A few of us from the Adventures magazine team talked over dinner when the theme of offroad caravans came up. Someone suggested that Queensland has more than its share of top-line offroad vans and started rattling off the usual list of suspects. And as these conversations often go, someone else made the counterpoint that Victorian builders shouldn't be ignored, and he's right, of course. But he surprised me with the suggestion that Legend Caravans really should rate among our best. They won a previous Best Aussie Vans event after all, and rank highly for customer satisfaction.
Even so, they sometimes seem to fly under the radar, so when I got the chance to look at the Legend operation and take one for a review, I was intrigued.
After many years working in the caravan industry, Legend owners and brothers Zoran and Robert commenced trading in 2008 to build a range of aluminium frame caravans. Having survived the trials of the last two years, the business is thriving in a spacious modern Somerton factory.
When we visited the factory, the production line was in full swing, and the complex included a roomy showroom and a suite of offices for administration and design. It's an impressive first point of call for prospective customers, and I’m told they welcome factory tours.
The production line is ordered and efficient, and we saw a dozen or so vans in various stages of build. Some 30 staff average around five vans a week, a figure Zoran and Robert are comfortable with in order to maintain quality control. Like much of the industry, the supply of raw materials can be an issue in a post lockdown world and orders are still booked out for months ahead. The company keeps the build process in house as much as possible and has developed strong relationships with premium suppliers to ensure a smooth flow of components.
Models in the Legend line up include touring, various levels of offroad and luxury models between 17ft 6in and 24ft. Our review van stands as one of the most popular of the Legend’s as the 18ft 6in Trackline Off-Road 186. With a full suite of all the right ingredients, the Trackline Offroaders come ready to tackle challenging roads and treat their owners to a comfortable retreat at the end of a hard drive.
What’s in a Name?
You could customise a van from the extensive list of options on offer, but the standard version on review will suit many buyers straight out of the box. We could argue for ages about what constitutes an offroader, but there are a few features that should be non-negotiable. The foundations are a rugged build and a robust chassis with a capable suspension. Then, you need high ground clearance, furniture strong enough to withstand long sections of corrugated roads and enough power and water to spend extended time off-grid. To complete my offroad wish list, I’d add in a van that is manoeuvrable in tight places and light enough to tow efficiently and cover boggy or sandy ground.
To me, the 186 hits the mark with a super strong chassis formed from two laminated RHS sections of 3mm Australian Supagal steel in 100mm x 50mm. This is a super strong 8in x 2in ladder configuration with cross braces at stress points and to support the floor. It should take a lifetime of abuse and still come up trumps. The extended A-frame is 150mm x 50mm RHS in heavy-duty 5mm steel.
A honeycomb fibreglass floor is laid over the chassis, and this product is rot-free. Importantly, it also saves weight over the more commonly used structural ply. For further weight saving, the van’s frame is Henrob riveted aluminium. Legend chooses the robust rivet system over welding because they insist it is more durable. The punch driven rivets permanently secure the joints without causing any distortion, as can be the case with welding, and over the life of the van, the riveted joints won't twist or crack.
The frame is lock-bolted to the chassis using Huck pintail bolts and a special tool to swage the bolt’s collar in place. Again, this is a permanent maintenance-free connection and without the risk a regular bolt would have of coming loose through continual vibration. All electrical leads are led through the aluminium section using plastic grommets to avoid damaging the insulation through rubbing. Finally, closed cell and fire rated Air Cell insulation is fitted for thermal and sound protection.
The van is clad in an aluminium composite panel. It’s heavier than raised profile aluminium, but it has become the dominant medium on offroad vans for its tough finish and smooth modern looks over the last decade. Aluminium bearers in the ceiling add rigidity to the frame and give a sturdy base for the single piece aluminium roof and all the equipment up top. The robust strength also means you can safely add extra solar panels.
Furniture is produced on Legend’s CNC machinery that works to fine tolerances, and all plans are drawn in-house on 3D computer programs.
The relatively compact design of the 18ft 6in Trackline has a focussed and well-balanced look as it sits high on the chassis. However, I'm not convinced the dark colours of the review van are a sensible choice under the unrelenting Australian sun. I do also wonder if 900mm of checkerplate is more cosmetic than useful. But the dark grey composite panels and big skirts of black checkerplate are on trend, and the colour choice is a must have for many buyers keen to look the part.
A DO-35 connects the healthy-looking A-frame to the tow vehicle. Then a low profile stone guard looks neat and is high enough to keep a pair of 9kg gas bottles and their regulator out of harm's way. Further back, a large toolbox will swallow up loads of gear. I like the slide-outs on each side with a drawer above to make the best use of storage space.
As we move back along the passenger side, a through tunnel boot opens for a Legend themed barbecue with some funky touches. A metal lid extends for wind protection over a 4-burner gas cooktop and stainless steel sink. A great looking slide-out bench of distressed timber is underneath, making a helpful preparation and serving area.
We have all the usual exterior necessities, including an awning, overhead lights, soundbar speaker and electrical outlets, including USB ports. A picnic table with a Legend logo and map of Australia adds a nice touch. At the back is a rear camera, a single spare wheel on a sturdy bar, a couple of jerry can holders, and some vertical grab rails that might be more decorative than functional.
The size of the review van is a practical compromise for those intending offroad travel while still offering comfort and space. Let's face it — if you want an actual offroad experience, then a camper trailer or a swag is probably the most logical way to go. But a well-made caravan will get you to plenty of remote places without roughing it. Around the 18ft to 19ft van seems to be the sweet spot. The 186 offers a north-south bed with an entry far enough away for privacy and an ensuite where you can move freely. Having the ensuite near the door also means it can be used during the day without having to traipse dirty feet over the lino.
Stepping aboard, there's nothing too revolutionary about the interior design, but it manages to feel fresh and open. Dark greys and black work against the white walls, and there’s a great flow of light from big roof hatches and maximum size windows at the bed and dinette.
The kitchen is laid out in a compact and ergonomically efficient way along the driver sidewall. The workflow seems sensible from the stainless steel sink back to some useful bench space, a full oven and a good size 188L fridge with a microwave on top.
A cafe lounge with a trifold table is covered in subtle microfibre material and extending foot stools invite some relaxing television or reading time. At the front, the bed is an innerspring and lifts for storage. Bedside tables have extra deep drawers and storage nooks each side will be handy for books and phones.
In standard trim, the Trackline comes with two 120Ah AGM batteries, a pair of 200W solar panels, and a Victron charger pack that includes AC and DC 30A chargers, an MPPT regulator, and a monitor. Twin 95L water tanks should be enough for a couple, and the 110L grey tank enables national park and council free camping.
The system is lithium ready, and there are several upgrades from Victron or Redarc if you feel the need for more time off-grid.
In these times of caravans growing to oversize behemoths, it’s refreshing to see the 186 is a sensible 2400kg. Payload is a massive 1100kg for a maximum mass of 3500kg, so the van is suitable for an extensive range of tow vehicles. If we estimate an average travelling weight of 400kg of equipment and supplies and full tanks at about 200kg, then all up weight is around 3000kg, which is the realistic, safe load of most twin cabs.
Ball weight is a pretty light 138kg. That’s right at the bottom of the generally accepted ball to Tare weight ratio but leaving plenty of leeway for owners to load the voluminous front storage box. I expected some unsteadiness behind my LandCruiser, but I was wrong — it handled perfectly without any sway or pitching over the towing course. As anticipated, the van was smooth over rough ground and easy to manoeuvre into place for our photos.
The Bottom Line
All things considered, the Trackline is a serious contender in our leading offroad caravan ranks. The 186 and its siblings in the range have all the right stuff, and they are built to last. Moreover, the van has the engineering and component quality to be confident it will stay with you over many kilometres of rugged going.
At $99,500, it is high on value among its peers, and even if you splash out for a lithium battery upgrade, it will still be competitively priced.
Weights and Measures
Overall length 8.11m (26ft 6in)
External body length 5.67m (18ft 6in)
External body width 2.5m (8ft 2in)
Travel height 3.1m (10ft 2in)
Internal height 1.9m (6ft 2in)
Ball weight 138kg
Ball/Tare ratio 5.5%
Cladding Aluminium composite
Chassis 8in x 4in chassis, 6in x 4in extended A-frame
Suspension Alpha Extreme Suspension
Coupling s DO-35
Water 2x95L fresh water and 1 x 110lL grey
Battery 2 x 120 AGM
Solar 2 x 200Ah
Gas 2 x 9kg gas bottles
Sway control No
Options Fitted None
Price from $99,500
Price as Shown $99,500
Supplied by Legend Caravans
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