AL-KO Toughest Tow Test 2018 Gold Bush Challenger

By: TIM VAN DUYL, Photography by: Matt Fehlberg , Video by: CAM INNISS


Avan pushes the Golf Bush Challenger further with its less is more approach.

070 Eldee Station AL-KO AVAN 1 Matt Fehlberg

I heard myself saying ‘we probably shouldn’t be doing this’ but I was so impressed with what I saw that I couldn’t bear to raise the VHF radio in my hand to command a stop. There we were, videographer Cam (whose excellent work on the Bush Challenger you can view online) and I standing at the top of one of the more challenging valleys at Eldee watching as one of Team AL-KO expertly guided the brand new Golf through a dry river bed below us all so Matt could get the perfect shot. Matt got the shot and we all gained a new found confidence in the aptly named plugger.

TOUGH YOU SAY?

It is not an offroader, that must be made clear so why was it as AL-KO’s Toughest Tow Test? Because Avan, the maker of the Golf brand along with AL-KO, has something to prove. You see, marketers adopt two types of practices in our favourite industry, some claim the world and there are those that err on the side of caution. Avan is the latter because it doesn’t take risks (more on that later) but the team needed to know what they do is up for tasks beyond the norm, hence my clenched teeth seeing the little pop-top going places a bonafide offroad camper trailer would question.

093 Eldee Station AL-KO AVAN 1 Matt Fehlberg

So what makes it worth pushing so hard? Enduro Outback suspension. Yes, the 180mm compression ready, locally welded (not pressed), box section, heavy duty bush and shock-equipped Outback. The same Outback that you see under the big beasts at this years’ Toughest Tow Test. Is it overkill? For ability, you betcha but don’t be fooled into thinking it is too much for the 1300kg Tare van. It really suits it. That’s down to the use of a single axle and to the overall height and width of the body and chassis, which to me at least, felt about perfect for a semi-offroad pop-top. Towed by a moderately capable ute in the Mitsi Triton, it sat flat under tow, articulated exceptionally well and moved with the terrain, never really bouncing or appearing unbalanced.  

094 Eldee Station AL-KO AVAN 1 Matt Fehlberg

The reason behind the excellent articulation is partly down to the aforementioned dimensions, chassis height, suspension compliance and weight but also down to the new offroad pin by AL-KO. The coupling was under the microscope too, this being our first chance to get it dusty, bash it into some rocks to see how it fared. It did well across the board and if you want to know more, fellow torture-tester Peter has a decent break out on the what sets it apart from the competition later in the book.

145 Eldee Station AL-KO AVAN 1 Matt Fehlberg

POP THAT TOP

Stopping for a minute to take it all in, we threw the roof up to get some shade and by threw, I mean we got it up in the time it takes to pick up a rock and throw it. Four clips and a short moment pressing the optional front bin mounted button and the roof is up. Limited by cables, it goes up quick and with decent canvas and zipped windows allround and good curtains, total privacy is close at hand too. Probably my only complaint was the slightly finicky door which took a minute to unlatch and lower into place from its ceiling hideout. Once we figured it out it wasn't an issue but for those of us with more delicate fingers, it could be a chore.

Once up, the raised floor becomes a consideration for some but a twin step ladder and grab handle should make life easy plus being so high gives a commanding view of the surrounds. Inside, my 2m frame touched the ceiling but not abruptly so the floor to ceiling height is around 190cm, good for a pop-top.

139 Eldee Station AL-KO AVAN 1 Matt Fehlberg

An east-west double is the main sleeping spot with overflow capacity found under the neat dinette. The secondary spot is a cosy though, best for small children, not the larger among us. The kitchen is well appointed, overkill in all honesty. A Swift four-burner stovetop, like you will find in many six-berth vans, sits beside a good sized sink with mixer above. A Thetford 80L, three-way fridge resides under the bench beside a good amount of storage. You could host a decent party with the setup and with all the windows up, feed the hordes from any angle, handy.

127 Eldee Station AL-KO AVAN 1 Matt Fehlberg

Outside conveniences consist of an optional 3.5m awning that was a cinch to extend and some LED lights but I suspect getting a stereo outside would be an easy dealer-fit option.

BACK UNDER IT

With the heat of the day passing, I took a minute to crawl under the Bush Challenger as after all, if it is to go bush, it needs to be protected where it matters. The first thing I noticed was the massive, proportionally speaking, water tank. For such a small chassis, the 80L tank looks enormous. Some will suggest it needs a bash plate, I do not. Getting stones and other debris stuck between the bash plate and tank can lead to leaks caused by constant rubbing while driving. I prefer PVC tanks like the Bush Challenger uses as they are tough, real tough. Looking at more detail it was nice to see cables and plumbing tucked away and channelled through crossmembers in the chassis as it was all terrain tyres and 10in electric drum brakes.

098 Eldee Station AL-KO AVAN 1 Matt Fehlberg

The chassis itself is lightweight, only a 4in but it doesn’t need more (recall the 1300kg Tare). Up front is a decent sized bin and stoneguard protecting a 9kg gas bottle and with the roof down two more options are evident, a Rola roof rack and an 80W solar panel feeding down to the XYZ battery. {Comments about the capacity to go here }

The roof rack will come in handy with adventurers needing somewhere to put their bikes or kayaks, which when you add up the water storage and ease of towing makes this a good platform for extended trips into our vast outback.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Coming from Avan is a blessing and curse. It means the company has the experience and dedication to its customers to not take risks overstating its products’ ability and it means bulk buying and mass production creates great value for money but it also means less flamboyance and more traditional styling.

The Golf Bush Challenger is more capable than Avan’s marketers suggest and probably more than they know but it is also compromised with ageing styling and the held back by the need for mass appeal. Should you want a capable pop-top on a budget, I haven't met better though. It has almost enough to take you off grid for extended periods and it does it with little effort, sometimes less is more.

HITS AND MISSES

PROS...

  • Small footprint and height

  • Masses of water capacity

  • Quick roof raising

CONS...

  • Traditional internal styling
  • Finicky door arrangement
  • No dedicated toilet

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES

  • Overall length 6.01m (19ft 8in)
  • External body length 4.16m (13ft 8in)
  • external body width 2.24m (7ft 4in)
  • Travel height 2.01m (5ft 6in)
  • Internal height 2.07m (6ft 9in)
  • Tare 1300kg
  • ATM 1600kg
  • Payload 300kg
  • Ball weight 120kg

PRICE AS SHOWN

$36,000

To enquire about this caravan, please visit golfcaravans.com.au or phone 1800 991 169