which this van was originally designed. With a Tare of 2600kg and an ATM of 3500kg, it certainly has a good load capacity, but it’s also well into LandCruiser territory!
THE BOTTOM LINE
There’s no doubt that the Kedron team have done their homework on the Cross Country XC3. On the fitness-for-purpose front, anyone familiar with their Gall Boys videos will know that their practical experience is often learned the hard way! Indeed, prior to starting their videos business, their testing trips were just that – testing their vans.
Regulars might have also noticed that there is always a Toyota pulling a Kedron during their caravan adventures. That’s because Toyota likes to get its 4WDs tow-tested as well, often under trying conditions, so serious travellers can have every confidence in a rig such as this – whatever options it comes with!
There are number of tow hitches on the market these days. Apart from the conventional ball coupling, there is the Hitchmaster DO25 and 35, the Hyland and Treg, to name but a few. The McHitch’s claim to fame is that, while most hitches use the hitching point as both a trailer attachment and swivel/pivot point, the McHitch Uniglide coupling separates the two functions.
For this to work properly, a tapered stainless steel pin is used instead of a conventional ball, designed to lock the coupling on securely via a ratchet mechanism, and to reduce coupling movement to zero. Such is its manufacturer’s confidence in the McHitch that it claims no grease is required! As a back-up, a hitch receiver pin is inserted into the hole at the front of the coupling.
Horizontal and vertical articulation is handled by the universal joint coupling. This setup has been thoroughly engineered and tested… because it’s actually a Toyota LandCruiser component adapted for a slightly different purpose. Being less flippant, it’s also been through the ADR testing process for its revised function.
Kedron’s Glen Gall is pretty keen on the McHitch.
“We have used the McHitch couplings for many years and, as with most components that we incorporate into the Kedron manufacturing process, we prefer to have some extensive field testing undertaken to concrete a product’s claims of ability to both handle the conditions and give peace of mind for our customers when travelling with the vans,” he said.
“Most owners tell us that they would never do what we do with their own van, though it’s great to know if it does handle that, it will be more than capable of what they had in mind!
“We have been very happy with the McHitch product and we fit the 3.5t version as standard to our Cross Country XC3, and the 6t variant to the All Terrain and Topender models.”
- Interior look and finish
- Copious external and internal storage space
- Cabinetry finish
- Dinette layout with end cabinet
- Good lighting and power points
I WOULD HAVE LIKED...
- A little less weight
- Nothing else of note
Originally published in Caravan World #514, May 2013