A BIG BIT FANCY
Trakka’s flagship Trakkaway 860 is something quite special...
by Richard Robertson
There are motorhomes we test and are happy to hand back; either because they don’t suit us personally or because the integration of vehicle and living space doesn’t really work. And then there are Trakkas. This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the Trakka brand and those decades of experience, coupled with passion and enthusiasm for the product that’s possibly stronger than ever, shows up in every one of the Company’s vehicle designs.
Sitting at the top of Trakka’s coach-built Trakkaway range is the 860. Built on a Fiat Ducato with an unusual tandem axle chassis, it embodies all the design innovation, style and livability Trakka is famous for and blends those elements into a highly desirable yet relatively affordable luxury tourer.
It’s easy to pick the size of any Trakkaway because the model number is it’s length in metres; hence the 860 is 8.6 metres long. In Australian motorhome terms 8.6 metres – or 28 feet 3 inches – is pretty big and there aren’t many locally built models available that are longer. Although they say size isn’t everything, in motorhomes it confers status (to a degree) and certainly equates to living room and livability. But size has its drawbacks and too much reduces maneuverability, limits your parking options and usually equates to significantly higher fuel costs.
Long, Low and Lean
Featuring the Company’s new Aero2 B-class nose cone (an over-cab bed is optional, making it a C-class motorhome), the restyled 2013 version of the Trakkaway 860 also picks up some other styling cues first revealed in the ‘baby’ Trakkaway 700. These include a rounded roofline and tapered curve along the lower body panels between the front and rear wheels.
In profile, the 860 is now a sleek, stylish and highly attractive motorhome that has moved away from the more conventional, slab-sided appearance of its predecessors. In B-class guise this vehicle has an overall height of just 2.8 metres, thanks not only to the sleek nose cone but also Trakka’s use of an internally mounted air-conditioning system in place of the usual rooftop unit.
Despite its considerable size and the fact it can legally seat four for travel, the B-class Trakkaway 860 sleeps just two. Layout is conventional and features a front lounge, mid kitchen/bathroom and a rear bedroom. Unusually for a vehicle of this size (and price) it doesn’t include a slide-out; something Trakka seems keen to avoid although the Trakkaway 700 does have a modest rear slide-out bed extension.
Priced from $199,000 drive away in NSW, the test vehicle had a number of options fitted that lifted its appeal, practicality and price, taking it to $212,240 on the road. Options fitted were leather upholstery ($2950), a Webasto diesel heater ($2950), 135 W solar system ($1950), a stainless steel barbecue with an additional gas bottle ($950), central vacuum system ($690), an extra electric skylight in the lounge ($1250) and Trakka’s newly designed rainwater retrieval system ($2500).
If it were my vehicle I could live without the barbecue, vacuum and I’d probably pass on the rainwater system; primarily because not being a remote traveller $2500 is a lot to pay for an extra 55-litres water capacity (although you can also fill it without waiting for rain).
Every motorhome has it’s own character and it matters how you interact with it, because like relationships with people, you have to live and ‘work’ with a motorhome 24/7 when travelling. So while some might see an 8.6-metre motorhome as sheer indulgence for 2 people, I can certainly understand the logic behind it.
A motorhome’s character is an amalgam of many things, but perhaps the Trakkaway 860’s most defining trait is its tandem-axle AL-KO chassis. Supplied and attached independently of the Fiat Ducato’s cab, its seems to exaggerate the impression of length while (certainly) helping reduce overall height. Because the Ducato is front-wheel drive the bolt-on AL-KO chassis system doesn't have to contend with a rear drive shaft or differential. This means its main chassis rails can be positioned quite low, while the rear axles use an internally-mounted rubber torsion-beam suspension system that does away with bulky, heavy springs and just requires compact shock absorbers to provide an efficient and durable suspension system. This in turn has allowed Trakka’s designers to keep the floor height low, do away with the need for an external entry step and maintain plenty of interior headroom – plus a low overall body height – which aids streamlining and (theoretically) reduces fuel consumption.
This long/low look imbues the Trakkaway 860 with a lean, almost athletic character that makes if look and feel like it’s always ready to go.
If there is a drawback to Al-KO’s low chassis system, which is hot-dip galvanised for long-term rust resistance, is that it limits the opportunity for designers to incorporate an abundance of external storage. The 860’s only external storage area is a largish rear boot with two smaller side hatches, which accesses the area under the island bed. All other external hatches are for the gas bottles, toilet cassette and inbuilt mains power lead, plus ventilation for the fridge.
Like all Trakkaways the 860’s body is made from Trakka’s proprietary vacuum-moulded composite panels with a high-gloss finish. The new Aero2 nose has been specifically designed to reduce drag and boasts a large skylight/hatch that bathes the cab in sunlight and provides extra fresh air when stopped, but can also be screened off as desired. Seitz double-glazed windows with inbuilt insect screens and blinds are fitted all around, while on the roof a large electric skylight over the bed is standard, as are hatches over the separate shower and toilet cubicles.
The entry door is a Euro-style affair that, sadly, lacks an opening window, but the standard electric awning is both massive and sturdy, and is sure to be welcomed by anyone who has ever battled with a large, manual roll-out unit. Two dimable exterior LED lights are a nice inclusion, as is the body-mounted rail for attaching the outdoor table.
Capacities wise, the Trakkaway 860 comes standard with 2 x 4 kg gas bottles, 165-litre and 135-litre fresh and grey water tanks, respectively, a 14-litre Truma gas/electric hot water system and a 17-litre cassette toilet. Like all Fiat Ducatos, it carries 120-litres of fuel, which provides a generous range.
As perviously mentioned, the test vehicle had the optional third gas bottle with barbecue connection and the 55-litre rainwater retrieval system. This latter item collects water through slots in the roof, just above the back wall, in a sort of concealed gutter that pipes the water into the extra tank. There is a manual valve under the rear passenger-side corner of the vehicle that closes the system off and vents any collected water to the road. The idea is you drive with it closed, only opening it after enough rain has fallen to wash off the dust/leaves/grime that might have collected up there, then open it to top-up the extra tank. You can also top up the tank manually though an additional mains-style connector.
On the Rode a Gain
As we rode out of town two things struck me: the stability of the tandem axles and the smoothness of the six-speed automated manual transmission (AMT) – both considerable gains.
The bigger and heavier a motorhome the more it rocks-and-rolls as speed increases. However, the combination of the Fiat’s low chassis height, wide wheel track (forgot to mention that!) and tandem rear axles plants the Trakkaway 860 very firmly on the road. In effect, the extra set of rear wheels acts like training wheels on a bike and contributes considerably to longitudinal stability, whilst reducing lateral roll. What this translates to is a motorhome you can drive confidently on winding secondary roads, for example, secure in the knowledge it won’t impersonate a block of flats in an earthquake at every corner.
Regarding the gearbox, as Malcolm ‘Understatement’ Street has recently commented, the heavier the motorhome the more suited an automated manual transmission seems to be. I’d acknowledged that in my mind but wasn’t prepared for the marked difference in reality. I think it’s the damping effect of the vehicle’s extra weight that smoothes the pause between shifts, but whatever it is it works well and comes closest to delivering a ‘conventional automatic’ driving experience.
In recent road tests we’ve covered Fiat’s Ducato to death; suffice to say it’s a great vehicle that’s purpose built to be a motorhome. The test vehicle used a pre-update cab that still had the 3.0-litre turbo diesel engine, but with115 kW and 400 Nm as opposed to 132 kW and 400 Nm for the current version. The six-speed AMT is standard and remains unchanged across the update as far as I’m aware.
In reality I couldn’t tell the difference as far as power or performance was concerned, but the older cab also lacked the niceties of the updated interior. Trakka had, however, fitted the integrated Tom-Tom GPS system that all new Ducatos now come with, and it proved a welcome addition on our travels.
The tandem axle AL-KO chassis increases the Ducato’s gross vehicle mass (GVM) by about half a tonne, to 5000 kg (incidentally, it’s tare weight is around 4200 kg, leaving about 800 kg for you and your travel partner, food, fuel, water and worldly possessions). This means you need a Light Rigid (LR) driver’s licence, but don’t let this out you off. An LR licence is easily obtainable through your local driving school and is a competency-based licence that is done in-house and assessed by the school, rather than requiring a separate driving test at the end. It must be easy – Malcolm Street has one!
Despite the added weight, over the course of our roadtest from Sydney to Melbourne via the Snowy Mountains the Trakkaway retuned an average 13.5 L/100 km – or a gnat’s whisker under 21 mpg. That included freeway running at the legal speed limit, according to the GPS (speedo plus 5 usually), and no thought for economy in our two-day time schedule.
Combine the Trakkaway 860’s remarkable stability, smooth-shifting gearbox and excellent economy with the all-round comfort and driving pleasure of the Fiat Ducato and you have a truly great touring machine.
All Trakka vehicles attract a premium price tag, but like so many things you get what you pay for. In the long run you’re better off paying extra for a quality product that delivers more enjoyment along the way and rewards you with a higher return at resale. So if the Trakkaway’s appearance doesn’t alert you to its quality pedigree, stepping inside certainly will.
Trakka’s design signatures are unmistakable: Scandinavian timber tones contrasted with silver grey accents and roller shutter cupboard doors. But design for design sake isn’t sufficient; in a Trakka what looks good also has to work well.
Take, for instance, the panels that curve out horizontally from the tops of the overhead cupboards. They are styling features to be sure, but each holds one or more LED lights and by standing out from the cupboards they cast their light into your lap, when seated on the lounge, preventing the shadows you often encounter from under-cupboard or wall-mounted lights. Very clever...
Speaking of lighting, Trakka now installs purple LED strip lighting discretely above the cab area and in a couple of places in the kitchen. They add a fabulous ambiance to the vehicle at night, especially when you’re done with the main lights, and really transform it into something special.
The Trakkaway 860 is essentially a mobile luxury one-bedroom apartment with lashings of leather in the lounge/dining area, a compact state-of-the-art kitchen and a private, spacious ensuite bedroom.
This is a vehicle that is fancy in every right way, without being gaudy or blingy.
Both cab seats swivel, turning to face a pair of inward facing two seater lounges that have the dining table between them. The table is quite large and while multi adjustable it would be good to be able to store it and its base pole somewhere inside, which would really open up the lounge. The large over-cab skylight is terrific, but the optional over-lounge electric skylight fitted to the test vehicle should be standard. Ditto the Webasto room heater in a vehicle of this quality, size and price. Two high-definition flatscreen LED TV/DVDs are provided in this vehicle: one for the lounge/kitchen and the other in the bedroom. Cleverly, both are pole mounted and are height and swivel adjustable.
The L-shaped kitchen is compact but well equipped and includes a stainless steel three-burner gas cooktop and oven, a microwave, rangehood, 190-litre two-door fridge, a stainless steel sink with drainer, a drinking water filtration system, an in-bench rubbish container (that can double as a wine cooler) and a slide-out pantry. There are also places for your crockery, extra drawers, a high-mounted strip of benchtop that acts like a servery between the kitchen and lounge, plus a small flip-up bench extension.
Mrs iMotorhome commented on how well the kitchen worked and she especially liked how the tap sits beside the sink, not over it, meaning it allows clear sink access when washing up. Electrical controls are grouped behind a roller shutter door in the cupboard above the rangehood and includes Trakka’s own all-in-one electronic control system, which includes displays for batteries, water tank levels and even inside and outside temperates. House power comes from a pair of 100 AH AGM batteries, backed by the optional 135 W solar system on this particular vehicle.
Sleep and Other Matters
A concertina door just aft of the kitchen provides privacy for the bathroom and bedroom and you walk up two small steps to access this area, although headroom is still good.
The bedroom itself is spacious and has a walk-around island bed that lifts to reveal the rear boot space, plus the standard Truma airconditioner, which sends its cooling breezes out through integrated ducting. There are also a couple of slide-out drawers and the (optional) ducted vacuum system lives under there two, along with its connection point. Bedside wardrobes, drawers and overhead cupboards, plus a small stack of drawers in the corner to your left as you enter the bedroom (beneath a long swivelling dressing mirror) provide a surprising amount of storage space without cluttering the bedroom up.
There’s a large, electrically operated skylight above the bed, two enormous bedside windows and a large bed head window, assuring no shortage of light and/or fresh air. Like the lounge/kitchen area, which has dimable LED lighting along with individual reading lights, so too does the bedroom.
Despite rounded corners we found the island bed to be more than adequately sized for the two of us, but the foam mattress was a letdown in a vehicle of this quality and price point. Single beds are an option, as is the aforementioned over-cab double bed.
The practicality of separate shower and toilet cubicles should never be underestimated and with it’s two equal-sized bathroom units straddling the walkway through from the kitchen, the Trakkaway 860’s bathroom is one of the best setups we’ve encountered.
The shower is quite enormous by motorhome standards, although a corner handbasin would be handy so you can fill it with hot water and ‘bird bath’ with a flannel after an initial wash down, to help conserve water. Across the way, the ‘powder room’ is beautifully appointed with quality fittings, although the positioning of the swivelling vitreous china toilet leaves you sitting quite close to the door.
Trakka’s Trakkaway 860 embodies everything a range-topping motorhome should: Stylish design, impeccable fit-out and true livability.
Designed from the ground up as an integrated unit that simply ‘works’; no part of the design clashes or is at odds with another and the whole vehicle works as a single unit to deliver an outstanding user experience. It’s also at home as a short trip escape machine or a long term tourer.
Given Trakka’s premium market position I don’t think the asking price is expensive, but while I understand the desire to keep it under the psychological $200,000 mark, I do think a couple of currently optional items (as already mentioned) should be standard on a vehicle of this calibre.
My ultimate test for any motorhome is whether I’d buy one or recommend it hand-on-heart to my best friend and in this case the answer is ‘yes’ – on both counts.
The Trakkaway 860 is comfortable, capable, appealing, economical. It’s also fancy. Quite a big but fancy, actually...
- Comfort and Liveability
- Handling stability
- Limited external storage
- Foam mattress
- Webasto optional