Caravan review: Jayco All-Terrain 17.55.8
This capable offroader will suit those looking for a mid-size van that can fold down to fit into many carports
Jayco is our largest caravan builder by a long stretch, and their range is immense. There have been more than 200,000 Jayco RVs produced since they commenced production in 1975, so you don’t have to go far to see a Jayco on the road or in a caravan park. However, with a predominance of blacktop tourers in their range, it might not be the brand that comes to mind when we think of a van for offroad destinations.
So when we had the offer to review an All-Terrain through Watsons Leisure Centre in Coffs Harbour, we were right on it. The mid-NSW north coast dealership has been in business for over 40 years, and their monster yard is hard to miss on the Pacific Highway as you drive into town from the south.
You will find a vast mix of vans across the Jayco range, and it’s one of only a few companies these days that stays with pop-tops. These lower profile vans are easier to store in lower sheds, and their reduced wind resistance makes them a better towing proposition. The van on review is a 17ft All-Terrain version that shares its layout in the range with the more blacktop oriented Journey series. The 17-footer sits with full-height 19ft and 22ft caravans in Jayco’s All-Terrain group directed to a more offroad lifestyle.
Jayco’s large facility in Dandenong, Victoria, employs over 1200 workers across a 25ha site. Almost all the build process is carried out in-house, including chassis, suspension, walls, joinery and upholstery.
The chassis on the 17-footer is an Endurance 2 and is hot-dipped galvanised with an extended A-frame from heavier gauge steel than the standard range. Dimple cut cross members save weight, support the floor, and give an out of the way route to protect plumbing and electrical leads. Suspension is Jayco’s own tandem independent J-Tech trailing arm system with Pedder’s coil springs and lay down shock absorber at each of the sturdy-looking box-section arms. Tow in and out can be adjusted for wheel alignment. Installation of the two 80L freshwater tanks and an optional grey tank was neat and seemed to be well-balanced.
Black alloy wheels are shod with 245/70 offroad tyres, which, like all Jaycos, are filled with nitrogen to run cooler and improve ride quality. On top of that, there’s a tyre pressure monitoring system that connects to your smartphone.
The body is all modern technology. The aluminium wall frame sits inside vacuum bonded composite fibreglass panels with polystyrene insulation. The roof is a similar single sheet of fibreglass for improved weather protection.
Connection to the tow vehicle is through a Cruisemaster DO35 hitch which has a high level of articulation for travel on rough ground. Electronics include a breakaway system and Lippert Sway Command Tow controller on the latest models. Inside there’s a Wi-Fi hub for better internet connection when away from home. A set of 9kg gas bottles sit between two jerry can holders, and even though they are pretty high, I’d like to see some stone protection for the gas regulator.
Storage on the All-Terrain is improved over the Journey range with a standard checkerplate box that straddles the entire width of the A-frame. However, it’s extra-large, and care should be taken not to overload it with heavy items that would upset the weight balance of the van.
Even though the body rides high on its suspension, the pop-top has a purposeful and well-balanced profile that I find very appealing when the top is down. It doesn’t have that top-heavy look of a full height offroad van, and you would have to imagine that being lower, it will be better at getting along tree-lined tracks without damage.
In recognition of its dirt road-bound adventures, a high 570mm skirt of black checkerplate runs all around the sides and ends. A forward-mounted storage box, a fold-down picnic table, and an entertainment hatch for power and TV mounts are along the passenger side. A 14ft awning gives weather protection while sitting outside and because it’s connected to the pop-top roof, there are different procedures to adapt when deploying and packing down. All should be good if you keep to the correct instructions.
Up top, we see a Dometic Dust Reduction System and the large Dometic air conditioner, so it’s not immune to damage from low trees altogether.
With the top down, you have 1.64m of roof height to negotiate to the pop-top lifters at each end of the van, so you will need to stoop down until the roof is lifted. It’s best to raise the rear section first to open up some room to make your way to the front. Once the top is lifted, the ceiling is a very generous 2.07m high and with the side curtain zips open, it makes for a very airy and spacious interior.
The layout is the popular and sensible rear door front bed arrangement, leaving the central area for living space and the ensuite across the back. The kitchen runs along the passenger side and includes a reasonable 1.7m bench clad in a light grey marble finish. Storage includes three big pot drawers and a small slide-out pantry, but overhead cupboards space is compromised by the relatively high skirts of the pop-top.
A stainless steel sink has a draining board, and the cooktop has a folding lid, so there’s a reasonable amount of preparation space given the size of the van. Cheers to Jayco for placing the microwave at a safe height under the stove, which has gas/electric burners and a grill. High microwaves are a safety hazard, and they are one of my pet gripes in all RVs.
On the driver side is a dinette with an L-shaped lounge and a swivelling 1.1m x .47m table that is removable and drops to convert to an occasional bed.
Up front, the comfortable caravan queen innerspring mattress has great views through extra-large windows on either side. The bed lifts on gas struts for access to storage and a timber box with the water heater and pump.
Around the bed are side and overhead cupboards, reading lights with USB ports and a couple of Sirocco fans that, for me, were mounted too close to my head when lying down on the bed.
The full-width bathroom is compact, but it’s roomy enough to move around and usable even if the high vinyl walls and curtains might not offer the privacy some might expect.
Since our review, Jayco has introduced a more comprehensive range of colour options and have improved furniture durability with an interlocking construction method.
With a pair of 200W Solar panel charging a single 100Ah lithium battery, there should be enough power to keep the very efficient 12V fridge running for as long as you like off-grid. The limiting factor will be the 160L of water, but even that is reasonable as long as you minimise shower times. Charging is through a Projector system which offers easy monitoring on a panel mounted at the dinette.
All Jayco products come with a two year manufacturer warranty to cover the internals and five years on the structural components, including chassis, suspension and body. Accessories have their own cover from the relevant supplier but I’m reassured dealers like Watsons Leisure Centre live on their reputation for doing right by their customers.
Jayco calls the All-Terrain an ‘offroader’ right through its marketing strategy, so we need to take that at face value. The latest warranty document for the Adventure range gives broader cover than for the blacktop tourers. According to Jayco, these vans “have been designed and constructed to give added strength, ground clearance and durability for offroad use.” Sensibly though, because of the need for gas vents low on doors, “under no circumstances should these RVs be exposed to water crossings at or above floor level.”
The overriding advice is to drive to the conditions and avoid tight undulating or extreme 4WD tracks unsuitable for trailers.
We didn’t stretch the friendship with the dealer by pushing the limits of offroad travel, but we found some forest tracks west of Coffs for our drive. Tare is 2154kg, and the ATM on new models runs to 2754kg, which is a hefty load for a single axle van and offers a very generous 600kg payload if you want to take it up. This still leaves plenty of opportunity for mid-level SUVs and a sensible option for our country’s range of twin cab utes.
The All-Terrain towed smoothly behind my old LandCruiser at highway speeds and in the bush. There was a bit of conflict with my spare tyre hitting the drawbar on a tight turn on an incline, but that was my fault for not checking.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The 17ft All Terrain is a tempting option for anyone entering the market or downsizing to something more sensible. In today’s ever-burgeoning, post COVID market, the $67,990 base price is very competitive for an offroader. I like the pop-top ideal, and the All-Terrain version makes a lot of sense as an easy to tow and store prospect. Plenty of those transitioning from a camper trailer will love the ease of setup and the relatively roomy interior.
To check out Jayco RVs currently for sale, head over here.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Body length 5.7m (18ft 8in)
Overall length 7.2m (23ft 7in)
Width 2.47m (8ft 1in)
Height 2.67 m (8ft 9in)
Payload 600kg (calculated)
Ball weight (at tare) 202kg
Ball to TARE ratio 9 per cent
Frame Internal alloy
Chassis 6in galvanised steel
Suspension J-Tech 2 Independent trailing arm with shock absorber
Brakes 10in Drum
Wheels 16in alloy 245x70 x16in A/T
Water 2 x 80L
Battery 1 x 100A Lithium
Solar 1 x 220W
Air-conditioner yes Dometic
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control Lippert
Cooking Swift cooktop and grill
Hot water yes
Reversing camera, Dometic fridge upgrade
PRICE AS SHOWN
Watsons Leisure Centre
6 North Boambee Rd Coffs Harbour 2450
Ph: 02 6652 7544