BUYERS GUIDE - 4X4 CAMPERVANS
This Horizon Motorhomes’ Waratah 4×4 is the personal rig of Horizon’s founder, Clayton Kearney, It’s the second Waratah 4×4 Clayton has had custom-built for personal adventures and he doesn’t spare any expense.
The first test vehicle was given the ultimate shake-down trip when the Clayton family took the then brand-new Waratah 4×4 from Ballina across to South Australia in 2013; north into Central Australia; across the Tanami Track to Broome; north to Cape Leveque; along the infamous Gibb River Road before
returning to Alice Springs via the black top.
In just on a month the Waratah clocked up 9298km, including at least 3000km of corrugated dirt roads, without drama.
At this point Kelsey and Richard Robertson from iMotorhome flew into Alice Springs and did a swap with them, collecting the Waratah 4×4 for its journey back to Ballina, via the Plenty Highway.
Fast forward five and a half years or so and the Robertsons re-acquainted themselves with this proved luxury campervan model.
The Waratah was built on a long wheelbase Sprinter 519 CDI – the ‘5’ meant it was a nominal five-tonner, derated to 4495kg GVM to suit Australia’s passenger car licence rule
The ’19’ meant 190hp (140 kW) and that power came from a 3.0-litre V6 turbo-diesel that drove through a five-speed auto gearbox. In 4×4 mode, torque was split 35:65 front:rear and put to the ground via front independent strut and rear live-axle suspension.
On road, the dual rear wheels drove under normal conditions, with high and low-range 4×4 selectable on demand. It was all push-button operated and electronically controlled, and worked in conjunction with 4ETS (4-wheel electronic traction control) and ADAPTIVE ESP (an electronic stability program). Together, the package helped prevent/limit wheel-spin and skidding.
The Sprinter’s main off-road disadvantage was its poor low-range gearing – only 40 percent lower than normal – and no centre differential lock, so front end spin-out in steep off-road conditions was a hazard.
On the road the ‘Benz was smooth, quiet and rode remarkably well. Body roll was minimal and the steering was nicely weighted with good feedback,.
Power was delivered smoothly and the five speed gearbox shifted nicely, but the next-gen Sprinter will get a seven-speed auto.
The LWB Sprinter endowed the Waratah with space for a multi-seat dinette up front; a lengthways kingsize bed down the back, plus a generous kitchen and plenty of storage. About the only thing that’s on the small size is the ‘wet’ bathroom, but that’s because Clayton reckoned bathroom size should be commensurate with the amount of time you spend in it! It’s a valid point, although some would trade storage and/or living space for a bathroom with a bit more room, and especially a separate shower cubicle.
Nevertheless, this smallest room in the house squeezed in a cassette toilet, corner hand basin with a tap with a pullout shower nozzle, towel rail, shower curtain, mirrored, wall-mounted shaving cabinet, light and fan-hatch.
Up front, the cab seats swivelled to centre the dining table and dinette seating; the latter either being a standard single or optional pair of proper
vehicle seats, not just a flat bench. The kitchen came with a three burner gas cooker, single sink, microwave, 136-litre compressor fridge and plenty of drawers.
Van sliding side-doors are often derided as ‘whizz-bangs’, but the push-button or remote-operated electric option on the Sprinter opened the door quietly all the way, or just as far as needed.
Another feature was proper double-glazed acrylic windows in the rear barn doors. Most manufacturers leave the fixed factory glass, but Horizon went the extra mile.
The Horizon Waratah 4×4 the Robertsons drove halfway across Australia proved itself to be ‘a very good thing’ and the later version we checked out continued the theme. Comfortable, capable, powerful and liveable, it was a tough machine, well suited to areas where all-road/track and all-weather capability was more important than ultimate off-road ability.
This particular one might have been Clayton’s, but there’s nothing ‘Claytons’ about it: it was the real deal – and ready to go.