The Renaissance Palais is one of those vans you wander through at caravan shows or dealerships and say to yourself, "One day". Well, if you’re one of those lucky buyers for whom that day has finally arrived– that is, you have around $90,000 burning a hole in your pocket– you’ll have plenty to feel happy about.
When shopping in this price range caravanners have every right to expect a high quality product crammed full of appealing goodies, and to this end the Palais delivers. With the van’s supplied Hyundai 2.6kVA generator and provision box, large leather lounge, an internal finish that’s reminiscent of a hotel room, and an appliance list that includes a washing machine, dishwasher and external wine chiller, there’s little else to wish for here.
BIG ’N’ STRONG
For those unfamiliar with the Renaissance name, this is a new range of vans designed and distributed by long-established Maytow Caravans in Adelaide.
"It’s our new fully custom built brand," says Maytow’s John May, "and the Palais is the most upmarket Renaissance offering, with all the bells and whistles."
The team at Maytow is justifiably proud of the Palais we tested. As a family business with years of experience in the caravan industry, its combined knowledge has been put to good use in all areas of the design, from construction to the highly-optioned final layout.
Construction is typical, with a meranti timber frame built atop a 6in hot-dipped chassis. It has a sporty appearance with its wraparound checkerplating and polished alloy wheels that sit on load-sharing independent suspension. There are electric brakes to all wheels (okay, that’s pretty standard) and a handy mesh rack on the A-frame which also holds a pair of 9kg gas cylinders. Two 82L water tanks reside underneath.
While you’d expect such features on a van in this price bracket, there are numerous outside talking points that will make you the envy of the caravan park. An electric step keeps life easy, while an external TV compartment with mounting bracket allows you to watch the telly under the roll-out awning.
An Alden auto satellite system is mounted on the roof and the external chiller drawer for the wine and beers is wonderfully decadent.
The design of the Palais has an emphasis on outdoor living, so a fold-out picnic table wasn’t a surprise. But a lovely touch is the supplied (and ingenious) Weber Baby Q barbecue that fits into one of the Palais’ many external storage compartments. This seems an excellent alternative to the occasionally cumbersome, built-in external barbies.
The first thing that grabs you on entry to the Palais is the wraparound leather lounge. After a long day on the road or out exploring it’s ideal for crashing out on, and the good news is it is as comfy as it looks. It is without doubt one of the nicest I’ve sat on, and its semi-circular shape is ideal for entertaining a few extra friends.
Its also perfect for mealtime or conversations over drinks, with all seated guests able to face each other or enjoy a view of the high-mounted LCD TV. A larger fold-out table would be preferred here, especially if you wanted to feed four or more, and the lounge’s location at the van’s front means head room is a bit limited for taller users, but these are both minor complaints. The supplied small table can drop down to turn the lounge into an extra bed, but if this isn’t needed, a larger table can be specified.
Some caravans of this size make a point of being very open, with only one living space into which all your rooms are incorporated. This works for some people, and usually very well, but the layout of this Renaissance Palais gave me the feeling that the van was deliberately divided into three different rooms– and I liked it. On entry you’re immediately in the lounge and kitchen area; a large door frame leads you into the bedroom, and beyond it a sliding door opens to the bathroom.
Thanks to the east-west positioning of the queen-size bed and the raised floor (so the wheel arches don’t encroach on things), you’ve got plenty of space to navigate through to the bathroom or kitchen. The east-west setup also puts a huge window right at the foot of your bed– it certainly beats staring at a partition.
The kitchen is well considered, too, with a variety of storage options and a choice of food preparation areas. As mentioned, you do expect plenty of luxuries at this price point, and a built-in Dometic dishwasher is of most note. There’s a good-sized oven, microwave and sink, and the glued and screwed cabinets are nicely finished and sturdy.
Plenty of space has been allocated to the bathroom, which also doubles as your laundry. A Dometic front-loader has been nicely incorporated into the cabinets, and above it is a mighty storage area for your washing. Even with the appreciated washer in here, you don’t want for space. There’s no trouble accessing the Thetford toilet, the sink and shower are generous and, unlike in many vans that I have seen over the years, this Palais has a good-sized bathroom mirror suitable for people of all heights.
Overall, the bathroom’s finish is on par with the rest of the inside of this van.
THE BOTTOM LINE
As expected considering its size, the Palais is a weighty offering, and its Tare of 2800kg and ATM of 3200kg necessitates a larger 4WD. A Toyota LandCruiser, for example, would do the job nicely.
But if ever there was an argument for treating yourself to a larger van, the Palais has to be a contender. No, you won’t see much change from $90,000, but you really see what you’re paying for here, with luxury, innovation and appliances in spades.
Our review Palais bodes well for the rest of the Renaissance range– Maytow offers countless different van sizes, layouts and specifications custom-built to order.
You’ll save money the fewer options you go for, but seeing that this Palais is decorated with just about every conceivable added extra, it is a good example of what luxury caravanning should be all about.
Supplied by Maytow Caravans & RV Accessories, 602-606 North East Road, Holden Hill, SA 5088. For more information phone 1300 629 869 or visit www.maytow.com
Words and pics Iain Curry
As featured in the August DIY Special of Caravan World issue 480.