NEW AGE XU 2019 REVIEW
You probably can take it all with you in New Age's big toy hauler caravan.
In these liberated days this is not always the case, but given that they are designed to take outdoor ‘toys’ like trail bikes, all terrain vehicles (quads), personal water craft (jet skis), mountain bikes and surfboards to adventure areas, it’s a fair chance that most of the XU (Xtreme Utility) caravans built at New Age's Melbourne factory will be bought and used by men.
This is relevant in this review, as by design, the XU is a compromise between a rugged toy hauler by day and a comfortable place to sleep, relax and recuperate by night.
So it’s purposeful, rather than simply comfortable -- function trumps form and things are designed to withstand harder-than-usual handling.
That said, the 22ft XU22BC we took bush to review was impressively competent in both roles, and would also serve as a good family-and-friends-and-all-their-gear option for regular holiday get-togethers.
First Walkinshaw-design toy hauler
Released at the Victorian Caravan, Camping & Touring Supershow in early-2019, the XU is New Age’s first model in the niche Australian toy hauler market that until now has been largely ‘owned’ by Jayco.
Designed and engineered by New Age owner Walkinshaw Performance to fulfil a multiple of purposes, ranging from a family holiday base to a mobile office or event HQ, the largest XU can sleep up to eight, depending on its configuration, as long as the toys are parked outside.
There’s nothing too sophisticated here and to keep weight down below 3000kg, the XU employs traditional Meranti timber framed wall construction, clad with white Stucco-finish high-profile ribbed aluminium, while the roof, which wraps over the front to reduce the chance of leaks, is fibreglass.
Treat it like a big ‘couples’ caravan and you and your adventurous partner can travel deep into remote areas on wide unmade roads to enjoy exploring further on a pair of trail bikes tethered securely in the large rear ‘garage’ load bay.
Deploy the drop-down ‘Expanda-style’ front queen bed, pull the concertina curtain to the garage shut, toss a few shrimps on the slide-out Dometic exterior BBQ and then later snuggle back to enjoy watching the 24-inch Smart TV (if you’re within reception range) or enjoy a DVD played from the large U-shaped and cloth upholstered lounge, opposite the compact inside galley.
Then enjoy a shower in the combined shower and cassette toilet front corner bathroom before unloading your bikes in the morning and heading off to explore...
Alternatively, take the kids and their mountain bikes. There are four single bunks in the load bay, so simply fold two or more back against the wall and you have two separate living zones.
Industrial-grade flooring throughout ensures that the XU will handle all this with ease.
Alternatively, the XU is a great base for a mates’ or couples’ weekend. By converting the dinette into a double bed by dropping the table and re-arranging the lounge cushions, the XU can accommodate two couples and four others in the singles behind, although there might be a wait to use the bathroom at times.
Imagine how good it would be to enjoy an evening around a crackling fire after a great BBQ dinner before waking next morning to sizzling bacon and eggs before you go exploring in your toys of choice. It’s all possible in the 22ft XU.
Room to move
The front is essentially a comfortable, few-frills caravan. No pleated leather here, designer kitchen or faux timber benchtop, just a durable working space. If you want more bling, the New Age option list is there for you, as each XU is custom-built.
Plenty of overhead cupboards, wide, if not deep, opening windows, with blackout and fly-mesh blinds, while a Swift 3 + 1 gas/electric stove with griller below, a large 184-litre 3-way fridge/freezer and large microwave are standard.
Missing is a space heater, which I thought would be essential here, given the XU's potential as a winter base for cross-country skiing, or perhaps as a refuge from overnight frosts and rain. However, you can option one if you wish to add to the XU’s starting price of $76,990.
Accessing the XU’s ‘garage' is simple. The large bottom hinged fibreglass rear door carries the rig’s single spare wheel, but it’s all counterbalanced so that it drops gently to the horizontal position, where it's held level by two sturdy cables. Leave it in this position and it becomes a great rear entertaining deck – perfect for overlooking that great fishing spot, or enjoying ‘sundowners’ afterwards.
Lowering the door to the ground so it forms a steep, but functional loading ramp is a matter of unhooking the cables.
A non-slip surface makes it easier to negotiate getting the bikes and bits inside, where they can be secured in place by tie-downs that engage adjustable parallel floor racks. The maximum ramp loading is 1125kg, which should be ample for anything you would want to have stored rear of the XU’s tandem axles.
Lowering the bunks on each side of the new review XU once the toys were out was harder than we expected, as the rubber straps that hold them up were new and very tight, but it’s a simple, non-mechanical solution that is in keeping with the XU’s purposeful design.
Raising and locking the rear door is a little harder than lowering it and is best done by two people, with over-centre truck-style locks on each side to ensure the door remains shut on corrugations.
How far off-road?
So, how far off the beaten track can you take this caravan-based toy hauler?
Quite far, based on its rugged Cruisemaster XT coil spring and twin shock absorber per wheel independent tandem suspension.
Hanging from the sturdy Walkinshaw-engineered 150mm galvanised steel chassis beneath a 50mm raiser, it allows the XU’s twin 110 litre fresh water and single standard 110 litre grey water tanks to be tucked up high and stone shielded, out of harm’s way. Some of the XU’s plastic plumbing is not quite as well shielded, however.
So all pretty good here for some remote adventure travel, but the XU’s single standard 100AH AGM battery and single 150W rooftop solar panel are a little underdone for much quality time in the bush, particularly if up to eight people are drawing power off the grid. One way around this is to plug an additional portable solar panel into the standard Anderson plug attached to the chassis.
There’s not a lot of external storage space, as with the inroads of the drop-down front bed and the space required for the garage, there’s only a small A-frame-mounted tool box and a small through-body tunnel boot behind it to pack all the usual caravan paraphernalia of hoses, power cables, wheel chocks, etc.
A Toy Lok retractable security cable attached to one side of the tool box to safeguard things once they are out of the garage is a nice touch.
It would also be nice if the twin 4.5kg gas bottles up front had some truck mesh protection, but the drop-down bed means it would have to sit near the very front of the drawbar, just behind the standard DO-35 off-road coupling, restricting articulation.
But hey, you’ve got your partner and/or mates and toys in the great outdoors. You’ve got just about everything else in a well-made and very versatile caravan.
The New Age XU is a tough, well-equipped toy hauler base station at a reasonable price from which to enjoy your toys, amongst company and in comfort in remote areas.
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