Review: Coromal Caravans Princeton P635XC
Coromal has unveiled a new-look line-up for 2011. We toured the Blue Mountains with the top-end Princeton P635XC.
AS THE MORNING'S first rays of sun peeked over the horizon of the Blue Mountains, the Caravan World team was struck by two things: the stunning beauty of a sunrise in one of Australia's most picturesque places, and how good our Coromal Princeton caravan - and its unique grey cladding and new blue decals - looked in the dawn's soft light. This rig had made the long and winding trip from Coromal Caravans Central Coast as the 'control van' on our Legends Series - Tow Vehicles trip. As much fun as it was driving around in four different 4WDs for three days, it's fair to say we judges would have liked an extra few days away with the Princeton - as Coromal's top-of-the-line offroad luxury van, the Princeton P635XC has a lot going for it.
First off, the Princeton tows very well. It sat consistently steady and true behind all four of the tow vehicles.
The van is also an attractive (and interesting) looking unit. The non-white colour of the cladding is different but classic Coromal. What immediately catches the eye, however, is the V-shape of the van's structure.
The Princeton's frame is higher at the front as well as the back, which means each end declines towards the dual axles. The resulting look is a striking setup that gives the van a distinctive and innovative aesthetic. Chunky tyres and 16in alloys, plus checkerplating all-round, contribute nicely to the look and add an air of ruggedness.
One small exterior feature that also warrants a mention is the use of raised silver "Coromal" badging, instead of a simple series of decals. This may seem a little thing, but it is the kind of classy detail that helps make top-of-the-line vans exactly that.
The Princeton's aluminium frame sits on a 6in SupaGal chassis and independent suspension. A look underneath revealed that all taps and valves, as well as the van's two 86L water tanks, are well protected by galvanised plates.
According to Coromal Central Coast's Scott Irvine, the aluminium frame helps keep the van's weight (Tare 2130kg) to a reasonable level, which in turn helps its rough-road abilities.
The van's two 9kg gas cylinders are not kept on the drawbar, which is largely bare except for a tap and separate Anderson plug, but in the large front boot. Given that the boot is the only external storage on offer, this may seem an odd choice, but the space is so huge it hardly makes a difference. Also, the van's battery has its own offside storage compartment, so it doesn't take up any space and is easily accessible.
The Princeton has quite a few extra features to make life under the (Carefree) awning more enjoyable. A slide-out barbecue and fold-down picnic table make al fresco dining a nightly option, as do external speakers, a handful of 12V lights and a TV plug. And a pull-out Techno Step will help you at the triple-lock rear entry door. The van is also wired for solar.
The Princeton's interior layout falls in line with many Australian vans: rear ensuite; front bedroom; and kitchen/dinette in between. While this might not be the most original, that is no reason to criticise it. After all, if it ain't broke…
One small criticism with the interior, however, is with the appearance of the off-white walls, which feature exposed rivets at the joins throughout the van. I understand this is not a design flaw or a reason to question the structure, but it is an 'uneven' look, and something I would prefer not to see in a top-of-the-line caravan.
The Princeton's full ensuite is a highlight. The separate shower has plenty of room, housing a built-in moulded sink with water fountain spout, plus a handy mirror and nifty remote controlled lights and exhaust fan.
The vanity's floating porcelain sink is a classy-looking touch that also leaves a little more room on the bench. A 2.2kg washing machine is hidden at the nearside end. There is plenty of room when sitting at the 12V Thetford toilet, and a long towel rack is another simple, but much appreciated, feature. Several good size cupboards offer more than adequate storage.
In the middle, the offside kitchen fits with the classy design of the rest of the van. Both the stainless steel sink and four-burner cooktop have covers to increase bench space - although the sink cover is a raised, lightweight plastic, rather than the traditional timber. We wonder which would be better for food preparation.
A stainless steel rangehood sits over the stove to help keep cooking odours to a minimum and a two-door 186L fridge (with microwave on top) sits between the bench and the ensuite.
Kitchen storage is very good, with several lockers and cupboards above and below, plus a number of drawers. Two things to note about the storage are the easy-to-use pull-style openers in place of push buttons, and the smooth ball bearing runners for all of the drawers.
While not huge, the nearside L-shape dinette is a comfortable and inviting place. It will easily sit three adults and its blue upholstery contrasts well with the rest of the interior. Each side of the "L" features standard under-seat storage compartments. A rear skylight adds to the natural light coming in from the large windows on either side.
Up front, the bedroom would be great for some comfortable rest after a day on the road. The bed's ability to extend 6in to a queen size is a real winner. Such an extension can often mean a loss of walking room, but the Princeton has a clever design that allows the bed's space to be extended at the head, so it doesn't stick out once it's lengthened.
Bedroom storage is also impressive, with overhead lockers, several corner cupboards and deep cabinets on either side of the bed - the cabinets also house double powerpoints. An extra row of shelves sits on the offside wall.
A standard 22in flatscreen TV rests on a swivel arm in the offside corner, and can be swung around and viewed from the kitchen/dinette.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Just because you are taking your van down a few rough tracks doesn't mean you need to miss out on the luxuries of modern caravanning. The Coromal Princeton represents the best of both worlds.
It is a relatively large and heavy-ish van that requires a solid tow vehicle, but a lightweight frame, solid suspension, underbody protection and triple-hinge secured furniture mean this van will be at home on some rough stuff - in comfort and style.