Jayco is far and away the most prominent RV builder in Australia with close to half the market across their vast choice of touring recreational vehicles including campers, motorhomes and caravans. And while they have a series of Outback vans designed for dirt road travelling, until now they have ignored the hardcore off-road market. That all changes with the release late last year of the new Adventurers – a range of full off-roaders developed to meet the nation’s taste for trekking into more remote locations.
Starting from scratch, the company put the might of their research and development team to work and after two year’s gruelling design and testing the new range of rugged vans was released. These new models take Jayco engineers out of their comfort zone – quite Adventurous you could say – but they seem very excited about the prospects for these new models and so confident that they entrusted On The Road with two pre-production versions and told us to take them bush and try to break them. This issue we look at the16 footer, with the 19’ family van to follow.
The smaller Adventurer looks much more significant than its 16′ name suggests and it takes some styling cues from the upmarket Silverline’s smooth-finished composite body. But it’s well disguised behind a battleship grey finish and black checkerplate along the lower sides and ends. Raised suspension and outlandish red rock guards give an offroad cred that we discovered wasn’t all show on our ten-day journey into the unknown.
Jayco went back to the drawing board when developing the Adventurer models but they didn’t ignore years of experience in building vans. The chassis is a whole new design that uses their technology to keep things light but capable of taking heavier loads over rugged ground.
The Jayco Endurance Chassis is built in-house from 6” hot-dipped rectangular sections with C-section cross rails for lightness. The newly developed J-Tech suspension follows the proven rut-strewn path of any decent off-roader with heavy-duty steel independent trailing arms and twin Pedders shock absorbers. These team with Pedders coil springs rated to Jayco specifications and fitted with internal Aeon rubber springs to maximise their dampening effect over heavy going and with a big payload. Al-Ko bearings, stub axles and 12” drum brakes match the Al-Ko Electronic stability Control – ESC and adjustments for toe-in and out ensure correct wheel alignment. If you really want to impress your neighbours in camp, just slide under the van and polish off the trick looking and matching red arms, springs and shocks. Or maybe not.
The package is an impressive assembly of all the best design features, and the vans come with a two-year off-road warranty. But let’s not beat around the bush. If you abuse any van, it will be damaged. If you stove in the sides going through steeply sloping uneven gullies or wipe out the rear end over Gunshot, then keep me out of it. You will be on your own in the Warranty Wars. According to the fine print, warranty is voided in off-road use where the road is not suitable for travel. Any research will tell you that it’s not much different from the rest of the high end off the beaten track market. Water crossings are rated to floor level because ADR rules mean you need a gas vent low on the step.
Twin 82L water tanks are centrally located and have galvanised sheet protection. (Production models get a grey water tank as well.) Given this was an early run version, routing of water and electrical wiring underneath seemed reasonably well protected but could be better, as the accompanying photos might show, and I’d expect it will be tidied up once orders start to roll in.
Two big 16” alloy spares shod with chunky 245×70 all terrain tyres sit securely on a bar down the back and their elevated position on the cutaway rear end located them well out of the way on steep creek crossings. It was good to see that placement of lights and number plate were all within legal tolerances.
A black Carefree rollout awning, running the full length of the passenger side, protects a comprehensive outdoor setup including a slide-out stainless steel kitchen with sink, two-burner cooktop and provision for a small BBQ at the back and a sizeable fold-down picnic table and entertainment unit with detachable television in the centre. Forward of the door is a through tunnel boot with a decent amount of storage for narrower items like folded chairs, while over the drawbar is a monster alloy box with a separate full-width compartment on top for things like recovery gear and wheel chocks. The large section below has two compartments – one for tools on the passenger side and a slide-out generator box opposite.
A set of matching red Maxtrax is fitted to the top of the box, great for looking like you are heading into the wilderness and even better if you get stuck in there.
Twin 9kg gas bottles and two galvanised jerry can holders are further forward, and a full stone guard protects the whole front end. It’s enormous but, as we found, care needs to be taken into tight sections not to jam the guard into the tow vehicle’s tail lights. A breakaway system, Al-Ko Electronic Stability control, a 12 pin plug and a DO-35 hitch complete the drawbar installation and all add to the off-road ability.
A foldout step takes you up to the cabin. Unfortunately, we managed to bend it on a muddy track, so maybe a removable plastic one would be more appropriate for a dedicated off-roader.
Rather than adapting a design from the existing caravan range The Adventurer 16 is an entirely new design with a full-width bathroom at the front and an east-west double bed at the rear. In between are a neat, driver-side kitchen and a kerbside L-shaped dinette leaving plenty of room to move and socialise. The bed arrangement seemed strange to me as it’s not that easy to get into and it’s hard to make, but I’m told market research indicated couples were prepared to forego a more conventional north-south bed for a big ensuite. You can’t easily have both and you gotta look smart on the track!
Along the kitchen, I found a four-burner cooktop, a large 218L Waeco compressor fridge, a decent size benchtop with a stainless steel sink and an overhead microwave. It was pleasing to see a generous amount of cupboard and overhead storage and a handy slide-out pantry for extended provisioning.
Interior colours were a mix of light laminates and modern gloss furniture that, along with large windows and a skylight over the bed, provided the space with loads of light and air. Joinery processes at Jayco have been turned up a notch to allow for the excesses of offroad travel, and it was notable that at the end of our ten-day review not one drawer or cupboard inadvertently came open and all of the appliances stayed in place.
Three 150 w solar panels and a pair of 120ah deep cycle batteries are matched to a very comprehensive Jayco charging and monitoring system so you should be able to enjoy extended time in the bush without outside power.
Our test van boasted a tare of 2700kg and an ATM of 3200kg. This left more than 700kg of carrying capacity, which with full water tanks and a load of camping gear for much of the test, would have had the van close to top weight. Our company executive, Rowan Wyeth, had no trouble towing this with his 100 Series Landcruiser, even up some very steep hills in the Snowy Mountains and along gnarley narrow fire trails in East Gippsland. Ground clearance was good in all but deep mud and the van was easy to back into tight camping spots and photo opportunities.
Assisted by the competent, independent suspension, the van towed honestly and smoothly without banging on all dirt tracks and at speed on the highway sections on the way home.
We came away from our review very impressed with the new Jayco. Its impressive, robust build is matched by reliable performance and a well-equipped interior. The Adventurer 16 is a big van, and with an ATM of around 3200kg, it can be towed by a range of vehicles, but I feel that in the bush it is best matched to the more substantial utes and heavier wagons. Pricing for the 16 footer starts at $78,990, which seems excellent value in the off-road market especially with a two-year warranty.
- Very robust construction that stood up to a substantial workout
- Right level of off-grid ability
- Extensive dealer network
- 2-year warranty
- East-west bed is difficult to access
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Model: Adventurer: 16.50-3
Overall length: 5.18m
Interior length: 5.135m
Interior height: 1.98m
Travel height: 3.1m
Tare weight: 2700kg
Carrying capacity: 500kg
Carrying capacity less fluids: 318kg
Ball weight: 161kg
Price as reviewed: $78,990
1 Jayco Dr, Dandenong South 3175
Ph: 03 8792 2000
Company founder Gerry Ryan started building camper trailers from a small Melbourne backyard in 1975, and since then Jayco has grown to be the most prominent RV builder in Australia and one of the biggest in the world. In 1995 they moved to the recently vacated 20 hectare Nissan site in Dandenong with 60,000sqm undercover manufacturing. Today the company employs over 1000 workers who produce around 10,000 examples each year. Towards the end of 2017 more than 180,000 Jaycos had hit the road.
The Adventurer is the latest in a range of caravans that includes the upmarket Silverline, the entry level Freedom and space-saving Expanda, all of which are available with dirt road capable Outback upgrades.
Essential to Jayco’s popularity is their network of more than 100 service agents and a nationwide group of 32 dealers.