Review: Kedron Cross Country 2
Kedron's Aussie tourer, Cross Country 2, is built tough by a team that has both been there and done that.
THERE'S NO DOUBT the Kedron Caravans team, AKA the Gall Boys, have earned themselves a reputation for manufacturing a range of rugged caravans up to the job of exploring the Australian outback. Indeed, as Glen Gall will tell you, part of that reputation came from the Gall Boys' own cross country caravan experiences - which is probably why our review caravan, the Cross Country 2 (XC2), got the name it did!
For this review I used a three-door Toyota Prado - a 3L turbodiesel. Similar to the five-door version and with a 3000kg tow rating, I thought the shorter (by 335mm) wheelbase might result in a more pronounced fore and aft motion under tow, but happily this was not the case.
Underpinning the XC2 is a 6x2in (100x50mm) hot-dipped galvanised chassis. Instead of independent suspension the Kedron team has opted for a beam axle and leaf-spring set-up, the shackles having greasable polyurethane bushes. Obviously with the Gall Boys' wealth of outback travelling experience, this has proved to be a tried and trusted setup. Fitted to the wheels are parallel bearings and 12in brakes. The two 100L water tanks are well protected, and they sit fore and aft of the axles.
Up front, the serious business of towing is handled by a Hyland 3500kg hitch. A benefit of still using the ball coupling format is that it's relatively easy to line it up, as you don't need to get the drawbar height right too. The jockey wheel is centre mounted and the 9kg gas cylinders and the front of the van in general are protected by a mesh stoneguard.
In keeping with the offroad theme, the XC2 has an interlocked aluminium frame with steel rivets, while the roof has a welded alloy frame. With the roof and walls being fully insulated, it's all covered with aluminium cladding, with a lower skirt of alloy cladding.
External storage consists of a front marine carpet-lined boot with twin doors, thus giving easy access from both sides, plus a three-quarter front tunnel boot on the nearside. The matching quarter-tunnel storage on the other side is designed for a generator.
Tinted hopper windows are fitted all round, except for the slider next to the Camec security door. Both front and rear windows have stoneguard protectors. Nearside fittings include an awning, TV bracket, 240V powerpoint, 12V socket and TV antenna connection.
Since the XC2 is designed for some serious get-away-from-it-all use, it comes with two spare wheels mounted at the rear, two 130W solar panels, two 120Ah AGM batteries and a 40A float charger. There's provision for a generator and a portable satellite dish.
When you step inside the XC2 you immediately notice the very nicely crafted Tasmanian Oak cabinet work. It creates a pleasant ambience indeed for the front bedroom, rear kitchen layout. The latter is actually split, with part of the bench being across the rear wall and the rest (including the fridge) on the other side of the offside corner bathroom. The dinette is located on the nearside wall next to the doorway.
Some won't like the kitchen being on either side of the loo, but for several design reasons (main one being, it keeps the bulky bathroom in the corner rather than mid van) I don't think it's a bad idea. All the overhead lockers in the XC2 are side-hinged, instead of the more usual top-hinge arrangement.
Fitted into the rear area is a Smev four-burner cooktop/grill/oven and a stainless steel sink avec drainer. The sink comes supplied with both tank water and filtered drinking water - always a good idea for an outback van. There's not much room for storage but the assorted overhead lockers, cupboards and drawers do offer a reasonable, space-efficient variety. All the drawers move quite smoothly on metal rollers. Fitted in above the rangehood is a clock and an AM/FM radio/DVD player.
Naturally there isn't much working space, but the offside bench area does offer considerably more. It also comes with a cupboard, three drawers and an overhead locker. Part of the overhead space is taken by a Sharp microwave oven. Fitted between the bathroom and aforementioned bench, the 150L Vitrifrigo fridge is mounted off the floor, with a locker above and the lower area dedicated to the Suburban hot water heater.
Dining in the XC2 occurs at the L-shaped lounge with accompanying table. It's large enough for two people and comes with the usual overhead lockers and underseat storage, one end having a drawer. A reading light is fitted under the locker - that's in addition to the ceiling-mounted fluorescent.
Up front, a 1.9x1.4m (6ft 2in x 4ft 6in) bed sits centre stage on a posture-slat bed base. Windows all round provide light and ventilation, the latter assisted by a Fiamma Vari-flow fan fitted in the ceiling. The bedhead is very neatly done, there's a wide shelf at the back of the bed and the bedside cabinets have three drawers each. A little differently, the powerpoints are mounted behind the bed shelf (under the reading lights), not beside the bed, as is more usually the case. For TV viewing, a flatscreen TV is mounted at the end of the kitchen bench.
Designed to have space to move but not be overly large, the bathroom has a flexi-hose shower and Thetford cassette toilet. Above that is a fold-down washbasin and a shaving cabinet, all neatly fitted into the same moulding. The fold-down basin is a nice space-saving idea. Ventilation comes from both a small window and a fan hatch.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you're after a rough road/offroad van designed by a manufacturer that practices what it preaches, the Cross Country 2 might just be for you. It's not an overly long van, which is certainly an asset over undulating terrain, but the XC2 is still fully appointed and ready to go - in style!