Roma Razorback: Review

By: Michael Browning, Photography by: Stuart Grant


With its origins pre-dating most Australian caravan manufacturers, it’s not surprising that Roma’s ‘reborn’ Razorback is a well-developed and capable offroader.

For a brand that traces its origins back to 1928, it’s unusual that Roma has not offered a true offroad-spec caravan for the past decade. True, Roma’s on-road models have a well-earned reputation for being tough, long distance tourers, which is why they are often the caravan of choice for families and couples embarking on extended travel.

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However, the growing interest by many Australians in leaving the bitumen behind as they seek new adventures made the lack of a Roma offroad range a bit of an anomaly. So about two years ago, Tony Palmarini and his sons Mark and Brendan began the groundwork on a tough new model that could be custom-built in a range of sizes and specifications to suit individual customers.

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When I pressed him back then for more details, Mark asked me to be patient. With a reputation like Roma’s to protect, its new offroader was not going to be just a jacked-up on-roader swathed in checkerplate with beefy wheels and tyres to make it look the part. Being a Roma, he observed, buyers would expect it to be as tough as it looked and built to take plenty of long-term punishment.

LAYOUT AND DESIGN

The new Roma Razorback starts with a 150x50mm G&S galvanised chassis, which is fitted as standard with G&S TS Control Rider 4t-rated trailing arm coil spring suspension and twin telescopic shock absorbers per wheel. G&S airbag suspension is an option many travellers are expected to choose, as it delivers an even smoother ride on the corrugated roads that many Razorbacks are likely to encounter.

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Essential for an offroad van, the underside of the Razorback boasts impressive stone protection, with checkerplate covers shielding its twin 95L fresh water tanks, while a tough truck-mesh front stone shield protects the caravan’s roomy, drawbar-mounted checkerplate storage box and twin gas cylinders.

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The gas cylinders on our review van were regular 9kg steel cylinders but the Razorback’s standard spec are lightweight, Norwegian-made polycarbonate 7.5kg cylinders, distributed in Australia by Sprint Gas, and designed so they won’t explode in a fire and weighing half that of their steel equivalent. They’re also transparent, which conveniently allows the gas level to be viewed when in place. If you have these fitted, I suggest you invest in a long bicycle lock as, with a retail price of around $190 apiece, they would make tempting souvenirs!

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Tubular steel scrub bars protect the Razorback’s lower flanks from rock and tree damage on tight tracks. Underneath, all the plumbing is well-guarded against stone strike, as it is located high in the chassis in the shadow of the rear water tank.

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A multi-directional Hyland 3500kg offroad ball hitch, Dexter Sway Control and 16in alloy wheels shod with LT 245/75/R16 tyres with extra sidewall protection complete the comprehensive offroad specs. Additional mud flaps and stone shielding is available on request, as is a checkerplate-clad 95L grey water tank.

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There’s lots of storage space for all the messy stuff outside in the full tunnel front boot and the A-frame-mounted toolbox.

The Razorback we reviewed was the ‘19ft x 7ft 8in’ tandem-axle model that Roma believes will be a popular choice with many long-term travellers, as it is large enough for a couple to live in comfortably for extended periods, while short enough to be manageable off major roads.

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Roma has chosen its various appliances carefully and the Razorback’s standard spec includes a Swift Ecotherm combined gas/electric hot water service and space heater, a Swift 500 Series cooktop and grill, a Panasonic microwave and a Camec 2.5kg washing machine. Meanwhile, the key electrical componentry syncing the van’s standard twin 110Ah deep-cycle batteries and single rooftop-mounted 120W solar panel is quality Redarc. Curtains are optional. 

THE BOTTOM LINE

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Equipped like our review van, a ‘19ft’ Razorback weighs 2650kg empty and boasts a good 600kg carrying capacity. This means you’re going to need a true 3500kg-capable tow car like the Mazda BT-50 we used.

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Our review van came in at $79,900 as tested and, based on my knowledge of what else is in the marketplace, I think the Razorback embodies good value for a stylish, true offroad, custom-built caravan from one of Australia’s most enduring and trusted manufacturers.

MEASURING UP

Pros…

  • True offroad spec
  • Well thought-out layout
  • Great indoor/outdoor storage
  • Custom-built flexibility

Cons…

  • Limited solar capacity (although a second panel can be fitted as an option)

The full test appears in Caravan World #554 October 2016. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!