When one of Australia’s oldest continuous caravan manufacturers, Evernew, decided to move completely away from leaf-spring suspension last year, it left a gap in its all-terrain line-up.
The result is the new ATX-spec for all-road, long distance travel offered on Evernew’s latest E900/E1000 (18ft-23ft) models.
One step up from the Evernew RT (Rugged Terrain) model, the ATX expands the Evernew off-road range and takes its name from its premium Cruisemaster ATX tandem axle coil-spring suspension that uses single large-bore 46mm monotube piggyback dampers per wheel similar to that used in off-road racing.
The distinguishing feature of this system is its long-travel design, with a separate reservoir that recirculates the damper oil to stop it overheating on continuous corrugations – the major cause of damper failure on Outback caravans.
A sturdy 63mm stub axle, an extra-large 3.3T VC bearing combination and lockable toe and camber adjusters mean less time on maintenance and longer service life.
Cruisemaster ATX is available in a coil spring/ drum brake configuration, with the option of upgrading to air bags/disc brakes, but with an eye to affordability, Evernew has chosen to make coils and 12-inch drums its base spec and has built the rest of the van around it.
However, as this Victorian custom builder has never delivered two identical caravans since it opened its doors in 1963, there will undoubtedly be some customers who choose the air/disc upgrade.
With 58 years’ unbroken experience in building caravans to broad Australian tastes, the new ATX represents an experienced manufacturer’s interpretation of what works best for most travellers on all major Australian roads... good, bad and often indifferent.
For example, the review E900 ATX van’s 19ft 2in x 7ft 5in overall body dimensions and 2460kg Tare and 230kg ball weight represent a good compromise of size, weight and convenience for most travelling couples – large enough to accommodate a north-south queen bed for a good sleep and a full-height 188 litre fridge-freezer to keep you clear of supermarkets, along with plenty of fresh water (190 litres total in two tanks), a huge 1010kg payload and a separate 95 litre grey water tank for guilt-free, off grid camping.
To protect the van from damage, there’s plenty of front and lower-side checkerplate protection in places that long experience has shown to need it, plus a separate truck-mesh A-frame stoneguard, separate shielding for the pull-down alloy step, brass A-frame tap, waste pipes, water tanks and corner drop jacks.
And to ensure you return in a few years to buy a second, third or fourth Evernew, as many buyers do, Evernew builds its vans in the Melbourne suburb of West Heidelberg based on a modified, extra-gusseted G&S galvanised chassis, and uses closer than average spacing for its traditional, but proven Meranti timber wall framing and domestic grade plumbing fixtures.
The review ATX was also clad in ribbed silver aluminium, which makes it relatively light and easy to repair, although other Evernew models employ composite fibreglass or smooth alloy cladding.
It’s these hidden details that distinguish Evernew caravans from many of their Melbourne-built rivals and has ensured the company’s survival through tough times that have extinguished many other brands.
Explaining this longevity and following its Gold award in 2019, the Caravan Industry Association of Australia presented Evernew ‘Silver’ in its ‘People’s Choice’ category at its recent 2021 National Conference in recognition of its strong customer loyalty, business performance and organisational discipline.
Value has also been another Evernew advantage compared to its rivals. It only sells direct, with no dealers to pay and has bypassed shows for around 20 years, which has allowed it to price its caravans very competitively.
The review ATX was listed at $90,810, which represented good value for its quality and level of equipment and even upgrading its furniture with the optional $1880 black tapware and sink package, bringing its RRP of $92,690, still represents good buying.
The only obvious limiting statistics on the review van were its single 120AH AGM battery and single 160W rooftop solar panel, which might curtail your time in the bush. But if you tick the appropriate option boxes you can upgrade to a full Enerdrive lithium power system, with more solar and a large inverter that will allow you to be as anti-social for as long as you like.
Familiarity with its customers' preferences has also allowed Evernew to build caravans with popular layouts that work.
So it was not surprising to find the innerspring queen bed nestled in the ATX's windowless nose to the left of the entry door, surrounded by twin hanging robes, lower drawers and three large overhead cupboards, with a large central galley kitchen and a big 118 litre three-way fridge along the right hand wall opposite a spacious L-shaped lounge with a long rectangular dining table than can seat up to five.
More good things, like the tasteful decor with its appealing combination of white walls, quality grey fabric upholstery and curtains with black kitchen and cupboard hardware, should also enhance resale value down the track.
Further rearward, a full separate shower and cassette toilet ensuite/vanity/laundry spreads over the windowless rear of the ATX, separated from the forward living area of the van by a welcome, solid timber sliding door.
The standard 2.5kg top-loading washing machine is hidden below a hinged vanity benchtop section, with mirror-fronted storage cupboards above. It’s a compact, but workable space.
If you’re wondering how to utilise that massive 1010kg of storage capacity, there's unobstructed space beneath the hinged bed, plus loads of upper wall cupboards on both sides of the central living area, most thoughtfully partitioned to stop things sliding around.
I also liked the Four Seasons roof hatch above the bed that allows you to expel hot air quickly and the ‘old-fashioned’ curtains that allow ventilation through the hopper-style side windows on tropical nights without admitting the dawn from 4.30am!
On the debit side, I didn’t like the choice of cupboard furniture in the review van, as I prefer a push button locking mechanism that tells you with a quick visual check whether cupboards and drawers are locked, or not. However the choice of hardware is yours, with Evernew offering a wide choice.
Outside, the through-body front tunnel boot comes with a fridge or generator slide on one side, while two useful storage hatches on the rear door-side of the body can house regularly used things like power cords and hoses in the lower one and a folding table and chairs in the upper cavity.
Be sure you carry a step to release the upper press-button latches though.
I’m not a fan of the chequerplate front body locker doors, which feel a bit flimsy and need keys to unlock both latches. What’s wrong with lockable push buttons?
After building touring caravans for so long, you would expect Evernew to build a caravan that tows properly, and the ATX didn’t disappoint.
It felt right at home from the outset behind our new Isuzu D-Max X-Terrain dual cab ute, which with its uprated 3.0 litre 140kW/450Nm turbo diesel engine and new six-speed auto transmission, rarely felt stretched.
However the D-Max needs to be fitted with a variable height coupling to allow the ATX to tow level. The Evernew caravan’s high-riding chassis with a 50mmn riser under its 150 x 50mm main chassis rails and 16-inch wheels provided great ground clearance, but left it nose-down on a regular-height tow bar.
A weight distribution hitch would also have solved this at the expense of some off-road flexibility, but the provision of a central jockey wheel latch point on the caravan’s A-frame shows that Evernew has thoughtfully considered this option.
As it was, the van’s relatively short overall length made it relatively easy to navigate bush tracks, with the reassurance that its checkerplate sides will not easily be scratched on such journeys, while the optimum length of its drawbar made a full-lock U-turn possible and damage-free.
Should we be surprised that it can do all this? No. When it comes to caravanning, experience counts and this is clearly Evernew’s ace card.
The 19ft 2in E900 ATX shapes up as an ideal long distance, all-terrain couple's touring caravan in which Evernew’s experience really shines.
Price: $92,690 as reviewed
Body length: 5840mm (19ft 2in)
Overall length: 8130mm
External body width: 2490mm
Nameplate Tare: 2460kg
Nameplate ATM: 3490kg
Ball weight: 230kg
Body: Meranti timber-framed walls and roof, with ribbed silver aluminium cladding
Chassis: 150mm x 50mm hot-dipped galvanised steel chassis with 100m chassis riser
Suspension: Cruisemaster ATX Premium Coil 3.7 tonne tandem, independent suspension with piggyback monotube shock absorbers
Brakes: Cruisemaster 12-inch electric drums
Stability Control: Dexter DSC standard
Wheels: 16 x 7.5 alloy with 265/75R6 General Grabber tyres
Water: 1 x 75L fresh and 1 x 75L grey with bypass valve
Battery: 1 x 120AH AGM deep cycle
Solar: 1 x 160W roof-mounted
Air-conditioner: Dometic Ibis 4 reverse cycle, roof mounted
Gas: 2 x 9kg plus external gas bayonet
Cooking: Swift 3+1 gas/electric, cooktop, grill and oven
Fridge: Dometic 188L three-way
Microwave: 23 litre NCE
Toilet: Thetford cassette
Shower: Separate one-piece fibreglass module
Supplied by: Evernew Caravans, Heidelberg, Victoria