The RV market has had some obvious trends over the past decade or so. The number of features that come standard has steadily been on the rise. Solar panels and grey water tanks are just a couple of examples of staples that were once fancy options. Offroad style vans with greater ground clearance, chunky tyres, sophisticated suspension and off-grid capability have become the norm rather than the exception. More standard features and greater offroad specs don’t come free, and the average price of vans has crept up over the past decade. That is, of course, until COVID, where like many other industries prices have leapt. The result of all of these variables is that we regularly look at vans around $100,000 or more.
Design RV is on trend with its Stryker-X when it comes to an offroad van with many features as standard, but it bucks the trend with the price tag. Prices vary around the country due to freight, but the Stryker-X starts at $72,990. So, we ask is the Stryker-X good value or is it too good to be true?
A good place to start answering this question is to understand the company. Rob Crawford from Design RV spent the day giving me the run down. He explained that the operation is set up as a mass-production factory building around 900 caravans a year with plans for further growth. This scale allows for efficiencies in processes and labour. Design RV also has significant buying power with suppliers to negotiate lower prices based on volume. All this comes together with the Design RV approach to drive costs down while maintaining consistently high quality through repeatable processes.
The Stryker-X is a single axle, 5.2m (17ft) body van with good offroad credentials. It has an ATM of 2573kg making it a practical option for most 4WDs. It is pitched at couples or singles who prefer a compact van suited to getting into hard-to-reach destinations. The body is a traditional meranti frame construction with aluminium smooth panelling. Looking over the van, the Stryker-X is well put together and properly sealed.
The Design RV philosophy can be seen in the suite of appliances on board. There is no cheap, generic stuff fitted. It’s all known brand products that give you a degree of comfort in performance but perhaps more importantly good strong national service agent networks to attend to issues if they arise.
A Dometic 190 litre three-way fridge is a very good size for a compact, couples van. An NCE 20 litre microwave and Thetford mini grill take care of cooking. An old chestnut for us reviewing vans is where to put the microwave. This microwave ends up quite high because you have a tall fridge underneath it and the water pump below the fridge. The end result is you have to be careful lifting out hot food at around head height. It sounds like a reasonable compromise to make the best use of the space. You don’t get a full oven as standard, but I wonder how many people would really miss one.
Dometic is also in charge of heating and cooling with an Ibis 4 reverse-cycle air conditioner. This van is not loaded with lithium batteries and inverters so the air-conditioner will only get a workout if you are connected to mains power, or you are running a generator.
Caravan layouts are always a game of give and take. Remembering this is a five-metre van, the Stryker-X designers have given us virtually all the features of a bigger van such as a full-length bed, very roomy cafe seating, good bench space and a bathroom with a separate shower and toilet. To fit this in, the designers have taken away some of the space you get between all of these features.
The living area is completely functional, just more compact. The cafe seats are trimmed in leatherette and firm but comfortable. The seat extensions are a welcome addition for anyone who likes to put their feet up. Going back to the compact nature of the van, the space allocated to the toilet may not be agreeable to the larger sized Aussies among us, but most will find it fine.
As soon as you step in the door you see wardrobes on either side of the bed that appear to float over the lower bedside cupboards. This creates a very large horizontal surface to place books, phones and whatever takes your fancy. This space also gives you good access to 240V and USB points for your charging needs. As the wardrobes “hang in space” they would need to be very well secured to the walls to prevent any risk of detachment. Rob assures me they use extra reinforcement here. The robes have hanging rails and I would take that as a cue for storing clothes and not heavy items.
Design RV has pulled out all stops to cram in plenty of smart storage into a small van. I mentioned the water pump is under the fridge, which is a real tick compared to the common practice of hogging storage space under the bed. Similarly, the battery management system is very neatly tucked into an angle cupboard under the kitchen bench beside the bed. This is a real win compared to where we often see it taking up an entire overhead cupboard.
Storage under the seating is almost universal but Design RV has made it more accessible by providing side access doors rather than relying on having to lift up the cushions. Under the dining table is another cute little cupboard for utilising what would otherwise be dead space.
The kitchen cupboards above and below the bench work nicely. The overhead cupboards were a little bit different in that the two central doors were top hinged and two outer doors were side hinged. Something I learned is if your van is not parked perfectly level the top hinged doors with struts stay open whereas the side hinged doors without struts tend to swing where gravity takes them.
The ensuite is well-equipped with overhead cupboards too. They house the bathroom power points freeing up the wall space for an expansive mirror creating very clean lines. The vanity cupboard features a bank of drawers and a hinged door but the space directly beside the toilet does not have enough room to open doors or drawers. This is overcome by accessing the space from above through a hamper hatch on the vanity bench top. The hamper is well thought out because it is shallow so you can reach the bottom without having crazy long arms. The space below the hamper is accessed externally via a neat little external hatch on the offside of the van.
The Stryker-X has very respectable offroad credentials. The ARV chassis is in line with what you would expect with 10cm (4in) rails and 5cm (2in) chassis raisers with a painted finish. Upfront you have a CruiseMaster DO35 pin coupling that articulates on all planes so it will cope with angles far more extreme than you can actually take the van. Underneath you have locally manufactured, Alpha Extreme suspension. Like most contemporary offroad set ups it's an independent trailing arm system, featuring coils and twin shock absorbers supplied by Pedders. The Stryker-X rolls on 40cm (16in) alloy rims and come with Mudzilla mud tyres complete with a spare mounted on the rear.
The scrub bars are securely bolted to the chassis and look like they would do the job if you dropped a wheel into a rut. But I feel they are a bit of overkill on this van. The Stryker-X does not have a ‘cutaway’ in the rear of the van to increase departure angle on very rugged terrain, nor does it have recovery points suggesting it is not intended for super hard-core offroad applications. Let’s face it, the whole offroad thing can be as much about the looks as it is the actual performance. The colour-coded blue scrub bars look tough and the whole aesthetic appeals to me with the grey body and blue highlights. As an aside the whole rig looked pretty fetching paired up with a matching grey LandCruiser 200 Series.
Please don’t get me wrong, this van is not a show pony, it is very well equipped for tackling tough roads and getting you where most people want to go.
CONVENTIONAL OFF GRID
The Stryker-X comes with what would now be considered a standard set up for getting off-grid for a few days. You get two 100a/h AGM, two 195W solar panels and the BMPRO battery management system. Combined with two nine-kilogram gas bottles you have plenty of energy at your disposal. Sure, it’s not as fancy as lithium battery and inverter systems found in more expensive vans but it sure does the job. Two 95-litre freshwater tanks and one 95-litre grey water tank is par for the course for this style of van too.
THE BOTTOM LINE
In many ways, the Stryker-X is very conventional, and I mean this in a good way. It has all the regular features you come to expect in a contemporary van making it very liveable and a capable rugged road tourer. It forgoes some of the very upmarket features that not everyone needs and does it with a very attractive price tag. And importantly the build quality, incorporating known brand, locally backed components and appliances make the Stryker-X compelling value.
HITS AND MISSES
- Great value proposition
- A good suite of locally backed appliances and components
- Smart use of space for optimum storage
- Toilet space may not be agreeable to larger sized Aussies
Value for Money : 9
In this current market, the Stryker is great bang for your buck.
Towability : 8.5
Well-behaved behind the very capable LandCruiser.
Suitability for Intended Touring : 8
Properly equipped for rugged road applications.
Build Quality : 8
It might be inexpensive, but it is well built.
Liveability : 8
Makes the most of a compact space.
Self-sufficiency : 7.5
Perfectly adequate off-grid specs with nothing state of the art.
Customer Care : 8
Three-year body and five-year chassis warranty is in line with the industry.
Innovation : 7
A conventional van with solid features.
X-Factor : 8
Not sure if X-factor is the right term but it looks great, has everything you need and is well priced.
Design RV Stryker-X Specs
Weights and Measures
|Body length||5.2 M (17ft)|
|Overall length||7.8 M (25ft 7in)|
|Width||2.4 M (7ft 10in)|
|Height||3.1 M (10ft 2in)|
|Payload||450 KG (calculated)|
|Ball weight||229 KG|
|Cladding||3mm AliComp smooth panelling/checkerplate|
|Chassis||ARV Steel Chassis|
|Suspension||2.7T Alpha Extreme - Independent with Pedder coils and twin shocks|
|Brakes||12” Drum brakes|
|Wheels||16” alloy rims with 265/75/16 Mudzilla mud terrain tyres|
|Water||2 x 95L freshwater and 1x 95L greywater|
|Battery||2x 100a/h AGMs|
|Air-conditioner||Dometic Ibis 4|
|Gas||2x 9kg gas bottles|
|Sway control||ESC sway control|
|Cooking||Thetford mini grill (one electric/4 gas burner)|
|Fridge||Dometic 190 litre three-way|
|Bathroom||Full ensuite (separate shower/toilet)|
|Hot water||Swift gas/electric|
- ESC sway control
- Sirocco fan
Price from $72,990
Price as shown $74,850
Supplied by Design RV
THE NEXT STEP
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