“Trakka’s FWD Trakkaway 700 may well be the motorhome for people who want some modest rough-terrain ability, without the complication, increased floor height and additional cost of a 4WD motorhome.”
At OTA we usually evaluate only 4WD machinery, but we make exceptions where we feel they’re warranted. For example, we checked out the Peugeot 2008 2WD SUV machine, because of its off-road traction control program. The 2WD Trakkaway 700 also has enhanced tractive ability.
The Trakkaway 700 is based on the front-wheel-drive Fiat Ducato platform that is now powered by a four-cylinder, turbocharged and intercooled 2.3-litre Euro 6 engine. Outputs of 130kW (180hp) and 400Nm are the same as those of the previous three-litre four, but engine weight is some 40kg less.
The cab and powertrain module is connected to an AL-KO, hot-dip galvanised chassis that mounts an Al-KO rubber-bushed torsion bar, independent rear suspension. The front suspension struts are also AL-KO components that increase ride height and suspension travel by 40mm over the standard Ducato front end.
Ground clearance is 190mm – around the same as many 4WD utes and wagons – but those who want to venture onto rocky terrain should fit an underbody guard, because there’s plenty of expensive aluminium underneath the front end! Also, the intercooler bottom hose hangs down inside the approach angle.
It may seem odd to start off a motorhome evaluation discussing its off-road ability, but we were keen to find out how it compared with 4WD models. Were the Trakkaway 700 a narrow- and low-profile camper van we’d rate it behind the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and well behind the Iveco Daily 4×4 campers, but if compared with wider and taller 4WD motorhomes the Trakkaway 700 scores very well.
It won’t go seriously off road and tackle steep trails or soft sand, but it can manage the lumpy, loose ground you might find when looking for a secluded campsite. If stuck, the Trakkaway’s high ground clearance means that dropping front tyre pressures way down, for increased traction, won’t see it scraping its bumper.
We asked Trakka’s Dave Berry why he never built a Trakka motorhome on the extremely off-road-capable Iveco Daily 4×4 and he told us that he didn’t think many people would risk damaging expensive, wide and high motorhome bodywork on steep, rocky trails. Also, he pointed out that many Australian tracks are narrow and have overhanging branches that preclude high, wide vehicles.
For Trakka customers who want off-road agility the company produces the more compact Sprinter-based Jabiru and VW Transporter-based Trakkadu models.
Driving the Trakkaway 700
We spent five days in the new motorhome and didn’t really want to give it back! We drove it on mainly freeways to Old Bar in NSW; then up the steep and rough bitumen climb to Uralla; stayed there in wildly-variable weather – from a sunny 30 degrees to a wet and windy eight degrees – and then returned to Sydney via the New England Highway.
Average fuel consumption was 13L/100km – way less than a typical 4WD tow vehicle and caravan combination.
Performance was quite good, although 4.5 tonnes with 400Nm of torque isn’t ever going to set a hill-climbing record.Over flat and slightly undulating country the Ducato was happy to cruise at 110km/h, with less than 2000rpm on the tacho.
The Ducato comes with a six-speed manual box that has optional computer gear changing control, so it’s a two-pedal machine. The rationale is ease of driving, but with manual-box fuel economy and it worked well.
The early-generation automated manuals were a pain to drive, with delayed shifting and frequent ‘neutralising’, but we were impressed with Fiat’s 2017 effort. Shifting wasn’t as seamless as with a torque-converter automatic box, but the computer picked the right ratio for every occasion.
A stubby gear lever was easily reached when the driver wanted to flick manually up or down for a ratio change, or when holding the box in manual mode while manoeuvring.
The downshifting programming was excellent, with the box automatically picking lower ratios, for engine braking, when the Trakkaway was descending grades and engine braking was much better than we expected from a 2.3-litre engine.
Ride and handling were excellent, thanks to great matching of the AL-KO front and rear spring and damper rates. The Trakkaway 700 felt like a big car, not a top-heavy motorhome.
Big disc brakes with ABS and electronic distribution washed speed off very effectively.
Our off-roading was confined to some rutted tracks with sandy and stony surfaces and the Trakkaway handled that ground with some intervention of the traction control system. Thanks to its independent suspension all around it kept good surface contact and we reckon it had better grip than a rear-wheel-drive motorhome with live rear axle.
Very steep, loose uphill climbs might be its nemesis, but it should be easy enough to reverse up those if you had to.
Living in the Trakkaway 700
Having spent many years travelling this wide brown land we’re passionate about ease of use. Anything that’s difficult to operate becomes a major irritation after a few days on the road.
OK; what was our major irritation with the Trakkaway 700? The door-mounted, flip-top garbage bin had sharp upper edges that cut the sides of the plastic bag liners we used. That meant we had to put the torn bag into a second bag to carry rubbish to a bin.
That was our only complaint!
Setup was the easiest we’ve ever had in a motorhome. Two of us could have the front seats spun around on their swivel bases; the dinette table in place on its simple push-in pedestal; the powered entry step and power awning fully deployed; camp chairs in place; the powered bed slide-out extended and the screened hatches and windows opened in around five minutes.
On a powered site it took little effort to couple grey water and mains water hoses, and to connect the captive electrical lead to a power box.
Standard travel seating was anADR-approved four and an additional seat-belted space is optional. We sat four around the dinette and its auxiliary second table, in good comfort.
The Trakkaway came with ducted air conditioning – unit under bed, out of harm’s way – and ducted diesel heating. Hot water was diesel and 240V powered and the hotplate was also a diesel unit.
We’ve never been all that keen on diesel stoves, but Trakka’s Alex Berry had given us the heads-up:
“Turn it on before you start your food prep and it’ll be nicely hot when you’re ready to cook.”
That’s what we did: got it going while we cut the bacon to pan-size and cracked the eggs into a bowl. One end of the ceramic surface had the bacon sizzling and the other end was warm enough to keep the cooked bacon hot while we fried the eggs.
The combined toilet/bathroom looked a little squeezy, but with the toilet module powered away under the vanity the shower area was quite roomy.External access to the toilet cassette was simple.
Initially, we thought there wasn’t great deal of storage space, but there were cupboards of varying sizes all around the interior, accessed via Trakka’s trademark roller doors, and a roomy ‘boot’ at the back. Those who want even more storage or bed space can opt for a larger luton peak over the cab.
Our test vehicle was fitted with an optional Alfresco Pack that includes a 51-litre exterior fridge, a drawer and pull-out sink with tap and basin. It comes with an additional solar panel, taking the rooftop power from 240W to 360W.
The panels and a 25A charger fed an optional pair of 100Ah lithium batteries (AGM are standard).
Fluid capacities were quite generous: 120 litres of diesel; 165L fresh water; 135L grey water; 10L hot water and a19L toilet cassette. An additional 55-litre fresh water tank is optional.
The Trakkaway 700 in standard trim tares at a claimed 3590kg and GVM is 4495kg (car licence). That gives a reasonable payload of around 900kg, for people, fluids and freight. If you don’t need full-on bush driving capability the Trakkaway 700 could be just the ticket.
Wording: Allan Whiting – Outback Travel Australia