BUYERS GUIDE - 4X4 CAMPERVANS
The post-2018 Trakkadu All-Terrain model has an automated transmission that we reckon many buyers will want. We checked out two of them, on- and off-road.
Trakka now produces three levels of Trakkadu 4WD campervans and the All-Terrain model slots into the middle of the range. It’s built on the latest VW Transporter van, with a third-generation DSG seven-speed automated manual transmission as an alternative to the standard six-speed manual.
The Trakkadu All-Terrain is powered by a twin-turbo two-litre diesel four, having outputs of 132kW and 400Nm, so power and flexibility aren’t issues. It can also tow a two-tonne trailer.
Above the basic Trakkadu specification the All-Terrain model scores the Seikel raised-height suspension and engine/transmission shields, as fitted to the ORP model, along with 215/60R17 all-terrain tyres, a GVM upgrade to 3200kg and a driver-controlled rear differential lock.
That spec’ level falls short of the ORP model’s off-road equipment list, but it’s some 20-grand less expensive as well.
Plusses for many buyers are the self-shifting gearbox and cruise control; both of which are not available on the ORP model.
Over the years, successive Trakkadus have enjoyed VW Transporter upgrades. The 2018 model we tested most recently came with Apple Car Play, for example.
What you get
Trakkas aren’t cheap, but in the 4WD touring business you generally get what you pay for. Where many camper conversions compromise the original ‘Kombi’ concept Trakka’s preserves almost entirely the multi-function-wagon attributes of the Transporter.
Lift the large tailgate (a power option hopefully soon, VW) and the only permanent reduction in load space is the starboard-side kitchen, wardrobe, cupboard and shower module. The third part of the folding bed is easily removed and the second-row seat can be slid fully forward, creating a large loading floor. The seat also has a large under-seat drawer.
The second-row seat is ADR-approved for two adults, making the Trakkadu a proper four-seater and there are twin child-seat restraints as well.
The front seats swivel, increasing the effective van space when in camping mode. A folding table clips onto a kitchen rail and can be moved fore and aft easily. With the rear seat positioned behind it the table can seat four.
The table can be used outside, clipping onto a sliding door rail and the leg is adjustable for height, to keep the table-top level.
Trakka’s low-profile lift-up roof panel is made from composite material and gas struts aid the lifting action. When open, the roof pulls coated polyester fabric sides into place and there are three meshed ventilation panels incorporated, with zip covers. Two opening windows and an optional electric fan further aid ventilation.
The kitchen runs along the van body, opposite the sliding door and incorporates an 80-litre front-opening fridge, diesel-fuelled cooktop and stainless-steel sink with fold-down tap and glass lid.
Privacy is ensured by sliding and clip-on
insulated curtains all around and an optional rear annexe allows the tailgate to be left open. The space under the raised tailgate makes a great outdoor, yet private, shower tent.
A retractable awning is fitted above the sliding door.
Trakkadu’s electrical system uses a 12-volt, 100 Ah AGM house battery (125Ah lithium optional) ,15-amp charger and LED lights inside and out. There’s also a 240-volt system with lead and exterior socket. An electronic control system monitors all circuits and supplies readouts for battery condition and tank levels.
The plumbing is supplied from a 55-litre tank and there’s a 38-litre grey water tank. A heat-exchanger hot water system and powered awning are standard in 2018 models.
The starting price is around $125,000 and options fitted to the fully-loaded second test vehicle included leather front seat upholstery, colour-matched awning cloth, lithium battery upgrade, diesel room heater, air compressor and tyre inflation kit, aluminium ‘roo bar, aluminium wheels, Hella light bar and window tinting, for an ask of $143,805.
On and off road
We drove both Trakkadu All-Terrain models on freeways, around town, on gravel roads and on our off-road test course.
The seven-speed DSG transmission got our attention on-road, because it worked beautifully, with seamless, automated shifts. Hopefully, VW is over its well-publicised twin-clutch transmission issues with this latest development.
We also appreciated the cruise control function that’s not available with the ORP model’s revised-ratio manual transmission.
On-road performance was outstanding and the transmission kept the engine running in its optimum rev band. Economy was excellent, at 8.5L/100km.
The Trakka All-Terrain handled predictably and braking was powerful and stable. However, on rough surfaces the 60-profile tyres were noticeably stiffer in bump reaction than the 235/65-profile tyres fitted to the ORP version. The relatively narrow tyres get their load-carrying capacity mainly from air pressure and can be pumped up to over 60psi – not exactly ideal for rough surfaces.
We’d like to see fatter, taller, lower-pressure tyres on this vehicle, if gearing and handling wouldn’t be compromised.
Trakkadu All Terrain managed our soft-roader test circuit without grounding anything, but baulked at the more difficult rock climb the ORP model handled.
Gearing was fine for the vehicle’s off-road capability.
The test vehicles were finished with VW’s $2600 metallic paint option that look great at caravan and camping shows, but is just going to get scratched in the bush.
The All-Terrain model is understandably Trakka’s best-selling Trakkadu version. It has an auto box, cruise control and sufficient ground clearance and under-body protection for modest off-road and firm-beach driving.
The camper conversion doesn’t detract much from the Transporter’s versatility and the four-seat interior and modest exterior dimensions make it a campervan that can be used for the daily drive.