Avida, still a family run company after more than 50 years (although formerly known as Freeway Campers and then Winnebago) has long been one of Australia’s foremost builders of caravans, campers, slide-ons and motorhomes. However, in all that time its focus has been more road-based than anything else, and even its recent forays into off-road vehicles have been conservative.
But, with the market trending towards family adventure travel, Avida has looked to its fifty-or-so years of experience and developed a line of dedicated off-roaders, beginning with a family bunk van. The term “off road”, is often misused and abused, so what does the Rock (all Avida’s caravans are named after stones) have that qualifies it to wear the tag? I spent hours running the magnifying glass over the Rock to find out just that, starting below the floor line.
The chassis and drawbar (150x50mm and 127x50mm hollow section steel) are fully welded and hot dip galvanised. The welding is neat and clean and would pass any inspection. The galvanising is flawless. The drawbar is plated for extra strength at maximum stress points. The cross beams are 110x40mm pressed channels, which is light but strong. The design ensures rigidity, durability and I would say, long, long life expectancy.
The Cruisemaster XT independent suspension is a swing arm and coil spring design with dual shock absorbers manufactured by Cruisemaster (formerly known as Vehicle Components), a company that has been in the game for over forty years. If I was asked to describe it using only one word, the word I would choose is solid. One look at the tandem set-up under the Rock gives me the impression that it would take you wherever you wanted to go. The coupling is a DO-35 V3 3.5 tonne all terrain coupling with an integrated handbrake. It is also solid.
The solid theme continues to the attractive black and silver alloy 16-inch wheels (with two matching spares mounted on the rear) fitted with all terrain light truck 265/75 R16 tyres. The combination of these features contributes to a generous road clearance and emphatically identifies the Rock as having genuine off-road capabilities.
The extended drawbar supports a full width lockable boot with slide out trays both sides to accommodate an optional portable fridge (or two). Forward of that, two 9kg gas bottles, a lockable jerry can rack and a full width mesh stone guard are mounted. The jockey wheel is centrally mounted, and looks a little fragile when viewed against the robust build of the Rock (even though the labelled capacity suggests it’s suitable).
A full width tunnel boot, with lighting and accessed from both sides, is built into the body, next to another full width boot which houses the optional Dometic outdoor kitchen (gas burners, sink and a serving bench). Also on the near side, a drop-down table and access to the toilet cassette are provided.
More external storage is available on the far side (under the bunks). It is 700mm deep and contains the jack and wheel spanner. All exterior storage is lockable, although not all of it is keyed alike. The six-metre Dometic awning and ample exterior lighting completes the caravan courtyard and BBQ area.
Stepping up the folding entry steps and into the caravan, the first impression is of light and space. A skylight and plenty of windows, all with fly screens, allow plenty of natural light inside. Night lighting is more than adequate, with two overhead LEDs supplemented by downlights over the table and beds.
The queen bed is oriented east-west at the front of the cabin, full width to cater for taller tourers. It rails against the general assumption that island beds are the only way to go, but this design saves a full three feet of overall caravan length (and associated weight) according to Avida. The base lifts up offering internal access to the second of the two forward tunnel boots, and is also where the batteries are stored.
The kitchen is built along the far wall, and includes a four-burner cooktop and grill (with externally vented exhaust fan), a nice deep sink with mixer (with a separate tap and water filter), and a generously sized fridge freezer. An oven is offered as an option and if not fitted, a set of drawers is substituted. A three door (but narrow) pantry and plenty of food storage cupboards are provided, including a deep pot drawer. A microwave oven is built into overhead cupboards with concealed flush handles.
Opposite is the dinette, with a comfortable café style seating arrangement. The test van was fitted with an L-shaped lounge and adjustable table (a no cost option), seating four diners easily and maximising the kitchen space.
The caravan’s double bunks, built along the far wall, are a cosy size for a child or young teenager, but would be too small for an adult. Opposite the bunks is the bathroom, with a 900x700mm shower recess, a Thetford toilet, corner wash basin and a 3kg washing machine. Adjacent to the bunks, a full height shelved cupboard provides clothes storage, supplemented by a space under the lounge and two small overhead lockers at the bed head. There is no hanging space.
A 55cm television is wall mounted and can be swivelled to be seen from the dinette, or for private viewing from the queen bed. Three double 240-volt power points are fitted, and a stereo system with Bluetooth and USB, plus external speakers and USB. A reversing camera is standard.
A Dometic reverse cycle air conditioner is roof mounted and controlled from a central control panel over the entry door. The same panel also controls the management of water and batteries. Two 125Ah batteries are stored under the queen bed, accessed by a gas strut assisted hinged cover.
A 300-watt solar panel installation and two 125-litre fresh water tanks (protected by heavy duty stone guards) will ensure an extended stay away from town services is possible. Grey water storage capacity is also 125 litres.
On the road, the Rock is a big unit. Travel length is 8.6-metres, width 2.5. The ground clearance demanded for off road work results in a travel height of 3.15-metres. But at freeway speeds, or through the traffic, the towing behaviour is faultless. For a tall rig, there is no sway, not a hint of fishtail and minimum bounce through the towbar.
The performance for the test was anxiety free, even given that my 2.5 litre Navara dual cab was barely adequate for the task. At 2675kg, the van as tested was perilously close to the 2800kg towing capacity of the Navara, and hill starts were… perhaps not entirely anxiety free.
With the van loaded to its Aggregate Trailer Mass of 3300kg, you will need a towing vehicle a bit beefier than the D22 Navara, and a bit more grunt would not go astray, either.
I mentioned at the start that I couldn’t fault the Rock, but since then I’ve had a little grizzle about the jockey wheel. The only other improvement suggestion I would venture is to move the coupling a bit further forward to allow a smaller turning circle and relocate the electrical plug to prevent damage if contact is made in a tight turn.
The Avida Rock is built to carry Mum, Dad and a couple of kids wherever they want to go across Australia. It is built to be tough but is not built rough. The standards of finish of all aspects of the build – steelwork, cabinetry, comfort, appearance, and most importantly, towability are of high quality.
With a price nudging into the high $80K range, depending on options chosen, it is not a cheap caravan. But it is a genuine off road capable van and on a value for money basis, the Avida Rock is an attractive proposition. And given that it is wholly Australian made and wholly Australian owned by the same family since 1965, you may well consider that that adds a bit of value, too.
Style – Off-road family caravan
Chassis – Hot dipped gal chassis
Suspension – Cruisemaster XT independent coil spring
Coupling – Cruisemaster DO-35
Dimensions and Weights
Length – 8600mm
Width – 6375mm
Towing Height – 3150mm
Tare Weight – 2585kg
ATM – 3300kg
Tow Ball weight – 195kg
Water – 2 x 125 litres
Grey Water – 1 x 125 litres
Gas – 2 x 9kg
Fridge – Dometic 188-litre, compressor
Battery – 2 x 125ah
Solar – 300 watt
3 year factory warranty, 5 year structural warranty, 2 year roadside assist
From $88,490 tow away
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