Golf Savannah 499: Review

By: Emma Ryan, Photography by: Jack Murphy


The Golf Savannah 499 marries the comforts of home with an insatiable spirit of adventure.

Buying a caravan is all about making a list of priorities based on what you intend to do with it. As an adventurous, 30-something traveller, I like to keep things simple and I don’t like to be held back. Oh, and I haven’t got a spare $100K to spend because investors have priced me out of the property market (not pointing any fingers, of course). For me, the Golf Savannah 499 is ideal.

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Priced at a shade under $55K, this is a compact caravan that doesn’t mess around when it says it can hack it in the rough stuff. When we got together with AL-KO and came up with this hair-brained idea to haul a bunch of caravans through the guts of the infamously tough Victorian High Country for the Toughest Tow Test, lesser van makers would have feigned great interest in their shandies and subtly slinked off to a dark corner of the party. But not Jeff Van Baardwyk, aka Jeff Jnr, owner and manufacturer of Golf and Avan caravans and camper trailers. On the contrary, Jeff Jnr shot his hand up for the task like an eager school kid in the front row and even cleared his schedule so he could come along on the trip. But more about putting one’s money where one’s mouth is shortly...

SPECIFICATIONS

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As the name suggests, the Savannah 499 is a wee thing with a body of just 4.99m (or 6.8m garage length) and 2.39m wide. It weighs 1620kg Tare with an ATM of just 2000kg, meaning it’s fair game for medium-sized tow vehicles with 2.5 tonne or less towing capacity. The model we dragged through the High Country was a pop-top, but it’s also available as a hardtop if that’s your preference. Again, this will come down to personal circumstance and intended usage; the pop-top saves weight, money and height, the latter making it easier to garage and more nimble on tight, overgrown bush tracks. And we found plenty of those out here! The benefit of the hardtop is increased insulation, a quicker set up at camp and more interior overhead storage. Different strokes for different folks, as they say.

EXTERIOR

The Savannah 499 has insulated sandwich panel walls with an internal laminated veneer frame, a ply reinforced outer skin and smooth aluminium cladding atop a hot-dipped 150x50mm galvanised chassis with a separate 150x50mm A-frame.

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All of that rides on the more-than-capable AL-KO Enduro Outback independent trailing arm suspension, the wind beneath the wings of this mighty little adventurer. Add to the mix heavy-duty electric brakes and AL-KO’s new Off-Road Ball Coupling which proved to have exceptional articulation and you’ve got a van that’s ready to shake, rattle and roll over lumps, bumps and everything in between.

The beauty of the AL-KO hitch is that it combines offroad-ready engineering with a standard 50mm ball coupling, so there’s no need to shift receiving ends when you want to tow your boat or a conventional trailer. And boy, does it shine offroad. Which leads me back to the notion of money where mouths live.

OFFROAD TEST

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There were several times on the Toughest Tow Test when the group held its collective breath as the vans approached what can only be described as gnarly terrain. From brutally steep climbs paired with perilously tight switchbacks on loose gravel to bumpy creek crossings with giant, humorously placed rocks and nasty departure angles back up to the track, we asked a lot of these vans. The Golf was far and away the most capable of the bunch in these conditions – its amiable dimensions, excellent rear departure angle and light weight were an unstoppable team, especially when paired with the aforementioned AL-KO running gear.

INTERIOR

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Internal layouts on small vans interest me so much more than those of big three tonne vans. It requires admirable ingenuity and clever design to create a user-friendly product within such a small footprint, and that’s what has been achieved on the Savannah 499.

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Suitable for couples (or young families who don’t mind intimate living), it’s got the necessary homey comforts ticked off and it all falls easily to hand.

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The caravan-queen-size innerspring bed is positioned north-south in the front corner, with the compact bathroom alongside it and a cutaway in the bed’s rear corner for ergonomic purposes. There are twin overhead storage cabinets and reading lights at the bedhead, plus storage beneath the bed although this space is shared with speakers and electrics.

The bathroom is a tight affair, a simple shower over toilet that will ask some degree of contortion of its user. However, it’s absolutely worth remembering the size of this van; many of its market competitors go without, necessitating a begrudging stroll in one’s smalls to an amenities block in the wee hours, should there indeed be one to speak of.

OUTDOOR LIVING

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Where the layout of the Savannah 499 comes into its own, in my humble opinion, is outside. It has a second kitchen that slides on a stainless drawer beneath the lightweight Thule rollout awning. This is equipped with a two-burner stove and a stainless steel sink plumbed with hot and cold water. Alongside this you’ll find an excellent Waeco drawer fridge where the items you’ll need for alfresco cooking (and, ahem, happy hour) can be easily reached. The addition of an external kitchen catapults this van into a new league as far as I’m concerned, and really is just clever, customer-centred design. After all, someone who’s likely to value an adventurous rig like this is almost certainly going to want to wring every last drop out of whatever beautiful destination they’ve travelled in 4WD to get to. To that effect, there’s also an external shower on the offside of the van.

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THE BOTTOM LINE

If you’ve got a thirst for getting off the beaten track and exploring Australia’s stunning, rugged destinations and can do away with the frills and fancies on heavier, less nimble vans, the Golf Savannah 499 might just be for you. With a price tag of $54,990 it’s an accessible adventure machine that will suit young (and young at heart) couples, perhaps with a couple of small kids.

It offers outdoor living and an uncomplicated approach to life that will resonate with those who prioritise freedom and simplicity on the road.

HITS AND MISSES

Pros...

  • Excellent capability
  • Lightweight and easy to tow
  • External kitchen for alfresco living

Cons...

  • No vanity or mirror

Weights and measures

  • External length 4.99m (16ft 4in)
  • External width 2.39m (7ft 10in)
  • Internal height 2.04m (6ft 8in)
  • Travel height 2.65m (8ft 8in)
  • Tare 1620kg
  • ATM 2000kg
  • Payload 380kg
  • Ball weight 130kg

Price as shown

$54,990 (ex-Vic)

You can win the Ultimate Tough Towing Kit (including a set of clearview mirrors), valued at $6,811. Enter HERE.

The full feature appeared in Caravan World #564. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!