Choosing the ideal chariot for your adventures is a big, and often difficult, decision. But if you want to travel with your toys in tow, you at least have a starting point from which to make that decision. Whether you’re a couple who likes to take your Harleys on tour, a young family who wants to pack the mountain bikes for the school holidays, or a bunch of mates following the motorbike circuit around the country, there’s a good chance you’ll want something that can carry your gear, as well as meet your domestic needs. And, if that’s the case, this Caria Toy Hauler GT-8 might just be the ultimate basecamp.
LAYOUT & DESIGN
The GT-8 has a distinctive angled front, designed to reduce wind drag. Clad in white moulded fibreglass, it has black tinted windows befitting its tough stature. But it’s when you set up at camp that this van really catches your eye. At the press of a button, the second storey bedroom (yes, that’s right), with solid fibreglass walls and housing a queen-size bed, rises from the back half of the van’s roof. This unique feature definitely sets this van apart.
Below the bedroom, the rear of the van houses the other standout feature – the garage, which doubles as the home theatre and gaming space, as well as a second bedroom with two single bunks. The garage (2.4x2.24x1.8m) will comfortably fit two motorbikes side-by-side – providing secure storage and allowing you to pack everything you want, without needing multiple cars. This space is also totally customisable, so if you prefer to forgo the home theatre for another set of bunks or a double bed, or prefer to keep this area totally free for extra gear, that’s possible, too.
Once you lower the tailgate and take out the toys, all you need to do is put the cushions on the bench-style couch and your theatre-away-from-home is ready to go, providing hours of entertainment if the weather turns bad or at the end of a long day tearing up the tracks on your bikes. In the evening, slide the extra mattress on to the bracket above the couch and the kids (or your mates) can roll straight into bed after the movie finishes.
The garage is set up for easy loading and unloading via the remote-controlled electric tailgate, which can also be set flat to create a porch at the back of the van, complete with a rear awning. There’s also a nearside awning, providing shelter over the TV bracket and the slide-out barbecue to the left of the entry door. There’s a couple of external speakers as well, so you’re all set for entertaining outdoors.
BEDROOM & STORAGE
The half-moon-shaped table in the club lounge drops down to make a double bed, bringing the bed count to six in total. The comfortable lounge will seat four and possibly a few more if you don’t mind getting cosy, but the table isn’t huge if you’re all trying to eat. There is decent storage under the lounge, but you have to lift the couch cushions to access it.
Overhead lockers either side of the lounge and shelves above at the front provide additional storage here. Our review van also came with a second, 22in TV that fits to a bracket facing the lounge. Another small luxury is the RV wi-fi, connected to an antenna on top of the van that provides a stronger internet signal than that of a smartphone.
Access to the penthouse suite is via a ladder that stows away when not in use. The climb up is pretty easy but it won’t suit everyone. You can comfortably sit up on the bed and it feels reasonably spacious once you’re up there – as long as you don’t mind not being able to stand up. There are carpeted storage spaces on both sides of the bed.
In the kitchen, there’s a small slide-out pantry, and a mix of cupboards and drawers. Both the sink and the four-burner cooktop (with grill and oven below) come with covers, which provide valuable additional bench space. Opposite is the 184L three-way fridge with a microwave above, at a height that will prove difficult for some.
The small bathroom is fairly basic, comprising an adjustable height shower and a cassette toilet. There’s a light with a fan plus a window for ventilation. It’s quite a narrow standing space as there’s a raised platform that runs along the offside to allow for the wheel arches, but it’s a pretty good addition, given all the features that are already packed into this van.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Overall, the GT-8 is a luxurious offering, with a good amount of features as standard and a plush interior to boot. The upstairs bedroom is unique and certainly a novelty, but it also creates valuable extra living space downstairs.
For shorter trips, you will comfortably sleep six people and there’s plenty of space in the garage to fit everything you could possibly need. There’s 580kg of packing weight, which is pretty good for a standard van, but you will need to be wary of how many toys you are packing once you take your water, food, clothes and the rest of your gear into consideration. The 3500kg ATM also means you will need a large tow vehicle.
Having a fully-customisable garage gives you room to play and you can set this up however you wish. A full home theatre is not something you see every day in a van and, let’s be honest, it’s pretty damn cool. On the flipside, some might see it as detracting from the true camping experience. Each to their own, though.
At $92,990, as reviewed, this van falls at the pricier end of the spectrum. But if you like to do your adventuring in style, and with all your toys in tow, it’s a pretty fine offering.
HITS & MISSES
- Secure storage for sports equipment
- Second storey bedroom creates additional space downstairs
- Home theatre is great wet weather entertainment
- Nice fit and finish with plenty of standard features and modern luxuries
- Heavy weight, plus need to be wary of how much you pack in the way of gear to not overload
- Small bathroom with no vanity
- Climbing upstairs to set up the bedroom may not be for everyone
The full test appears in Caravan World #542 October 2015.