Wired for sound
Jayco takes its premium Silverline into the digital age with a new voice-activated Amazon Alexa personal assistant.
When reviewing this new van from Jayco the sales rep from the local Jayco dealer in Melbourne, where we collected the van, surprised me when showing me around. He opened the door to the van and said: “Alexa, turn on the air conditioning”. The air conditioning came on. I looked around, and we were the only ones there, and he started to laugh. “It’s amazing isn’t it” he offered, “let me introduce you to Alexa from Amazon, part of our RVConnect initiative”.
This incident says two things: firstly I am demonstrably not very tech-savvy, as everyone I have since spoken with already knew who Alexa was and some even had her at home already. Secondly, it shows how serious Jayco is about keeping ahead of the game in the local caravan industry. Always seeking an innovative edge, they now include this new technology – and a lot more that we will talk about further – in the flagship Silverline vans.
Jayco is the mega caravan manufacturer in Australia with over half of all new sales across their vast range. No wonder nearly every van you see on the road is a Jayco. Their range runs through basic and very swish camper trailers, several motorhomes and a selection of caravans and poptops including the very capable and rugged off-roaders.
At the top of the tree are six Silverline varieties from nineteen to twenty-five feet, all with high-level appointments and slide-out beds. All, apart from the largest, are available as a Touring version or an Outback that has extra items like an upgraded suspension, chassis and wheels. Our test van is a 21’ Outback, designed for travel on unsealed roads, but not as Jayco says, a licence to bush bash. If real off-roading is your thing, then consider one of their Adventurer on new All terrain Journey vans. Our review took us out of Melbourne along freeways and backroads and finally into the hills around Gippsland where forestry roads were well-graded and where we were able to get a good look at the van in its natural environment.
With over forty years of caravan construction behind them, Jayco has built a vast well of experience and technological knowledge. This and their vast research and development facilities have enabled them to develop unique construction methods and the ability to build almost everything in house including the chassis, suspension and composite caravan frame.
The Jayco chassis on the Outback is engineered to be light, yet strong with 150mm x 50mm box section steel members connecting to a 125mm x 50mm A-frame. Specially designed C-section floor members are lighter than conventional square tubing yet are claimed to be stronger and less prone to twisting. On completion, the whole chassis is hot-dip galvanised for maximum protection. Suspension is Jayco’s own JTECH independent system with coils and shock absorbers. The Outback also gets larger 16” alloy wheels and 245×70 tyres as well as a set of Al-Ko electric off-road brakes.
The caravan walls are also a Jayco exclusive, being a vacuum bonded composite panel of fibreglass, aluminium, ply and insulation. The result is a beautifully moulded glossy exterior finish with a minimum number of joins for better weather protection.
The Silverline is an impressive looking van with a sweeping, moulded front and brilliant white walls along the sides, highlighted with lower black checker plate panels. The rear section is also a moulded shape with recesses for lights and space for an optional bike rack.
A 50mm ball hitch rated to 3500kg reflects the limited dirt load intent, but they are safe and straightforward to use so I can’t complain. Two 9kg gas bottles are stored out of harm’s way on a slide-out box on the driver side, and a full-width stone guard and a firewood tray pay homage to the Outback name.
Heading back along the side you will find a large side-opening door that reveals a slide-out kitchen under a generous size slide-out pantry. Outboard are two gas burners and a flip-down table extension, while closer in, is a sink with a cutting board as a cover. The bench space is a good size for meal preparation, but I’d like to see a different arrangement for the door as it is so large it sometimes gets in the way when you are working there, and it flapped around in the wind a bit much for my liking.
At the centre of the van is an entertainment hatch for a TV and further back is a fold out picnic table. Overhead is an electric wind-out awning that can be controlled from inside the doorway or from an app on a smartphone. Extra storage is found in two metal storage boxes slung under the van behind the wheels, and there’s another useful hatch adjacent to the entry door.
The forward entry has a nicely moulded and very sturdy three-way fibreglass door, while a fold-down step takes care of the extra height of the Outback.
Once inside the best Jayco has to offer is on show. Moreover, it’s quite a show, what with the wrap-around leather lounge at the entry and a slide-out bed that adds what seems like acres of extra room.
The design and decor are stylishly conservative with muted grey gum cupboards, off white benchtops and mocha leather upholstery. Offset against this background are black appliances, black tap hardware and black trim features that mix the modern and timeless themes. White subway tiles on the splashback, bring a touch of nostalgia.
The central section is devoted to the kitchen with the bedroom further back and a substantial ensuite down the back. It’s a bit of a squeeze, but I could get past the bed when the slide-out is closed if you need to use the bathroom when making a quick stop on the road. In any case, it only takes about twenty seconds to open the slide-out.
That lounge up front makes the most of the view, and you could easily spend hours here wrapped in the leather luxury gazing through cycloramic windows. The table slides on its very sturdy support to aid getting in and out, and there is comfortable seating for five with an extra on a camp chair if needed. The lounge converts to a double bed for occasional visitors.
Cooks will welcome the long stretch of kitchen bench, the Dometic stove with full oven and a high mounted Sphere microwave. On the other side are a 216L three-way fridge and a module for the 24” television, Furrion twin station sound system, a USB charging hub and Alexa. Alexa might not be able to make a cup of coffee on demand, but there are lots of tasks our digital friend can be asked to perform.
It can turn on the air conditioner, as we saw, but also change the volume on the sound system, switch the lights and answer most questions you can Google. You can even programme it for use from a smartphone, so you could, for example, turn on the air conditioner when having dinner downtown, so it’s cool when you get back.
While we are on the new technology in the Silverline, I should mention the JHub phone app for monitoring water and power levels, 360 degree cameras on the van for keeping an eye on what’s happening in traffic and when parking and a signal-seeking satellite dish.
Deep pot drawers and overhead cupboards and a slide-out bottle storage rack take up all the available space, so there should be plenty of room when stocking up for extended journeys.
The obvious advantage of the slide-out is the extra floor area, and it’s remarkable how much more room to move it creates. Access from both sides of the bed is excellent. With the bed in an east-west position, it also offers views through a big window on the passenger side and creates more space for clothes storage in two hanging cupboards and shelves to the side. The bed is a premium Pillow Top innerspring, and there are lights and chargers in all the right places.
As you would expect, the ensuite is well equipped, equally stylish and roomy. The Ceramic Thetford toilet is on the driver side, which is pretty standard, but I sometimes wonder if it would be safer on the other side for those times when pulling into some of the roadside dump points like those I have found outside some outback towns.
More black designer black taps feature at the vanity and in the shower, which again is nice and roomy and has good light and ventilation. Storage cupboards and drawers fill the walls, but there’s still room for a 3.3kg Sphere washing machine and a large makeup mirror with bright overhead lights.
Through Melbourne traffic, 100km/h highway cruising and many kilometres of country roads the van was stable, quiet and well behaved. It has Al-Ko electronic stability control, which we could feel kicking in now and then on the hills heading into Noojee. It felt at home along the forestry roads, and I didn’t feel any brake lock-up or excessive movement as we negotiated sharp corners and steep hills. Mind you; we took it easy. The upgraded suspension should handle long stretches of dirt roads with ease, but keep in mind, it’s not warranted in the rougher stuff.
Tare is around 2700kg, so you need decent power to tow it comfortably, especially if you load it out to maximum capacity at 3200kg. As always, be mindful of balancing the load and watching your vehicle’s gross capacity.
Two 82L Water tanks and a 110ah battery matched to a 160w solar charger offer off-grid camping for extended times as long as you are frugal with the showers. I’d probably choose the second battery option to make sure I was covered.
The Silverline has been Jayco’s premier offering for some years, and it has undergone continual improvement during that time to remain contemporary. That this is the first production van in the world with a virtual assistant is a credit to the big Australian company, and it’s great to see this market-leading innovation. When matched with all the other improvements and fixtures, it’s an even more impressive package, and at $79,490 it seems very well priced.
- Stylish interior with a subtle but contemporary feel
- All the technology you would need.
- Well balanced on the road
- Australia wide network of Jayco service centres
- Outside kitchen door seems flimsy
- Needs a light over the outside kitchen
- Microwave above head height
Find Out More
Model: Silverline Outback 21.65-3
Overall length: 8.04m
Internal body length: 6.035m
Internal height: 1.95m
Travel height: 3.0m
Tare weight: 2700kg
Ball weight: 180kg
Price as tested: $79,490