Spending quality time in Trakka’s quality all-terrain campervan...
by Richard Robertson
Various models of Trakka’s Trakkadu range have been reviewed more times in this magazine than any other vehicle; starting with Allan Whiting’s write-up in Issue 3 (2 June 2012) and most recently by Malcolm Street in Issue 17 (19 January this year). So why am I reviewing it again you ask? Well, there’s a story...
Looking for non-road-test story ideas a few months back, I was chewing the fat one day with Trakka’s Sally Berry when the idea emerged about getting Mrs iMotorhome to try her hand at cooking on the Webasto diesel cook top. This new and sometimes misunderstood cooker is now standard in all Trakkadus, the Trakkaway 700 and is being ordered in increasing numbers by buyers of other Trakka vehicles.
So a date was set and a vehicle arranged. I chose a Trakkadu because I hadn’t driven one for several years and wanted to reacquaint myself with what is undoubtedly the best campervan in Australia. And so a Trakkadu AT – All Terrain – came to live with us for a week as a mobile kitchen, daily driver and day-tripper.
Fit For Purpose
Thw thing to bear in mind with the Trakkadu (or any vehicle in this class) is that it is a campervan, not a mini motorhome. By that I mean it’s intended for people who like to live outdoors and are (probably) used to camping. It’s a vehicle you use as a base for outdoor activities rather than sitting inside and enjoying the outdoor view. Interior space, whilst generous, is limited in the ultimate terms, as is the sleeping accommodation, while the lack of a bathroom requires night time weewee walks or a porta potty inside.
The flipside is that this is a vehicle that can be your only car and even double as a small people mover, so it’s family friendly (a roof bed for kids is optionally available). It will fit on most suburban driveways, under most carports and in many garages. In fact its features and abilities make it perhaps the most versatile day-to-day vehicle on the road.
Trakka’s Trakkadu campervan range comes in five flavours, starts at $87,500 drive away and goes to – quite a lot more. The numbers 103 and 132 represent engine power in kilowatts (where no number is listed it’s the biggie). The models are:
- Trakkadu 103 – Entry level 2WD with 7-speed DSG auto
- Trakkadu 132 – Premium 2WD or AWD with 7-speed DSG auto
- Trakkadu ABT – Premium ‘Sportz’ AWD 7-speed DSG auto
- Trakkadu AT – Premium all terrain AWD 7-speed DSG auto
- Trakkadu ORP – Premium AWD with Off Road Pak 6-speed low-range manual only
I hadn’t been behind the wheel of a Volkswagen T5 for a few years and its ongoing refinement was evident. When I last tested a Trakkadu it had VW’s 5-cylinder 2.5-litre turbo-diesel. It was a good engine that used gear drive for most of its ancillaries, instead of belts, but it had a rather coarse note that seemed to be amplified by a bull bar or engine bash plates on off-road models. It was also only available with a manual transmission.
The T5 now sports a much more high-tech 4-cylinder 2.0-litre diesel engine, with 1 turbocharger on 103 kW models and 2 on the 132s. Importantly, after an eon, Volkswagen finally offers its popular and advanced 7-speed DSG automatic gearbox to T5 customers. What’s DSG? Direkt Shallt Getriebe in German, or Direct Shift Gearbox to you and me. In a nutshell it’s two manual gearboxes and two clutches in a single housing that’s computer controlled to changed gears quicker than you can say iMotorhome. Much quicker: About 8 milliseconds for an upshift and 600 for a downshift.
It’s a totally different system to the automated manual transmission in a Fiat Ducato, for example, which is a normal manual transmission with a bolt-on computer control module that makes all the gearshifts for you. There has been much negative press recently surrounding the Volkswagen DSG gearbox, but the good news for T5 owners is that the seven speed unit in it is different to the six speed unit being recalled.
Getting back to the engine, the twin-turbo arrangement is designed to offset the engine’s lack of capacity by providing one turbo for off-idle (low speed) work and the second for mid-to-high range power. The figures of 132 kW and 400 Nm from such a small engine are excellent, as is the quoted official combined average fuel figure of 8.4 L/100 km (33.6 mpg) from a 3-tonne AWD van.
In normal operation the Trakkadu AT operates in front-wheel drive, with the rear wheels coming into play when the computer detects wheel spin up front. There is also an electric rear diff lock to aid traction in very slippery/difficult situations. To enhance its rough and off-road abilities the AT comes with a German Seikel-brand heavy duty suspension lift kit that includes a substantial engine bash plate. It also comes with upgraded 215/60 R17 all terrain tyres, although the test vehicle had ‘experimental’ oversize 225/65 R17 Cooper all terrains fitted; the added width and increased aspect ratio adding about 25 mm (1 inch) of ground clearance.
Jumping behind the wheel revealed the depth of the Volkswagen/Seikel/Trakka engineering union. Quiet, fast and comfortable the high-riding Trakkadu AT exhibited no noticeable body roll. The ride was controlled and compliant there was no indication I was driving anything other than a standard Trakkadu.
Handling was safe, predictable and confidence inspiring and even on wet bitumen, loose gravel and muddy dirt roads the AT didn’t put a wheel wrong. Part of the praise must go to the Cooper All Terrain tyres; a result I certainly wasn’t expecting. About a decade ago I had Cooper all terrains on a four-wheel drive ute and found them slippery in the extreme in wet weather. Ever since I’ve been biased against Cooper Tyres, but these certainly changed my mind.
Driving aside, did I find the Trakkadu AT perfect? Not quite. With the dining table stowed behind the driver’s seat there wasn’t enough legroom for my liking, and even with it removed an extra inch or so would’ve been appreciated. That’s an interior design compromise that could easily be addressed. The same proximity between the kitchen bench and driver’s seat prevented the seat from swivelling right around. I’d gladly lose six inches or so from the bench to achieve it, but that’s just my preference.
The sliding rear seat with integrated seatbelts for two that folds down to become the bed is an engineering work of art. I’d like the bed to be wider and would sacrifice some cupboard depth to achieve it, but again that’s a personal preference.
Like all Trakkadus the AT abounds with thoughtful engineering touches; from the LED strip lights inside the edge of the awning to the all-new stick-on solar panel on the pop-top roof that adds almost no weight or height to the vehicle. For a full rundown of the Trakkadu’s fitout and features read and/or download a copy of Malcolm's review from our January 2 issue here.
The T5 Volkswagen is a quality vehicle to begin with and in standard Trakkadu AT guise it looks and feels like a quality European car – as it should do for $119,500 drive away.
The test vehicle’s appeal was enhanced by a range of options that included metallic paint ($2500), alloy bull bar ($2350), the five special Cooper tyres ($1850), side/thorax airbags ($690), leather upholstery ($4250), integrated RNS510 sound system with satnav and reversing camera ($3580), hot water with a rear shower ($890) and a 128 W solar charging system ($1500). All-up it listed at $137,110 drive away, which puts it in a rarified price bracket for a campervan. And I’d still want to add a diesel room heater ($2490) and a towbar and electrics ($1050).
Yes, for that sort of money you could buy a full size motorhome, but that’s an apples and oranges argument. What you get for your money with the Trakkadu AT is the best designed, best quality campervan available. If you’re a camping/outdoor/exploring sort of person who wants one vehicle to do everything, from the daily commute to extended holidays, this is it.
- T5 VW quality
- Driving experience
- Quick and simple setup
- AWD versatility
- Extra ground clearance
- Limited driver legroom
- Limited driver seat swivel
Click HERE to visit the Trakka website.
Click below to download a PDF of the full test, including specifications, photos and contact details.