TuffTRAX on Tough Tracks
What better way to test a van than to haul it 5000km from Melbourne to Birdsville and back again, finding as much dirt as possible in between. Anthony Kilner takes up the story.
There’s a caravan review and then there’s a CARAVAN REVIEW! Jurgens Caravans, based in Melbourne’s outer east, is bringing in a new pop-top caravan specifically designed for off road conditions. The TuffTRAX is built in South Africa at the Jurgens Factory and bought up to spec with Aussie products for our market. It’s an exciting new product for Jurgens Australia, who actually manufactures the bulk of their van range here, and after testing to prove it can go pretty much anywhere, I can see why.
This van is light-weight, very capable and has enough creature comforts to make serious touring fun. One of the many things that make this van stand out is the price tag of around 50K. It’s certainly going to be very competitive in the market.
Rather than ramble on too much let’s take a look at the mechanicals underneath. The engineered and galvanised chassis system is light-weight yet tough enough to handle the rigours of off road work. An Aussie-made, Cruisemaster® trailing arm independent suspension system with coil springs and shockers handles the road and track work really well, while twelve inch electric brakes handle the stopping. Alloy rims and off-road tyres keep the van on the road and round out a capable package.
A DO35 off road coupling is used up front on the A-frame while a 160 litre water tank, drop-down jacks and body protection rails are all bolted to the chassis. There are even recovery points included in the design which were used a couple of times on our trip.
The pop-top is one-piece fibreglass and lifts easily from inside the cabin. The sidewalls of the caravan are manufactured from composite material that is tough on the outside, insulated and durable on the inside. The front and rear panels are moulded for looks and toughness.
Body-wise there is a full width front boot that houses twin 9kg gas bottles and a slide out kitchen which includes a 2-burner cooker and a sink with hot and cold water. The hot water is plumbed through a gas/electric hot water unit. There are good storage lockers on the sides and on the back are twin jerry can holders with the spare tyre mounted high up out of the way.
An external shower is mounted on the driver’s side of the van with a tent supplied for showering privacy while on the road. To protect the front of the van while off road a travel blanket is supplied as standard.
On the inside of this little pop-top the space is utilised really well. Above the slide out kitchen at the front is a bed which an adult can sleep in if needs be, or possibly two small kids, while down the back of the van are two single beds, one on each side wall. These double as the dinette and can also be made into one large bed as well. The sleeping options are very good.
A 12/240 volt, 110 litre fridge sits opposite the doorway and all the furniture is light-weight and washable. There are plenty of windows and mozzie screens complete with flyscreens for light and ventilation. The interior is not huge however this van is designed to be practical with lots of storage areas under the seats, around the walls and anywhere else Jurgens could create them. Jurgens’ idea behind this van is for the owners to be outside enjoying the great outdoors and utilising the awning rather than shut away inside.
The TuffTRAX features internal and external LED lighting which draws very little power from the inboard battery and electrical system.
On The Road
Our testing included nearly 5000km from the factory to Birdsville’s Big Red and back again. Just over half of these Ks were on bitumen and the rest were dirt.
Eduard Julyan (close friend of Jurgens and avid traveller) hauled the TuffTRAX behind his 2011 Amarok manual diesel and I have to admit it was a good looking package. The diesel VW was able to sit on the speed limits with ease and the single axled TuffTRAX sat in behind it easily without any problems at all.
Eduard’s thoughts on hauling the TuffTRAX went along the lines of, “Most of the time I didn’t even know that the TuffTRAX was hooked on the back. It was very stable behind the car and for the most part, even watching the van travel over bumps and things, it sat exceptionally well. It made life easy towing it over the nine day trip.”
Off The Road
In the rough stuff the TuffTRAX just worked. The Cruisemaster® off-road suspension was stable across the variety of surfaces we travelled across which included soft sand in the Little Desert area and on the edge of the Simpson Desert, harsh gibber plains in Queensland and South Australia, fast and slow dirt roads and deep bull dust near the border of Queensland and NSW and on the Birdsville Track.
The TuffTRAX held together extremely well and with the testing including stopping every few hours to check everything from top to bottom, aside from some damaged wiring from stones flicked off the tyres and one puncture (not the van’s fault), everything just hung in there.
Eduard’s thoughts in the off road stakes included: “Towing the van through sand it felt stable and followed the wheel tracks of my VW really well.
“Towing over corrugated roads and watching the reaction of the van on the back and again it just worked. There was a couple of times going through deep whoop-de-dos, I could feel the weight of the van on the back however it was not an issue and pulled out straight.
“The really cool thing was that I didn’t have to do anything differently i.e. change my driving style from bitumen to dirt and off road. Where I would normally slow down I did and the van was just there and reacted accordingly. It was just easy to tow!”
Overall I like the look of the TuffTRAX and the way it handled everything thrown at it. The interior is well laid out and practical for the space available, and for a pop-top with an ATM of just 2000kg it’s going to be a popular van for a lot of vehicles on our roads.
There’s no doubt the TuffTRAX will make a mark in the small, off-road, pop-top market and very possibly create a market in the camper trailer area as well. It’s a big move by Jurgens and one that’s possibly long overdue, however the TuffTRAX is here now and I reckon it’s worth a good gander for anyone looking for this type of touring lifestyle.
Manufacturer: Jurgens Caravans
Model: TuffTRAX XP1810
Travel length: 5.49m (18ft 1in)
Travel width: 1.97m (6ft 6in)
Tare weight: 1395kg
Ball weight: 135kg approx.
Price: $49.990.00 introductory price.
Find Out More
13 Sharnet Circuit, Pakenham Vic 3810
Phone: 03 5943 7700