Word on the street was that Kedron Caravans had produced something that was about to set the caravanning world abuzz. Rumour had it that Kedron’s Glen Gall and family had been secretly working on a new technology for the past five years. Industry buzz was that it needed to be tested and it centred on Kedron’s new TopEnder 5.
Presented with a caravan whose name suggests wild times exploring the remotest stretches of the country, and with the rumour that this caravan represented a watershed event in the industry, we took the TopEnder 5 for a test along the unforgiving roads in the shadow of Queensland’s Glass House Mountains to see what the hubbub was all about.
LAYOUT AND DESIGN
To find out what Kedron has kept hidden for so long, you need to start by crawling underneath the van. For years, the Gall boys who run Kedron have steadfastly refused to change their suspension to airbags. But this latest TopEnder has airbag suspension. It’s true; the use of airbag suspension on a caravan is, perhaps, on trend within the mix of ‘offroad’ caravans on the market today. But this is not the watershed moment we’re looking for, either.
Typically, in remote areas, a broken stub axle is the thing that’ll bring your progress to an absolute halt. You’ve got to order a new one, wait painfully while the axle arrives from southern climes, figure out where and who can fit it, and so on. All in all, it’s likely to mean days, or possibly even weeks, of misery while you work your way out of the predicament. It was a nightmare – until now. And here’s the watershed moment: after five years of development, Kedron has come up with a stub axle suspension system that can be easily removed on the road.
During development of this new axle, Kedron had its ‘recovery stub’ fully tested and found it resisted 7t without deforming. Apparently, it took a massive 15t to bend the device just a few millimetres. Needing real world proof of excellence, the Gall boys took the TopEnder 5 along an infamous old stagecoach route – the Maytown Track in Cape York, Qld – and came out smiling. The new suspension worked brilliantly.
All up, this means a great towing experience on the blacktop and the ability to adjust road clearance to tackle more challenging tracks. We saw it in action when we took on a substantial water crossing while rattling along a back road in the Glass House Mountains.
While the ability to easily and safely repair the stub axles and suspension on the road is likely have many reconsidering the big outback adventure, there are other lovely features around the outside of the TopEnder 5 – mostly in the detail.
Safety-wise, the suspension recovery kit is a first-class innovation, although Kedron is still working to minimise the storage kit size and has yet to dedicate an external storage hatch in which to store the kit. Unfortunately, the recovery kit on the review van was kept in what should have been used as a handy exterior pantry. The word from Kedron is the kit will eventually find a smaller home at the rear of the van.
Ample cupboards and drawers are well constructed in the Kedron factory and secured by quality handle-lock combinations, and the sink top is a custom Kedron design. The kitchen has adequate bench space, a good-sized Waeco compressor fridge and a Thetford cooktop and oven to keep gourmet travellers happy.
The interior lighting shows a sense of attention to detail, which is fast becoming a Kedron trademark, including LED mood-lighting and courtesy lights in the bedroom robes and inside the under-bed storage.
Perhaps the only downside is the shower, which is just a little on the small side, making it difficult if you need to reach down for anything.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Literally, from the ground up, this caravan sets a new benchmark in caravan design.
However, with its ATM of 3990kg, the TopEnder 5 is on the weighty side and is designed for a vehicle with a 4t-minimum towing capacity. Good news here – the TopEnder also comes in lighter and smaller versions suited to smaller tow vehicles.
- Stub axle recovery kit
- New airbag suspension
- Generous external and internal storage
- Well-appointed cupboards and lockers
- Shower isn’t overly spacious