Keen RV industry observers may have noticed more Australian manufacturers are sending their products to New Zealand, suggesting Aussie vehicles could well be gaining traction here.
The team at Auto Leisure and Marine (ALM) in Hamilton have obviously spotted the trend, since they’ve added the Melbourne-built Crusader Excalibur Prince to their ever-expanding range of motorhomes and caravans.
The Prince has an external body length of 7280mm and an external height of 2830mm, which makes it a big van. It is also a heavy one because the gross vehicle weight (GVW) is 3500kg and the tare mass is 2880kg, giving it a payload of more than 600kg, which is great, but comes with a caveat.
A 3500kg GVW requires a tow vehicle with a maximum towing mass of 3500kg or more. Several utes do have the 3500kg rating, but they also have a Gross Combined Mass (GCM) rating of 6000kg. Without getting into too much maths, that means either the ute has to be fairly lightly loaded, or the van’s actual loaded weight has to be a couple of hundred kilos short of 3500kg. Otherwise, maybe consider something like a Toyota Land Cruiser.
Like many Australian-built caravans, the Prince is underpinned by a hot-dipped galvanised chassis, one with 150mm x 50mm main rails and drawbar. Fitted between the chassis rails are the 95-litre fresh-water tanks fore and aft of the suspension mounts, the 95-litre grey tank towards the rear and at the front a spare wheel.
Still under the van, the tandem axle suspension is an independent set-up with trailing arms, coil springs and two shock absorbers per wheel. Light truck radial tyres are fitted to the 15-inch alloy wheels. At the business end, the towing hitch is a Cruisemaster DO35, something tried and tested on many an Aussie outback road.
Above the chassis, the walls, body and floor are built from composite fibreglass. The roof, in particular, is a one-piece item to minimise leaks, 30mm thick, with high-density polystyrene foam for insulation against hot and cold weather – depending on where you live and how you travel.
Similarly, the floor is one-piece, 42mm thick, and designed not only to be an insulant but also load-sharing so that all the cabinetry fits together properly. Like many an Australian van, the Prince has the contemporary look of a lower waistline of black alloy chequer plate.
It does a good job of stone and rock protection, but the black never looks clean on dusty roads. Mobicool double-glazed awning windows are fitted all round, and the habitation door is a Camec item with a separate security screen. There’s plenty of external storage built into the Prince.
In addition to the front and rear tunnel storage, there’s an alloy chequer plate box built onto the drawbar. It does come with a slide-out for a fridge or generator, but it is also home for the two 9kg gas cylinders in a separate compartment.
Al fresco living is well catered for in the Prince. Under the Dometic awning, there’s a hinged picnic table, entertainment unit with 230-volt, USB and TV connections and a gas bayonet fitting for a portable barbecue. Three LED strip lights provide excellent illumination at night.
Undoubtedly, it’s the Prince’s internal layout that will draw plenty of interest. With a body length of 7280mm, it’s been possible to fit in not only a front island bed but also a rear club lounge surrounded by windows, something much prized by those who just like to sit and watch the world go by, especially in inclement weather.
The rest of the interior is occupied by a split bathroom next to the front bedroom and a mid-station kitchen. Black and white with a few shades of grey is the predominant colour scheme, but it’s not too monochromatic, and there is certainly plenty of LED downlighting to give it a bright interior by day or night.
Upfront and similar to the rear lounge, the 1900 x 1500mm double bed is surrounded by windows and a big roof hatch, so there’s no problem with natural light and ventilation. Surrounding the bed head is a selection of side wardrobes, overhead lockers and a couple of drawers. There isn’t a bedside cabinet.
Instead, the pillow cubbies are handy for all those little night-time items we like to keep close. Underbed storage isn’t great because that is where the Truma Vario gas heater hides, but there is a good-sized adjacent drawer, which does save lifting the bed base. Under the offside wardrobe is where the Truma heater control is located but I think that’s an awkward location.
The split bathroom is well set up with the shower cubicle being on the nearside and the toilet cubicle on the opposite side of the walkway. The bathroom contains a Dometic cassette toilet and vanity area with washbasin and both upper and lower cupboards, as well as a wall mirror.
A fan hatch and small window handle the ventilation. From a design point of view, a split bathroom takes up less space than a full-width one, and that is certainly the case here.
There is no problem with privacy, as there are doors on both sides. And speaking of cleaning, under the offside kitchen bench is a top-loading washing machine. Handy for a quick wash of those essential smalls!
Anyone who likes to cook in style when they travel is going to like this kitchen. It has all the expected features such as Mobicool hob/grill/oven, stainless-steel sink, Dometic 188-litre three-way fridge and stainless-steel sink/drainer and it also has plenty of drawer and cupboard space.
In addition, the split bench set-up provides plenty of veggie cutting and food preparation space. In most RVs, the overhead microwave oven location is always a bit of a safety issue, but Crusader has opted for the under-bench location, which is a better option.
Following the cooking, eating is always going be a pleasure in this van. The club lounge is large enough to accommodate four people in comfort, and if there are only two, there is room to stretch out. The nearside seat also has a hinged footrest.
Certainly, the Prince is well built for travelling off the grid. There is plenty of water-tank capacity, LP gas for the three-way fridge, water and space heaters. Both the two (one standard, one optional) 120AH deep-cycle batteries can be charged by the pair of 170W solar panels.
Not by anyone’s definition could the Excalibur Prince be called a small van. However, its size does offer a very comfortable caravanning lifestyle for two people. In addition to that, given its suspension and tow hitch set-up, there is the ability to undertake a bit of rough track travel to more remote locations that New Zealand has to offer.
Find out more about this model at almgroup.co.nz
- Club lounge layout
- Spacious kitchen area
- External bin capacity
- Independent suspension
- Fully equipped for remote travel
- Requires large tow vehicle
- Water heater control location
Crusader Excalibur Prince specifications
|Tanks||2 x 95-litre fresh, 1 x 95-litre grey|
2 x 120AH deep-cycle battery,