For a brand that traces its origins back to 1928, it’s unusual that Roma has not offered a true offroad-spec caravan for the past decade. True, Roma’s on-road models have a well-earned reputation for being tough, long distance tourers, which is why they are often the caravan of choice for families and couples embarking on extended travel.
However, the growing interest by many Australians in leaving the bitumen behind as they seek new adventures made the lack of a Roma offroad range a bit of an anomaly. So about two years ago, Tony Palmarini and his sons Mark and Brendan began the groundwork on a tough new model that could be custom-built in a range of sizes and specifications to suit individual customers.
When I pressed him back then for more details, Mark asked me to be patient. With a reputation like Roma’s to protect, its new offroader was not going to be just a jacked-up on-roader swathed in checkerplate with beefy wheels and tyres to make it look the part. Being a Roma, he observed, buyers would expect it to be as tough as it looked and built to take plenty of long-term punishment.
LAYOUT AND DESIGN
The new Roma Razorback starts with a 150x50mm G&S galvanised chassis, which is fitted as standard with G&S TS Control Rider 4t-rated trailing arm coil spring suspension and twin telescopic shock absorbers per wheel. G&S airbag suspension is an option many travellers are expected to choose, as it delivers an even smoother ride on the corrugated roads that many Razorbacks are likely to encounter.
Essential for an offroad van, the underside of the Razorback boasts impressive stone protection, with checkerplate covers shielding its twin 95L fresh water tanks, while a tough truck-mesh front stone shield protects the caravan’s roomy, drawbar-mounted checkerplate storage box and twin gas cylinders.
The gas cylinders on our review van were regular 9kg steel cylinders but the Razorback’s standard spec are lightweight, Norwegian-made polycarbonate 7.5kg cylinders, distributed in Australia by Sprint Gas, and designed so they won’t explode in a fire and weighing half that of their steel equivalent. They’re also transparent, which conveniently allows the gas level to be viewed when in place. If you have these fitted, I suggest you invest in a long bicycle lock as, with a retail price of around $190 apiece, they would make tempting souvenirs!
Tubular steel scrub bars protect the Razorback’s lower flanks from rock and tree damage on tight tracks. Underneath, all the plumbing is well-guarded against stone strike, as it is located high in the chassis in the shadow of the rear water tank.
A multi-directional Hyland 3500kg offroad ball hitch, Dexter Sway Control and 16in alloy wheels shod with LT 245/75/R16 tyres with extra sidewall protection complete the comprehensive offroad specs. Additional mud flaps and stone shielding is available on request, as is a checkerplate-clad 95L grey water tank.
There’s lots of storage space for all the messy stuff outside in the full tunnel front boot and the A-frame-mounted toolbox.
The Razorback we reviewed was the ‘19ft x 7ft 8in’ tandem-axle model that Roma believes will be a popular choice with many long-term travellers, as it is large enough for a couple to live in comfortably for extended periods, while short enough to be manageable off major roads.
Roma has chosen its various appliances carefully and the Razorback’s standard spec includes a Swift Ecotherm combined gas/electric hot water service and space heater, a Swift 500 Series cooktop and grill, a Panasonic microwave and a Camec 2.5kg washing machine. Meanwhile, the key electrical componentry syncing the van’s standard twin 110Ah deep-cycle batteries and single rooftop-mounted 120W solar panel is quality Redarc. Curtains are optional.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Equipped like our review van, a ‘19ft’ Razorback weighs 2650kg empty and boasts a good 600kg carrying capacity. This means you’re going to need a true 3500kg-capable tow car like the Mazda BT-50 we used.
Our review van came in at $79,900 as tested and, based on my knowledge of what else is in the marketplace, I think the Razorback embodies good value for a stylish, true offroad, custom-built caravan from one of Australia’s most enduring and trusted manufacturers.
- True offroad spec
- Well thought-out layout
- Great indoor/outdoor storage
- Custom-built flexibility
- Limited solar capacity (although a second panel can be fitted as an option)
The full test appears in Caravan World #554 October 2016. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!