10 things we liked about this semi off-road van from Masterpiece Caravans
For some people, the words ‘off-road’ and ‘caravan’ seem contradictory. And while it’s true a van is only as off-road as its dimensions will allow, there are a few Aussie manufacturers putting together robust vans capable of light to moderate off-road work on tracks that are open enough to let them through unscathed. Masterpiece Caravans is one such operator. Its vans are designed and built in Melbourne, with Australian conditions and consumers in mind.
The Masterpiece Performance sits in the middle of the brand’s range, offering up an extensive list of comforts and inclusions to make this well-built, semi off-road unit as luxurious as it is functional. We got our hands on one recently, and while we weren’t able to use it for a full review, here’s what we liked about the van upon first inspection.
1. Heavy-duty construction
This lofty, almost three-tonne tandem axle van has some pretty solid underpinnings. It sits on Masterpiece’s custom designed and engineered Supagal chassis with four-inch main frame and six-inch A-frame to suspension. The independent suspension is 3.5-tonne AL-KO Cross Country with dual shocks, which AL-KO markets as semi off-road, for use on bitumen, graded dirt roads and corrugated roads. A DO35 360-degree rotating hitch from Cruisemaster provides the van with capacity for articulation, while 12-inch electric brakes pull it up safely on the highway and the tracks.
2. Vital safety features come standard
With a full-sized van such as the Performance, whatever safety features can be added are warmly welcomed. This van comes equipped with AL-KO Electronic Stability Control, which works wonders at keeping the van stable while towing at highway speeds. It monitors the van for lateral movement and works to correct it immediately using the van’s electric brakes, thus maintaining road position. Good stuff.
The Performance also comes standard with a reversing camera and car kit, making manoeuvring of the van easier, but most importantly, a whole lot safer. Modern 4WDs come with reversing cameras as a key safety feature to protect pedestrians, especially children, and in my opinion, so too should all caravans. The Performance gets a thumbs up on that front.
3. Excellent capacity for free camping
While caravan parks hold a nostalgic place in my heart having spent a good chunk of my childhood tearing around one park or another on my push bike, these days I’m all about secluded camping away from the madding crowd. The further away, the better. To achieve this with a caravan you really need the manufacturer to have focused carefully on the van’s capacity for self-sufficiency in the design and fit-out process. Masterpiece has done just that.
The Performance has an impressive 252 litres of fresh water storage across three independent tanks, each shrouded in steel for protection. There’s a 100-litre grey water tank and a Swift gas/electric hot water service supplying the piping hot stuff to the bathroom and kitchen. The on-board loo is a Dometic with a ceramic bowl. When it comes to power, the Performance can sustain itself off the grid for as long as you need it to. It has two 160W solar panels mounted to the roof, supplementing two 120Ah AGM batteries charged by a 25amp Projecta charger.
4. Functional external storage hatches
From your portable fridge to your genie, there’s a place for everything on this van. The custom-build checkerplate toolbox on the drawbar has twin hatches, and there’s storage rings for two gas bottles on the drawbar, too. Behind, a large storage tunnel runs the width of the van for longer items. There are multiple smaller hatches, too.
5. Excellent lighting
Masterpiece vans always seem to have great lighting, and the Performance is no exception. It’s got LED downlights, above-bench lighting plus rangehood light in the kitchen, reading lights in both the bedroom and the dinette and multiple independently switched external lights, too. Whether you want full light or something ambient, the Performance delivers.
6. Excellent entertainment set-up
Going bush doesn’t mean you want to forgo Netflix, Spotify or the cricket, and the Performance has got your back. It has a 24-inch LED TV and swivel bracket for viewing from bed or the living space, plus an external entertainment hatch set up for outdoor viewing with 12V, USB and 240V outlets, plus a TV outlet. A wind-up Winegard antenna lets you tune in. There’s also a touch screen multimedia player with Bluetooth to deliver music to two internal and two external speakers.
7. Plush interior finishes
The Performance has a slick, luxurious quality to its interior. Vinyl flooring is soft underfoot, upholstery is good quality and benchtops have a polished granite look. Cupboard doors are light and have piano hinges, while in the bathroom the ceramic sink and large polished edge mirror provide a hotel room-like quality. In the bedroom there’s a queen innerspring mattress for a restful night next to your significant other – or blissfully sprawled on your own.
8. Huge amount of internal storage
I was struck by the amount of storage on the Performance. Having ample organised space for your possessions is vital in a functional van and helps to make it feel like home. That’s why you’ve brought your caravan rather than staying in motel rooms, after all. The Performance has large wardrobes on either side of the bed, with side access to reach what you need from bed. There are also bedside tables with drawers and over-bed storage hatches. There’s loads of storage in the kitchen including a slide-out pantry with shelves for non-perishable grocery items. In the bathroom, in addition to vanity drawers and a cupboard, there’s a very large storage space behind the ensuite that would be perfect for stashing bulky items you don’t need very often, like spare blankets.
9. Functional kitchen design
The kitchen on the Performance has everything you could want or need to cook up a feast, or something easy. It has a four-burner stove (three gas, one electric), a full-sized oven (gas/electric), separate grill and rangehood with a fan and light. There’s also a microwave above the bench. The stainless-steel sink has a drying area and a mixer tap with water filter for when your husband needs to do the washing up. The fridge is enormous, some 220-litre, and is a three-way Dometic.
10. Spacious bathroom
The bathroom on the Performance is bigger and better equipped than 90 percent of ensuites in houses built prior to 1999. As discussed, the storage here is ample, there’s loads of bench space, beneath which sits a 3kg top-loaded washing machine. The separate shower is full height and spacious with an opaque privacy door. There’s an external shower, too, for grubbier wash-offs or post-beach showers.
Suspension: AL-KO Cross Country independent with dual shocks
Brakes: 12-inch electric
Coupling: Cruisemaster DO35 off-road
Style: Full height off-road
Ball weight: 240kg
Price as standard: $85,990
More info: Masterpiece Caravans