Supreme Caravans has surely erred on the side of caution with its new Territory unit.
As a member of the company's Outback Touring range, the 5.03m pop-top CW tested had all the hallmarks of a rugged offroad unit, more in keeping with $70,000 hand-built vans designed to take their owners well off the beaten track.
But while the Territory looked as though it could easily follow in their expensive wheel ruts, a sticker inside the front boot states, "This caravan is not designed to be an 'all-terrain' purpose unit. It is suitable for traversing graded roads and mild corrugations only". Well, you could have fooled me!
The Territory has a heavy-duty Simplicity independent suspension, galvanised underbody protection, aluminium checkerplate on the front and sides, a 150mm-deep A-frame which extends to the spring hangers, a cutaway rear and 16in offroad wheels and tyres. Add to the list an auxiliary battery and solar wiring, 9kg gas bottle, an 80 litre water tank plus two jerry can holders on the rear bumper and you have a van suitable for tackling the great outdoors and free-camping in style.
According to Phil Day from WA dealer George Day Caravans, the warning sticker in the boot is to guard the manufacturer against claims by owners who go bush-bashing.
"Sure, it will handle far more than graded roads and mild corrugations, but owners have to be sensible about where they take it and at what speed they travel," he said.
The Territory SC-9 pop-top weighs 1760kg (Tare) and on a recent trip to Donnybrook, a fruit growing region 250km south of Perth, WA, our petrol-powered V6 Pathfinder averaged 17L/100km with it in tow.
A factor bumping the figure up slightly was that despite the top being down in transit, the high ground clearance resulted in a near-full-sized van profile.
While most of the route was on the flat coastal plain, my wife Denise and I detoured through one of our favourite places, the Ferguson Valley, which put the van's handling to the test.
Hills abound through this area and the latter part of the trip thins down to a single lane of bitumen. The Territory seldom went off line, even when I had to drop one side of the rig on the gravel edge of the road.
Admittedly, the ride was a little bouncy, but I put that down to the fact that the van was completely empty, so there was nothing to calm the firm suspension and offroad tyres.
Also, the route we took is popular with farmers who use the road to transport heavy loads of cattle and product, so even in a car it is not smooth-going.
This Supreme has a high ground clearance and checkerplate protection common with most offroad vans and George Day had fitted 16-inch steel wheels, which could be easily matched to a 4WD towing vehicle.
The Simplicity suspension has a trailing arm with convoluted rubber springs to cushion the ride. Leaf springs are used on heavier units (such as our test van), with the caution that appropriate wheels and tyres need to be fitted suitable to each configuration.
Mudflaps are standard and the sealed wheel arches are lined with galvanised sheeting.
Corner stabilisers are the quick-release, drop-down style and jacking points are located at both wheels.
A bonus near the door is a picnic table, which flips out for meal preparation - or for a handy outdoor bar - and a bright main light for outdoor activities of an evening.
Open the door and you are greeted with an interior that would not look out of place in a top-of-the-range caravan, with dark blue upholstery and teal curtains contrasting nicely with Tasmanian oak cabinets and light laminate flooring.
The Supreme Territory is an ideal home-away-from-home with its central kitchen, which divides the bedroom from the dining/lounge, and cupboards of all sizes.
Illumination is a feature, with a fluorescent over the sink and spotlights for reading or doing craftwork.
There is a full-length, rollout pantry near the fridge as well as a rollout storage unit at benchtop-height next to the hotplates.
Power points abound, including some at floor-level on either side of the bed and another sensibly positioned next to the wall mirror in the centre of the van.
Adding a touch of class to the sleeping zone was faux leadlighting on cupboards above the bedhead. The double bed has an innerspring mattress and there is a mirrored-door wardrobe on either side.
Standard items such as a fridge, microwave, four-burner cooker and rangehood are complemented by a Pioneer CD/radio sound system and a reverse-cycle air-conditioner.
Territory models have 12 and 240V electrical power throughout but, in keeping with the van's offroad potential, the test unit had a battery pack consisting of an 80 amp heavy-duty battery, 6mm cable wired to auxiliary and earth, a power point to the charger and a master switch, a fused 12V circuit and 20 amp circuit breaker plus a low-voltage battery protector. George Day had also wired it up for connecting to solar panels.
The bottom line
The SC-9 Supreme pop-top has a recommended selling price of $36,090, but the van we tested had such options as a bigger fridge, rollout awning, bigger wheels, a Winegard antenna and the Simplicity suspension, which took the figure above $40,000.
Even so, it looked as if it could hold its own against specialist offroad units.
Phil Day says: "It will satisfy those who have the urge to divert from the bitumen and venture on to the corrugations and expand their horizons."
It would be interesting to talk to an owner, after two or three years, who wasn't so worried about protecting the warranty (which can be extended to five years) to see if the Territory really can hack it in the rough stuff.
For more details visit George Day Caravans, 1509 Albany Highway, Cannington, WA, (08) 9350 5336, freecall 1800 658 070, web www.georgeday.com.au. For your nearest Supreme dealer call (03) 9357 3555.
Supreme Territory SC-9 pop-top
Length: 5.03m (16ft 6in)
Width: 2.3m (7ft 6in)
Towing height: 2.4m
Weight: 1760kg (Tare), 2060kg (aggregate)
Ball weight: 155kg
Fridge: Model RM 2350 90 litre three-way
Cooker: Electrolux four-burner with grill
Microwave: Samsung 20 litre
- User-friendly layout
- Pleasant decor
- Large fridge and pantry
We would have liked:
- Less stringent warranty guidelines
- Lower towing height