CARAVAN TEST: JAYCO STERLING OUTBACK 21.65-7
The Jayco Sterling Outback caravan is a rough-road capable version of the iconic company’s flagship model.
• Jayco's flagship van for a couple
• Fitted with Outback Range for rough-road travel
• Can be towed by mid-sized 4WD
• Front bedroom, full-width rear bathroom
• Almost self-contained
One of the advantages of being Australia's largest caravan manufacturer is the fact that Jayco can offer the widest range of RVs. Everything from family camper trailers and motorhomes, to pop-tops and caravans is available.
There is no doubt, though, that caravans are Jayco's main product line, and the Sterling is the flagship model. Here, we review an Outback Sterling 21.65-7 model, with a few extra features to give it some rough-road capability.
This Outback Sterling has an external length of 6.7m (21ft 9in), width of 2.46m (8ft 1in) and an internal height of 1.96m (6ft 5in). Its maximum loaded ATM is 2739kg and the Tare is 2264kg, giving a load capacity of 475kg. That has to include all water carried on board which, in this case, is 164kg with full (fresh water) tanks.
While length isn't overly important, it's the weight that determines which tow vehicle should be used. An ATM of around 2700kg would lend itself to a mid-sized 4WD. In my case, the Jeep Grand Cherokee was more than adequate for our test run.
The Jeep was a 3L turbo-diesel model with a five-speed auto gearbox, and the 177kW/550Nm engine was so quiet and free of the usual clatter that I had to look under the bonnet to make sure it was actually a diesel. The Jeep's towing capacity of 3500kg and 350kg ball weight was definitely acceptable for this van.
Like many in the Jayco fleet, this tandem-axle caravan is built on a hot-dipped galvanised chassis with 6in rails and punched steel channel cross members for strength and lighter weight. It rides on leaf-spring suspension and alloy wheels, and two 82L water tanks sit between the chassis rails.
Jayco also adds features such as an under-slung axle for better ground clearance, AL-KO Outback springs, rocker roller suspension, 5in drawbar rails and Al-Ko offroad brake magnets to the Outback range.
Above the chassis, the body has a 19x19mm tubular aluminium frame with polystyrene insulation in between. It has a ply inner lining and the exterior is finished with a fibreglass outer coat. It's all fixed together with vacuum bonding during the wall construction phase. This sideframe construction is known as Jayco's Tough Frame, and the process creates a strong, insulated, and hail and dent-resistant sideframe.
The Sterling comes with Camec windows and the ubiquitous Camec door with a separate security screen, which can be triple-locked. A front boot takes care of all of those RV necessities such as the jockey wheel, power lead, water hoses and wheel chocks. It also houses two 9kg gas cylinders, freeing the front drawbar.
The Outback has a few additional features such as a double step, necessary due to the extra height, and black powder-coated aluminium checkerplate along the lower sides.
The van has a fairly conventional layout, with an queen-sized island bed in the front bedroom, a full-width rear bathroom, and a central kitchen. The kitchen bench is along the offside and there is a club lounge dinette on the nearside.
The interior decor is finished in a timber look, with light-hued cabinetry contrasting nicely with the black leather of the club lounge. Not all of the cabinets are full timber, though; some of the framing and drawer sides are aluminium and all of the benchtops and splashbacks are laminate.
All of the windows have insect screens fitted, and all except the bathroom and kitchen windows have net and full curtains, plus pelmets. The bathroom and kitchen windows have venetian blinds.
The van has a good variety of cupboards, overhead lockers and drawers, which are much better than open cupboards for storage.
A modern caravan like the Sterling becomes a home-away-from-home when you're on the road. It has a full kitchen with a Dometic four-burner cooktop/grill/oven, three-way 150L fridge, 240V microwave and a stainless steel sink with 12V pumped and filtered water.
Although the kitchen looks quite large with plenty of storage space, including large drawers and a full-height pantry, the actual benchtop space is quite nominal. But the cooktop comes with a hinged lid, which does improve things.
Across the rear, the bathroom has a trendy-looking circular shower cubicle in the nearside corner, Thetford cassette toilet opposite, and a wall cabinet which fills the rest of the rear wall. It comes with a circular vanity wash basin, cupboard space and a top-loading washing machine into the rear offside corner.
Up front, the low slung and large windows give the bedroom a very spacious feel. Sitting centre stage, the posture slat based bed measures 1.82x1.47m (6ft x 4ft 10in) and can be extended by another 6in. However, this leaves almost no walk-around room and should be a consideration if you would rather not fiddle with the bed every night.
There is generous storage space underneath the bed, even with the 100Ah battery, safe and water pump already there.
The club-style lounge definitely adds a touch of class to this van. It's a comfortable place and the table is a good size for two people.
For entertainment, a flatscreen 21.5in LED TV is mounted at the front end of the kitchen bench and can be easily seen from the dinette or the bed at the front. The radio is mounted above the microwave, but at that height it can difficult for those with multi-focals (a grey nomad problem) to focus properly without stretching the neck. There is also nowhere to place the iPod/MP3 player (a younger generation problem) which plugs into the radio.
The Sterling comes wired for both 12V and 240V mains power. Items such as the fridge can be run off either 12V or 240V in addition to LPG, but the microwave and roof-mounted air-conditioner require 240V.
The 100Ah battery can be charged from either a 240V battery charger or via an Anderson plug from the tow vehicle. Solar panels can be fitted as an option, which would make the van just about self-contained for bush camping.
THE BOTTOM LINE
It's not hard to see who the Jayco Sterling is pitched at - a couple that wants to travel in comfort, but whose budget doesn't quite stretch to one of the smaller boutique manufacturers.
The Outback's features add more flexibility for travel and Jayco quite wisely gives some good advice on how the van can be used in rougher conditions. That's not really restrictive, however, because there are plenty of places throughout Australia where the Outback Sterling will happily travel.
• Towing the well-behaved Sterling
• New-look Camec windows, inside and out
• Club-style dinette
• General interior look
• Contemporary circular shower and basin
I WOULD HAVE LIKED
• A few items in the van being a little less flimsy for rough-road travel
• Solution for bed walk-around space with extension in place
• Radio lower down and with iPod/MP3 shelf/pocket
Jayco Sydney, 63-67 Glossop Street, St Mary's, NSW 2760. For your nearest Jayco dealer, visit www.jayco.com.au or call 1300 JAYCO RV (1300 5292 678).
Originally published in Caravan World #506, June 2012.