One Tough Raider
The recent release of a range of well-priced, off-road capable vans in the Malibu range is a result of customer feedback for a more rugged van. Paul Dean, from Bellarine Caravans, told On The Road that their exclusive brand has been selling well from the Corio dealership, west of Melbourne, and it was time to expand into the booming all-terrain sector.
Not wanting to do things by half, the team worked with their builder to ensure the van not only worked well in rough conditions, but it would also be something owners would be proud of, and the review van is a real head turner. Riding high on black alloy wheels, the 19’8” Raider XXL Extreme looks the part and has a name that proudly states its outback travel intentions.
Battleship Grey raised-profile aluminium sides with black checkerplate lower panels cover a meranti frame, and I’m told there is rigorous attention paid to insulation and weatherproofing. The colour scheme is a good fit for the gutsy nature, and colourful splashes of yellow and orange spice up the package. At the back, a high composite aluminium panel is set with a Malibu logo and a single spare wheel on a stout arm is surrounded by a set of red jerry can mounts. Also standard is a reversing camera and a rear work light, which would combine well for backing up in the dark.
At the heart of any successful adventure tourer is a robust chassis and a suspension capable of riding over severe corrugations and through deep washouts without damage. The big Raider rides high on a 6” G &S chassis and A-frame with a 4” riser to further enhance ground clearance. Check out the photos of the 3.5 tonnes G&S Control Rider tandem suspension with twin shock absorbers and substantial drop limiting cable, and you should be impressed. It’s a serious system and testament to Bellarine’s commitment to success with the Malibu range.
While I was under there checking out, I noted the water and electrical lines are routed neatly out of harm’s way and the boxes for twin 110ah batteries are secured high on the chassis for protection and to allow easy access for maintenance. Two 95L water tanks are similarly well-protected with metal shields. Wheels are 16” alloy numbers shod with wild looking 265×75 Westlake M/T tyres rated at 1400kg each.
Off-road credentials continue with the DO35 hitch, which has become the go-to trailer connection for serious off-road travel. Twin 9kg gas bottles, a tap, a mesh carry tray and a reinforced jacking point share space on the extended A-frame with a very useful black alloy toolbox and another pair of red accented jerry can holders while an LED worklight oversees the forward section at night.
Along the near side are all the essentials for camping including a full-width tunnel boot at the front, a central picnic table, overhead lighting, outside NCE speakers and an entertainment hatch with TV mount and power outlets and a black Aussie traveller awning. Down the back is a hatch large enough for most generators and there’s also an outside shower.
Everything outside is what you would expect on a well-specified offroader, so because I knew the attractive price of the XXL Extreme was $68,990, I started to wonder what compromises may have been made inside to keep the price at that very competitive figure. But the sight of the slick interior and a read of the quality appliances soon calmed any such fears.
The forward entry layout leads into a brightly lit interior where the grey colour theme is carried through to the furniture and lounge. Rolled benchtops and flush mount cupboards look classy, and the effect is topped off with a leather-look lounge with Malibu logo embroidery.
An extendable queen size bed has an innerspring mattress and has the standard complement of bedside tables, as well as hanging and overhead cupboards, while large Eurovision windows either side and a Ranger roof hatch extend as much light and air as you need.
An Ibis 3 reverse cycle air conditioner controls the temperature when you are hooked up to power, and a 12v Sirocco fan cools the bedroom when you’re not. As well as a wall mounted 22” television, there’s a funky Sansui SA-2100 sound system with a large touch panel.
I know most folk cook outside a lot of the time when caravanning, taking advantage of the open air and soaking in the atmosphere of the Australian bush. But it’s also good to have a well-equipped kitchen for times when the weather isn’t so accommodating or for baking bread if your camp oven skills aren’t up to par. So, it was good to see a Swift 500 cooktop with an oven as well as a microwave and I also liked the useful size 184L fridge-freezer running on gas and electricity.
To add extra preparation space, the bench kicks out at the deep stainless steel sink, while still leaving plenty of room to pass through to the ensuite. There are cupboards and drawers galore, a slide out pantry, high splashbacks to help in keeping things shipshape, and plenty of well-placed power outlets.
The dinette is well-padded and has fold-up extensions for sitting lengthways to watch TV or read. There are 240v and 12v outlets and a small storage cupboard under the table but couldn’t find any USB outlets.
The full-width ensuite includes a ceramic Thetford toilet, a fashionable sink and vanity and a moulded shower recess with a high step to keep the water where it should be. Lighting and ventilation are good, and you even get a compact washing machine as standard.
Twin 120w solar panels charge the batteries to power the lights, pumps, chargers and entertainment systems for off-grid exploring, while the gas tanks can handle all the cooking and water heating. All the power boards and controls are located on a neat panel in an overhead cupboard at the dinette. It shows the power situation through a BM Pro Genius charger and monitor, and there are gauges for the water tanks as well as the master electricity switches.
Despite its XXL nameplate, this Malibu has a tare weight of 2680kg, which puts it out of the old Prado capability, but still allows most of the modern twin cab 4WDs to move it around, and with an ATM of 3180kg, it leaves a margin of safety for most of them. Looking fantastic behind a black Ford Ranger, it towed effortlessly through busy traffic and along some rough backroads to our photo destination.
The XXL Extreme should be extremely popular with its extremely well-equipped package and extremely good price. If I had to be picky, I’d like to see better quality gas struts on the cupboard doors, but if that’s all there is to complain about the $68,990 cost as tested is hard to beat.
- good value for equipment list
- Heavy-duty chassis and suspension
- High ground clearance
- Good storage options
- Door covers window when open
- Cupboard latches could be better quality
Find Out More
Model: Raider 19’8” XXL Extreme
Overall length: 7.86m
Travel height: 3.2m
Tare weight: 2680kg
Ball weight: 240kg
Water tanks: 2x 95L
Gas: 2x 9kg
Payload remaining with full fluids:
Price as reviewed $68,990
Contact: Bellarine Caravans
290a Princes Hwy, Corio, Victoria 3214
Ph. 03 5274 9670