Where better to review a Golf caravan than in its spiritual home in Queensland. According to Golf Supercenter sales manager Jonathan Mangifesta, the brand is still well-loved by northerners despite having moved shop to Melbourne several years ago. They are a loyal and tribal bunch, the Queenslanders.
The Golf name dates back to the 1970s, and, like a lot of Queensland builders, they made rugged off-roaders to tackle the potholed tracks pointing north to the tropics. The company was bought out in 2009, and these days the Golf range stems from the same Pakenham factory as its sibling brand, Avan. The brands are formidable pair in the mid-range caravan market and combine to make one of our most prominent builders. As a general rule, an Avan is more blacktop oriented, while the Golf fills a more adventurous role with some limited offroad ability.
The Tourer 650 comes in two versions and is the largest and most luxurious in the range. Our review van is a Golf Tourer 650-3 from the Golf Supercenter at the northern Brisbane caravan hub, just off the Bruce Highway at Burpengary. The 650-3 is a family van with a modern look and a tremendously roomy interior thanks to a slide-out club lounge designed for families.
With the resources of a large company behind them, the Golf/Avan engineering team has chosen a unique build process that has evolved and been refined over time.
As part of keeping things in-house, they have their own Rollcraft chassis factory on-site at the massive Pakenham complex. The chassis on the 650 is a 150 x 50mm box section from Australian steel, and it’s hot-dipped galvanised for maximum durability. A 100mm riser adds height to the van body, and the extra ground clearance helps protect electrical and plumbing components over rough ground.
They also produce the thermally-bonded composite walls and roof panels that go into the entire range and even construct the doors on site. These 30mm thick lightweight body panels are formed from an exterior painted aluminium skin overply, a closed-cell foam centre and a second internal layer of ply. The structure is CNC cut to form the wall shape and allow for window and door openings.
Furniture is also constructed in house, and it’s here that the company differs from many builders. In standard vans, the colour options for timber accents are limited to keep costs low, but buyers can choose from a wide range of soft furnishings and upholstery to personalise their van.
A single piece composite roof is permanently sealed to the sidewalls, so weather protection is assured. An added advantage of the composite panels is their excellent thermal insulation — always a consideration when travelling in extreme climates.
AL-KO Enduro Cross Country suspension and 16in black alloy wheels give the Tourer a high stance, but the understated colour scheme prevents the van from taking on the macho impression of many offroaders.
Sweeping orange and dark grey graphics over the brilliant white exterior give the van a modern and streamlined look. Black checkerplate runs along the lower sections of the sides and across the front for added protection, although I’m told the composite panel is quite impact resistant.
In keeping with the van’s dirt road intent, the hitch is an AL-KO offroad system that uses a 50mm ball that articulates widely for travel over rougher ground. Twin gas bottles sit forward of the extended A-frame, and although the regulator is mounted relatively high, there’s no protection from flying stones.
Further back is a full width black checkerplate toolbox, and there should be ample room for a generator and loads of extra gear. A window at the front of the van also is without a cover, so if you contemplate a lot of dirt road travel, I’d think about a stone guard or some stone stompers for added protection. There’s more storage in a tunnel boot, which runs under the forward queen bed and raising the bed on gas struts can access items stored there.
Twin 95L water tanks have stone guards, and the review van was fitted with a grey water tank for exploring National Parks. Up top is twin 120W solar panels feeding a pair of 100Ah AC Delco batteries located under the bed.
A Thule Omnistor awning quickly winds out to cover the passenger side, and a fold-down picnic table with locks is adjacent to points for a television and 12V and 240V power. LED strip lights under the awning will turn night into day for socialising or for relaxing outside. Down the back are a single spare on a two-arm bar and an optional Thule bike rack.
The two piece fibreglass door is one of the best looking in the business, and feels sturdy and safe in operation. A step folds down, with easy access despite its height.
First impressions inside the van are impressive — especially once you flick the switch and open the slide-out lounge. Lots of light from the big bedroom and dining area windows bounces around the mainly white cabin for an airy and roomy ambience.
An optional Allure pack added a touch of elegance and individuality to our 650-3. Included in the package is gloss finish on the white walls, chrome door handles, grey painted square cupboard doors, and upgraded leatherette upholstery. It’s a much more modern look than the timber laminate finish of the standard van. An Ambience pack upgraded the lighting to concealed LED strip lighting, again for a more upmarket feeling.
The layout places a queen size east-west bed forward of the door with a central living space that includes the club lounge sliding out some 600mm to the driver side. Down the back are a set of double bunks along the driver-side wall and a roomy ensuite opposite. Triple bunks are optional. It was good to see a sliding door separating the rear section from the living space giving both parents and children some privacy.
The extra room of the slide-out transforms the van into a very comfortable area. The generous size of the club lounge dining space means two adults and up to three children can fit at the table, and this isn’t a given in many so-called family vans.
The kitchen includes a full Swift oven, rangehood, a stainless steel sink and drainer and a wide floor-to-ceiling pantry, as well as more storage in the overhead cupboards with divider shelves.
An east-west bed can often be difficult for the wall side occupant to negotiate without disturbing their partner. Here, some intelligent thinking here has minimised this by leaving a walkway halfway along the foot of the bed, yet still allowing full queen bed length. It also helps sitting up in bed that the bedhead slopes away rather than being a vertical face.
In the children’s bedroom, the two-bunk option gives a vast storage space under the lower bunk. Both beds have their own window, USB points and light, and a built-in ladder provides easy access to the top bunk.
Along the back wall is a generous size wardrobe that should allow a four seasons supply of clothes and bedding for everyone.
The ensuite is a well-appointed space with a modern, circular floating bowl on the vanity and a china toilet bowl, while a large window and roof extractor fan provide plenty of ventilation. The spacious, moulded shower has handy shelves for toiletries, while the clear door adds to the clean, open feeling.
Our review took us at highway speeds along the Bruce Motorway north of Burpengary and across secondary roads before hitting the forestry tracks through the pines west of Beerburrum. The van towed smoothly behind the Golf Centre’s Nissan Navara over all road surfaces. I can attest that it reverses smoothly over long distances because we managed to get lost on a one-lane road and had to back up several hundred meters to find civilisation once again.
Tare weight is 2300kg, and the van has a capacity of 600kg for a maximum legal weight of 2900kg. So, despite being a relatively large van, its innovative engineering makes it light enough for mid-size vehicles, including the benchmark Toyota Prado.
Upgraded solar and battery power mean the van is well equipped to camp off-grid. The decent size fridge will feed the young ones for a few days, and as long as you are near water for a swim, the water should last.
A two-year manufacturer warranty is average these days, and the document clearly outlines your rights under Australian Consumer Law. A vast network of dealers should see any problems fixed promptly.
With a base price of $72,990, the 650-3 would be a tempting option for a family wanting to hit the road for an extended trip. It would equally be at home in the many family-oriented caravan parks around the country. If you’re planning a full lap of the coastline, it will be happy covering corrugated roads and short tracks into national parks, but it’s not designed or warranted for extreme conditions.
As tested, the price is $84,990, and I’d be tempted to include at least some of the option packs to add to the enjoyment and resale value of the van.
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
Overall length 8.8m (28ft 8in)
External body length 6.5 (21ft)
External body width 2.47m (8ft)
Travel height 2.95m (9ft)
Internal height 1.95m (6ft 5in)
ATM kg 2900kg
Payload 600kg (calculated)
Ball weight 160kg
Frame Thermal bonded composite panel
Cladding Composite Golf panel clad in aluminium
Chassis 6in hot dip galvanised
Suspension AL-KO Enduro Cross country
Coupling AL-KO offroad
Brakes 10in AL-KO drum
Wheels 16in talon alloy with 265/70 tyres
Water 2 x 95L plus grey water tank
Battery 2 x 100Ah
Solar 2 x 120W
Air conditioner Houghton Bel Aire 3400
Gas 2 x 9kg
Sway control AL-KO ESC
Cooking Swift cooktop/oven
Fridge Thetford 185L, three-way
Bathroom separate shower toilet
Washing machine no (optional)
Hot water Swift gas electric
Energy booster pack, Sirocco fans, Ambience LED pack, full oven, Allure interior, ESC, Grey water tank, picnic table, bike rack, external shower.
PRICE AS SHOWN
Golf Super Centre
1 Reynolds Rd Burpengary 4505
Ph: 07 38880700