Best Aussie Vans Finalist 2015 Trakmaster Pilbara Extreme Test Review
Well-constructed and nicely fitted out, the Trakmaster Pilbara Extreme offers a single bed layout perfect for serious off-road adventures.
It’s been a little while since I last had a close look at a Trakmaster offroad caravan, so when one showed up on the list of entries for BAV, I was looking forward to seeing it.
DESIGN & CONSTRUCTION
Let’s start on the outside, though. The Pilbara Extreme is built on a hot-dipped galvanised chassis with 150x50mm (6x2in) rails that run the full length from the tow hitch to the rear of the van. The van rides on Trakair trailing arm suspension with airbags and dual shock absorbers per wheel. The suspension is load-sensing and adjusts the height of the van automatically, depending on the load. When parked up, the airbags can be adjusted across the van, to accommodate uneven ground. All of this is controlled by a switch panel located just inside the entry door but at floor level, so it is easily accessible from the outside. It’s a novel and very welcome accessory.
At the rear of the van, the 40° cutaway is quite a distinctive feature and also houses the spare wheel – it sits between the chassis rails under the van. Sensibly, it comes with a wind-down mechanism to make accessing it easier.
The three water tanks – two fresh and one grey – are fitted along the van between the rails and all have galvanised sheet protection. While grey water tanks are, unfortunately, still a rarity on new caravans, it’s refreshing to see one on a dedicated offroad van like this. When you look underneath the Pilbara, it does appear a bit crowded under there, but everything is neatly strapped up out of the way to maintain the van’s excellent ground clearance.
Above the main chassis, the floor cross members are welded on. These, together with the Z-beam wall supports, not only give additional ground clearance but also provide better support for the composite fibreglass wall panels. There’s no caravan frame, as such, but the walls are about 30 per cent thicker than conventional ones to give more strength and better insulation. Trakmaster is a company that likes to spend time testing its product, so it’s safe to assume that this system has been tried and tested.
The Pilbara Extreme has another feature that you don’t see on many vans – tie holds that are fitted to the chassis. I don’t imagine too many people purposely venture into areas at risk of cyclones but, given we live in times of extreme weather events, the tie-downs don’t seem like such a bad idea.
Across the rear of the van, the bumper bar has three jerry can holders fitted, just in case the water tank capacity is not enough for you. Of course, they can also be used for fuel.
At the pointy end are all the usual features: a Hitchmaster DO35 hitch, handbrake and jockey wheel. There is also a mesh stone protector, with two 9kg gas cylinders mounted behind it, plus a mesh rack below for items such as wet hoses or for carrying firewood.
Like any good offroad caravan designed for remote country travel, the Pilbara Extreme has a good electrical setup with 200Ah lithium batteries and 270W of solar panel capacity. In addition to that, there’s a DC-DC charger and a 12V fuse panel in one of the overhead lockers which, I noted with interest, actually has all the circuits labelled.
HITS & MISSES
- Relatively short van for offroad travel
- Good ground clearance
- Well set up electrical system
- Airbag suspension
- Nicely fitted out
- Single bed layout
- Relatively heavy van for its size
TRAKMASTER PILBARA EXTREME SPECS
Weights and measures
- Overall length 7.21m (23ft 8in)
- External body length 5.31m (17ft 5in)
- External body width 2.39m (7ft 10in)
- Travel height 2.9m (9ft 6in)
- Internal height 1.9m (6ft 3in)
- Tare 2424kg
- ATM 3200kg
- Ball weight 240kg
- Frame n/a
- Cladding Composite fibreglass panel
- Chassis Hot-dipped galvanised
- Suspension Independent airbag Trakair
- Brakes 12in electric
- Wheels 16in alloys
- Water 2x82L (fresh); 1x80L (grey)
- Battery 200Ah lithium
- Solar 2x135W
- Air-conditioner Denso reverse-cycle
- Gas 2x9kg
- Sway control Dexter Sway Control
- Cooking Swift four-burner with grill
- Fridge Evakool 146L 12V compressor
- Microwave dLuxx
- Toilet Bench-style cassette
- Shower Flexible hose
- Lighting 12V LED
- Hot water Suburban 23L
Price as shown
- $98,000 (on-road, Vic)
The full test appears in Caravan World #546 February 2016. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!