BUYERS GUIDE - 4X4 CAMPERVANS
Sydney-based Trakka is one of the leaders in Australian motorhome and campervan design and innovation and the company has been building on VW Transporter van chassis since the 1970s.
In 2014 there were five Trakkadu models, from the 2WD version up to the 4WD with Off Road Pack.
Our test vehicle was a 132 ORP model, which we chose because it was then the most off-road-capable in the Trakka lineup.
Since our original test we’ve checked out the twin-turbo model that’s been further improved in terms of off-road gearing.
The ORP is built on an enhanced Transporter van. The manual transmission is a specially designed six-speed with a deep-reduction first gear and the suspension is fitted with VW-approved Seikel components that help lift ground clearance from 180mm to 250mm.
Being the top-shelf Trakkadu the ORP comes with all the expected inclusions: swivelling front seats, gas-strut
lifting roof, diesel stove, 80L fridge, ADR-approved rear seats, opening and fixed windows, premium awning, two fresh water tanks, 100AH AGM house battery, electronic monitoring system, LED lighting, 3200kg GVM suspension upgrade and rear differential lock.
Both test vehicles were fitted with aluminium nudge bars, Hella HID driving lights and rear annexes with shower. Other options include solar charging, diesel cabin heater, tow bar, TV, stereo upgrade, leather upholstery and hot water system.
The VW Transporter already has car-like performance from a 132kW/400Nm turbo-diesel engine and world-class dynamic and passive safety equipment: ABS, electronic stability control (ESC), fog lights with cornering function, rain-sensing wipers and auto headlights.
The end result is a Trakkadu that has excellent original and Trakka equipment levels. We checked it out on and off-road, and spent two nights sleeping in it.
Having tested previous Trakkadus we knew that Trakka’s functionality, fit and finish were second to none and the test vehicles confirmed this experience.
All the conversion items worked as planned and we found it very easy to change the Trakkadus from driving to camping trim.
On our first bush night it rained, so we had to set up quickly and that proved to be simple: the side awning protected the doorway while we spread a groundsheet and erected our chairs; and the rear door protected us while we put up the aft annexe.
We used a pre-made bedroll on top of the fold-out bed and went from driving mode to dining and sleeping mode in about five minutes.
The only problem we encountered was keeping mozzies out of the cabin when we wanted to leave the side door open. The diesel stove is a safer option than LPG, but it needs some warm-up time, we discovered. We found it ideal for cooking planned meals, but for that quick midday cupp one of the inexpensive, hardware-store butane single-burners is the go.
Driving the Trakkadu was a pleasure and we appreciated having our house on wheels contained in such a compact machine – no camper trailer to consider when trying to park in shopping centres. It handled secondary bitumen and dirt roads with poise, apart from some rattling of contents on corrugated sections.
The 2012 ORP model was then Trakka’s most capable Trakkadu and we had high hopes for its off road ability thanks to the low-speed first gear fitted to this machine, but it was still no rock-hopper.
Even in first cog the Trakkadu baulked at the low stone shelves on our favourite fire trails – tracks that standard 4WD utes handle easily. VW offers a seven-speed twin-clutch mechanical-automatic transmission on the Transporter, but the gearing in this transmission isn’t as deep as the manual six-speed
box’s, so that wouldn’t work either.
Here’s our video of the original test:
However, the later-model Trakkadu ORP proved to be much more capable on rocky trails. The latest Seikel transmission ratio kit, in concert with larger-section off-road tyres changes the gearing, making the new ORP model 31-percent shorter-geared than the standard 4Motion Transporter in first and second gears,
yet only three-percent shorter in third to sixth gears, so highway cruising revs hardly change.
We didn’t check it out on beach sand, but it should be even more capable than the original version, thanks to a lower-speed gearing to dig itself out of bog holes.
As an Outback touring machine for a couple or a family of four the Trakkadu could be ideal: compact, economical, easy to drive and manoeuvre, and able to get to camping spots larger vehicles or those towing camper trailers can’t manage. However, the pre-2014 models aren’t full-on adventure machines.
One sacrifice in the later model is cruise control, because the gearing change confuses the VW ECU. Hopefully, that obstacle can be overcome.
Check out the rock-hopping performance of the later model Trakkadu: