I’ll say from the outset, without fear or favour, this is one rock-hard rig and I haven’t come across another in its genre with such unyielding qualities.
The TuffTRAX has been more than 60 years in the making, reflecting a South African heritage that harks back to 1952. The TuffTRAX are shipped to Australia from South Africa as a shell and then finished off at Jurgens Australia HQ in Pakenham, Vic, to meet Australian standards. In addition to this imported model, Jurgens has around 20 Australian-made dirt road-capable touring models.
CW took a prototype of the hard-hitting pop-top through the southern slopes of the Yarra Ranges, Vic, and it was truly at home among the undulating 4WD tracks. Not surprising, considering the 4.36m (14ft 4in) TuffTRAX had recently been put through the wringer, undergoing a ‘torture test’, conducted by Jurgens, on some tough Aussie outback tracks. You could call it a ‘tuff love’ initiation.
On that test, Jurgens Australia says it pushed the chassis, suspension, brakes and overall construction to the limit. Put simply, the TuffTRAX was bashed about but revealed it can take a battering, emerging virtually unscathed, with only a few superficial bruises.
LAYOUT & DESIGN
I’ve tackled a few intermediate-level 4WD tracks in my time, but I certainly don’t class myself as a true 4WDing warrior. So I was impressed (and relieved) with the balance and poise shown by the TuffTRAX on the steep inclines and descents. Obviously, its diminutive physique increases manoeuvrability and, pleasingly, at no expense to traction. I didn’t feel any bouncing about from the van, and I would feel confident piloting the TuffTRAX along tracks less travelled.
Exterior features, such as the chassis, suspension, walls and roof only serve to exemplify its capability. The CNC-fabricated, bolt-together galvanised Optima chassis is engineered for maximum strength and minimum weight. Jurgens employs a computer modelling process known as Finite Element Analysis in the chassis design to identify stress points, enabling them to be strengthened in just the right places.
Meanwhile, its Cruisemaster XT offroad trailing arm independent suspension provides an excellent ride and is a proven performer over many years. Rugged 16in alloy rims and 245/70R16 offroad tyres plus 12in offroad electric brakes also assist in this regard.
There’s a side hatch storage compartment which includes a tent pole carrying cylinder, and skid bars (front and rear) to protect the van in challenging terrain. On the rear are two 20L jerry cans with mounted holders and at the front a stone protection blanket covers the body and window. All plumbing and electrical lines are shielded against stone damage.
BEDROOM & STORAGE
There’s a large bed at the front and two single beds in the rear, which can also convert to a double bed. So you could sleep three, or possibly four with two smaller children sharing the front bed. For a couple, the front bed can be utilised for storage. The myriad zippable partitions throughout the interior provide clever storage and also mean supplies are safely stowed when underway.
Internally, the TuffTRAX has a 110L Waeco compressor fridge, a positive pressure hatch to reduce dust ingress, CNC-fabricated ply furniture, blinds/flyscreens on all windows and doors, two portable tables (for internal dining and external use), a door-mounted condiment holder, and a plastic, six-person crockery set concealed in storage drawers under the front bed. There’s no internal bathroom but, instead, a portable toilet in a stowage compartment.
Furthermore, there is a water tank level and battery indicator, fire extinguisher and smoke alarm, adequate 12V LED lighting, USB connection and 12V socket, and an access compartment for plumbing maintenance.
Additionally, there’s an external shower with privacy tent, a hand basin, 100L (main) and 60L (reserve) polyethylene water tanks with metal stoneguards, a 240V powerpoint, 12V water pump, 22.7L gas/electric hot water service, double-glazed windows for thermal and acoustic insulation, and ample LED lighting. The A-frame has a wood carrying platform, a mains pressure tap, and a large lockable boot housing two 9kg gas cylinders. A Hitchmaster DO35 all-terrain coupling completes the package, making for easier hitching and unhitching on uneven ground.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The Jurgens TuffTRAX is spruiked as ‘built tough to follow your 4WD on great offroad adventures with the confidence to get there and back’. And I tend to agree after experiencing first-hand its agility and durability.
It’s small in stature but big in heart. In this case, the ‘it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog’ analogy rings true.
And at $49,990, you can afford to take this resilient pop-top into the middle of nowhere without any qualms and with few compromises on comfort and liveability.
HITS & MISSES
- Strong build
- Excellent offroad ability
- Great zippered storage compartments
- Front bed somewhat redundant for a couple
- No internal toilet or shower
- No air-conditioning.