Review: Evernew E900 Series
The 'typical' Aussie caravan these days is a 20ft ensuite van. Evernew's E900 Series meets the criteria with flying colours.
WHEN YOU READ up on Evernew vans on internet forums to get a feel for customer satisfaction and resale values, it becomes obvious that owners are very happy with them and tend to hold on to them. If you find an Evernew second-hand, it's likely to cost a bit even if it's been around the block a few times.
That says something about how well Evernews meet their owners' expectations and stand up to (ab)use year after year. As well they might, since each van is made to order based on a preliminary floor plan, while the Evernew team brings 46 years of experience to the process.
The company in Heidelberg, Vic, was founded in 1963 by Bruce Bailey and his father. Bruce still works at the modest Bell Street sales yard where the daily affairs are now handled by his assistant manager and son-in-law, Darren French. It was a family business from the start and has remained so ever since.
The company only sells direct to the public (i.e., there's no dealer network) and produces around three-and-a-half vans a week. "That's less than we made before," Bruce explains, "but vans these days are much more complicated, for instance with all the electronics and wiring. In the past we only used one electrician; now we use three."
Something else that's changed is the renewed popularity of family vans with bunk beds and the like, a trend that Evernew is happy to accommodate: when I visited the sales yard, two of the three vans in the finishing area were family versions. (The actual factory is 5km away in Heidelberg West, where customers are encouraged to see their vans being built.)
The E900 Series under review is the most popular model in the Evernew line-up and sits just under the luxury E1000 that we reviewed in December 2008. The E900 range starts at an interior length of 5.18m (17ft), but our review van had interior dimensions of 5.8x2.28m (19ft 8in x 7ft 6in) with an interior height of 1.95m (6ft 5in). Evernew's customisation of the vans includes their overall size but it goes further than that: the E900, for instance, is also available as a pop-top, and all Evernews can be specified for offroad use with heavy-duty coil spring suspension and 15in or 16in wheels.
Our review E900 is not particularly heavy with a Tare of 2020kg, but it sits on a heavy-duty, hot dipped galvanised, boxed steel chassis with rocker leaf-spring suspension for big axles rated at 1600kg each, with eight-ply LT tyres on 15in alloys running on parallel bearings.
These impressive specifications result in an ATM of 3000kg - in other words, a load capacity of almost a tonne, or more than double the usual for a standard tandem-axle van. If you fill up the two 95L water tanks, you could still carry all the gear you want - or be more sparing and tow this with a Prado-type vehicle.
The bodywork consists of a meranti timber frame with aluminium external cladding and ply internal walls enclosing polystyrene insulation (fibreglass in the roof), and a 12mm, waterproof ply floor glued and riveted to the chassis. Checkerplate protects the front and sides, and the plastic water tanks underneath are well protected by gal sheeting. Drop-down stabilisers are fitted to each corner. Rear and running lights are all LED items.
Two 9kg gas cylinders sit on the A-frame, which has an aluminium mesh basket and a mains tap.
External body width is 2.36m (7ft 9in) and length is 6.15m (20ft 2in). Add the A-frame, bumper and spare wheel, and overall length comes to 7.85m (25ft 9in), though you can remove the spare wheel carrier and slide the bumper in if required.
The large tunnel boot across the front is worth mentioning, with its interior light and doors either side. It can also be accessed internally from under the bed base which lifts up on gas struts, and it fits three large plastic tubs so the contents can be stored neatly and slid across - smart thinking.
External features include the Dometic A&E 8500 roll-out awning and a drop-down picnic table.
SENSE OF SPACE
As you enter through the Camec triple-locker door, you're greeted by an inviting interior with a front bedroom, mid-kitchen with dinette and rear bathroom. The wood hues and other colours are tastefully chosen and the result doesn't look as cluttered as some interiors.
The sense of space is enhanced by the Jupiter wind-out acrylic windows that let the light flood in, certainly in the bedroom area. They have micro venetian blinds, draw-curtains and timber pelmets, and are all screened to keep flies and mozzies out. A Four Seasons hatch is fitted in the bedroom and a Heiki skylight hatch in the living area with a pull-across blind.
The north-south bed has a 1.96x1.52m (6ft 5in x 5ft) innerspring mattress, and the base lifts up on gas struts for under-bed storage and access to that tunnel boot. There are lockers above the front window, deep but not very tall hanging wardrobes on either side of the bed, and a cupboard in the offside rear corner. The bedside shelves are fairly generous, with a welcome twin powerpoint at the offside shelf.
A concertina door shields the bedroom area from the rest of the van, but is best left open to benefit from the bedroom's abundant natural light.
KITCHEN AND DINING
The nearside kitchen is well appointed: Swift four-burner cooktop (three gas, one electric) with griller, oven and rangehood, a stainless steel sink with drainer and flick-mixer tap, a Samsung stainless steel microwave and, opposite the stove, a Dometic 175L three-way fridge/freezer.
Benchtop space is adequate with the cooktop cover down (in the up position it doubles as a splashback), otherwise you'll have to enlist the tri-fold table of the dinette opposite. There are no less than four powerpoints for appliances.
There's a fair bit of kitchen storage with three overhead lockers and one under the stove, five drawers that are wide and deep, and a cupboard. The shallow pantry down the side of the kitchen bench opens into the doorway, rather than into the living space where it would be in the way when you're cooking and moving around.
The plush, leather-upholstered dinette seats two in comfort, four at a pinch. Again, there's ample storage with large overhead lockers and useful, pull-out wire baskets under the seats.
There's room to move in the bathroom, which has a separate, moulded shower cubicle on the nearside with variable-height shower hose, flick-mixer tap and a fan hatch. Hot water is supplied by a 23L Suburban gas/electric system.
The toilet on the offside is a Thetford C250 china bowl cassette. The vanity basin is a china-bowl affair as well, with a flick-mixer tap, large mirrors on the overhead locker doors and twin powerpoints underneath the left locker. Next to the washbasin is the built-in Lemair top-loading washing machine.
ANCILLARIES AND ELECTRICS
The Ibis low-profile, roof-mounted air-con is remote controlled, as is the Pioneer radio/CD/MP3/iPod system with two speakers above the dinette and two above the bed. A flatscreen TV is not included, although the area between the microwave and the doorway is reinforced to accept a TV arm and there's a connection to the Winegard antenna all wired up and ready to go, plus an external input socket for cable TV.
Lighting consists of 12V halogen reading lights above the bed (x2) and dinette (x2) and a halogen over the cooktop, with additional 12V fluoro lights in the bedroom (x1), living area (x2), kitchen (x1) and bathroom (x1). Given the generous level of lighting, the lack of a make-up/shaving light in the bathroom seems a curious omission.
The 12V, 100Ah deep-cycle battery under the front dinette seat comes with a Smart charger and wiring for optional solar panels. It can also be charged from the tow vehicle via an Anderson plug.
The comprehensive control panel in the front offside overhead locker is well spaced out and clearly labelled.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The E900 seems to have everything that most people want, except for a TV and solar panel and maybe a slide-out external barbecue, though these can be provided at extra cost. What you do get for $63,950 (drive-away, as reviewed) is an honest, solid van that should provide years of reliable service, certainly if owner feedback is any indication.
It has a huge load capacity yet can be towed by a mid-size 4WD, and it benefits from the experience of a tightly-knit family business that's been around far longer than most. They must be doing quite a few things right, then.
Source: Caravan World Dec 2009