Review: Jayco Expanda Outback
Over the last decade the RV market was pitched heavily at retired and semi-retired people, but the family market has not been neglected...
Jayco’s Expanda range of caravans is a good example of vans designed with families in mind. With fold-out bedrooms at one or both ends of the van, they offer good internal living space and less towing length when compared to a conventional caravan.
THE JAYCO STYLE
In the case of our review caravan, an Expanda 18.57-6, it came with a only a front fold-out bedroom, but for older children who may not wish to share it features bunk beds rather than a second fold-out bedroom. Our van also came ready for rough-road use, being fitted with the Jayco Outback Pack.
The Expanda is built very much in the Outback fashion, featuring a Millennium hot-dipped galvanised chassis with 150x50mm (6in x 4in) rails. A key characteristic of the Jayco chassis is the punched steel slots that keep the weight down without losing strength, while also providing somewhere to run cabling and plumbing. A number of the Outback inclusions are found under the chassis: Al-Ko Outback leaf spring suspension; Al-Ko offroad electric brake magnets; 15in alloy wheels; and longer corner stabilisers.
In the structural department, an aluminium frame is sandwiched together with an internal wall ply, polystyrene foam for insulation and an outer coating of ply and fibreglass sheeting. Conventionally, the door is a Camec triple-locker security item and the windows are tinted hoppers. There is also a front boot.
SETTING IT UP
Once unhitched and level, there are the usual items like the corner stabilisers and awning to attend to. Not to forget the fold-out bedroom at the front. Setting this up is just a matter of undoing a couple of external clips, lifting up the roof and lowering the bed base. Inside, the mattresses simply have to be unstrapped and laid out to make a comfortable bed.
A SENSIBLE FIT
Jayco’s cabinetry is done in its "Eurostyle" look, in our case finished in a walnut timber look. Aluminium is used for framing in areas destined to bear a bit of weight, such as the dinette and beds.
In years gone by, finding a bathroom in a van of this length would’ve been awkward, but having the expanding bedroom up front makes this setup quite practical. Of course, you are not going to get the full monty, but what you do get ain’t bad. There is a flexible-hose, variable-height shower, a Thetford bench-style cassette toilet and a washbasin. The basin is one of those clever fold-down items so it’s not in the way when you’re sitting on the loo, and is an integral part of the moulding, which also includes a shaving cabinet.
A shower curtain keeps the spray off the toilet seat but for those who dislike curtains that stick, it might be easier just to wipe the toilet down.
Being a family van, there are two sets of beds, with the main bed being in the fold-out. It measures 1.83x1.5m (6ft x 4ft 11in) and, with large screened windows all round, it is my sort of bed in warm summer weather. Of course, in cooler and/or wet weather you can simply zip up the internal canvas flaps. An asset of the hard-top roof (rather than canvas that is used with the camper trailers) is that it keeps condensation to a minimum.
It’s not easy providing adequate lighting in the extended bedroom, but Jayco has come up with a good solution: a simple extension light that plugs into the fixed roof light. Keen bedtime readers might do well to invest in a low consumption LED reading light.
Family members are not forgotten with the two 1.9x0.75m (6ft 3in x 2ft 5in) bunk beds. Both beds have their own windows and reading lights, but only the lower bunk has a powerpoint (located at the foot of the bed). A smaller ladder can be used by the top bed occupant and a largish sideboard prevents any accidental rolling out.
Between the bunk beds and shower is a full-height wardrobe with hanging space, two drawers and two floor lockers.
FITTING EVERYONE IN
Quite often in family RVs the table and seats don’t comfortably fit a family, but this one does it with room for five people. Two halogen under-locker lights illuminate the table, as does a nearby ceiling-mounted incandescent. There isn’t a powerpoint for the dinette, but a single point that also services the kitchen bench is close by.
The TV location in a van such as this is a matter of using a mounting point that presents the least disadvantage, which in this case is the wall above a waist-high cabinet by the entrance. It can be seen from both the dinette and front bed, both of which might need to be utilised for family viewing.
Family catering does require a reasonable kitchen bench and Jayco delivers with this Expanda. The offside bench comes fitted with a Smev four-burner cooktop and stainless steel sink avec drainer. It comes with both tank and filtered drinking water.
Built in an L shape, the bench not only fits in quite well but offers a relatively good amount of benchtop area in addition to cupboard and drawer space. Opposite is a 175L Dometic three-way fridge with a Sphere microwave above.
ELECTRICS AND TOWING
Given this Expanda is fitted with an Outback Pack, it’s a little odd that a house battery isn’t a standard feature, though one is available as an option.
All of the 12V lighting is supplied by Jayco’s standard Setec power converter that operates from either 240V or 12V. A couple of 12V sockets inside would be good for camping away from mains power, as would more energy-efficient lighting.
Towing the Expanda isn’t a weighty matter thanks to its ATM of 2451kg. That puts it comfortably into mid-range 4WD towing territory and our Jeep Cherokee certainly coped without difficulty across the Blue Mountains west of Sydney
THE BOTTOM LINE
It’s not hard to see why the Jayco Expanda would keep a caravanning family very happy. The van has all the advantages of a normal caravan with the additional asset of the expanding front bedroom which allows for lots more living space.
In addition, this Expanda comes fitted as an Outback for some rough-road exploring. That's a plus in anyone’s book.
WORDS Malcolm Street
PICS Michael Ellem
JAYCO CARAVANS EXPANDA OUTBACK
Overall length: 7.24m (23ft 9in)
External length: 5.72m (18ft 9in)
External width: (incl awn) 2.47m (8ft 1in)
Internal height: 1.98m (6ft 5in)
Nameplate Tare: 1976kg
Nameplate ATM: 2451kg
Unladen ball weight: 144kg
Chassis: Hot-dipped galvanised
Lighting: 12V incandescent/halogen
Gas: 2 x 9kg
Fresh water: 2 x 82L
Price as shown: $48,400 (tow-away, NSW)