Reach For The Sky!
Avida’s big Longreach is a blue sky vehicle for many aspiring motorhomers...
By Malcolm Street
In the large B and C-class motorhome category in Australia there are only a few contenders and Avida, Australia's largest manufacturer, has one in the form of its aptly named Longreach. It's not only large in terms of size, but can also accommodate six people without a problem. This means for just two people it should be a very comfortable proposition.
The Longreach is built on an Isuzu NQR 450 Long Series cab-chassis. Apart from anything else the Isuzu has a gross vehicle mass (GVM) of 8700 kg, which is definitely good for a larger load capacity. The Isuzu 450 comes with a 5.2-litre turbo-diesel engine that delivers a maximum of 139 kW and 510 Nm of torque. Being the Isuzu ‘Premium Pack’ version it also comes with a six speed automated manual transmission (AMT). Unlike its European counterparts, disc brakes are not fitted all round, but only to the front wheels: the rears being conventional drums (an exhaust brake is also standard). I’ll get to the suspension in a moment...
One of the features of the Longreach is that it gives the impression of being a very large vehicle, as indeed it is at 9.5 m (31ft 2 in) long. The Longreach is built using a fully welded metal frame for the walls, floor and roof. That frame has a foam sheet filler that Avida claims will both act as insulation and a road noise reducer. The walls are laminated, with backing panels and an outer fibreglass skin.
Part of the frame has to include the slide-out, which is built into the offside wall behind the driver’s cab. Down below, the floor panel has a ply timber sheet above and metal sheeting below for underfloor protection. Additionally, the front Luton peak/cab surround and rear wall is fully moulded fibreglass. EPDM synthetic rubber is used as the outer covering for the roof.
On most smaller motorhomes the usual external features are external storage bins, awning, an entertainment unit of some sort and maybe a slide-out BBQ. Well, the Longreach has all of those plus an external kitchen that includes a stainless steel sink, cupboards, work bench and gas BBQ in a slide-out. Also fitted into the body of the vehicle is a kitchen pantry, small Waeco fridge and a front loading washing machine. So it is possible – should the rather odd mood strike – to cook an al fresco breakfast and do the washing at the same time!
A motorhome like this is always going to be very well equipped electrically. The Longreach has 3 x 100 AH batteries on their own slide-out tray (which is heavy to move) in a nearside bin, whilst a 3.6 kVA petrol powered Onan generator has its own offside bin. Out of sight on the roof are a pair 80 W solar panels.
External bins under slide-outs are often awkward to get out with the slide-outs open, as they are in this case. There are two under each slide-out but Avida have made life a bit easier by having side-hinged, rather that top-hinged bin doors all round.
On the Road
The bulk of the Longreach might seem to make it a daunting vehicle to drive, but the reality is that it’s not. Mr iM publisher and myself took the motorhome on a run across the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, which is an excellent testing route with a good variety of road conditions.
The 5.2-litre engine certainly delivers plenty of grunt and the AMT gearbox slides through the gears reasonably smoothly. Like many an AMT box, it can be a bit hesitant in the lower ranges, particularly when a quick downshift is needed, but otherwise it’s okay.
I should point out that the GVM of 8700 kg puts it above the Light Rigid (LR) driver’s licence limit of 8000 kg, therefore the Longreach requires a Medium Rigid (MR) licence. In Avida’s brochure the Isuzu chassis is described as being “rugged.” I’m wondering from a driver /passenger point of view that particular word's usage might give the wrong impression. One of the differences between the European trucks and their Japanese equivalents is that the Europeans tend to be more car like and the Japanese more truck like. So when a cab chassis is described as rugged (for transport use) it might also imply a rugged ride. That said, when I jumped into the cab expecting the usual Isuzu ride comfort, I was pleasantly surprised and wondering what radical improvements the Japanese manufacturer has been doing. Actually it wasn’t Isuzu at all, but Avida. Assist air bags and Bilstein shock absorbers have been added all round. Hooray! I’ve often wondered why air bag suspension is not used more often by motorhome manufacturers – even helper airbags like these.
Having 9.5 m (31 ft 2 in) of motorhome length to play with and two offside slide-outs gives motorhome designers plenty of latitude. A kitchen bench/cabinet area fills most of the mid nearside. Opposite, the front slide-out has an L-shaped lounge at the front behind the driver's cab as well as a cafe style dinette. The rear half of the Longreach features a split bathroom and, right in the rear, an east-west bed with its head in the offside slide-out. Up front the Luton peak has a bed that can be lifted out of the way if not needed. An option here is cupboard space rather than the bed. Lifting up the bed does open up the driver's cab more and does give better access to and from the cab, but it's certainly not the flat floor style of the European motorhomes.
Looking at the general decor this Longreach seemed to have a beige/brown theme that to some eyes might look a bit bland, but there are certainly other colour schemes available. For instance you could try something that matches in with Mr iM Publisher's mauve shirt.....
Avida is still using the louvre style Hehr windows ,which I quite like from both a usage and security point of view. The only thing I don't like is the window winding mechanism, which is awkward to get your fingers around and must be a problem for those struggling with arthritis. Electric lighting throughout is mostly a mixture of reading or downlights, all LED.
Undoubtedly one of the feature items in the Longreach is the lounge space. There's plenty of it, thanks to the more formal cafe-style dinette and the more casual L-shaped lounge. Quite a useful feature is the front facing part of the lounge, which can be easily extended into the space created when you open the slide-out.
However, there is just one little caveat here, as discovered by the iMotorhome team. It's important not to leave the seat in the extended position and close the slide-out! Trust us, it could be an expensive mistake and we did wonder about a little safety cut out for the slide-out if the seat end was left extended.
Sometimes, RV manufacturers put TVs in funny positions but this one is quite logical; being fitted into a purpose built cabinet behind the passenger’s seat. At the push of a button the flat screen TV rises magically into position and can be seen easily from both the L-shaped lounge and the forward facing seats of the dinette.
The dinette itself can seat four people and has a height adjustable table. Being in the slide-out, there's a small step to and from. Overhead lockers are fitted above both the dinette and lounge.
Time to Eat
One of the characteristics of the kitchen bench area is that it looks quite large, as it is, but to me at least it lacks in one particular area. It does come with a four burner (three gas, one electric) cooktop/grill/oven alongside a stainless steel sink with drainer. A Sharp carousel microwave oven sits in the overhead locker area and a large 3-way 186-litre Dometic fridge takes up position at the rear end of the bench. That leaves room for a generous amount of cupboard and drawer space, as well as both a wire rack pantry and space for a coffee machine (aren't we trendy) hiding behind a roller shutter door.
What the kitchen does not have very much of is benchtop working space. If you are a neat cook who doesn't spread out much then no problem, but if not, well...
Located just under the bench top are controls for the Webasto diesel heater, Suburban hot water system and front slide-out. If looking for the rest of the controls, like the generator, then they are on a panel above the bed.
As noted, the Longreach has a split bathroom, with the shower cubicle located on the nearside in front of the bedroom area and the toilet/wash basin cubicle on the opposite side. If needed for privacy, the toilet cubicle door can be fully opened, thus closing off the whole bathroom area (shame if you want privacy on the loo at that time - Ed).
Instead of being round or square the shower cubicle is right angled on the wall side, but multi-faceted on the other. Might sound odd but it works well. Across the way, the toilet cubicle is fully equipped with a china bowl Dometic cassette toilet and a fully equipped vanity cabinet, complete with a large wall mirror. Ventilation is courtesy of both a window and a fan hatch in the ceiling above.
Often with beds fitted in slide-outs little compromises are made, like no bedside cabinets, because of space restrictions. Not in this case, however: Bedside cabinets are fitted on both sides of the queen bed. The rear cabinet even comes with a radio/CD player. Most of the nearside wall opposite the bed is fitted with storage cabinetry. There’s also a full height wardrobe in the rear corner and a lower cabinet, complete with drawers, under the window. A little bit of clever thinking has been employed with the top half of the wardrobe: it's wider than everything else and simply fits into the air space above the bed when the slide-out is closed. Additionally, the under-bed area can also provides storage, the bed being lifted electrically rather than by hand.
What I think
For its size the Longreach does have the disadvantage of being a B or C-class motorhome, rather than a full coach-built A-class, but on the flip side you do get that Isuzu reliability along with the original cab structure still in place, as well as plenty of motorhome building experience from Avida.
The length of the Longreach means a considerable amount of external storage and the two slide-outs offer a great deal of internal living space. Even with them both closed up, it's still possible to utlilise the interior without much problem. If you'd like a large motorhome with plenty of internal space, as well as a very well equipped outdoor cooking/living/entertaining area, then the Avida Longreach is certainly a contender.
Second Opinion - by Richard Robertson
Avida’s Longreach makes an interesting comparison to the big Fleetwood Tioga Montara C-class Mrs iMotorhome and I travelled across America in earlier this year. Both are almost identically sized; both have two slide-outs and both are pretty basic when it comes to base vehicle refinement/sophistication. Whereas the Montara used a big, thirsty V10 petrol engine and a conventional 5-speed automatic the Isuzu is all Jap truck, with a noisy-but-economical 4-cylinder turbo-diesel engine and more efficient but less smooth automated manual transmission. The Montara did have for-wheel disc brakes, however.
Inside, neither vehicle could have swivelling cab seats, but the Montara’s conventional front engine and axle layout meant through-cab access was easy. Not so the Longreach, where you sit over the front axle and on top of the engine (with precious little in front of you in case of accident, despite dual airbags). Through-cab access is certainly quite doable, but not the norm.
The Longreach has undergone significant reengineering in its journey to become an Avida. Previous two-slide models had the bedroom slide on the kerb side, but both slides are now – sensibly – on the driver’s side. This frees up space beneath the enormous electric awning and provides space for the outdoor entertainment system and roll-out kitchen. Interestingly, there is just one Longreach model available now as the previous single-slide 8.2 m (27 ft) version is no more.
The American Montara felt quite cheap overall, whereas the Longreach seems much sturdier and I have no doubt which will handle 20-plus years of touring far better. The Isuzu cab-chassis will also likely outlast the body. Of course this is a totally oranges and apples comparison, as the Montara can be bought new for about US65,000, while the Longreach will set you back over A$280,000 – so it bloody well should last!
Given the asking price, then, some details of the Longreach’s specs smack of penny pinching. For instance, the use of a petrol powered generator rather than a diesel unit seems ridiculous. It means the generator has its own fuel tank and you always have to be mindful of how much petrol it has, rather than it just being connected to the Isuzu’s main diesel tank. Similarly, fitting a pair of 80 W solar panels in place of 2 or more higher rated units seems rather shabby; as does a grey water tank half the capacity of the freshwater tank.
In many ways the Longreach is something of a dinosaur: noisy, ponderous and showing its age. But let’s not forget dinosaurs proved remarkably resilient and outlasted many other species! In a way that’s its charm. The Longreach feels solid, dependable and has living space and an on-road ‘presence’ few other locally made motorhomes can match. Owner-reporter Robert Davis loves his older Winnebago Longreach with an almost fanatical passion and for him it can do no wrong. As they say, “You pays your money and you makes your choice.”
- Tandem slide-outs
- Large lounge area
- Split bathroom
- Good external bin space
- Improved Isuzu suspension
- Smallish kitchen bench
- Awkward cab access
- Battery tray heavy to draw out
- AMT gearbox hesitant in lower ranges
Click HERE to visit Avida's website.
Click below to download a PDF of the full test, including specifications and contact details.
Avida Longreach (1609 KB)
Avida Longreach (1609 KB)