It might have taken ten years of building caravans in Australia, but Jurgens has now shaken off the conservative image inherited from their South African origin with the recently released Solaris. The new van is a substantial change to a more modern style, and fit-out for the company yet retains the well-engineered dirt road capability that has defined the brand over the years.
Jurgens has a strong following of loyal owners who love the simple and efficient layout and the impressive balance of maximum strength and minimum weight. It might be that those attracted to this practical formula are also lovers of the conservative but somewhat quirky appearance.
Their origins in the wilds of the African bush resonate with local buyers and their commitment to local production and investment is to be commended. Development of the Solaris was a Jurgens Australia initiative from the initial concept and design right through to final testing and production.
It’s a bold move for Jurgens and the Solaris is a stunning looking van, both inside and out, and one that should meet much admiration. The exterior looks sharp and contemporary with a style of its own led by grey ABS plastic end covers tied together stylishly with prominent weather protecting extrusions stretching top and bottom over the joins at the sides. Moving away from the traditional Jurgens grey, the Solaris is clad in brilliant white composite walls brightened further with varied swirls of blue. The extruded shapes of the ends and cover pieces create an impression of strength and purpose, but the smart engineering means a comparatively light 2200kg tare weight.
Jurgens built the Solaris on their bolted-together Optima chassis, used through the whole range, but has taken a different path with a Cruisemaster GT tandem independent trailing arm suspension, which is coil sprung and supported with single shock absorbers each side. The system improves ride height and gives a reasonable 550kg payload, taking the ATM to 2750kg. All this is hidden underneath of course, but off-road style tyres on 16″ black and chrome alloy wheels add to the bolder image.
The upgrades add durability and capacity over corrugated roads and bush tracks, but the Solaris is more a dirt roader than an off-roader, so the basic 50mm ball coupling seems appropriate and should keep owners from getting too carried away. Twin 4.5kg gas bottles are stored in a separate compartment in a lockable front boot, leaving space for essentials like hoses and wheel chocks. Further back a tunnel boot runs full width and on the review van it housed an optional kettle style BBQ, and you can opt instead for a slide out kitchen if required.
In a van with dirt road capability, off-grid features are essential and include a standard pair of 80L water tanks, with options for an additional 80L fresh or grey tank, while power is supplied to a 100ah battery from a 125w solar panel. (You can double this system up for more extended stays off grid). The power and water supplies are kept in check with a BMPro charger and monitor inside the van.
A hint that things inside are going to be special is the electrically operated entry step towards the rear. It couldn’t be more different to the practical and homely plywood number that the smaller Jurgens vans employ. Welcome aboard to a world of colour and luxury with a big pallet of fabrics and furniture. I take nothing from the stately Tooradin model, which up to now has been the pride of the fleet because there are plenty who embrace the traditional timber finish. But the Solaris is stunning inside, especially in the red leather upholstery – actually Ambassador Granato, and the gloss black on white cabinetry.
At the doorway, the bathroom is to the rear and the living quarters flows forward to a bed up front. On the test van, the dinette is set on the driver side with the kitchen opposite, but this layout can be reversed if you are inclined. Additional designs will include a bunk version and a twin bed option, both with ensuite.
Well-upholstered cushions match the luxury look of the leather at the roomy café setting and padding at the wall creates a lengthways, feet-up position for watching TV or reading. Slide out sections with their own padding extend the seats and seem sturdy enough for us heavier folk. The three-way table converts for eating or relaxing and the large window is at the perfect height for taking in the view. I liked the dimmable LED lights concealed high on the bulkhead and at floor level that joins with a mix of roof and well-placed wall lights to create just the right mood.
A Thetford 185L three-way fridge separates the dinette from the bedroom, with the rest of the kitchen running along the passenger side. The single level bench includes preparation space on a laminate top, four-burner cooktop and grill and a stainless steel sink with drain and mixer tap. A microwave sits in an overhead hatch alongside recessed storage cupboards with clean flush finish doors. Options include a fan-forced oven, a 150L compressor fridge and water filtration to the sink.
The island double bed has an innerspring mattress and lifts on gas struts for added storage. As well as the usual bedside cupboards and drawers, a small hanging wardrobe makes use of the space forward of the fridge. With windows either side and at the bedhead as well as a roof hatch, there’s no shortage of natural light and fresh air but the inbuilt block outs in the double glazed fixtures can be quickly adjusted for privacy.
Everyone seems to like a modern well-equipped bathroom and the Solaris doesn’t disappoint, especially with the contrasting black on white theme of the test van. There’s room enough to move and a full-length mirror on the shower door adds to the feeling of space. Storage is generous and a mini washing machine will be handy for when you run out of clean undies.
Efforts to keep weight low showed as we hooked the Solaris up behind my Landcruiser, which made easy work of the 2200kg ATM. Out on the freeway, we easily kept pace with the traffic and the ride was smooth and without any pitching or wobbles. Although we didn’t put it to the test, it’s reassuring to know that AL-KO stability control is standard to keep things safe in unusual situations. The extra ground clearance was useful over some rough ground and grassy rises and the van followed without fuss or banging.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the Solaris were an immediate success in the marketplace. Jurgens has established a solid reputation for durability and function and the Solaris continues that theme with a more contemporary image. Starting at $69,990, it seems like great value and should appeal to a wide range of buyers looking for a touring van with a bit of dirt road capability. To view video visit www.ontheroad.com.au
- Contemporary styling will suit a broader range of consumers
- Well designed and engineered for optimum weight and strength
- Decent 550kg payload
- Colour options inside a Jurgens!
- Well-priced premium quality van
Underslung spare could be challenging to access.
Amazing Caravans And RV
35 Brunel Rd, Seaford
Ph 03 9786 7711
Find Out More
Overall length: 7.73m
Internal Body length: 5.60m
Travel height: 2.875m
Internal Height: 1.95m
Tare weight: 2200kg
Ball weight: 195kg
Water Tanks: 2x 80L
Gas: 2x 4.5kg
Payload remaining with full fluids: 361kg
Price from: $69,990
Options fitted: BBQ, Bike rack
Price as reviewed: $72,039
Contact: Jurgens Caravans Australia
13 Sharnet Circuit, Pakenham VIC 3810
Phone: (03) 5943 7700