Review: Track Trailer Topaz
For an offroad option, consider Track Trailer's Topaz, a cosy caravan with camper trailer suspension.
AN OFFROAD CARAVAN from Track Trailer has been a long time coming. It's not that Track hasn't been planning one - there have even been a couple of prototypes - but Track has a lot to live up to after the trend-setting design of its fabulous and extremely capable Tvan camper trailer. Finally it has released the Topaz and we had a chance to try the first production model.
NUTS AND BOLTS
The Topaz pop-top van measures just 5.9m (19ft 5in) overall. It rides on Track's unique and well-proven MC2 Asymmetric Link independent coil suspension that has helped make the Tvan such a great offroad camper trailer. On this bigger van, though, there are two Koni shocks and a tuned coil spring at each wheel that keep the suspension well damped, while allowing 230mm of wheel travel to take you over the most corrugated road or the roughest track you might find.
The high-clearance, 2000kg-rated axle, along with the AT35 offroad coupling, a 20° departure angle plus a short-as-possible drawbar help ensure that the van clears humps and bumps, and enters and exits sharp creek beds and tracks as close as possible to the line of the tow vehicle.
The wheel track is approximately 1680mm, which is close to the track of a Patrol or 'Cruiser, while wheels and stud patterns will be provided to suit most tow vehicles.
Twelve-inch electric brakes come standard, and a drum hand brake is standard with the AT35 coupling. All running lights are reliable, waterproof LED units.
The unladen weight is 1350kg and the ball weight is around 50kg. Even if you load the Topaz to its ATM of 1750kg, you'd have to be doing something way out of the ordinary to get the ball weight over 170kg, or 10 per cent of the total load.
Track Trailer's unique, frameless aluminium bonded and riveted wall system incorporates inbuilt stiffeners and a riveted exoskeleton construction, which enhances body strength and provides impact protection on all wall corners. The full-size pop-top roof gives good interior space and access.
Inside the Topaz, there's a no-nonsense interior with good-looking, hard-wearing, easy-to-clean work surfaces and fascias, while upholstery is all leather. Windows are tinted and come with roll-down blinds.
Just inside the door, across the back of the van, is the kitchen with a good size bench area, a stainless-steel sink fed with pressurised hot and cold water, a four-burner stove with grill and rangehood, and an 80L, 12V/240V Waeco fridge. Secure-locking storage drawers in and around the kitchen come supplied with cookware, crockery and cutlery so the van is ready to go as soon as you pick it up. There is also provision to house a portable fridge in one of the front storage lockers.
The multi-position kitchen table is a beauty and allows two people to dine in comfort with plenty of table room. The Track brochure extols the fact that there's "seating space for up to five people", but that would be a squeeze! What I like about the table, though, is its sturdiness and that fact that it can be swung out of the way easily without taking anything off the table.
The queen-size bed across the front of the van can easily be converted to a north-south king-size bed if you so desire. Underneath the lift-up bed is a large storage area, and there's more storage room outside in a front locker as well as in a tunnel boot.
Ventilation hatches with security mesh allow good air flow throughout the van, and Track Trailer is subjecting a couple of different air-conditioning units to extensive testing before offering them as an option.
Separating the kitchen area from the sleeping and sitting area is a full-size robe along with an electrical control panel and battery monitoring system. This includes an 85Ah AGM battery, lighting system control, an 80W solar panel (carried in one of the front storage lockers) and/or 240V input system along with an inbuilt 10A, three-stage battery charger. There is also a smart-looking AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo system, along with 12V lighting and power outlets.
Water for the sink or the outside shower is stored in twin 70L water tanks that have a gauge read-out near the sink area, while the hot water is supplied via a 14L, 240V/LPG hot water service. Four jerry can holders are mounted across the A-frame.
There is also a standard external hooded barbecue in a dedicated, side-opening compartment. An easy-to-erect external awning offers shade and protection from the elements over the barbecue and the nearside of the van.
Two gas cylinders are housed inside a locker at the rear while a third - used to supply the outside barbecue - is mounted on the front drawbar, under the spare-wheel carrier.
Above the gas storage locker, a smaller locker houses the external shower with its taps and hoses, and a bathroom ensuite can be erected easily and quickly. A separate storage area for a portable toilet is also easily accessible.
On our test run with the Topaz through some winding roads and during quick lane changes the van behaved beautifully, tracking well with little body roll. Any digression was well damped by the twin shocks.
Of course, you'll feel anything weighing close to 1.5 tonnes on the back of the tow vehicle, especially when heading uphill, but at least the low ball weight results in very little depression of the tow vehicle's suspension. The 12in electric brakes worked well, helping pull the van up easily and straight.
On dirt roads the rig towed extremely well. Sudden bumps and potholes were well soaked up by the supple suspension and I came away well pleased with this unit's towing and handling characteristics. It was also extremely dust-proof, testimony to the effort that Track Trailer has put into dust sealing around doors, windows and hatches.
On slower, rougher stuff where articulation, ground clearance and approach and departure angles are important, the Topaz performed admirably. Will it go as far as a Track Tvan? No, but it will certainly go as far as any other van of its size and weight on today's market, and probably further for longer.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Priced at $58,400 plus on-road costs, the Track Topaz should be on the wish list for all those looking for a capable and durable offroad van.
Source: Caravan World May 2009