Couple’s vans, such as this Crusader Excalibur Serenity, take all shapes and sizes. After all, what one travelling couple needs another wouldn’t touch with a barge pole. Heck, some would be perfectly happy with a tent and stretcher bed.
But for those who have come a certain distance in life, who nowadays want the luxury of living space and the comfortable conveniences of a proper caravan, there is no shortage of suitable rigs.
This is where the Crusader Excalibur range of tandem-axle vans comes in, from the 8.6m (overall) Duke to the biggest of the bunch, the 9.5m Kingsman.
Our review van, the Serenity, which we borrowed from Melbourne Crusader Caravans, combines form and function with ease of towing. Behind our Isuzu D-Max tow vehicle, the Serenity tracked nicely along the Hume Highway as we headed out of Campbellfield, Vic, to spend some time with it.
CRUSADER EXCALIBUR PAYLOAD
Crusader advertises an average Tare weight of 2600kg for the Serenity, though ours was a bit lighter at 2568kg. All Serenity’s, however, have an ATM of 3300kg, giving our van a generous payload capacity of 732kg.
The Crusader Excalibur has a meranti timber frame clad with sides of composite aluminium. The manufacturer adds additional 40x21mm timber supports at 250mm intervals for the length of the van, with the walls themselves located into grooves on the top of the floor, rather than being fixed to the sides.
The floor and roof are one-piece fibreglass and ply composite constructions. The floor is 42mm thick, with a top skin of ply and bottom skin of fibreglass to shield against debris. The core is 30mm thick high density polystyrene foam.
The 30mm thick roof, meanwhile, incorporates the same foam core, its hardy fibreglass top offering protection from hail and other hazards, such as tree branches. The roof runs from the front checkerplate to the rear checkerplate. Crusader reckons it’s strong enough to walk on.
The chassis is a 6in Duragal unit with 3300kg-rated independent trailing arm suspension for rough-road touring. The underside of the van is very ‘clean’, with no low-hanging cabling; however, there is some exposed grey water plumbing, as well as the ‘dump’ tap on the water tanks, so it would pay to be mindful if travelling extensively on gravel roads.
As standard, the van is equipped with a grey water tank and two 95L water tanks, a reversing camera, a 160W roof-mounted solar panel, 25A batter charger, 120Ah AGM battery, external shower and more. It is, in short, equipped for freedom camping. In fact, I reckon you could go almost a week off-grid in this van, provided you were frugal with water usage.
Up front, the van is fitted with dual 9kg gas cylinders and a checkerplate compartment comprised of dual slide-outs, one either side of the van, for a BYO portable fridge and a 2kVA generator. Or just fill it with tools and gear – your choice.
Naturally, a full-length rollout awning is fitted, along with external speakers, awning lights and a fold-down picnic table. And, yes, there’s a TV box with mounting point and associated connections, too.
A huge point of difference in the Crusader Excalibur Serenity is its spacious nearside club lounge. Often, the club lounge is located at the rear of the van, inevitably leading to an amidships split bathroom.
Side club lounges, however, allow for the full-width rear ensuite. In the Serenity, there is very little to quibble about. You might expect the large lounge to impede living space, but I barely noticed it. Rather, I appreciated having all the extra room to lounge about in during smoko. Oh, the flip-up footrests are a nice touch, too, as was the inclusion of the 12V/240V points at the rear of the lounge – I reckon these powerpoints at the forward end wouldn’t go astray, though.
The dinette also features a swivel table – just pull a lever under the tabletop to move swivel it to your preferred position.
The kitchen is nicely fitted out as well. There’s a full fan-forced oven with griller and cooktop, a 190L three-way Dometic fridge, and a decent amount of bench space with the lid closed over the cooktop.
This van does plenty of things well, but one in particular: cupboard space. The kitchen has five drawers, one on top of the other, all the way to the roof – an excellent use of space. Meanwhile, the entrance is fitted with a suite of nooks and cupboards, while the bathroom offers a large linen cupboard above the NCE washing machine as well as a range of drawers and cupboards under the central washbasin.
Additionally, the overhead locker doors are each fitted with piano hinges – great! – with the lockers themselves secured to aluminium extrusion at the top and bottom, making the overhead cabinetry quite strong.
Storage space under the bed is a little compromised by the tunnel boot, but there are bedroom overheads and large wardrobes with side ‘nooks’. Thankfully, Crusader hasn’t forgotten the 12V/240V powerpoints here!
Other features include a reverse-cycle air-conditioner, dual 12V Sirocco fans in the bedroom, a stainless steel rangehood, smart TV in the bedroom, a microwave sensibly fitted below the bench rather than up high, and more.
Overall, I found the interior of the Crusader Excalibur very appealing. The more time I spent with it, the more I saw my wife and I hitching it up for a Big Lap… once the kids have flown the nest, of course.
With storage space in spades and a payload capacity to match, the Crusader Excalibur Serenity seems particularly geared for long-haul trips.
The van tows well, offers loads of fresh water storage and a reasonable 12V system, and that internal club lounge is an absolute winner – the layout is quite thoughtful.
Whether free-camping or hopping from park to park as you explore Australia, the Excalibur Serenity should prove to be a faithful companion.
FIT AND FINISH –
HITS & MISSES
Overall length: 9m
External body length: 7m
External width: 2.4m
Internal height: 2m
Travel height: 3.1m
Group axle capacity: 3300kg
Unladen ball weight: 217kg
Frame: Meranti timber
Cladding: ‘Alu-Panel’ composite aluminium sides; one-piece fibreglass composite floor and roof
Coupling: 50mm ball
Chassis: 6in Duragal
Suspension: 3300kg-rated independent trailing arm
Brakes: 10in electric
Wheels: 15in alloy
Fresh water: 2x95L
Grey water: Yes
Battery: 1x120Ah AGM deep-cycle
Sway control: No
Cooking: Four-burner cooktop with griller and fan-forced oven
Refrigeration: Dometic 190L AES
Shower: Variable height, seperate cubicle
Washing machine: NCE top-loader
Lighting: 12V LED
Hot water: Gas/electric