It’s the most popular caravan in the JB Caravans range. And, as I came to understand, it’s popular for a very good reason. I’m referring to the JB Caravans Gator X, a 17ft 10in single-axle van with rear ensuite.
The Gator X is the offroader in the Gator range. It comes equipped with Cruisemaster ATX airbag suspension, an excellent 12V setup for offgrid camping, good water-carrying capacity and, as I discovered as I headed to a property in country Victoria, it’s a pleasure to tow.
The anecdotal feedback I’ve received about JB Caravans rigs is overwhelmingly positive. The fit and finish of the Gator X seemed to justify these opinions. The joinery throughout was millimetre-perfect, with no rough or sharp edges that I noticed.
There were small touches here and there that I particularly appreciated. For example, the points where the gas struts that support the bed base are attached to the bed frame are reinforced with folded checkerplate – I have never seen this on any van other than a JB, and it makes sense.
Underneath the bed, JB Caravans has fitted an Enerdrive system comprised of a 200Ah lithium battery, a 2000W inverter, a 40A DC-DC charger and MPPT solar controller.
Naturally, this takes up a bit of the under-bed storage space; however, JB has sensibly sectioned off the left-over space for use as general storage.
Other bedroom fittings include 12V Sirocco fans at the foot of the bed, niches in the wardrobes either side of the bed, complete with dual USB charging points. Some people might miss the lack of 240V powerpoints here but I don’t see it as an issue.
The kitchen has all of the essential equipment, of course, including a four-burner cooktop, griller and oven, a range hood neatly recessed into the overhead cabinetry, a microwave, and a 274L compressor fridge-freezer. Since the van is a sub-18-footer with ensuite, kitchen bench space is limited; however, there’s a hinged section of bench above the cooktop that can be used when the stove is not.
In a locker above the kitchen bench, JB has fitted the Enerdrive monitor for at-a-glance updates on the battery’s state of charge, etc., as well as the display for the inverter, the water tanks, water heater controls and the water pump switch. A switch panel is also included for isolating the van’s various 12V functions.
Opposite, the L-shaped, leather-upholstered lounge will comfortably seat two people around the table, which is on a hydraulic leg that can ‘telescope’ down to allow the tabletop to form the base of an extra bed – an infill cushion is supplied. JB has also remembered to include 240V and 12V points in the dinette’s leg space, allowing you to charge your devices while you browse.
The rear ensuite is as attractive as the rest of the van – JB has even included a 3kg wall-mounted washing machine above the vanity bench. The vanity unit actually fills out the entire rear wall space between the separate shower and the offside wall. A good amount of storage space is provided, too. However, it is a bit of a squeeze around the toilet, which is a compromise resulting from the fact that this is a 17ft 10in (body length) caravan.
There are loads of other features and fittings within this van’s appealing layout, from the Ibis 4 reverse-cycle air-conditioner to the piano hinges on each locker door. I also liked the soft-close function given to the drawers, and the matt-black taps (did I mention the kitchen had a filtered drinking water tap?). There’s a Fusion sound system fitted within the kitchen overhead cabinetry with external remote and touch controls and a 24in smart TV.
Honestly, there’s no reason two people wouldn’t live very comfortable within this appealing interior.
Built on a 6in RHS steel chassis built in-house, with 16in alloy wheels with Cooper tyres and 12in electric drum brakes, the van has a commanding presence.
On the subject of the chassis, the Gator X’s has a special polyurethane Raptor coating – similar to the material that some tradies will use to protect the tray of their utes. The Raptor coating has been applied to the main chassis rails, cross members, the drawbar, the rear bumper, and the side nudge bars. This material protects against rust and is repairable in the event it is chipped.
The has a meranti timber frame that’s clad with ribbed aluminium on the sides and composite aluminium at the front and rear. As expected, it sports a high waist of protective checkerplate. It looks great. Further, JB hasn’t skimped on the external fittings.
On the drawbar, you’ll find two separate storage boxes, each with a slide-out tray. Dual 9kg gas cylinders are fitted between these boxes and behind a mesh stoneguard, so they are well protected.
A few things stood out to me with the Gator X. First, JB Caravans has paid attention to underbody protection, with protection fitted to both 95L water tanks, as well as the 95L grey water tank. The company has even fitted protection to the grey water plumbing.
I liked that the van also has rear recovery points – hopefully you will never need them – as well as a sensible amount of external storage options. And I wouldn’t say ‘no’ to the external shower that comes on the Gator X, either.
All in all, the exterior of the JB Gator X is eye-catching, tough and practical.
Weight wise, I think the Gator X is about right, considering everything it offers. The payload capacity of 519kg is reasonable, too.
After spending some quality time with this van, I felt it would be a faithful companion for two people wanted to spend some time off the blacktop. With a high degree of attention to detail and solid underpinnings, I see no reason it wouldn’t go the distance.
FIT AND FINISH –
HITS & MISSES
Overall length: 7.8m
External body length: 5.45m
External width: 2.48m
Internal height: 1.98m
Travel height: 3.1m
Unladen ball weight: 214kg
Group axle capacity: 2800kg
Cladding: Ribbed aluminium (side walls); aluminium composite front and rear; checkerplate protection
Frame: Meranti timber
Chassis: 6in A-frame; 4in main chassis members – both with Raptor coating
Suspension: 2.8-tonne Cruisemaster ATX airbag
Brakes: 12in electric
Wheels: 16in alloy with Cooper tyres
Fresh water: 2x95L
Grey water: 95L
Battery: 200Ah Enerdrive lithium with 2000W inverter and DC-DC charger
Air-conditioner: Ibis 4 reverse-cycle
Sway control: Al-Ko ESC
Cooking: Swift four-burner cooktop with griller and oven
Refrigeration: 274L compressor fridge-freezer
Bathroom: Rear ensuite with separate shower
Washing machine: Wall-mounted
Lighting: 12V LED
Hot water: Gas/electric
Entertainment: 24in smart TV; Fusion sound system
Contact your local dealership