When planning to build a new caravan, manufacturers have, in essence, two choices. One is to design a completely new caravan and the other is to refine and improve an existing product.
Designing a brand new caravan does create a great deal of interest, but there is nothing wrong with the refine/improve course of action, particularly if the original product was good to start with. For some manufacturers, the economic times might make this a more prudent course of action; however, it also gives the opportunity for customer suggestions to be implemented.
This latter point is what Jayco has done with its 2009 Sterling model, with changes inside and out. I was able to get my hands on one of the first models out of the factory door, a 6.65m (21ft 10in) tandem-axle van with a full-width rear bathroom. It arrived at Jayco dealer Brisbane Camperland not long before we did.
LAYOUT & DESIGN
From the outside, the most obvious changes are the new styles for the front and rear mouldings. Caravans by their very nature are often white and big box-like structures, so it’s surprising the difference that fibreglass mouldings can make. With these mouldings, Jayco has given its latest model a much more streamlined look. The new Sterling also comes with external speakers for the entertainment system as a standard feature.
Some things, though, haven’t changed, such as the base of the Sterling: a hot-dipped galvanised Millenium chassis, rocker leaf spring suspension for the tandem axles, Al-Ko corner stabilisers and dual 82L water tanks. Part of the chassis design includes weight saving, pressed holes, which can also be utilised for wiring and plumbing.
Above the chassis, the aluminium framed sandwich wall construction is still the same, with its bonded layers of fibreglass, ply and polystyrene foam providing strength and insulation. Windows are tinted hoppers, and the door is the usual Camec triple-locker with rounded top corners. Up front, the boot is quite large (it contains two 9kg gas cylinders) and has been designed so that you can get things in and out without bending. At the rear, the spare wheel under a colour coordinated cover is mounted on the bumper.
BEDROOM & BATHROOM
Inside our Sterling, the layout features a full-width rear bathroom, bedroom with east-west bed, front kitchen and lounge/dining area between the kitchen and bedroom. The decor features updated styling on the cushions, curtains and pelmets. Not so obvious are the curved aluminium corners on the cupboards – it looks good and should minimise wear and tear.
Large windows and two roof hatches provide a good level of natural light and ventilation. For evening times, there’s a mixture of ceiling-mounted incandescent fittings and halogen down/reading lights.
Starting in the rear, the bathroom has a circular shower cubicle in the nearside corner and a Thetford cassette toilet on the offside. The washing machine, which was previously in the rear offside corner, is now centre stage. This has the effect of allowing easier access to the washing machine and more space around the loo, but means the washbasin has moved to the offside. Cupboard and locker space has been rearranged accordingly.
The window, formerly in the rear wall, is now above the toilet and has been replaced by a large wall mirror.
Taking up most of the space in the bedroom is the double bed, which measures 1.83mx1.32m (6ft x 4ft 4in). It’s set against the offside wall and now comes with a doona and matching pillows. The bedhead has a window behind and is surrounded by cupboards, a shelf, overhead lockers and small wardrobes.
Designs such as this sometimes result in a lack of bedside shelves, but Jayco has avoided that problem by building shelves into the sides of the lower cupboards. It’s quite a neat idea, as are the small drawers also built into the lower cabinet.
At the foot of the bed, a full-height diagonal cupboard is built into the bathroom wall corner and a small cupboard in the forward corner. It sits on the wheel arch, which does protrude slightly into the walk-around space. On the wall above in that same corner is the flatscreen TV, along with the powerpoint, antenna connection and mounting bracket. If needed, the bedroom can be closed off from both sides.
Up front the L-shaped kitchen bench features all the necessary items for happy caterers – a Smev four-burner cooktop/grill/oven, stainless steel sink/drainer, Dometic 150L fridge and an LG microwave above.
One of the benefits of an L-shaped design is the reasonable amount of benchtop area and cupboard space you get, although making effective use of the corner area is sometimes problematic. But Jayco has fitted a wire basket under a benchtop flap to improve its usability and, as well, there’s a selection of cupboards, overhead lockers and a small slide-out pantry. This particular design has what Jayco calls its “small bench extension” between the fridge and the front bench. It makes a surprising difference to the work area.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Earlier, I noted that there was nothing wrong with refining/upgrading an existing product and I didn’t see anything about the refined Jayco Sterling to change that view.
There were a number of changes, some clearly from customer feedback and others from operating experience that have improved the breed, which should make the Sterling a winner in 2009.